Spanish Blue Steel
The Eibar region, in the Basque country
of North Western Spain, had been the center of arms and iron production
for centuries because of the iron, sulphur, and coal located near there.
They had produced revolvers and ordnance during the Spanish American War,
but fell into decline after the war which is usually true with any arms
industry. In 1911 Hope and Unceta began making a pistol in 7.65,
similar in design to the Browning 1903, but cheaper, to carry in the pocket.
The gun lacked the Browning grip safety design, but instead used a safety
mounted in the middle of the gun which locked the trigger. Spanish
arms makers had open rights to manufacture a gun exactly like the Browning,
but chose instead to modify it to make a cheaper pistol. Browning
had lost his Spanish patent right to the design in 1905 due to Spanish
Patent law. In 1913 a school, LA ESCUELA DE ARMERIA DE EIBAR, and
a union of sorts
had been formed in Eibar to provided training and jobs for the craftsmen
in the gun business. During the time of the depression,1914, there
were aprox 2100 workers relying on the gun business for a living. Eibar
put many of the men to work with picks and shovels building a road, because
there was no work for them otherwise. The manufacturers thought they were
going to get contracts from the Spanish government for revolvers but it
didn't happen. It got so bad the town would not allow anyone from
outside Eibar to come in and work in any phase. The Eibar gun industry
managed to overcome their depression rapidly with the sale to France of
the Ruby type pistols. During 1915 and late 1917-18 Eibar and neighbor
cities worked day and night to satisfy orders. The streets were full
of tiny workshops subcontracting to the larger manufacturers. The war turned
out to be a wind fall for the Spanish gun industry as all of them were
eventually drawn into the manufacture of arms for war, but in 1918 things
returned to normal. The manufacturers had to turn to commercial sales
of revolvers and small automatics to keep their workshops open.
LA ESCUELA DE ARMERIA DE EIBAR - Opened
Italy bought guns during the war that will
have an inspectors mark of an RP or TM on the left side of the trigger
guard. These two marks seem to be the accepted markings but I actually
have no proof that they are other than they are marks used by Italian
inspectors along with others. There are three makers of the Italian
guns from Eibar, Beistegui Hermanos, 6,000, Retolaza Hermanos, 5,100,
and Zulaica y Zabaleta, 7,145. Astra and Alkar both made guns for
Italy out of Guernica, Spain where they were located. Possibly one
other but no evidenced has come to my attention. There are also guns
with the circled R on the trigger guard or ME on the right side of the
frame which I have been unable to identify.
Greece, Serbia, Czechoslovakia and Russia
used these guns during or after the First World War. Greece entered into
the war in 1917 and needed weapons which were supplied by Martin Bascaran
under the name Martian. Romania also sent a representative to Eibar
for weapons but the Archive files say nothing about pistols other than
Revolvers. Serbia's weapons were supplied by the French when they
had been evacuated to the Isle of Corfu. After the First World War
France re-built many of these pistols and sold them to various nations
such as Poland and Finland. Finland purchased 10,000 of them from
France in 1919 and designated them the model 19. They will be SA
marked and they were issued to non combatant troops. This turned
out to be a headache for Finland as they proved to be a maintenance nightmare.
The guns were eventually all sold off. France also used these guns
in WWII where they were issued to the French resistance. The official
number for the Rubys captured in France and used by the Germans is Pistole
624F, but none are shown to have been marked in anyway. They
issued them for local defense units. I have seen military paperwork
on bring backs, but again who the guns were actually taken from is a mystery.
They could have been taken from a pile of confiscated guns as many
were or they could have been bring backs from the Spanish Civil War taken
back to Germany and then recaptured. There are some circulating around
with German marks but this would not occur without it being recorded in
official German records. They were also used to some extent in the
Vietnam war along with the French Unique which is a variation of the Ruby.
These guns sometimes surface on the market parkerized instead of blue.
At some point in time the Rubies were used by Norwegian police and have
a milled space on the left side of the slide with their coat of arms and
serial number. During the Civil War in Spain they were put to use by the
Republicans to arm the various International Brigades. After the
Civil war no more were produced as Franco only allowed the 3 manufacturers,
Astra, Llama, and Star to make pistols again until later in time.
Franco destroyed many arms and kept the better ones until Interarms worked
out some deal with him to buy what was left in the 60's. I
do not know that any Rubies were included in that sale.
The Rubies were mostly hand made with limited
machinery and files. Machinery sometimes was even foot operated.
Barrels were usually made by three or four companies that specialized in
them and then hand fitted to the frames that were also hand filed and fitted.
All of the small parts may have been made in small workshops carried to
the firm that did the assembly and final fitting. You can see from
this, the reason, these guns did not have interchangeability of components.
Steel varied in hardness as well, making the French give them a life of
500 rounds and causing them to gain a reputation as junk. This was
not true of all of the companies though, as the guns by Star, Astra and
a few others seem to be well made. Accuracy is lousy with most brands
as the barrels do not fit the front of the slide very well and will move
In 1914 prior to the French contracting
for any Spanish guns they bought everything available from what the Spanish
gun makers had made up, including the 7 shot Destroyer, Reims, Star 1914
and the Victoria models.