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1959 Browning Hi Power from Cuba?

Discussion in 'Handguns: Autoloaders' started by shelovespickups, Aug 20, 2012.

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  1. shelovespickups

    shelovespickups Member

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    I have a 1959 Browning Hi-Power with custom gold grips with the flag and crest of Cuba on them. I was told it was carried by select Cuban military officers during the beginning of Castro's reign, but I have not been able to confirm this. Is anyone familiar?
     
  2. HorseSoldier

    HorseSoldier Member

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    Could be, but it seems kind of bling-ey for an era when Che Guevara and company were lining wealthy guys up against walls for firing squads and such.
     
  3. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    Have you checked the serial number and seen the date of production of the gun?

    www.proofhouse.com

    Do you have a pic?

    The old saying goes..."Don't buy the story, buy the gun." Without paperwork proving the story the story is just that, a story. Gold plated grips can be added at any time.

    tipoc
     
  4. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    Hey, maybe it belonged to a pre-Castro military officer that fled Cuba to the US after Castro took over. That would make perfect sense, but it would be right on the cutting edge of manufacture vs. the time frame of when Castro took over (right in 1959?).
     
  5. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    The revolution triumphed in Jan. 1959.

    Clear pics would be useful.

    If the gun has the Cuban Crest on the slide then it is likely a pre 1959 gun unless it was part of an order made during Batista's time and received in Cuba early in '59.

    How do you know it is from '59?

    tipoc
     
  6. shelovespickups

    shelovespickups Member

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    OK, let me back up a little, I'm not sure when the officers received the guns, it very likely could have been later than '59. I just know the gun is from 1959 from the serial number. It was made in Belgium. The grip was made in Cuba. The grip isn't necessarily real gold, but maybe gold plated or just gold colored in certain places. It could just be pot metal for all I know.

    It was purchased years ago as part of a lot of about 30 older guns, $1500 for the whole lot from an estate sale.

    We took it to a smith in Florida who's father happened to be a Cuban refugee from way back. When his father saw the gun he got really excited and started speaking spanish so quickly his son couldn't translate fast enough. Which is where we got the little bit of information we have. He remembered seeing the officers with them along with some other details I can't remember. I was just curious if there was anything documented or if anyone had any greater knowledge that could be confirmed about it's history.
     

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  7. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    The proof marks that you show in the pic are Belgian proof marks placed there during the manufacturing precess.

    The grips are marked as being made in Cuba so we can assume that. They are probably not issue stocks but aftermarket. Neither police nor the military issue a gun with stocks of this type. Usually they come with the factory grips. These grips could have been privately bought or given in a presentation. I see they have a boss on them where a name can be engraved. It doesn't look like there is any name or date there though. So the grips came from Cuba.

    Are there any other markings on the gun other than the serial number? Anything that looks like it was done after the piece left the factory? Often police would stamp another number on the gun, a "Policia de..." such and such a district, etc. Any other markings?

    You may also want to ask here...http://forums.1911forum.com/forumdisplay.php?f=15

    tipoc
     
  8. tekarra

    tekarra Member

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    It sounds interesting and I hope can authenticate the pistol. The reaction of the smith's father in noteworthy. Can he provide more of the story?
     
  9. SharpsDressedMan

    SharpsDressedMan member

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    Woud a gun marketed to Cuba in 1959 have the "St. Louis" marking on it, or the FN Belgium markings?
     
  10. shelovespickups

    shelovespickups Member

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    I haven't had a chance to look for other markings yet. I'll try to take a look in the morning. Unfortunately, we got the information from the smith about 10-12 years ago when the gun was originally purchased by my dad. I have no idea where to find him now.

    The embargo against Cuba wasn't fully in place until 1962, so I imagine there wouldn't be much issue with the date from 1959.
     
  11. wow6599

    wow6599 Member

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    My first thoughts too. If it made it's way to Cuba via America, that gun would carry one hell of a story with it.
     
  12. shelovespickups

    shelovespickups Member

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    The only other markings on the gun are a "B" just forward of the trigger, and the same symbol with the RV over the N stamped on the gun itself.

    That it made it's way to Cuba isn't too much of a surprise as Browning gave Fabrique Nationale the exclusive rights to produce the gun outside of the U.S. This included distribution rights to any country. You can look up on Wikipedia the list of Governments having used them, Cuba is included.

    What IS a surprise is it made it's way to the U.S. sometime after the Embargo.
     
  13. wow6599

    wow6599 Member

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    But it's marked St. Louis, so wouldn't that imply that is was originally imported to the U.S.?
     
  14. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    If the gun was ever in Cuba.

    I don't mean to be a jerk but...

    The grips are from Cuba and are marked as such. But there are no markings on or in the gun itself that indicate it was ever in Cuba.

    The gun was made by FN for the U.S. market. It could have been shipped to Cuba for some reason by FN or Browning but a letter saying so is needed to prove it.

    To show it was from Cuba, or had spent time in Cuba you would need paperwork. A bill of sale, a receipt, a letter from the original owner tracing the gun's history, etc. Even a letter from FN or Browning showing that guns in that serial number range were shipped to the Cuban military or the police. Keep in mind also that most military or police guns are marked as such. This one is not marked.

    So "years ago" the gun was bought in the U.S. and had Cuban made grips on it. Not so unusual in some parts of the country. The folks who sold the gun told you nothing about it's history. They had no paperwork.

    But you were not told this by the seller of the gun and there is no paperwork with the gun to support that idea.

    So the smith said he recalled seeing guns and grips of this type on some Cuban officers at some point. The gun looks like some guns the smith recalled from his youth and it made him happy to see it. The son could not accurately translate all he said and you don't recall all the son said. But the smith did not say, and did not show you how, your gun was from Cuba and had been carried by Officer's of the post Batista Cuban Government.

    This is what I meant earlier when I said you buy the gun, not the story. Without paperwork or other proof a story is just a story. Maybe true, maybe not. You don't know and neither do we.

    You have a nice 1959 P35. Clean it up and it will be a good shooter and an heirloom. Standard pot metal plated grips from Cuba and maybe the gun was there and came back.

    tipoc
     
  15. j1

    j1 Member

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    Very interesting post and I hope that you can unravel the history of your gun.
     
  16. shelovespickups

    shelovespickups Member

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    The proofs indicate it was made in Belgium. From what I can tell the St Louis address was stamped on the barrel in certain years even though it was made in Belgium simply as a reference back to the Browning parent company in St Louis.

    Tipoc.. You are not being a jerk, but I think you misunderstand. I'm not trying to push the story I heard as a certainty. I'm trying to find out if anyone familiar with Browing's history in Cuba can confirm or deny what we were told. We do know for a fact Brownings were imported in Cuba, question is, can it be confirmed if this was one of them?

    Again, I did not buy a story, we bought a lot of thirty firearms for $1500 not knowing what all was in it from an estate sale. What had actually caught our eyes were an older Deringer and few German WWII era pistols we noticed on the top of the box. We didn't even realize the Browning with the Cuban grip plates was even there until after we got them home and started going through them. When we noticed the grips made in Cuba is when we became curious to pursue if there even was a story. It was in this search we came across the the smith's father who recollected seeing them as a young man in Cuba which made us all the more curious.
     
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