Underground Gun Making Factory

There’s a very unique place in the town of Danao, in the island of Cebu, Philipines. Normally the sound of gunfire evokes a feeling of dread or fear but here it signals money. Hidden are, backyard workshops that churn out gun replicas ranging from crude revolvers to sophisticated automatic sub-machine guns.

Danao is the center of the country's' underground gun making industry. Almost 1 in 10 of the 100,000 resident is directly involved in the industry. The demand for these guns is so high that many of them abandoned the traditional farming, fishing and sugar cane fields business to become gunsmiths. Earning several hundred pesos a day legally pales in comparison to the income generated by a single gun sale. A revolver can be sold for USD$80 which is already equivalent to a few weeks' wages.

These "backyard gunsmiths" use only basic tools to fashion metal, usually bought from ship breaking yards, into deadly weapons. Construction methods might be crude but the end products are nonetheless effective. Starting with imitating revolvers, these self taught craftsmen have since duplicated high-powered firearms such as the M-16 and AK-47 to Uzi and Ingram sub-machine guns. Some have even modified the original designs coming up with their own unique versions increasing firing rates and bullet capacities. Modified attachments such as "silencers" are also available.

Purchased through "cash only basis", local customers are politicians, military personnel and ordinary civilians. Used for personal protection or given as "gifts" these unregistered firearms are also favored by "private armies" and criminals because they are virtually untraceable. These replicas even find their way into the hands of the Japanese Yakuza and other criminal elements from Taiwan to China.

The governments' effort to stem the tide by setting up cooperatives to legally manufacture and sell firearms has little effect. Illegal manufacturers offer much lower prices since they are not governed by procedures to maintain safety and quality. Poorly made guns have been known to jam or even explode.

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