Destroyer Carbine
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A brief history of the Destroyer Carbine

There are two main variations of Destroyer Carbines and other lesser known (manufactured?) variations. The emphasis here will be on the most abundant Destroyers on the surplus market.

In the early part of the 20th Century the Guardia Civil, Spanish police, were armed with a .44-40 lever action carbine named 'El Tigre' which was a copy of the Winchester 1892.  The main use of the Destroyer Carbine appears to have been as a police carbine also. In the early 1930s the Spanish Monarch was overthrown and the Republicans took over the country.  Until this time Spain had but one police force, the Guardia Civil, and they were loyal to the Monarch.  The Republican government created a new police force, La Guardia de Asalto (Assault Guards), that was loyal to them and took over the everyday policing duties in larger towns and cities.  In the countryside, the Guardia Civil still performed their duties.  At the end of the Spanish Civil War Franco reorganized the entire police force and combined them into The Policia Armada y de Trafico (Police Force and of Traffic), who took over all policing duties in Spain.  They were given a grey uniform and quickly earned the nickname Los Grises (the Greys).  At some point the Policia Armada y de Trafico turned in their El Tigres; recieved Destroyer Carbines and used them until they upgraded to a Star submachine gun.  Los Grises served until shortly after Franco's death, in November 1975, when the police force was once again reorganized as Policia Nacional (National Police), and the uniform color changed to medium dark brown.  Now for some history of the Destroyer Carbine.  

Sometime around 1921 Gaztanaga y Compania of Eibar owned the Destroyer trademark and produced a line of semi-automatic pistols bearing this name. It is believed that they also produced the early Destroyer Carbines, but no one is sure. Gaztanaga went out of business sometime during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

Sometime before World War II; the Ayra Duria firm, also of Eibar, resumed manufacture of Destroyer Carbines. Ayra Duria continued to manufacture Destroyer Carbines until at least 1961. These Ayra Duria Destroyers are the most abundant on the surplus market.

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As with most old Spanish Steel, there is a lack of serial number records for Destroyer Carbines. Determining the age of a Destroyer Carbine can, however, be accomplished through Eibar Proof Marks and Year of Proof Codes. The Destroyer pictured here bears a Late Eibar Admission to Proof stamp (used after 9 July, 1931) a Final Proof for Rifled Long Guns, and a Year of Proof Code (G1=1961). This carbine is in the 32,000 serial number range. Also of note is the Destroyer Trademark stamp on the receiver ring.

With the help of many other people I have compiled a partial list associating Year of Proof Codes with Serial Numbers. Any new information is welcome.
Proof CodeDateSer. No.Notes
U195017461double stack magazine, no trigger guard screws, straight stock
U1950184xxdouble stack magazine, no trigger guard screws, straight stock
X1952199xxone trigger guard screw, straight stock
Y195319973one trigger guard screw, straight stock
Y1953200xxone trigger guard screw, pistol grip stock
Y195320292one trigger guard screw, straight stock
Y195321xxxone trigger guard screw, stamped barrel bands
Y195321xxxone trigger guard screw, milled barrel bands
Y195X21231one trigger guard screw, straight stock, rechambered to 9mm Luger
Z195422862one trigger guard screw, pistol grip stock
Z195422950one trigger guard screw, straight stock
Z195423xxxone trigger guard screw
Z195423000one trigger guard screw, straight stock
Z195423043one trigger guard screw, straight stock
A1195524xxxone trigger guard screw, milled barrel bands,
A1195524xxxtwo trigger guard screws, milled barrel bands
A11955245xxone trigger guard screw, pistol grip stock
A1195524670one trigger guard screw, straight stock
A11955252xxone trigger guard screw
B1195625xxxone trigger guard screw, milled barrel bands
B11956254xxone trigger guard screw, straigth stock
B1195625436one trigger guard screw, straight stock
B1195625794one trigger guard screw, straight stock, cast barrel bands
C11957266xxone trigger guard screw
C11957266xxtwo trigger guard screws
C1195726626one trigger guard screw, straight stock
D1195828xxxone trigger guard screw
D1195828031one trigger guard screw, pistol grip stock
E11959286xxone trigger guard screw pistol grip stock
F1196031xxxtwo trigger guard screws, milled barrel bands
F1196031xxxone trigger guard screw, stamped barrel bands
F1196031181two trigger guard screws
G1196131xxxtwo trigger guard screws
G1196131372two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock, stamped barrel bands
G1196132xxxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock, stamped barrel bands
G1196132736two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
H11962339XXtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
H11962363xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
I1196336916two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
I1196337xxxstamped barrel bands
I1196337813two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
I1196338241two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
I11963??xxxtwo trigger guard screws
J1196439565two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
J11964396xxtwo trigger guard screws
J1196439624two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
J1196439670two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
K1196541xxxtwo trigger guard screws
K1196541031two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
K11965413xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
K11965415xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
K11965419xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
L11966435xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
L1196643744two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock, marked "38ACP"
M1196744310two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock, marked "9mm Parabellum"
M1196744585two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
N1196844xxxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
N1196844824two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
N1196844919two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
N11968450xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
N1196845308two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock, stamped barrel bands
N1196846157two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock, stamped barrel bands
O1197047xxxtwo trigger guard screws
O1197047345two trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
O119704752xtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
O11970479xxtwo trigger guard screws, pistol grip stock
T1197550xxx

