Alkartasuna SA was a company formed in 1914 by a handful of disgruntled Astra (well, Astra was still called Esperanza y Unceta at that time) employees. This was a difficult time for the Eibar gun industry – demand was low, their reputation for quality was not good (the lack of a central proof house didn’t help this), and many companies were shedding workers. Master gunsmiths could be found building roads instead of guns as the province started major civic works projects to counter the growing unemployment.
However, the Alkartasuna founders picked a fortuitous time to create their own company, as World War One was about to create an unimaginable demand for arms. By 1917, Alkartasuna was producing 25,000 pistols per year for Italian and French military contracts – pistols of the standard Ruby pattern. When this demand ended after the Armistice, the company looked for new products to maintain their sales. One suck project was the Alkar pistol, which was most likely subcontracted to another manufacturer to save on startup tooling costs.
The Alkar is a blowback action in .25ACP, but has a very unusual grip safety. It also has a series of viewing windows on the left grip panel, which worked in conjunction with a pointer attached to the magazine follower to indicate the number of cartridges remaining. The windows were marked numberically; 1, 2, 3, etc up to the full capacity of 7. The marking that grabbed my attention, however, was the clever “?” that was indicated when the magazine was empty. At that point, the gun may be empty or it may still have a single round in the chamber – you don’t know until you check it. That “?” is a clever acknowledgement of that status.