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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 in 1914

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 around.

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.

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