Illegal Firearms Manufacturing in The Phillipines – AP Circa 1997

Hunting for some fun items for our readership, I stumbled across some b-roll footage from the Associated Press which previously did an piece back in 1997. The video, which is obviously lacking the AP’s beautiful narration is nonetheless an expose into the manufacturing of arms.

Cebu Province is normally known for its incredible beaches and tourist-friendly spots. Having visited it previously, I can attest it was a wonderful place (if I only knew of the firearms manufacturing, I might have loved it even more).

Putting on my day-job hat, I come away incredibly impressed with the ability of companies to manufacture firearms without many of the complex, but highly efficient CNC machines that typify US and european based firearms (like what we saw at SCCY). By the video, some firearms are fully hand-fitted (and I would argue with some skill). Others, as one may expect, are crudely constructed.

Still, they work. Revolvers revolve and MAC-10’s shoot full-auto.

That, I am am also jealous that they likely are not managing serialized assets, which a firearms company in the US lives and dies by (just look to Stag Arms for what happens for violations).

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Dan

    There is still illegal guns being made in Cebu, but many have gone legit and started working with companies like Shooters Arms Corporation (imported by Century Arms).

    • Red McCloud

      This is definetly proto-S.A.M. The MACs (X9) and M10 (Protector) clones are literally the same, and I saw multiple people working on 1911s. It’s strange to see their origins. I really wish they imported a semi-auto version of their Trailblazer rifle or Protector revolver.

      • Paul J

        Yep those full auto revolvers are insane.

        • They aren’t full auto revolvers.
          The protector revolver is a DA/SA revolver.

          The only full auto revolver is a revolver shotgun that also happens to have a gas seal system so you can put a silencer on it. That is the Pancor Jackhammer.

      • Adam

        S.A.M dont actually manufacture the Trailblazer rifle, they come select from the factory that makes them..

  • jerrythegeek

    Filing, Grinding, fitting. Post-production quality checks and even test firing?

    What a concept!

    (It will never challenge today’s modern production methods, which ‘assume” that the product works as advertised, and handle complaints (when the buyer discovers that the gun does NOT work) as a “warranty” problem … and simply advise the purchaser to return the gun to the retailer (to be replaced, as a last resort, by another gun which has never been inspected.)

  • Raven Steeler Man Arceneaux

    Someone with a lot of money or drugs is funding this

    • Tassiebush

      I don’t think it’s such a centralized consumer base. I think a lot of different types of people own guns made in this cottage industry context.

  • Guy Slack

    I want to work outside filing on 1911’s without a shirt. Seriously.

    • Bob

      Probably a lot better off than the guys inside. Cooler and plenty of ventilation so they don’t breathe metal shavings all the time.

  • Tony O

    That’s pretty cool. I grew up not too far from there (about 40 miles south), and my family would drive through that town often on our way to one of our favorite vacation spots. Interestingly enough, there are guns literally everywhere in the Philippines. Almost every security guard, and they’re on almost every street corner, has either a pistol, revolver or shotgun. That being said, most of them aren’t trained all that well, and it’s very difficult in the Philippines for someone not in a “security” type occupation to legally obtain a firearm.

    • Cynical_Asshole

      well yeah it’s not impossible. just a resolute pain in the ass, since you have to go to a lot of government/PNP offices around the metro to pass requirements and all that. and then there’s the waiting time before they finally give you your LTOPF (License to Own and Purchase Firearms) but doable, if you’re patient and willing.

      but alas, Election Season is coming and the Comelec just enacted a “Election Gun Ban.” all firearm license processing and purchases will still go on, but you can’t bring your firearm to the range while the ban is in effect until July. (as if gun bans worked in the past pffft)

      and yeah, it sucks.

  • Daniel M. Ramos

    Have y’all seen the work that is done in Pakistan by hand?

    Seriously, if the feds really wanted to put a dent in the supply of weapons to terrorist in that area of the world all they would have to do would be to get those dudes to come to the U.S. and start gunsmith businesses. They are absolutely insanely capable when it comes to using relatively primitive tools to make modern weapons. Imagine what they could do with modern tools and a real workshop. They would probably blow our minds at shot show. HA!

  • lowell houser

    Notice what’s NOT being worked on? There’s no rifles in this place. No AK’s, no M16’s.

    • Twilight sparkle

      They’re a lot harder to hide and carry around in cities so people who want guns like these in the Philippines aren’t going to buy them.

      If you wanna see rifles made in an environment similar to this you can look up videos of khyber pass.

      • Mikial

        @Twilight sparkle

        Having done some jobs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I can say that the ability of the average person to build fully operational firearms from scratch is generally underestimated. In truth, the most difficult component of weapons to manufacture is the brass or steel casings for the ammo. This is why PCP Ammunition has developed a one use polymer casing . . so that it is more difficult for insurgents and terrorists to recover spent cases after a firefight to use in manufacturing their own ammo. I’ve seen some very interesting guns that were built in a cave somewhere.

  • Tassiebush

    I just want to say these cottage industry gun manufacturers are always interesting posts.

  • jeffrey melton

    It would be great to have subtitles for those of us who don’t speak gibberish .

    • They should have the subtitles in arrogant foolish bastard for you then.

      • jeffrey melton

        I speak two languages, English and bad English, they spoke neither.

  • Scott Roberts

    They did this during the second world war, to provide themselves arms to fight the Japanese… If you read “American Guerilla in the Philippines”, they describe the process- using hollowed car axles for barrels, hand fitting bullets made from brass curtain rod, hammering them through the barrel to make sure the size would work, etc… NOT very high tech, and likely to have failures, but they worked. When an oppressed people WANT guns, if they cannot BUY pretty, factory made arms, they CAN and WILL build their own.

  • Bob61

    The “author” makes it seem like people wanting to earn more than $4/month are a bad thing.
    Want to go live in the 3rd world and hand make Saturday night specials?
    Be my guest.
    But when you ask for a raise from $.03/hour to a whole nickle,don’t be surprised when they answer you with a machete.

  • Bob61


    • CissyScum

      Perhaps his custom 1911 chambered in .40 has a frame made in the Philippines.

  • Joseph B Campbell

    I have been to the Philippines. They make some of the best knockoff/pirated products in the world. Many people come there to buy products cheep that they couldn’t afford elsewhere.

  • Adam

    All i can say is, If you’re ever in Cebu.. A trip up to Danao is a must.. Their biggest problems are the government when it comes to renewing licences.. Like when World MPC started, it was to get everyone working Legally.. When licence renew time came, the government didnt renew it for over a year, so everybody goes back to making illegal guns , then they get the license back, and everyone goes back to the factory.. And there are some true artisans there.. exceptional hand engravers.. The funny part is the guys who do the engraving for company names, sometimes spell Smith & Wesson wrong, Cobrayo instead of Cobray.. Their only real issue is quality steel and heat treating.. but hey, where else can you get a 1911 for $150 .. And hey, look out for cheapish 1911 Remington Rands, Singers, etc.. they know all about them..

  • Glenn

    I noticed the drill press is spinning counterclockwise. Is the guy drilling left hand threads ?

  • Don La Rue

    I wonder why the kid was running the endmill BACKWARDS at the 2:50 mark…Must be using the new and improved endmill geometry they have over there….WTF….Lmao