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