Monday, June 6, 2016

Featured Gun: Spanish Smith & Wesson Clone

This is just another story of a unique gun I have run across, here is one picture (there are more below).

To tell the story of this Spanish made, Smith & Wesson cloned, revolver, we need to start with some back ground on Spain.
In the years leading up to the Great War (WWI), Spain was a shadow of its former self. Once the greatest naval power and largest empire in the World, Spain had lost the last of its major holdings in 1898 when it lost a short war (a little more than 3 1/2 months) to a country that was barely 100 years old. The Spanish-American War spelled the end of the reign of Spain. 

When war broke out in Europe in 1914, Spain was quick to announce their neutrality. Scholars claim that popular convictions in Espana were split between the Central and Allied Powers. I imagine the recent Spanish-American War did little to help garner support for the Allied Powers, but the country seemed to be divided among political and class lines.

With Spain being neutral, their place in the war was that of supplier. Spain made mucho dinero selling guns and supplies to both sides during the war. This caused some areas to expand their industrial base, such was the case of the Basque region.
The Basque region of Spain had long been known for the ability to make weapons. Some of the best rifle barrels in the world are still made there (Bergara) as are some very fine sporting shotguns.
The Basque region has close ties to France as it sits on the border of southern France. 

Back to the war, France was in need of guns and couldn't produce enough of its own for the war effort. The French naturally turned to their southern neighbors for help. By 1914 there were dozens (if not hundreds) of gun makers in Spain, many of them making copies of Smith & Wesson and Colt revolvers. 

The patents held by the American arms makers did not have effect in Spain and thus many of the firearms made were blatant copies (again this may have been fueled by an anti-American attitude).

To prevent issues with ammunition, the French ordered the guns chambered in their 8mm French Ordnance (aka 8mm/92 or mistakenly called the 8mm Lebel pistol). The bullet was .317 in diameter and the cartridge was on par with the .32 ACP in terms of ballistic and terminal performance.

The design chosen by the French was the copy of the Smith & Wesson M&P (now called the model 10), of which the firms Trocaola Aranzabal Y Cia, Garate y Anitua & Cia, Orbea Hermanos and others already had experience in building.

In French service these were referred to as “Modèle 92 espagnols” – “Spanish Model 92s”, presumably making reference to the caliber designation, or indicating that they were a substitute to the “real” Model 92’s

This particular gun we will be looking at was produced by one of those Basque companies. Although it is not one of those French Modèle 92 espagnols. It is rather a civilian version chambered in .38 Special.

Garate, Anitua y Compañía was formed in Eibar in 1892 to make armas de fuego (firearms). 

Shorty after the Spanish Civil War they were no longer allowed by the Spanish Government to make weapons and they turned to making bicycles and mopeds. This is similar to American arms makers like Sharps and Iver Johnson. It seems bicycles and guns rose to popularity about the same time and the equipment to make them was similar enough to facilitate an easy transition.

In doing research on this gun I found many detractors stating that the quality of the fit and finish may be fine, but the quality of the metal may very well be suspect. 
That is all well and good as I have no intention of firing this gun. I acquired it for the sole purpose of a conversation piece.

So now we know where the gun came from and who made it, can we tell when it was made?

To determine the age of the gun we can use the proof marks. 
The gun has the Eibar government proof house mark of the "lion rampant reguardan", basically a standing lion with his head turned and tongue sticking out.
The other proof mark which began use in December 14, 1929 and ended July 9, 1931 (when King Alfonso XIII fled the country) is also present.
The Proof is a shield with saltire couped (shortened diagonal cross - in this case, maybe a representation of crossed rifles) surmounted by a crown. The proof marked used after 1931 had a knight's helmet replacing the crown as Spain was no longer ruled by a monarch.

actual proof marks from my gun:

So we can easily narrow down the date of manufacture to 1930 or 1931.

Below is the description and the pictures of the gun, as you can plainly see it is a copy of the S&W Hand Ejector / M&P.

Garate, Anitua y Compañía modelo 333
The double action revolver has fixed sights with a notch in the rear of the frame, and a blade front. The side plate has four screws and the firing pin is mounted to the hammer.
The tapered barrel is 4 5/8" long and has crisp and shiny rifling. 

The cylinder holds six (6) 38 S&W Special cartridges.
The hammer is the "combat" type measuring .255" wide, the hammer spur is finely checkered. I couldn't measure the trigger without taking the gun apart, but it appears to be the same thickness as the hammer and it has a smooth face.
The ejector rod has a large knurled knob (like that of the early S&W guns) but no ejector rod shroud or locking detent (except at the rear of the cylinder).  

The model number is on the frame just behind the unique swinging cylinder latch. It features a large number 3 with two smaller 3s inside the lower part of the large 3.

The internal lock work differs slightly from the S&W, but the overall look, feel and mechanics would be very familiar to any S&W fan.

There is no doubt the S&W Hand Ejector was the model for the 333, see below

While you don't see these very often I did catch this one on Gunbroker:

Some of the pictures above were found freely on the world wide web and are used under the guidelines of Fair Use, per Title 17 of the U.S. Code.
If you own the copyright to any of these images and wish them to be credited or removed, please contact me immediately.

Numrich Arms
Eibar, The Great Workshop
Forgotten Weapons 
Joe Salter 
1896 Mauser