Mexican guns and ammo for the Spanish civil war


The steamer “Mar Cantábrico” carried guns and ammunition from Mexico to the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil war, but she was being watched since her depart from Veracruz and was captured near Bilbao, in the north front, on march 8, 1937.

Among the captured cargo there were many interesting items:

  • 6 20mm Semag machine guns, and 12.600 cartridges.

    Which gun type is this Semag gun and what cartridge it used?

  • 14 Colt machine guns, water cooled.

  • 26 Colt machine guns, air cooled.

  • 990 Remington light machine guns, model 1917.

    Were these guns made in USA for Mexico?

  • 984 Winchester light machine guns.

    Which gun is this?

  • 705.000 cartridges caliber .30 Special

    ‘30 Especial’ is Mexican designation for the .30-06, to distinguish the ammunition from the more widely used .30-30. The use of this name denotes Mexican origin. A headstamp is shown below.

  • 1.378.800 machine gun cartridges, in belts.
    The headstamp (R A H 16) was reportedly found in cartridges from the Mar Cantábrico. Maybe these were the cartridges that came in belts.

  • 50 crates of big game hunting ammunition, explosive and dum-dum bullets.

    I understand that all this ammo had actually expanding, not explosive, bullets. Maybe the Mexican government or whoever acquired even the gun stores stocks. Can we know how many cartridges fit in 50 crates?

Your comments are highly appreciated.


Here’s a picture of a fired mexican military case found in a battlefield near Madrid:

Here’s a box of expansive ammunition from the crates captured at the Mar Cantábrico:


I found this on the Semag

[quote]The Semag 20mm model 1923 was a development of the World War I Becker 20mm gun. The Semag was purcased by Bolivia prior to the Chaco War (1932-1935) (12 guns), of these at least five were captured by the Paraguayans who used them primarily in the A.A. role until captured ammunition was exhausted. Aside from Bolivia and Paraguay, the weapon was employed by the armies of Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The Japanese used a close copy of the Semag, under the deisgnation of Army Type 98 20mm machine cannon.


On another page (tabletop war game re-enactors site)it was refered to as a “Anti-Aircraft” gun.

Tony Williams has some information on his “intro to collecting 20mm cannon” page … ing_20.htm


Schneider: I’d think the Colt water-cooled MGs were Vickers, in either .303 or .30-06 caliber. The Colt air-cooled MGs were probably the Browning model of 1895 in one of a number of possible calibers, but maybe 7.62 x 54R as made for Russia in the Great War. As far as the Remington and Winchester light machineguns are concerned I’m inclined to think they are actually bolt action rifles of the U.S. model of 1917 in .30-06. Both Remington and Winchester made this arm on contract for the U.S. government during WW.I. Winchester did make the BAR model of 1918, which was an auto rifle, but I doubt these were aboard the Mar Cantabrico. Jack


“Mexican Military Arms” Hughes lists the followig MGs for the Spanish CW period:

Colt M1895
Hotchkiss m1896 7mm
" Light .303 and 6.5x55
Madsen Light M1911 and 1934 7mm
Browning M1917 30-06
Vickers M1915 Colt made 30-06
Mendoza B-1933 7mm

I have found that what a user calls an arm often has no relation to what a manufacturer or other users called it. Could the Remingtons actually be Madsens or Hotchkiss guns bought through Remington as an agent? Conjecture on my part.


As much as anything I said that I thought the Winchester and Remington arms mentioned were rifles because of the numbers cited. I’m not sure how many MGs were in Mexico in 1936, but I sure don’t think there were nearly 2,000 extras that would have been exported to Spain as a gesture of solidarity. Jack


There’s a song from the Mexican Revolution called “Treinta y Treinta” named after you-know-what.


Yes. A couple of verses say:

Con mi treinta-treinta me voy a alistar
Y engrosar las filas de la rebelión…

(With my thirty-thirty I’m going to enlist
and swell the ranks of the rebellion…)

The thirty caliber is the .30-30 in Mexico, that’s why they called the '06 “.30 Especial”.


Would the Remingtons have been Rem made Moisin Nagants? The Mexicans appear to have had enough arms in 7.62 to make their own ammo.


No, my information says “light machine guns” (in the original, fusils mitrailleurs)


Schneider: my initial question wasn’t whether or not the news source referred to light machineguns, but whether that statement was in fact an accurate one. The considerable quantity mentioned–nearly 2,000 arms–seems under the circumstances more probable for conventional rifles than for automatic weapons. Either Remington-made Mosin rifles (as Orange suggested) or M1917 Enfields made in the U.S. by Remington and Winchester seems more plausible to me. Jack


“Model 1917”, “Winchester”, and “Remington”, all point towards these being M1917 Enfields. Could they have been misrepresented as LMGs on a list for propaganda reasons?

If they were not M1917 rifles, could the Remingtons have been Model 8’s ?
Remington Model 8’s were known to have been carried by Pancho Villa’s bodyguards, so there is at least a weak Mexican connection.
The Model 8 is an automatic rifle, so might they have been described on the list as fusils mitrailleurs.
I don’t know what quantity of Model 8’s would have been around in Mexico, thus I don’t know if the stated quantity is possible.
If the Remingtons were model 8’s this still leaves the question of what could the Winchesters have been?


If the Remingtons could have been Model 8s, then the Winchesters could have been Model 1907s, but this is all speculation. I still think Model 1917 rifles is most likely.



I guess you’re right, Sir.

The list I posted earlier seems to have been very influenced by propaganda.

I have found another list, according to which, apart from artillery guns loaded in New York and Veracruz, the following material was loaded in Veracruz, Mexico:

  • 25 Colt machine guns in 7 mm caliber.

  • 7 Colt machine guns in .30 caliber.

  • 1 Lewis machine gun in .303.

  • 5 Hotchkiss light machine guns in 7 mm.

  • 12 Hotchkiss machine guns in 7 mm.

  • 5 Mendoza light machine guns in 7 mm.

  • 1.000 Enfield rifles in .30 caliber.

  • 1.000 russian rifles in 7,62 mm. (These are, no doubt, Remington and Westinghouse)

  • 6 Mauser rifles in 7 mm.

  • 5 pistols caliber .38.

  • 10.000.000 cartridges caliber 7 mm.

  • 2.554.000 cartridges caliber .30.

  • 479.000 cartridges caliber 7,62.

  • 50.000 cartridges caliber .303

  • 2.800 Semag cartridges (20 mm)

  • 300 7 mm cartridges for Mauser rifles. (small quantity probably for use in the ship’s guns)

  • 50 pistol cartridges caliber .38. (small quantity probably for use in the ship’s guns)

  • 1.900 US rifle grenades, CN type. (Which grenades?)