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Armscor M200 38 Special 4″ 6RD. Revolver

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Although semi-automatic handguns seem to be the popular choice for self defense and home defense handguns by a fairly wide margin, there are people who still prefer a revolver. And there are arguably people and circumstances for whom and for which a revolver is simply a better choice than a semi-automatic. One of the problems inherent to revolvers as entry level handguns, however, is that they tend to be more expensive than entry level semi-automatics. There are also fewer choices of manufacturer in revolvers, and some of the available revolver manufacturers do not have a stellar reputation for producing reliable firearms.

In the United States, of course, the historic brands are Colt and Smith and Wesson. Colt stopped manufacturing revolvers (other than their iconic 1873 Single Action Army cowboy six shooter) over a decade ago. Smith and Wesson continues to make fine revolvers, but their prices put them out of reach of many people who want (or need) an inexpensive and reliable handgun. Among newer American brands, there is Ruger, but their double action revolver offerings are generally too large for self defense carry. The Redhawk line, in particular, is more suitable for hunting than for self defense carry.

One of Colt’s most popular and best-known double action revolvers intended for carry was the Detective Special. The “Dick Special,” as it is fondly known, was a nicely crafted, six-shot, double action revolver chambered in .38 Special. It was a small to medium size revolver, roughly comparable in overall size to Smith and Wesson revolvers holding only five shots. Before the official migration of most police departments to semi-automatics, the Detective Special was very popular with plainclothes officers because of the extra round compared to the similarly-sized S&W Chief’s Special.

Today, with the Detective Special having been out of production for more than ten years, used examples in good or better condition command premium prices, if they can be found at all. Along with the legions of Colt faithful who wish for the return of the fabled Colt Python, there are also a great many people who would be overjoyed to see the rebirth of the Detective Special. Alas, as of this writing there is no indication that Colt’s Manufacturing will bring back their double action revolver line any time within the near future. Even if they did, the prices would—of necessity—be on a par with prices for new Smith and Wesson revolvers. Not, in other words, a good option for someone with a limited budget but a real need for a reliable handgun that’s easy to use.

Enter … Armscor (Arms Corporation of the Philippines).


In the United States, Armscor is best known as the manufacturer of the immensely popular Rock Island Armory line of 1911-style, semi-automatic pistols. Why mention Armscor in connection with the late, lamented Detective Special? Just who and what is Armscor, anyway?

The enterprise that eventually came to be what is known today as Arms Corporation of the Philippines (Armscor) was started in 1905 by two Englishmen, as a haberdashery and sporting goods store. After a couple of changes in ownership the company, Squires Bingham, was bought by Celso S. Tuason in 1941. During the occupation of the Philippines by the Japanese during World War 2 all firearms were confiscated, and Squires Bingham survived solely on sales of clothing and related articles. When the war had ended, Celso Tuason recognized that firearms had been a mainstay of the business before the war, and so he set out to manufacture firearms and ammunition locally in order to avoid import tariffs and controls. In 1952 the government of the Philippines granted a license to manufacture firearms to Squires Bingham Manufacturing, Incorporated.

In the mid-1960s Celso Tuason retired and turned the family businesses over to his sons. Squires Bingham was positioned as a holding company for the family’s various enterprises, and the firearms and ammunition manufacturing operation became Arms Corporation of the Philippines. Clearly, Armscor is not a newcomer to the manufacture of firearms.

Armscor has developed an enviable reputation in the United States for their line of affordable, 1911-pattern semi-automatic pistols. While the 1911 line seems to be well-known, it is not as commonly known that Armscor also manufactures a line of .22 caliber rifles, and also a line of revolvers. It is the latter that are the subject of this review.

There is a persistent urban legend/Internet myth to the effect that Armscor bought the rights to and the tooling for Colt’s revolvers when Colt stopped manufacturing double action revolvers. This is untrue, as demonstrated by the fact that Armscor was building their M100 series .22LR and .38 Special revolvers in the 1970s. The M100 was introduced in 1970, curiously in .22WMR rather than in .22LR. A version chambered in .38 Special followed in 1971, with a .22LR version added to the lineup in 1972. These revolvers were apparently based on Colt’s older double action lockwork, characterized by a hammer-mounted firing pin and a folded leaf mainspring. Due to the cost and complexity of manufacture, the M100 line was discontinued in July of 1987 … several years before Colt ceased production of their double action revolvers. It’s no secret, however, that Armscor revolvers look very much like Colt revolvers. Since it has been said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” no doubt Colt’s Manufacturing was flattered to see lower priced clones of their revolvers showing up on the market.

The Model 200 series was introduced immediately after production of the M100 ceased, since the research and development for this model had started in mid-1980. Production began in the third quarter of 1987. The M200 series is totally different from the M100 series. The M200 has a "floating" frame-mounted firing pin with a transfer bar safety, while the M100 firing pin was attached to the hammer. The hammer spring of M200 is a "coiled spring wire" as opposed to the M100's "leaf type," "V" shaped hammer spring. The cylinder stop of the M100 was activated by the rebound lever which in turn was activated by the trigger, unlike the M200 cylinder stop which is directly activated by the trigger. The M200 model has fewer parts compared to the older M100 series.


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