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Beistegui Hermanos
Revised 2006Dec05


The first Spanish maker to put a Mauser-esque gun on the international market was Beistegui Hermanos (Beistegui Brothers), making them from 1926 to 1934. Reliable information on the Beistegui guns is scarce - a remarkable fact, considering the intense collector interest that all Mauser-type guns have inspired for most of the twentieth century. Beisteguis are consistently misidentified in the books and even on collector's web sites. (That they are consistently misidentified on dealer's web sites should perhaps go without saying.) I have even seen Astras misidentified as Beisteguis, and that by collectors who really should know better.

Beistegui who?

There are multiple models and brands involved, and the confusion is considerable. There are two major theories. The early theory was that these guns were made by two Eibar firms, Zulaica and Eulogio Arostegui, and marketed by Beistegui Hermanos. The later theory is just the opposite; that Zulaica and Arostegui were marketing firms, and Beistegui was the manufacturer (and doubtless sold some guns directly itself). Zulaica made (or sold) other guns under the trademark "Royal", as did Arostegui under the "Azul" name, which tells us little about whether they were manufacturers or sales organizations.

R. K. Wilson (Textbook of Automatic Pistols, 1935) believed that there were three Spanish guns, the Astra (made by Unceta y Cia), the Royal (made, so far as I can find out from Wilson, by elves), and the Azul (made by Eulogio Arostegui). For select-fire guns, he described the Astra Model 902 and the Super Azul. Wilson described various guns and mechanisms in considerable detail but had no pictures, illustrations, or diagrams to accompany most of them, so it's too often hard to tell just what he was talking about.

Breathed & Schroeder (System Mauser, 1967) mentioned the Astra Models 900, 901, 902, 903, and F (no 904 or E). For the others, B&S followed the same scheme as Wilson - two distinct makes, the Royal (made by Zulaica y Cia and marketed by Beistegui Hermanos) and the Azul and Super Azul (made by Eulogio Arostegui with at least some marketed by Beistegui Hermanos). Azul was the semi-auto, Super Azul any of the select-fire models.

Belford & Dunlap (The Mauser Self-Loading Pistol, 1969) mentioned the Royal, claiming it to be made by Zulaica y Cia, distributed but not made by "Beistoqui Hermanos", and the Azul, made by Eulogio Arostegui. The Super Azul they claimed to be the select-fire version of the Azul. Their descriptions may have relied heavily on Wilson. Where B&D thought the Astra fit in isn't at all clear.

So far as I've seen, the earliest appearance of the revisionist story - that Beistegui manufactured the guns distributed and sold by Zulaica and Arostegui - was in Ezell (Handguns of the World, 1981), in a short writeup on Beistegui Hermanos. Ezell recognized three basic Beistegui models, all in a contiguous serial number sequence.
  • The Royal, with a 140mm, 160mm, or 180mm barrel, and a 10 or 20 shot fixed magazine
    • 3500 made before 1928 (most of them semi-autos)
    • 15,000 made in 1928, mostly select-fire
    • 4500 made in 1929; discontinued in favor of MM31. Total made, about 23,000
  • The MM31, made from late 1929 or early 1930 to 1934. Serial numbers ran from about 23000 to 33000. So about 10 thousand were made, in four distinct variants -
    • Select fire; 140mm or 180mm barrel; 10 shot fixed magazine
    • Same, with 20 shot fixed magazine
    • Same, but with a new detachable magazine, in 10, 20, or 30 shot capacities
    • Same, but modified to be compatible with Mauser Schnellfeuer magazines
  • Unnamed new model in 1934, with a cyclic rate reducer. No other info.
Ezell adds other interesting claims, such as most of the Spanish guns going to China via a single Japanese trading house, Nippon Trading Company, and noted that the fourth MM31 variant was marketed "worldwide" by Eulogio Arrostegui as the Super Azul. But then he dropped a clanger -
Although the Beistegui Hermanos were the first to build a selective-fire pistol in Spain, their production numbers were insignificant when compared to Unceta y Compania.
A strange statement, since the production of Mauseresque pistols by the two firms was almost identical - something over 33,000 for Beistegui, the vast majority of them select-fire, versus something just under 34,000 Astra pseudo-Mausers from Unceta, a mere 13,000 of them select-fires of one model or another. Not only was the Beistegui factory cranking 'em out like nobody's business, at rates of 8 to 10 thousand guns a year, up to 15,000 at its peak - not too shabby, even by the standards of the mighty Mauser-Werke itself - but the R&D effort was prodigious, with Beistegui leading the field in all respects except the rate reducer, which was an Unceta invention.