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Shown above are the variants of trigger guard assemblies. The Destroyer on top has one transverse screw and the Destroyer on the bottom has two transverse screws. Some Destroyer Carbines have been reported chambered for 9mm Luger and .38 ACP/Super and so marked, however these appear to be the exception to the rule.

The Gaztanaga Destroyer was a very simple design and had a bolt much like a bolt action shotgun. The only locking lug was the bolt handle. Sometime before WWII, perhaps when Ayra Duria took over manufacture, the Destroyer was improved. This is the Destroyer most likely encountered by the collector and shooter.

The engineers who improved the design did away with the bolt handle locking lug arrangement and copied the Mauser 93 action extensively for this 'new' Destroyer. The bolt was given two locking lugs about 2/3 of the way back from the breechface, located horizontally. The extractor was moved/remained on top of the bolt as opposed to the Mauser 93's extractor on the side of the bolt. This bolt arrangement is very similar to the modern Ruger 77/22 rifle. Disassembly of the bolt is like most other Mauser style bolts except that the firing pin is screwed into the cocking piece. The Destroyer Carbine cocks on closing, like the Mauser 93. This combined with the short bolt throw makes for a very fast action. The weight of the carbine also absorbs most of the recoil; making for a very fast shooting carbine.

Bolt removal on a Destroyer Carbine is so simple as to be difficult the first time. Most owners try to over engineer their thinking when attempting this. Simply pull the bolt to the rear until the locking lugs line up with the cut out on the receiver tang, rotate the bolt handle to the 3 o'clock position, and remove the bolt. Reinstallation is simply the opposite. As I said, simple; no hidden springs, catches or secrets.

The safety functions much like that of a Mauser also, located just forward of the cocking piece. Moving the lever to the right puts the weapon on safe, moving it to the left takes it off safe. It should be noted that many of the Destroyers available now do not have functioning safeties. They will not move when the bolt is cocked. It is believed that this is due to parts swapping before or after they were put in storage in Spain. Most of the Spanish firearms industry operated on a cottage system, with individual families making different parts. These were then sent to the factory to be fitted and assembled. Firing pins are not to be swapped for this reason. Each firing pin varies in length and must be fitted to that carbine. If a too long firing pin is used in a Destroyer Carbine, it may not only cock on closing, but fire on closing also.

The sights on Destroyer carbines are much like front line infantry rifles of the day. There is a 'battle' sight consisting of a 'V' notch zeroed from 25-50 meters and a flip up, elevation adjustable, leaf sight. This leaf sight is graduated in 100 meter intervals out to an impressive 700 meters. A quick calculation gives a bullet drop of 91 feet at 700 meters using standard 9mm Largo loads from Spain!

