Eibar, the factory town

Card image cap
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Eibar was a frenzy of industrial activity.

Fruit of technolgical advances and innovation in weaponry, the first semiautomatic pistols had appeared towards the end of the nineteenth century and by the beginning of the twentieth were firmly established as a lucrative product. Moreover, the lenient terms of Spanish legislation regarding patents, which guaranteed product protection for three years but withdrew this protection if, during this period, the product had not been manufactured, encouraged Basque armourers to imitate foreign arms that had been a commercial success.

At the outset of the 20th century the Basque arms industry reflected the preponderance that small arms wielded on the market. Since the end of the last Carlist War the State had looked elsewhere to supply its armies. Barred from this market, production of military arms by Eibar companies was gradually substituted by that of commercial weapons, i.e., hunting pieces and revolvers and pistols for self defence, some of which are on display in this room together with documents, drawings and a description of improvements made to the cartridge ejector system for shotguns.

Companies from Eibar developed models of foreign arms, adapting and improving many of them. Proof of this are some of the arms on display in this room, such as the Victoria, the first Eibar-type pistol, a simple arm based on the first models manufactured by FN with the Browning patent. Another example of this strategy can be seen in the Mauser semiautomatic pistol, which, after undergoing improvements to its mechanism, was converted into a fully automatic weapon.

At this time, years of abundance would be followed by periods of recession, such as the summer of 1914, when the outbreak of the First World War forced the arms industry to grind to a halt, due to the ban on arms exports declared by the Spanish government and the reluctance of banks to grant credit or discount bills of exchange.

The founding of the Armoury School in 1912, the testing range and also the Armourers? Association were some of the measures that were taken to try to strengthen the position of the arms industry.

In 1915, on the other hand, amid the carnage of the First World War, arms production in Eibar reached its greatest heights ever. The revolver and the semiautomatic pistol proved to be very effective weapons for trench warfare and the opposing armies began to equip their troops with these arms.

Eibar met this demand, manufacturing and supplying the Allied armies with huge numbers of revolvers and simple semiautomatic pistols which became known as ?Eibar type? or ?Ruby?, the trademarks under which they were manufactured.

A staggering 1,446,589 weapons are estimated to have been produced.