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Old April 11, 2010, 09:09 PM   #1
01Apache
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Spanish 38 special

I picked this up today; a Spanish 38 special marked "Arrieta y Bascaran - Eibar (SPAIN)" on top of the barrel. The attached pics show manufacturing stamps and there is a 4 digit serial number on the butt of the grip. It's a little rusty and holster worn but appears mechanically sound and the bore looks good. I was hoping someone would know something about these guns; history, etc? Would this be a safe shooter with standard pressure ammo? Thanks.
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Old April 11, 2010, 09:51 PM   #2
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At least that maker put his name on the gun, and the correct caliber marking. Most are unmarked and some were stamped "Use cartridges that fit best".

As you see, the maker deliberately copied the S&W M&P shape and overall appearance, though the internal mechanism is very different and cheaper. I cannot address that particular gun, but most were made of cheap cast iron (of the type used for making cook pots, hence called "pot metal"). I have seen several of those Spanish revolvers blown up, including one which let go with a blank cartridge.

You may do as you wish, but I would not fire that gun with any ammunition, even black powder loads. Some owners have ground off or removed the hammer nose (firing pin) and used the guns as decorators or paper weights.

Value, needless to say, is nil. No gun shop will take them in trade; because of the liability involved they couldn't sell them. No gunsmith will repair them if they break for the same reason, plus there are no parts available.

Jim
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Old April 12, 2010, 07:38 AM   #3
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Wirnsberger's Proofmarks puts the gun between 1923 (introduction of the lion as proof mark for revolvers) and 1931 (change of the Eibar proof mark). Unless it shows the circle R mark for the 30 % overpressure proof I would agree with Jim's assessment on shooting it.
Of course, you can always reproof it yourself by setting it up in a gun rest, and fire a +P round with a long string on the trigger. If you still have a gun afterward, it's probably safe with normal ammo
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Old April 12, 2010, 08:10 AM   #4
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The Arrieta y Bascaran guns were generally a notch above the rest of the pack of Spanish-made copies of Smith & Wesson revolvers.

They are normally the best finished, both internally and externally, and made out of at least passably decent materials.

That said, Jim's warnings are a good standard approach to any of the Spanish Smitho y Wessono copies.

I would probably fire either black powder or Trail Boss loads, very mild, out of it, but that's just me and my death wish adventurism.
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Old April 12, 2010, 10:39 AM   #5
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Spanish Revolvers

I can not tell you if it OK to shoot or not to shoot. I have a 32-20 Spanish revoler that I WILL NOT SHOOT. Here are the reasons why.
1. It had rockwell hardness test on cylinder, barrel and frame that were quit deep.
2. There was a lot play, and loose. (I believe the ammo was too much for the metal in the gun)

The gun looked very good, but This did not chang my mind.
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Old April 12, 2010, 11:48 AM   #6
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I appreciate the replies. I picked this up for next to nothing and planned on putting it in a shadowbox with and old holster, knife and an old box of .38 Colt ammo. This gun was definitley fired and required some cleaning when I got it home. I won't be shooting anyway I guess, especially once I get the display on the wall. Aside from the small patches of rust, this gun is nicely blued. Thanks again to everyone for the info.
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Old April 12, 2010, 05:10 PM   #7
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Please DEWAT it.

It may not be shot, while it's in the shadow box & while you're around - but how would you feel if some less firearms-educated fellow, like maybe your great-great-grandson to come, ran across it and "touched one off for the heck of it" ?

.
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Old April 12, 2010, 06:00 PM   #8
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^^^What he said.^^^

Oly
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Old April 13, 2010, 11:45 AM   #9
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it's safe

I removed the hammer mounted pin after the safety warnings. Thanks.
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Old April 13, 2010, 11:33 PM   #10
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The .32-20 caliber came about in an odd way. S&W had made its M&P in that caliber before WWI. But during that war, the French Army contracted with several Spanish makers to turn out revolvers for the 8mm Lebel revolver round. (They also contracted for .32 ACP caliber pistols, but that is another story.)

