Erquiaga EM-62: Castro’s Ex-Armorer Makes an M14

Juan Erquiaga was a Peruvian Army officer who was introduced to Gordon Ingram and the Police Ordnance Company, probably during Ingram’s time working on sales of the Model 6 submachine gun to Peru. Erquiaga first moved to the United States in 1951, and was hired by Police Ordnance. During his time working there, he began working secretly on behalf of Fidel Castro’s Cuban rebels working to overthrow the Batista regime. The would lead to his hasty departure to Mexico just ahead of law enforcement, where he continued working on arms design and supporting the Cuban rebels. When they successfully overthrew Batista, Erquiaga moved to the island to work as an armorer for Castro. This was a short-lived situation, though, as Castro ultimately opted to use Soviet military aid instead of building a domestic arms industry, and Erquiaga defected back to the United States in 1961.

He set up a gunsmithing shop in California, and one of his first products was the EM-62, a conversion of the M1 Garand to fire 7.62mm NATO from M14 or FAL box magazines. These were sold on the US civilian market in both semiauto and full auto variations (although thanks to the NFA tax, very few EMFA-62 automatic types were sold), but the real goal was a military contract. Not one with the United States, but rather with a country like Peru or Taiwan that had substantial numbers of surplus Garand that they might prefer to update than replace. These hopes never bore fruit, though, and Erquiaga moved on to making a sketchy Sten knockoff submachine gun for Costa Rica, designated the MR-64. He came back into contact with Gordon Ingram, and Ingram was working for him at the Erquiaga Arms Co when the MR-64 project came to the attention of Federal law enforcement, and all of the guns were confiscated. These included Ingram’s prototype M10 and M11 guns.

Erquiaga fled back to Peru in 1965, and Ingram moved on to work with Sionics and finish development of the guns that would be most closely associated with his legacy, the MAC M10 and M11.

26 Comments

  1. Perhaps it bears repeating that Fulgencio Batista’s regime was criminal and widely disliked. There were even CIA agents “in the field” secretly rooting for the July 26th Movement and other opposition groups. Some U.S. Navy sailors in Guantánamo deserted and joined up. Most Cubans were genuinely proud of their 1940 Constitution and thought that a rebel triumph would lead to its restoration. As with any authoritarian political project, Fidel Castro turned on a number of his former supporters, for example, the Camagüey rice farmer turned comandante Huber Matos (*1918-†2014) who spent 20 years in prison for opposing the turn to the Socialist Bloc. (Cuando llegó la noche is his memoir).

    Turning to the EM-62: I dimly recall reading in magazine advertisements like the Shotgun News and so on about offers to essentially turn an M1 Garand into something like the Italian BM59, but using M14 magazines. Perhaps that was much more along the lines of this Erquiaga conversion? Interesting, to say the least!

  2. Hmm, clever way around M14. Pity that this guy (rifle’s designer) was switching sides so handily 🙂

    Looking at this video, it occurred to me that Ian should visit Cuba (he is completely apolitical, isn’t he). There is apparently huge small arms history present there from FAL rifles, over Dominican carbines to latest AKs. They also have some remarkable domestic design of 14.5mm long range rifle, among other things. As I gather, lots of military hardware support to Cuba comes from Belarus.

    • Cuba is also a destination for some train-spotters. There are some vintage steam locomotives still running for tourism revenue, and a few industrial fireless locomotives still in service. I could be wrong.

    • Yes. From Spanish small arms– Modelo 1857 and 1859 caplock rifle muskets to Berdan conversions of the same, to Peabody rifles, Remington rolling blocks, to a handful of Lee M1895 straight pulls and M1891 and M1893 Mausers…
      To Remington rifles and carbines in 7x57mm and some Krag-Jørgensen rifles, to the only other nation to officially adopt the M1903 Springfield, the Thompson smg in all its iterations, to every WWII U.S. weapon.

      Followed by the March 1958 U.S. arms cut-off, and the ingress of Dominican San Cristóbal carbines, FALs, etc. followed by the triumph of the Revolution and further deliveries of FALs, Czech she 52s, Czechoslovak 9mm smgs, PPSh41s, LMG 52s, DPs, RP46s, and quad DShK AA guns… T34/85s and SU-100s…

      Finally, the entire suite of Soviet weapons, but also lots of mysterious trans-shipments of M16A1s, Kar98ks, and even a handful of “Russian capture” MP40s and the like… Polish PPS 43/52s… M38 and M44 Mosin-Nagants… etc. etc.
      Thing is, Ian has covered most of these weapons in past episodes, so it merely needs to be remarked that these are among the arms that have turned up there…

      It is the case that Belarus is a key supplier to post-1991 Cuba. I think the visor vilma red-dot sight on Kalashnikovs owes something to Belarus.

