This Is the Story of the Philippines' Biggest Firearms Maker
ILLUSTRATOR WARREN ESPEJO
Armscor is the oldest and biggest arms and ammunition manufacturer in the Philippines. In 2017, the company, whose manufacturing facility is located in Marikina City, reported producing about 200,000 firearms and some 420 million rounds of ammunition a year. About 80 percent of this was exported and sold to over 60 countries worldwide.
While the company used to focus on supplying individual shooting hobbyists, and customers interested in self-defense, sporting, and security, it pivoted to being an all-around defense company a few years ago with a focus on supplying the defense requirements of different countries’ armed forces. It even changed its name to Armscor Global Defense Inc.
A revolver being manufactured inside the Armscor facility in Marikina
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History of Armscor
Armscor’s roots go back to the early 1900s, when Englishmen Roy Squires and William Bingham founded a print shop that later evolved into a sporting goods and general merchandise retail shop. Squires Bingham Co. Inc. was purchased in 1930 by Arthur Hineman, who renamed it Sportsmen’s Headquarters. Hineman then later sold the company to Don Celso Tuason at the start of World War II, during which the business sold clothing and haberdashery.
An old photograph of the Squires Bingham headquarters, which you can see on the right
After the war, the company focused on the most profitable item in the store—firearms. The company was again renamed to Squires Bingham Manufacturing Inc. and was granted the license to manufacture firearms and ammunition in the Philippines in 1952. Tuason’s sons—Demetrio “Bolo” Tuason, Carlos “Butch” Tuason, and Severo “Conkoy” Tuason—all took an interest in the company and later joined the business.
The company underwent reorganization in 1980 and was subsequently renamed Arms Corporation of the Philippines, or simply Armscor. Bolo Tuason was named its chairman and president.
Firearms inside the Amrikina manufacturing facility of Armscor
Ammunition is also manufactured by Armscor in Marikina
Today the company is led by third-generation member Martin Tuason as its president. Its main manufacturing factory is located on a seven-hectare lot in Marikina City, although it also has plants in the U.S.—in Stevensville, Montana, which opened in 2011; and in Pahrump, Nevada, which opened in 2016. Armscor also acquired the Rock Island Armory brand, which is a leading manufacturer and developer of the M1911 pistol firearm, in 1985. These facilities service the requirements of customers in the U.S., which is the company’s largest market.
In 2017, Armscor expanded its business to become a total defense solutions provider that would supply firearms and ammunition to military and police forces worldwide. The expansion means providing not just the usual firearms and ammunition, but other defense requirements like grenades and rocket launchers. The company also commenced bids to supply the arms and ammunition requirements of military and police forces in Australia, South Africa, and other countries.
Armscor sells a wide range of firearms and ammunition, from pistols like its Baby Rock Standard CS 380 ACP (P28,600) and revolvers like the M200-38 Special (P15,500) to magazine-fed semi-automatics like the Derya MK-12 AS 100S (P70,000) and rifles like the Resolute 200 MKGS 9mm Glock Black 16.1-inch (P150,000).
Baby Rock Standard CS 380 ACP
It also offers things like headsets, helmets, and safety glasses for shooters, and pepper spray for self-defense, and many others.
Arms, ammunition and art
Armscor made headlines in 2017 when former President Rodrigo Duterte promised soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for new pistol firearms to better fulfill their duty of securing the country from lawless elements. It took on a greater sense of urgency when rebel groups laid siege on the city of Marawi, which led to a prolonged military crisis.
Derya MK-12 AS 100S
Although countries like the U.S. and China donated weapons for Philippine police and military forces to use in the conflict, it was Armscor that was able to provide a total of 3,000 firearms units to the AFP in accordance with the President’s wishes.
In addition to arms and ammunition, Armscor also has investment casting, which means it can make anything from metal, such as knee and hip joints and other medical tools. The company even makes art.
Just a few examples of the artwork manufactured in the company’s facility are the Manny Pacquiao statue at the Mall of Asia and the PMAer monument at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City.
Of course, Armscor is also known for its annual Tactical, Survival and Arms Expo, which is a showcase of defense, security and survival skills, and accessories. The expo aims to address global issues on environment, economic uncertainty and various security threats. The expo has since expanded to smaller-scale events in provincial areas such as Cebu and Davao.
This is a condensed version of two articles that first appeared on Entrepreneur Philippines