After the war, the Spanish hit the U.S. market and it was easy to switch from making guns in 8mm Lebel to making them in .32-20. An odd outgrowth was that the Spanish imitations of the S&W led S&W to trademark a prominent feature of their guns, the color case hardened hammer and trigger. If the Spanish did not follow suit, their guns would be easily distinguished from the genuine S&W product; if they did, the importer could be sued for trademark infringement.

But to protect a trademark, it must be used; that is why S&W today colors their hammers and triggers, even though the MIM parts require no case hardening.

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Old April 14, 2010, 12:10 AM   #11
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wait, are these things really that unsafe? Is there any hard proof? Or is it all just "I heard of a guy" type deals?
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Old April 14, 2010, 09:48 AM   #12
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I checked the web for any info on this particular revolver and I could not find any references to the maker. Where does one find historical data on obscure and older firearms? Like I mentioned before this one was carried and fired based on the overall condition when I got it and cleaned it up. I didn't really intend on shooting it because it was just going up on a wall, but I'm curious too. Are there any specific books to reference for these types of guns?
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Old April 14, 2010, 11:38 AM   #13
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I've heard a lot about Spanish Made S&W copies, but I've never heard that they're unsafe to shoot, myself.
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Old April 14, 2010, 12:41 PM   #14
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Whether one is unsafe to shoot or not is really a crapshoot.

There was a HUGE range of quality coming out of Spain in these S&W copies, and it's really impossible to tell the quality.

Some of them used wrought iron frames AND cylinders, and are barely adequate for use with black powder. Smokeless powder, a +P .38 Special, or god forbid a full bore .357 Mag (yes, you can fit a .357 into SOME of these guns) and you can have a really interesting time on your hands.

Generally the better quality ones will show up in their level of fit & finish and the marking of a specific caliber on them, but that is NO SURE WAY TO TELL.

Information on most Spanish guns of this period is scanty to virtually non existent.

Over time, most people who have a depth of knowledge and exposure to these guns generally have adopted the position that they were, in most cases, cheap as hell to begin with, weren't blessed with an overabundance of quality ingredients or oversight in manufacture so, like the cheapest brand of generic hot dogs on the shelf, are really best looked at and not used for their intended purpose.
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Old April 14, 2010, 01:41 PM   #15
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HA HA

The cheap hot dog analogy is great!
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Old April 14, 2010, 03:36 PM   #16
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I personally found the "cheap hotdog" analogy to be less than apt in my terms. I'm the type of guy who will go grocery shopping and EVERYTHING I buy is under $1.50 an item. God bless $.89 bread and Ramen noodles.
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Old April 14, 2010, 04:47 PM   #17
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Why spend all that money?

There's a perfectly good dumpster out behind the store in which you can rummage.
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Old April 14, 2010, 08:01 PM   #18
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[wait, are these things really that unsafe? Is there any hard proof?]

Yup - It's readily available from the School of Hard Knocks, the same place many of us have already gotten our educations.





[I removed the hammer mounted pin after the safety warnings.]

Thank YOU, 01Apache ! We'll BOTH sleep better, now.

.
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Old April 15, 2010, 12:17 PM   #19
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Hi, Thomme,

I said in my original post that I have seen several (3 or 4) of those guns that blew firing standard ammunition (.32-20 or .38 Special), and one that blew firing a blank cartridge.

I agree with Mike that guns by that particular maker are better than most, and would probably be OK. They may even be made of steel.

But many of those Spanish revolvers were not made of steel, but of the cheap kind of iron called cast iron or pig iron. That was the same material used to make the cookpots once seen in every European kitchen, and was also called "pot metal" for that reason. (Some folks extend the term to other alloys, including non-ferrous alloys, and invent some other origin, but the fact is that pots were made from pot metal.)

That cast iron is brittle and while it can be melted and cast, it cannot be forged or worked, but can be machined. It has low tensile strength and when over-stressed will break suddenly without any "give."

