The pistols have mostly been issued to the Guardia Civil's elite units. / sur

Controversy over issue of cheap guns to Spain's Guardia Civil police force's crack units

Numerous officers and instructors have said the pistols often jam, and tests have produced worrying statistics: out of every 35 Ramón guns tested, 20 were faulty

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO / JUAN CANO MADRID / MALAGA.

It could be the most controversial public contract ever signed by Spain’s Ministry of the Interior. At the end of October 2020, it agreed to buy 9,216 low-cost Ramón pistols, a brand very rarely used by a police force, from an Israeli company. The Ramóns are a copy of the legendary Austrian Glock 19, but the elite corps which were issued with this weapon last year, especially the USECIC and GRS squads, have reported serious problems with them.

Numerous officers and instructors have said the pistols often jam, and tests have produced worrying statistics: out of every 35 Ramón guns tested, 20 were faulty, whereas with the guns used by many Guardia Civil units – 9mm Berettas – faults have only been found in two out of every 1,200 tested.

Apart from the jamming, the officers have reported that some of the Ramóns started to crack after being fired around 100 times.

Replacement parts

During the autumn the Ministry ordered that some parts be replaced in all the pistols which had been issued, whether they had been found to be faulty or not, and a spokesman said recently that the result of this change had been satisfactory. This has been supported by sources at the Guardia Civil weapons service, who said the rate at which the pistols jammed was then one in every 1,000, which they consider normal.

However, some officers are still concerned: several of the top shooters in the force have said the problem still persists and the failure rate is actually two out of every 20, or 10%. At least two Guardia Civil commands have stopped using the Ramóns and are returning them to the manufacturer because problems have continued despite the parts being replaced.

Price more important than safety?

It is the contract for the guns which has caused particular controversy, because the Ministry of the Interior is accused of having given priority to the price rather than factors which are of major importance to the forces that use them, such as accuracy, ergonomics, operability and comfort.

The firm that won the contract offered a price which was 30% below the maximum. In the end each pistol cost 269 euros before tax, including an anti-theft holster worth more than 50 euros. Gunsmiths and experts in the weapons market say that no recognised institution in Europe or western countries has ever purchased equipment of this type for its forces at such a low price, although one police force in Thailand does use Ramon pistols.

These guns are banned in the USA and France for being a copy of the Glock 19, and also in France because the authorities there believe the quality has been reduced in order to offer a competitively-priced weapon.

A spokesman for the Guardia Civil’s AUGC association has said they are tired of the fact that the force is always kept at a minimum in terms of personnel and resources, while the Jucil association said the purchase of the Ramón pistols showed the Ministry’s lack of interest in public safety and that of the officers who have been issued with them.