I also have reservations about Ezell's terminology. Using the name "Royal" for all the Beistegui pistols, or even just the earliest model (which has no other obvious name), can only lead to confusion, as many MM31s and MM34s were also marked "Royal".

Erickson & Pate (The Broomhandle Pistol, 1985) agreed with Ezell on most points, even calling the early model Beistegui pistol the Royal. Details differed slightly in their discussion of the MM31, with the claim that "preproduction samples exist from 1929 and 1930" and that "real production of the model did not begin until 1931". E&P mentioned the leather boot attached to the stock/holster of 20 shot guns, to cover the outer end of the magazine, and more caliber options offered with the third variation. Another detail not mentioned by Ezell was the standardization on a 140mm barrel with this third variation, in late 1931. E&P claimed that the caliber options persisted with the fourth variation, that its magazine well was flush with the bottom of the triggerguard (without the upward step of the third variation), the frame milling above the grips was deleted, and that only about 1000 were made.

There are inconsistencies in E&P's account. Preproduction samples in 1929 of a gun which only went in series production in 1931 strikes me as, in this case, unlikely - it comes from an over-reliance on the "31" in "MM31" as a definite introduction date. I have no problem with test specimens in 1929 and production in 1930. Referring to the generic early Beistegui pistol as a Royal is confusing, as later models (both the MM31 and MM34) also appeared as Royals - a bad habit shared with Ezell. The alternate calibers seem a bit odd, but could be correct.

Unlike Ezell, E&P described the MM34 - a fixed 20 shot and, later, a detachable magazine, a 7 inch finned barrel, a 3-position cyclic rate reducer switch over the left grip, the returned milled area over the grips, and a total production of 200 to 300 guns. The claim that the MM34 was an answer to the Astra Model F is unlikely, as only one Model F was made in 1934, and I doubt that Unceta shipped that one to Beistegui so that they could copy it at their convenience. It was more likely an answer to the Model 904, which had almost the same rate reducer mechanism as the Model F.

E&P differed from most writers and followed an implication by Ezell that the Super Azul name was applied to the fourth variant of the MM31, the one compatible with Schnellfeuer magazines. All others mentioning Super Azul claimed that it was a trade name for select fire guns, semi-autos being called Azul.

Berger (Know Your Broomhandle Pistols, 1985) had a slightly shorter version of the story as laid out by Ezell.

Gangarosa (Spanish Handguns, 2001) didn't clearly distinguish between the three basic Beistegui models, and called them all Royals. However he pointed out that in the 1932 Stoeger catalog, a Mauser semi-auto C-96 cost $75 and a Schnellfeuer $85, but a MM31 cost $22. He continued:
One could buy nearly four of the Spanish weapons for the cost of a single Mauser. And yet, in some respects the Spanish weapons were actually superior to the Mauser, notably in their use of rate-reducing mechanisms in later selective-fire weapons made by Astra and Beistegui.
Not in 1932, they didn't - the rate reducer appeared in 1934 on the Model 904, and Unceta only made nine of them - not too likely to cut into Mauser sales there. The Model F had it also, but none were exported, as all the Model Fs were in 9mm Largo, which by that time was used nowhere but in Spain.

So it's quite a hash. It might help if some visual evidence for all this was presented. For instance not a single photo of the Azul or Super Azul markings seems to exist in the literature. Photos may be captioned as being of an Azul or Super Azul, but they tend to say Royal, ETAI, MM31, or MM34 on the side, and not Azul or Super Azul. Contemporary sales literature might tell us something about the Azul line, but nobody seems anxious to reprint any. Erickson & Pate printed some photos of "Royal" paperwork for the MM31, but none are mentioned in the text or captions. The photos are too small and fragmentary to be useful.

Another obvious problem with the text is the ETAI pistol. Nobody has anything to say about it, but it definitely exists - even worse, it's sometimes misidentified as a Royal, even though it says "ETAI" on the side. Hogg & Weeks (Pistols of the World, Revised, 1982) recognized the name but couldn't identify the actual manufacturer. E&P didn't mention it in the text, but had a photo of an ETAI pistol, captioned "Royal Semi-Automatic" (!). The caption noted that ETAI was "one of several trademarks under which Beistegui marketed the pistol."

I lean toward the "revisionist" version of the story, mainly because of the serial number evidence, although some annoying inconsistencies remain. But I believe the blanket name Royal has to go. I call the first model Beistegui the First Model - not too imaginative, I realize.