Jim
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Old April 15, 2010, 12:43 PM   #20
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Ok, Jim, I understand what you mean, now. I guess I misunderstood it as gossip about the Spanish guns at first, but now that I reread, I realized that I misread. Interesting, to say the least. I was actually considering, at one point, one of these guns as a substitute to the M&P by S&W, as I'd heard good things about them. I guess with a good gunsmith looking it over well, I could figure it out if it was a shootable gun. Eh, a silly dream to save some money. When I get the cash, I'll just get the S&W.
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Old April 15, 2010, 07:58 PM   #21
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Spanish Revolvers

There is a person on an other forum who has over 600 spanish handguns (both simi-auto and revolvers) His position on 38 specials or his position was that if he shot one, he would use wadcutters only. He was very selective on which ones he fired. He is a expert on spanish handguns. I am no expert and do not clam to be, therefore I will not shoot any spanish revolver.
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Old April 15, 2010, 08:49 PM   #22
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A general rundown on Spanish guns of the 1900-1930 era.

None were high quality. None were as good as S&W or Colt, or even the Spanish guns by Astra, Llama or Star of the late 1930's and post-WWII era.

Some were reasonably well made and safe enough with low power standard loads. One key is whether the maker thought enough of the gun to put his name on it. Many (perhaps most) did not.

The auto pistols were generally made of steel, but soft and of low quality. Again, some companies were the exception and again, the "no name" guns are the poorest, in both material and workmanship. Parts are often not hardened and failure of hammer notches and sears is common.

Safety is generally poor, even in the better guns. Auto pistol safeties block only the trigger, not the sear or hammer, so the gun can fire if dropped. Revolvers have no hammer block or transfer bar.

Jim
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Old April 15, 2010, 09:00 PM   #23
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One certain "tell" for the quality, or lack there of, of some of these Spanish S&W copies...

If you ever find one that's marked to the effect of "Use those cartridges that fit best," RUN AWAY as fast as your feet can carry you. Oddly enough, quite often a .357 Magnum will fit just fine in one so marked.

In my experience, those are the ones that are generally so soft that they'll deform when firing anything other than a licorice stick, or made of cast iron so brittle and loaded with inclusions and weakened by sulfur that they'll fly apart into ragged chunks if you speak crossly to them.

Get a generic hot dog in their presence?

Nookulur Armageddon.
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Old April 15, 2010, 11:06 PM   #24
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It's really unfortunate that these older Spanish guns were of such dubious quality as they gave all Spanish handguns a bad reputation. Later guns made by firms like Astra and Star, while typically not up to the fit and finish of a S&W or Colt, are generally decently servicable, though often utilitarian, handguns. Unfortunately, they are often lumped in with the older pot metal guns as junky wall-hangers.
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Old April 16, 2010, 04:43 AM   #25
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In the early 20th Century, the Eibar region of Spain - noted for its long history of gun makers - was producing knock-offs of famous guns from FN, Colt, S&W and others.

Most of the guns made up to WW-I were designed around low-pressure and/or black powder cartridges like the .32 S&W, .38 S&W, .38 Colt, .25ACP and .32ACP. The region also produced knock offs of the 5.5mm Velodog (.22LR). When found, most of these relics should be rendered unserviceable due to the poor quality of construction and materials.

From WW-I to WW-II, Spanish firearms makers improved their quality somewhat. Some companies like Llama (nee Gabilondo and Urresti who made the infamous Ruby trademark) had made money off the French demand for pistols in the first war. They could afford to buy steel of decent quality and maufacture guns in larger calibers like the .38 Special, 9mm Largo, .380ACP and 7.63 Mauser. But their metals were not sufficiently hard or well heat treated to withstand heavy use.

Guns made in Spain from 1927 to 1954, which were proof tested will carry an A-Z alpha-numeric stamp ending in a '1' (exceptions for CH1 & LL1) that translates to the year of proof testing. Guns lacking this stamp or made prior to 1927 should be viewed with suspicion.

Note: Llama pistols made in the 1960's and 1970's were still noted for having "soft" metals. Quite often this was noted by peening of the slide stop notch on many of their 1911 knock offs.
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