Ruger 1022 “Baby 14:” A Full-Auto Conversion from the Philippine Underground Workshops

By J.M. Ramos

It has been 10 years since I last returned to the Philippines. Each visit proved to be quite a memorable one. This time it’s extra special, as I have to attend the 50th anniversary of my high school reunion. A lot has changed since I last saw my classmates, all in their senior years. Just like me, the signs of wear and tear of getting old are clearly evident. Sadly, each year the reunion is held, the number of attendees becomes fewer. And for those who are still around and able to make it to the event, it is a pure delight to see them and hear their accomplishments in life. Some became doctors, professional photographers, professors, engineers, military, police and so on; but many did not make it past high school due to poverty, with most of their parents working for landowners.

Two of my best friends during high school, Tom Casco and Rick Salgado, joined the military and National Police after graduating from college. Tom achieved the rank of Colonel with the army and became a Chief of Police in one of central Luzon’s suburban towns. Rick, on the other hand, became a senior criminal investigator of the PNP. Both retired after 30 years of service. These veterans are avid gun enthusiasts, so having these two around is like being at home. There were many stories being shared by the two veteran lawmen ranging from firefights, car chases and the usual drug related busts. What interest me the most are the many types of weapons they have encountered over the years, many of which are homemade, but there are also interesting full-auto conversions of both local and imported commercial type rifles. Filipinos need no introduction when it comes to gun craft, especially homemade guns. You only need to visit the internet to see near-perfect clones of 1911-type pistols and Smith & Wesson/Colt revolver copies, all done by hand from the ground up with minimal tools in some of the most remote areas in the province of Danao, Jolo, Sulo of Mindanao and in the Ilocos and central Luzon regions and the list is growing. When President Ninoy Aquino Jr. first took office in 2012, he declared a gun amnesty allowing unlicensed firearms to be legal for a fee of P1200 ($25 U.S.). Aquino Jr. is an avid shooter and gun buff. In the last year of his term in 2016, he imposed tighter gun licensing regulations as crimes related to bank hold-ups, kidnaps for ransom, urban terrorism, drugs and corruption among politicians and military top brass steered the country to the brink of chaos. This regulation is now vigorously implemented by the new government of Rodrigo Duterte, known as the “Punisher,” whose war on drugs and extrajudicial killings gained notoriety among human rights advocates and the United Nations.

With the tighter regulations in gun ownership being thoroughly implemented under the new administration, large-scale legal gun manufacturers in the country—primarily Shooters Arms Manufacturing (SAM) based in Mandaue, Cebu—felt the brunt as the demand for its products plummeted down to its lowest level, prompting the company to lay off hundreds of employees. Many of these skilled workers are from the underground workshops of Danao, the main producers of the famous Paltik guns. With no jobs and no other skills except making guns, it is quite likely these rural gunsmiths may go back to their old trade in order to feed their families.

Tom mentioned one weapon during our conversation that really sparked my interest. It was a Ruger 1022 that was converted to selective fire in Danao years back. The same shop recently converted a similar firearm that is locally made in the Philippines by Armscor: the Model 22. This gun was marketed in the U.S. under the trade name Rock Island Armory (RIA). In the Philippines, the 1022 sells for about P50,000 ($1,000 U.S.) while the Armscor M22 costs only P13,000 ($272 U.S.). The Philippine clone utilizes a steel receiver and trigger housing, in contrast to the 1022’s alloy material. Only the barrels are not interchangeable, due to the larger barrel boss on the M22. RIA began importing the M22 in the U.S. sometime in 2016, but it has been available in the Philippines for quite some time. This all came to a stop when Ruger filed a lawsuit against RIA and its parent company Armscor on May 2, 2014, for trademark infringement. Earlier, in 1984, Arcadia Machine & Tool (AMT) began producing a stainless copy of the 1022 called Lightning. This venture ended briefly after Ruger filed for patent infringement. It would be interesting to see the outcome of this lawsuit, since there are several domestic companies currently producing copies of the 1022 in various guises.

Before parting, I mentioned to Tom my keen interest to see the converted 1022 or the M22 if he could make an arrangement with the owner, a very wealthy landowner and well connected in high places. Individuals like this can virtually get anything they want—legal or illegal—when money is no object. This is one very small country purely influenced by American gun culture that dates back even before World War II. Today, the evolution of that culture is even more prominent, with more foreign-made weapons entering the country, including those that are not allowed in the U.S. Despite the tough screening for guns and related accessories entering its shores, most confiscated goods are simply hoarded by corrupt customs officials only to be re-routed back to the lucrative black market.