  3. Move the front sight from the gas bock out to the end of the barrel and you have the mini-30 I always wish Bill Ruger could have pulled off.

  4. I find it interesting that everybody from Beretta to private gunsmiths could convert an M1 Garand to 7.62 x 51mm far more cheaply that what it cost the U.S. government to develop the M14.

    BTW, I am personally quite familiar with the “G.I.” M14 and long ago concluded that it was one big reason the M16 was adopted, even with its faults.

    cheers

    eon

    • It just goes to show that we sometimes need the old principle of engineering even when trying to make the old M1 into a full-auto fighting machine: Keep it simple, stupid! Beretta (amongst other manufacturers) showed that such a conversion didn’t involve reinventing the gun, while the M14 was almost entirely a new weapon having very few interchangeable parts with the original M1. Really dumb question (assuming you know what I’m getting at): Why not give the M14’s wooden stock a Japanese lacquer finish?

      • Because the U.S. military tradition was a linseed oil finished stock. The fact that such stocks had shown warpage problems in the tropics going back to the Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, Nicaraguan police action, and even further back to the Mexican War (1846-48) never penetrated Ordnance’s awareness.

        BTW, Ordnance had little or nothing to do with the M16. Even Project Salvo, the original study that advocated a smallbore, high-velocity cartridge, was the work of the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA and CONARC (Continental Army Command, since 1973 FORSCOM-Army Forces Command) at Fort Bragg, NC. As E.C. Ezell points out in Small Arms of the World (12th ed.) “Ordnance wanted nothing to do with CONARC’s heretical program”.

        That’s what happens when you tell generals raised on generations of “marksmanship tradition” that the actual data shows that most rifle kills by individual infantry riflemen occur at less than 100 meters range, few hits are achieved beyond 300 meters, and aimed fire is no more effective than volley fire beyond about 150 meters. This has been true from Gettysburg to Khafji, and it makes no difference whether the rifleman is using a .58 Springfield, an M1 Garand, or an M16. You could even argue that the smoothbore musket wasn’t noticeably inferior at those ranges, such as at San Jacinto in 1836.

        The M14 was designed by Ordnance to fight the kind of war they believed existed. Unfortunately, like Naval BuAer and the F-14 Tomcat, it ended up fighting a different sort of war entirely, that it wasn’t well suited for.

        Because in each case, the war they were designed for never really existed.

        cheers

        eon

    • “(…)BTW, I am personally quite familiar with the “G.I.” M14 and long ago concluded that it was one big reason the M16 was adopted, even with its faults.(…)”
      Fact that the intermediate cartridge “is a thing” was detected, where attention was given to analysis of WW2 combat and/or German Kurzpatrone. It seems that in U.S. they (for reasons beyond my comprehension) need for such weapon was blatantly ignored as long as possible, which finally backfired. When urgent need of introduction of weapon of this category appeared (hey, why enemy has such weapon and we have not?) M16 was just at hand and rushed into service without rigid testing.

  5. 《Erquiaga went to the United States and collaborated with Ingram in designing the MR-64.
    Erquiaga set up the Erquiaga Arms Company in the City of Industry in California. From there, the MR-64 was manufactured in the thousands, and sold to Cuban anti-Castro guerrillas.

    Understandably, when the FBI learned of Erquiaga’s actions, they feared it would threaten already poor US-Cuban relations and raided Erquiaga’s factory, confiscating the weapons being manufactured there. Erquiaga himself managed to flee the country and avoid arrest.》

    https://augfc.tumblr.com/post/129719260555/a-gun-for-guerrillas-in-the-late-1950s-gordon

