Much like the Pakistani merchants who taught themselves how to build Kalashnikov pattern rifles, gunsmiths working out of home work shops in the Danao region of the Philippines construct weapons by hand with metal scavenged or bought from local junkyards. Such weapons are also referred to as paltik, meaning copied or not quite reliable.
Despite the derogatory terms, many of these DIY guns are pretty impressive. While they may be a far cry from mil-spec, reports state that these guns will give the name brands a run for their money. From M4s to 1911 pistols to Uzi sub-machine guns, Danao gunsmiths have not only been copying existing weapons for decades, but innovating as well. Jaileen Jimeno reports that one gun maker created a “Mini-Ingram” sub-machine gun that is, smaller, “but still as lethal as its big brother. The mini-Ingram looks cute and harmless, but it can spit out 18 to 20 9-mm bullets in a second.”
Such weapons are often made with hand tools alone for sale to private citizens, local politicians, Japanese yakuza gangsters, and even police officers and soldiers who look the other way in regards to these black market gun dealers.
Remember all those sew shops outside Ft. Bragg? You could walk into any one of them with your uniform and ask one of the grandmothers working there for nearly any modification you can think of and they would do it. It works much the same with Danao gunsmiths who do work nearly as good as high end manufacturers but at a fraction of the cost.
Other work shops can employ dozens of gunsmiths and occupy entire warehouses. Some of these craftsmen become so prolific and so talented that legally owned and operated companies will hire them and put them to work. A couple of these forward thinking manufacturers are Shooter Arms and Armscor.
The suppressors they make are particularly interesting. Like American commercial weapons and accessories, this example has a logo and brand name etched in it although it is simply for ascetics, the name and company is not legally registered. Reportedly, this suppressor gets the job done but, “I would never trust it with full auto or for more than a 100 rounds through it but I think for quick dirty jobs I strongly believe it will do the job of run and gun [type work]”.
Love ’em or hate ’em Danao guns are here to stay, supplying everyone from competitive shooters, to body guards, to professional hit men with the tools of their trade.
*Correction: the lead picture in this story was originally labeled as being a Danao M4 rather than a Bushmaster. I have some pictures of Danao made M4-type rifles that I will write about in the future.
Kit Up! contributor Jack Murphy is a former Ranger, Special Forces Soldier and is the author of the military thriller Reflexive Fire.