Many owners have reported (the author included) that upon disassembling their Destroyers the barrel was found to be only hand tight on the receiver. I do not know if this was intentional. This shouldn't cause a problem if the barrel stays indexed with the receiver, but headspace may be affected and it should be checked by a competent gunsmith prior to firing the carbine. The Destroyer Carbine has been out of production for many years now and there are no known stocks of new parts. However, used parts are occasionally available. This is a hit or miss proposition as no one ever seems to have complete parts sets, just bits and pieces. So, if you decide to purchase a Destroyer Carbine try to ensure that it is complete and operational. For those of you interested in rebarreling. Some Destroyer barrel threads are .625" max diameter and 26 threads per inch, v-shaped. The threaded section is also .625" long, from a barrel diameter of .850" at the shoulder. I have also received a report that the threads on atleast one Destroyer are .803" diameter at 12 threads per inch. Remember that not all Destroyers are the same, please check your thread before starting any rethreading.

Factory magazines for the Destroyer Carbine are of five round capacity. They are available from many of the sources listed in the parts section of this website and at most gunshows. Colt .38 Super magazines can be modified to fit these carbines, giving you more than five rounds in your magazine. I have done this conversion and it shouldn't be difficult for anyone who is fairly skilled in the use of hand tools and simple power tools. Instructions are provided for this conversion.

Several Destroyer Carbines with Bayonet Mounts have been brought to my attention. Some appear to be 'aftermarket' shade tree gunsmith work and some appear to be very professionally done. I have not, however, found any references to Destroyer Carbines produced by Ayra Duria with Bayonet Mounts.

When 9mm Largo ammunition was hard to find in quantity shooters regularly fired other cartridges such as the 9mm Luger, 9mm Steyr, 9mm Browning Long, etc in their 9mm Largo firearms. Many dealers and distributors also claimed the firearms would fire all of these and more. This however is not a prudent practice to engage in. The Destroyer Carbine, like all firearms using straight walled cartridges, headspaces on the mouth of the cartridge. When a cartridge shorter than the 23mm of the 9mm Largo is used, the cartridge case cannot headspace against the end of the chamber. This leaves only the extractor to hold the cartridge case against the breechface allowing the firing pin to impact the primer. This causes excessive wear and stress on the extractor, too much freebore (the distance from the bullet to the beginning of the rifling), and scoring of the chamber walls. The result of these abnormalities can result in broken/misshapen extractors, poor accuracy, and the inability to chamber and extract correct size cases.

The use of cartridges that produce too much chamber pressure is also discouraged. Yes, the .38 Super and 9x23mm Winchester will chamber in most 9mm Largo firearms, and if they will chamber they will fire. The metallurgy and design of the Destroyer Carbine was not developed to handle the pressure of these rounds. Use of these type cartridges in the Destroyer Carbine risks damage to the carbine and possibly yourself through a ruptured chamber and/or bolt lug failure.

Ammunition in 9mm Largo is now available from a number of sources. Surplus ammunition is now coming into the country in shootable quantities and is available at some gunshops, many gunshows, and via mailorder. Factory new 9mm Largo ammunition is being made by CCI in their Blazer line (product number 3513) with a 124g Gold Dot Hollow Point bullet. If you reload; RCBS makes dies in 9mm Largo (product number 56665), these are not a normally stocked item and require special order. You can also utilize 9x23mm Winchester dies to reload 9mm Largo, the exterior case dimensions are almost identical. Starline also produces virgin 9mm Largo brass for reloading. Gone are the days of manufacturing cases out of .223 Remington (done that, not fun), 9mm Winchester Magnum (done that, much easier) or other cases.

Dave Berry wrote and article concerning the Destroyer Carbine in 1994, a copy of the article can be viewed here.

Paul M. R. Breakey has written and article entitied "SPANISH POLICE CARBINES the story continues" which was published in the Military Rifle Journal.


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Text, images, and HTML coding Copyright 2001 Colin D. Castelli, All Rights Reserved.