Ezell gave the earliest exposition that I've seen of the revisionist story, but gave no hint as to where specifics, such as production estimates, came from - probably not Beistegui factory records, as the factory burned down in 1937. Later writers such as Erickson & Pate and Berger repeated the same numbers, again without much in the way of attribution. Between them, Ezell and E&P have the most complete story. Let's see if it matches what little photographic evidence is available.


First Model

There were basically three clearly identifiable Beistegui models, with several variations of each. They were sold through several marketing and export firms, all native to Eibar. So each variation could appear with several brand names, adding to the overall confusion. I don't know why they bothered with the fancy distribution system, as the guns were nearly all destined for the same place in the end - not only to China, but even, so far as I can tell, via the same Japanese import/export firm. The three known brands, as marked on the guns and sometimes appearing in contemporary literature, were -

• Royal - sold by Zulaica y Cia
• Azul and Super Azul - sold by Eulogio Arostegui
• ETAI - seller unknown

These names are cryptic. Royal is easy enough, but Azul in Spanish just means blue - not exactly a name to inspire one to reach for one's wallet. ETAI means nothing in English or Spanish. In French it means a strut or prop - not a promising lead. Perhaps someone thought these names meant something to Chinese customers - not a promising lead either, as in that case they'd more likely have been rendered in Chinese characters. I've assumed for the moment that, as ETAI isn't a word, it may be an acronym. Hence the upper case lettering.

First Model - no particular model designation; sold as ETAI or Royal

This was the first pseudo-Mauser on the market, a relatively crude semi-auto appearing in 1926. Mechanically, it was laid out approximately like the Mauser original, but without the removable lock frame. Internal parts (trigger, hammer, safety lever, etc.) pivoted on pins and screws extending through the frame. The screws also held the frame together. The bolt was of round cross-section, unlike the square Mauser bolt.

These earliest Beistegui guns were all in 7.63mm, had 1000 meter tangent sights, and shoulder stocks much like the Mauser original. E&P claim that they're slimmer than the Mauser versions, but they don't look much slimmer to me.

Barrels were available in three lengths - 140, 160, or 180 mm. Magazines were fixed, and available in 10 or 20 shot capacity.

These guns first appeared in semi-auto form, and looked superficially much like the C-96, although detail differences were obvious enough.

[pic 1,2, an ETAI, with recognition points]

The
"ETAI" PISTOL
CAL. 7.63m/m

brand marking is not as widely recognized today as the Royal brand. Here is another early Beistegui pistol, this one branded as a Royal, and with one of the longer optional barrel lengths -

[pic 3, a Royal with a longer barrel]

These Royals were marked

ROYAL
PATENT NO 105614


on the right side of the frame.

Some Beistegui guns have no brand name marked on them at all.

A select-fire (or, as the sales literature called it, "running-fire") version appeared the next year, in 1927. All Beistegui pseudo-Mausers were numbered in the same serial number sequence, and little distinction seems to have been made between semi-auto and select-fire guns. Of course in person they were easily identified by the selector switch on the left side of the frame. [pic 4] Although first appearing in 1926, production didn't really get going until 1927, when some 3,500 guns, nearly all semi-autos, were made. Production switched mainly to select-fire guns in 1928, when about 15,000 guns total were made. Manufacture of this model wound down in 1929, after production of another 4,500 guns, for maybe 23,000 total. Most of these would have been select-fire versions, although the exact numbers are unknown.

That 1928 production figure of 15,000 was a huge number from what was apparently not a very large company. I might even call it suspicious, were I the suspicious type.

Second Model - usually marked MM31; sold as Royal, Azul, or Super Azul

This improved model was advertised as the New Model MM31 (MM? Military Model? Modelo Mauser?), although it may have first appeared in 1930. This was a much closer copy of the Mauser original than was the First Model, with the full separate lock frame and all. And it was of much better quality than the earlier gun, though still not at Mauser level. The MM31 was manufactured until 1934. A total of about 10,000 were made, in perhaps four successive variants. All had 1000 meter sights and shoulder stocks. Any of these Second Models might be found with various brand markings - none at all, or MM31 on the left of the frame, or Royal on the right of the frame, or MM31 on the left and Royal on the right, or Azul on the left. Azul-brand guns were sold by another Eibar firm, Eulogio Arostegui. The ETAI name seems to have died by this time.

Just why Beistegui bothered with a revised product is one of the weak points in the Revisionist theory. Certainly they never hit the same production peak with the MM31 as they had with the First Model in 1928. But that may have had more to do with politics than with sales.

