RIA: Alkar Cartridge-Counting Pistol

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.


  1. This design instantly reminded me about: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASP_pistol
    which solve how many round I still have? problem with usage of transparent grip panels. However it was crafted with 1960s, I’m not sure: was acrylic glass or something similar available in 1920s? It don’t need to be completely transparent, but transparent enough to see how many cartridges are left and durable enough.
    Alkar solution is surely answer to how many round left issue, but I doubt whatever it is issue of big importance – when information EMPTY or READY TO FIRE is valuable, this seem not so – not many, so far I know, firearms designer tried to implement number of round left informer. I find this to be more-or-less marketing gimmick – making this automatic pistol different from many, many, many .25 automatic pistol manufactured, for every buyer, not only curious one.

    .25 automatic pistol designs are more interesting than it might initially appears.

  2. Agree with you Ian!

    It is a cool gun!

    Looks good and the grip safety is a really interesting design.

    Also the counting of bullets with the question mark is cool to see.

    As an engineer I appreciate the challenge of doing whatever assumptions you can from the information you have and it is interesting how they built this into the gun. =)

    • I think the reason the last marking was a question mark was because one could top off the pistol. What I mean is having a full magazine and a round in the chamber. So you’d have 7+1 cartridges. Such a thing can only be done in a cumbersome fashion that involves swapping out magazines a lot unless you’ve got a Colt Pocket Hammerless or a Beretta Cheetah with the slide locked back. In the case of the Beretta, have the slide locked open and drop a fresh round through the ejection port into the chamber. Then load a full magazine.

      Did I mess up?

      • “Such a thing can only be done in a cumbersome fashion that involves swapping out magazines a lot unless you’ve got a Colt Pocket Hammerless or a Beretta Cheetah”
        Depends on particular design, pistols which can be break-open as some shotgun (.22 Reising automatic pistol, Steyr Kipplauf Pistole, Le Français and other) can be effortless loaded to maximum capacity.
        Universal procedure (for all automatic pistols which are NOT Le Français and have detachable magazine) would be: load magazine – manually cycle action – unload magazine – add 1 cartridge to that magazine – load magazine. Or I am wrong?

        • Nowadays most blowback pistols don’t have hinged barrels, so yes, the loading procedure you described would be the only one available to the ones which won’t lock open…

  3. Good lookin little pocket pistol. Looks well made and finished. Make it in 22lr today and I’d buy it for when I feel like carrying a small caliber main carry pistol.

    • “Make it in 22lr”
      Why? .25 Auto is better suited for usage in small automatic pistol – is semi-rimmed not rimmed, ballistic-wise these are similar assuming equal-length barrel.

      • .22lr is much cheaper to fire. The bullets are cast lead in the 22lr so a little more chance for expansion. The bad thing with .22lr is the rim fire priming is sometimes unreliable. The center fire .25acp is more reliable but the cost of ammunition makes the .22lr more attractive for me.

        • .25 Auto cartridge with hollow-point bullets exist. I understand than .22 LR is your choice because it is easier to available and think that good solution might be Frommer Liliput: http://www.hungariae.com/FromLili.htm
          which might be easily converted from .25 Auto to .22 LR or vice versa simply by changing barrel and magazine.

          • Cool little odd ball pocket auto probably a little hard to find. I’ve owned both a Beretta 950 .25 and a model 21 in .22lr. Next pocket pistol will probably be a Ruger LCR in 22lr, eight rounds and if you get a miss fire just pull the trigger for the next shot. No need to clear a jam.

  4. Personal Opinion! In a serious situation, how many rounds you have left is sort of important. This is especially true with a .25 ACP and more than one adversary since it is pretty well accepted that it usually takes 3 rounds per target to efficiently disable each using this anemic round… meaning that a 7-shot is good for two with one round left for at least slowing the third down while you reload except that I do not remember anyone who carries a .25 who also has spare clips in his/her other pocket or purse. This includes me when I carry my “Dress-Up Gun” as Wife calls it.

  5. My choice for social occasions is a .38spl centennial in a deep concealment holster. I don’t trust .25s. No one without a metal detector has ever spotted it and I trust myself with it.

    • My FIRST CHOICE for “social occasions are first my .45 1911A1 Clark Combat Accurized and my second is my M29 S&W .44 mag with a 4” barrel but neither of these fit too smoothly in a shoulder holster under a suit so I opt for the .25 on such occasions. It is an easy carry since I have an “interior holster-pocket sewn inside my right-hand front trouser pocket that carries it very close to my thigh. It’s better than nothing but not by much. I also have an older .357 mag. stack-barrel derringer but it restricts one to only two shots before one is running on empty.

  6. 1. Fortuitous doesn’t ean lucky, it means accudental.

    2. “One suck project”? I think it’s not that bad…

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