The following day, Tom called to inform me that he had managed to borrow the 1022 for a few hours and that I can come over to his place to check it out. The Armscor M22 was not available as it had been sent for nickel plating. It was relayed by the owner that the conversion procedure is identical for the two guns, with the exception that the M22 has no safety to make it look like a stock semi-auto. The original push button safety served as the fire selector for semi- and full-auto fire. When Tom handed me the gun, it was wrapped in blanket. When the blanket was removed, I was in awe. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when taking into consideration that it was modified in a remote village. The gun comes fully equipped with Krinker-Plinker-style rear and front sights. The bottom of the forearm has a long rail and a short vertical grip. The handguard was painted perforated sheet metal. This type of handguard is also locally fabricated for .30 Carbines and M-14 rifles. These popular accessories are made by various local shops in Danao and very well made. This gun can easily top the best converted 1022 in America hands down. Its creators nicknamed it “Baby 14,” and it is becoming quite a popular set-up for the new M22. At this point, my excitement began to build up. Having seen, examined and tested many local and imported full-auto converted .22s for many years, this underground creation is a real joy to hold. Very well put together. I couldn’t wait to try it out.

Impressed by the looks and feel of the Baby 14, my curiosity was now focused on its internals. Being very familiar with the 1022, disassembling it is no problem. Once the action is opened, the mechanics are not what I assume them to be. The gun fires from an open bolt with a fixed firing pin but retains most of the original components, with the exception of the disconnector and its spring, bolt hold open and its spring, ejector and trigger return spring and plunger. I was unable to fully strip the trigger mechanism due to a lack of tools, but the lockwork is quite visible from the top of the housing, so figuring out how it works is not difficult. A short new ejector was installed and pinned into place. A sear (1/8-inch-thick steel plate) to catch the bolt in the open position was fabricated and positioned on the left side of the hammer. The hammer bushing on this side was omitted and replaced by a small sleeve flush with the side of the hammer to give room for the sear. The sear is secured to the left side wall of the trigger housing by a short pin retained to the exterior by a small “C” clip. The rear cylindrical shoulder of the magazine catch plunger that faces the sear was ground off to clear for the sear assembly. There was a spacer on the top front section of the sear to prevent side-to-side play. The sear spring was located at the rear tail of the sear and seated securely in a drilled shallow hole on the left side of the hammer spring pocket.

The original trigger (polished here) was retained and had a steel insert attached to it containing the sear trip and its spring-loaded plunger. The trip doubled as a trigger return, resulting in a light, crisp trigger pull. There was a pivoting piece parallel to the trip toe that was positioned just above the selector assembly hole in the trigger housing. This piece moved up and down when the fire selector was rotated. When the selector was in the vertical position (SEMI-AUTO), the piece moved upward and would cause the trip to disconnect with the sear after the bolt was released, resulting in semi-auto fire. When moved all the way forward (AUTO), the selector would permit the piece to drop down and would not allow the trip hook to disengage its connection with the sear, thereby resulting in auto fire. When the selector was moved all the way to the rear (SAFE) position, the solid portion of the selector pin lined up with the trigger front-end extension, preventing the trigger from being pulled. The fire selector contained a spring loaded 1/8 dia. steel ball and was secured into place by a large “C” clip. The left bottom side of the bolt had a milled portion to engage the nose of the sear. The fixed firing pin was located at the bottom center of the breech feed. It appeared to be finely welded and re-shaped to the size of a rimfire firing pin tip. The three-position fire selector could be conveniently manipulated by the trigger finger (right-hand shooter), although it could be made ambidextrous. The gunsmith that worked on this gun has quite a talent.

After quickly reassembling the gun, an informal shooting was conducted in the backyard using Remington Golden Bullet and CCI Mini-Mag high-velocity ammunitions. Tom lives in the outskirts of the village and his neighbors are accustomed to hearing gunfire from his location from target practice. Everybody owns guns in the area for defense against buffalo rustlers and drug dealers. Two-hundred rounds were fired using Ruger BX-25 magazines, very expensive at P3500 each ($70 U.S.), without a single malfunction in both semi- and full-auto. Fired casings were examined and the firing pin indentations were found to be quite deep and consistent, without any sign of bulging or rim rupture, something that can be encountered with fixed-type firing pins on rimfire full-auto guns. The gun proved to be extremely accurate and controllable in full-auto, making it easy to pepper a watermelon the size of a head at 25 and 50 yards. Overall, the gun proved to be user-friendly, perfectly balanced and very pleasant to shoot. Needless to say, this outstanding specimen is truly a work of art, a tribute to the unsung talent of the Philippine underground workshops. Wish I could bring one back.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N7 (September 2017)
and was posted online on July 21, 2017


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