First Variant

This was in 7.63mm and had a fixed 10 shot magazine. Barrels were available in 140 or 180 mm.

[pic 5,6]

Second Variant

This was much like the First Variant except that an optional fixed 20 shot magazine was added. The stock of the 20 shot version had a leather boot added to cover the nether end of the magazine, so was very different from the huge, all-wood shoulder stocks of the Mauser 20 shot guns of Cone Hammer days.

[pic7]

Third Variant

This was the first variant with a detachable magazine. Magazines were available in 10, 20, or 30 shot.

More calibers were available. Reported calibers were 7.63mm, 9mm Bergmann, and .38 Colt SuperAuto.

The Bergman ammo would be weird, except that 9mm Bergmann (or, more properly, Bergmann-Bayard) is identical to 9mm Largo, the standard Spanish service round in those days. I have not seen the tangent sight of a Beistegui gun in 9mm Largo, so don't know if anyone took to trouble to recalibrate the range markings and modify the sight ramp suitably.

I am suspicious of the claim about Colt SuperAuto. Although it is possible, as SuperAuto was introduced in 1929, plain old Colt Auto was much more popular in those days. Also, its less-powerful loading would have involved fewer design changes to the gun. Compared to the Largo cartridge, both Colt Auto cartridges have more prominent rims, so more must be cut out of the bolt face or the breech end of the barrel for them to chamber properly. Aside from that, a conversion from 9mm Largo to 38 Colt Auto should have been easy.

E&P report that the Third Variant dropped the 180mm barrel option, standardizing on a 140mm barrel length.

Fourth Variant

The functional change was the magazine, which was made compatible with the magazines on the new Mauser Schnellfeuer. (Obviously Mauser wasn't going to knock itself out trying to make its gun compatible with the earlier Spanish magazines).

There were some cosmetic changes. The vaguely Mauseresque milled cutout on the side of the frame, over the grip, was deleted. E&P report that the bottom of the magazine housing was changed; the bottom edge was flush with the triggerguard, rather than being stepped upward a bit as on the earlier variants.

Fourth Variant guns sold by Eulogio Arostegui were marked Super Azul. There are two theories about Azuls and Super Azuls. The older theory was that Azuls were semi-autos, and Super Azuls were select-fire guns. The later theory, espoused by E&P, was that Super Azuls would fit Mauser Schnellfeuer magazines, and Azuls would not. I lean toward the second theory, mainly because I don't believe that Arostegui sold many semi-autos, if any, so the plain Azul name would be so rare that nobody would ever have heard of it. The jury has to stay out on this one, lacking more evidence - either contemporary sales literature, owner's manuals, or good photos of surviving guns.

Another interesting tidbit from E&P is that, although the Fourth Variant of the MM31 was introduced in late 1931, most were not proofed until 1933, and only about a thousand were made before the MM31 was replaced in 1934 by the next model, the MM34.

Now, if the Fourth Variant replaced the earlier Variants (that is, the earlier variants didn't continue in production), that implies production of a mere thousand guns between late 1931 and 1934. That's quite a drop from 1928, when Beistegui supposedly made 15,000 guns. 1931 may been the beginning of the end for Beistegui.

Third Model - MM34

This, the last model, was much like the Second Model, but added a mechanical rate reducer inside the grip area, in order to compete with the Astra Model 904 and Model F (the first pseudo-Mausers with such a feature - even Mauser itself didn't have it). But to one-up Unceta, the Beistegui version had a three-position lever to select the firing rate. It is visible at the top of the left grip, and is the Third Model's most reliable identification feature.

[pic]

Only a few hundred of the Third Model were made. The most likely marking was MM34 on the left side of the frame, with or without Royal on the right side.

[pic]

Some were reportedly marked Super Azul but this is unconfirmed.

There are some peculiar things about this model. First, for such a short-lived product, there sure were a lot of variations. The MM34 has been seen with the old fixed 20 shot magazine, which should have been long dead by that time, but also with detachable magazines of up to 30 shot capacity. The milled-out panel in the frame returned part way through production. And, most bizarrely, the long barrel option was back, this time with fins - which definitely put this baby solidly into Buck Rogers territory.

[pic]

In 1934, the Beistegui brothers, Juan and Cosme, abandoned the gun manufacturing business they had started 25 years earlier, and the entire MM31/MM34/Royal/ETAI/Azul/Super Azul line went extinct. A few thousand pistols, still unsold in 1936, were seized by Republican forces that July. The factory burned in 1937. After the civil war the Beistegui brothers moved to Vitoria and went into bicycle manufacture.





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