When I first visited San Antonio after my son had been transferred there with the U.S. Air Force, I never dreamed I would develop a new collecting interest that would lead to owning an extremely rare military rifle. It all began during one of my earliest trips to the city to visit him. He took me to some historical places that he knew I would like. One of these was the bar at the Menger Hotel. On the National Register of Historic Places, the Menger Hotel is one of the best-known and oldest hotels in the state of Texas. It continues to cater to travelers today and is said to be home to several resident ghosts.
Opened by William Menger on February 1, 1859, the hotel was constructed on the site of Menger’s brewery — the first brewery in Texas. Said to have been the finest hotel west of the Mississippi River, it once hosted such notables as Sam Houston; Generals Lee and Grant; Presidents McKinley, Taft, Eisenhower, and Roosevelt; Babe Ruth; and Mae West. It is also known as one of the locations where Teddy Roosevelt actively recruited men for the Rough Riders. The bar has been restored and is the same one when Roosevelt was there.
On one wall, there was a display case of items from the Spanish American War in the Philippines. While it was of general interest to me as a military collector, I was not a Philippine Constabulary (PC) collector — at that time.
Years went by. After retiring, I moved to San Antonio to be nearer to my son. Now, I was collecting The Philippine Constabulary, so I went back to now see and appreciate the display. Basically, it was about the Philippine Constabulary and included the rifle that is the subject of this article.
ONE IN 4,980
As the new guy in town, I set up at the local military show a few months later. My antique and historical items quickly drew the interest of the serious collectors. This was the first time for them to see my collection and meet “the new guy” in town.
One of the collectors I met was Sam (now deceased). He was the gentleman who had the PC display in the famous, old Menger Hotel Bar. He also had several other cases spread out in the hotel lobby that were filled with Spanish American war items from the Rough Riders and the War in Cuba. Because of our similar interests, we soon became good friends.
A year or so later, Sam changed out the PC display for a display on the First Texas Cavalry in the early 1900s. The next time I saw Sam at a show, I asked him if there was a chance that I could purchase some of the Philippine Constabulary items that had been in his display. Much to my surprise, he said yes!
I arranged to meet him at his home and after picking out several items including the Krag PC Rifle, he allowed me to purchase them at a very fair price. Sam told me that he had purchased the rifle at a local flea market 30 or more years prior. The original seller said it came from the estate of a retired military officer who had served in the Philippines before WWII.
Once I became the owner of the PC Krag rifle, I wanted to learn more about it. Preliminary research indicated that they were scarce.
The rifle had the correct bayonet and scabbard. The wood handle of the bayonet has the markings “PC / 2” carved into the right side. When I took the rifle apart to oil and wipe it clean, I found the same markings under the lock mechanism “PC / 2” and “Never outfought” (part of the PC motto) carved by hand.
I contacted Sam about the markings. He knew that the bayonet was marked, but in the 30+ years that he owned the rifle, he had not taken the lock mechanism out of the stock. He was not aware of those markings.
Because of where the rifle originated and the time frame involved, I had to conclude that these are original, of-the-period markings. During the early period, the Philippine Constabulary were set up as districts: 1, 2, 3 etc . The markings on the bayonet and rifle probably designate that it was used in the Second District.
In his excellent researched and detailed book, The American Krag Rifle and Carbine, author Joe Poyer states that Henry T. Allen, Chief of the Philippine Constabulary, requested a rifle suitable to the short statue of his Constabulary troops in 1906. The first order was for 300 1899 Krag Carbines. Within a short period of time, it was determined that these carbines would not accept a bayonet which was deemed to be necessary. Therefore, it was decided that the rifle stocks be shortened and the barrel bands with the bayonet attachments be altered to fit. The ends of the barrels would be turned down to fit the bayonets, as well. These modifications resulted in shorter, full-stocked military rifles for the Constabulary. All of this was done at the Manila Arsenal. The total production of these altered rifles over a three-year period numbered 4,980.
ON THE RESEARCH TRAIL
One of the gentlemen I approached to help research my Krag is a friend whom I had met at the local Alamo Arms Collectors. Ken McPheerters is an advanced collector/dealer and had coauthored a book with R. Stephen Dorsey called, The American Military Saddle, 1776-1945. Though he had a general knowledge of the Krag Rifles and the PC, Ken suggested that I get in touch with Dorsey who had authored several books on military belts and holsters and was a staff writer on the old Gun Report magazine. Dorsey had written articles on the Philippine Constabulary. He also knew other Krag Rifle collectors who had been close to the author of The Krag Rifle, Wm. S Brophy.
Mr. Dorsey told me that several of the top Krag rifle and carbine collectors had lamented how rare the Constabulary rifle was. They hoped that they would live long enough to actually see and handle one of them. (Regrettably, Brophy and most of the other collectors are now deceased).
Knowing about the Philippine Constabulary and the PC rifle, Mr. Dorsey wanted more information and photos to share with the other advanced collectors who also shared a genuine interest in the PC rifle. After several months, I was able to send detailed photos and measurements to Dorsey. He shared these details with other advanced Krag collectors. After some time, Dorsey wrote to me, remarking, “I believe you have the only known PC Krag rifle. The marked bayonet further supports my opinion. This being the case, it is beyond rare. It is unique, and I am sorry that Krag experts like Bill Brophy, Bill Mook, and Frank Mallory could not live to see this rifle/bayonet combination.”
According to Poyer’s book, when the Krag was replaced with the M1903 Springfield rifle, it was declared obsolete the rifles. Supposedly, they were taken out to sea and dumped in the deep — the cheapest way to dispose of them.
During the same period, demand from colleges induced the Springfield Arsenal to make about 4,000 of these short rifles. Rock Island made about 600 more. All of these are arsenal-marked and stamped by known arsenal inspectors from Springfield or Rock Island. These shorter rifles were made from various models 1898-99 and may have different rear sights and other variations.
Usually, when you see a “Constabulary” rifle offered for sale, it will be one of these US arsenal short models. It will bear the arsenal markings and not those of the Philippines Constabulary. Remember, a correct PC rifle has no inspector marks on the left side of the wood stock above the trigger guard or below the safety as found on the non-Manila models.
As of this writing, this Philippine Constabulary rifle in this article is the only one known. Are there others? Probably, but after years of looking, collectors haven’t been able to find another.
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