    • This is good question. More generally: Who Juan Erquiaga Azicorbe was? I was looking for info about him, but found only mention of him in context of his gun. https://guns.fandom.com/wiki/Erquiaga_MR64 has bit broader of MR64 story.
      It seems that after uncovering by FBI, he got protection from government officials and who allowed production and sales of the gun to continue under the guise of military sales to Costa Rica.. Production site was moved to new location and undertaken, but some time later protection ceased and it was raided and closed forever. Erquiaga managed to escape to South America and returned to his home country of Peru after the FBI raid on his factory. Which lead to question if by himself of his former protector wanted him to stay free?
      I also start looking for Peru vs U.S.A relation in this time. According to https://www.embassyofperu.org/relation-on-the-20th-century
      [Peru] sign a Treaty of Assistance and Mutual Defense with the United States in 1952. With this agreement, Peru tightened it cooperation with the United States in military affairs, which included the sponsorship of visits of Peruvian officers to U.S. military installations.
      But then
      The military coup d’etat in 1962 that overthrew President Prado caused an adverse and immediate reaction by the U.S. Government, which broke off diplomatic relations with Peru and denounced this act as a step backwards for the Alliance for Progress.
      I am wondering if this course of action did influenced Erquiaga feelings towards U.S.A.?

  6. If you want to make a small fortune in the arms biz, you need to start with a large fortune. Professional ambition, at least some political enthusiasm, a reasonable technical idea… In any other business this might have been a recipe for success.

  7. “… he began working secretly on behalf of Fidel Castro’s Cuban rebels working to overthrow the Batista regime. The would lead to his hasty departure to Mexico just ahead of law enforcement, where he continued working on arms design and supporting the Cuban rebels. When they successfully overthrew Batista, Erquiaga moved to the island to work as an armorer for Castro.”

    “…. the MR-64 was manufactured in the thousands, and sold to Cuban anti-Castro guerrillas.”

    Was he castrista or anticastrista. This remembers me to Lee Harvey Oswald.

    • He was both and neither. From what I’ve been able to ascertain about the man, he was solely concerned with arms profiteering. An interesting fact is that, despite his MR-64 submachine gun having been designed for anti-Castro rebels, he once diverted a shipment to Communist revolutionaries in the Dominican Republic.

  8. The “gravel belly”, Camp Perry bunch that gave you the M-14 instead of the E.M.2 are very much still in charge. The M16A2 is proof of that. The National matches are conducted with the service rifle. The M-16 is anything but a match rifle. So convert it into a match rifle. First create a cartridge with a heavier, more stable bullet for punching through paper. Make ridiculous demands on it like penetration of an M1 helmet at 800 meters. Then put a heavier barrel in so you can use the sling for supported shooting, something not even snipers do. Put in a more complex sight which is more difficult to zero and use in combat. Eliminate auto fire and replace it with a three round burst, because the troops can’t be trusted not to waste ammo. Throw every study on infantry combat since WW1, every study conducted since the 1930s by the Germans, Soviets, British, Israelis and Americans and turn the M-16 into a target rifle. Then make a carbine version in which the bullet loses velocity and drops below supersonic speed before 500 meters and is still so stable that it simply punches through human beings rather than dumping all its kinetic energy by tumbling or coming apart. Then have the troops complain about lack of wounding ballistics and “solve” it by increasing the velocity through increasing powder so that the chamber pressure makes the rounds incompatible with most NATO 5.56mm rifles and carbines. What should have happened is that the rear sight on the M-16A1 should have been given a rotating drum that could be adjusted by thumb and included a locking screw that eliminated the need for a bullet point or nail. The same for the front sight. Put a rail on the top of the upper receiver and then mount the iron sights 45 degrees out to the right. Use advanced optics but then the back up sights are easily usable by simply turning the rifle 45 degrees to the left. The different size stocks was a reasonable idea, but a collapsible or sliding stock would be better. Chrome plate not just the chamber and bore but the bolt also. Change the strength and weight of the parts to return the cyclic RoF to 700rpm or better. Substitute the three round burst mechanism for the semi-auto sear. Train troops on the zero and pop-up ranges to use the 3 round burst to maximize rounds down range on target. A heavier barrel to better absorb heat, better hand guards, a spring loaded magazine well cover, and a better muzzle brake/flash hider. Keep the M193 ball and keep the velocity over supersonic out to 500 meters with the 1 in 12 twist so that the bullet tumbles and dumps the accumulated kinetic energy into the target. Design a frangible penetrator for use when facing near-peer competitors with infantry body-armor. That’s what the M16A2 should have looked like, not the glorified target rifle the Marine Corps (especially) and the Army turned it into.

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