Kris versus Krag - Weapons of the Moro Campaigns:

Firearms of the Moros

Two Moros with Spanish Remington rolling block rifles (Library of Congress)

    The largest number of firearms in Moro hands in the early 1900's were the c1870 .70 caliber, black powder Tower musket, manufactured in Great Britain for use by the Colonial Indian Army. It was derived from the famous British Army "Brown Bess", used against colonists in the American Revolution. These were in abundant circulation in Asia throughout the latter part of the 19th Century and readily available from Singapore. While it would be easy to dismiss these weapons as ancient artifacts compared to the U.S. Krag, powder and shot were plentiful, they were accurate for the shorter distances encountered in jungle fighting, and could be used as a quite effective shotgun using small, homemade iron pellets, what the American soldiers referred to as "junk."

    The most commonly used rifle by Moros in fighting the Americans was the single-shot, 1871 Model, .43 caliber, rolling block Spanish Remington. It was simple, reliable, and had been the standard rifle for the Spanish Army in the Philippines until 1895. Also popular but in more limited supply was the rolling block Spanish Remington in a shorter-barrel carbine version.

(Photo courtesy of

(Photo courtesy of

    The most prized weapon was the Model 1893 Spanish Mauser of 7mm caliber. Following the end of the Philippine-American War, many were purchased by individual Moros from de-mobilizing Filipino "insurrectos."

(Photo courtesy of Jean Plamondon)

    Another prized weapon was the US Army's Krag-Jorgenson, bolt-action, five-shot magazine, .30 caliber rifle. These were captured, stolen, and sometimes purchased indirectly through the black market.

(Photo courtesy of

(Photos from Library of Congress)

September 8, 1911 Brigadier General John J. Pershing initiated a disarmament campaign for all of Moroland. It set a deadline of December 1 for all firearms and bladed weapons in Moro hands to be turned in at Constabulary posts in exchange for a bounty. After December 1, 1911 possession of a weapon would be cause for an arrest. At the same time the Constabulary and the Army were ordered to compile lists of known firearms and demand their immediate surrender. While implementing the order, the Constabulary and Army strongly protested to Pershing, believing it would in the end prove impossible to enforce and lead to increased conflict (which it did). The photograph above shows one of the first results in Lanao and the post card gives the tally. This provides a good look at the wide array of firearms that had made their way into Moroland up to that time. In addition to the weapons shown above one can see pump-action repeating shotguns, Mauser automatic pistols, modern double-action revolvers, and lever-action repeating rifles. The unanticipated outcome was that many Moros gathered up and turned in large numbers of older and in some cases poorly-functioning firearms in order to secure the bounty. These funds were then used to purchase more modern, high-powered rifles from gunrunners, reducing the overall number of firearms but greatly improving their quality and lethality. This became evident at the Battle of Bud Bagsak, when Moro snipers firing at long distances accounted for many of the casualties on the American side.

    When the Americans first arrived, there were few pistols in Moro hands. But his began to change almost immediately, and a large number of were purchased by the several hundred Moros who attended, at U.S. invitation, the 1904 St. Louis World' Fair. American-made Colt revolvers in .45 caliber were by far the most popular. They were generally no different than the ones used by the US Army or carried by most American civilians in the Philippines. This is not surprising since they were easy to acquire from a black market, often fueled by arriving or departing Americans or Europeans seeking to make an extra buck. Ammunition was readily-available. Even though covered by Pershing's 1911 disarmament order, as can be seen in the photo on the left of two datus on board an interisland steamer in 1914, they were often carried openly.

    The largest number of weapons covered by the disarmament order were bladed, but very few were turned in. They were simply hidden or not carried concealed in some other object. The disarmament order was later modified to apply only to blades more than sixteen inches in length, the supposed cut off length between an agricultural implement and a fighting blade. But this too proved ineffective and eventually dropped altogether.

    There was also a form of Moro artillery, the lantaka, or small bronze cannon. Tracing their heritage back to Arabia, most were from the nearby spice islands, what is now Sulawesi and Banda in Indonesia, but some were cast in Mindanao. Smooth bore and using black powder, they were used almost entirely at close quarters filled with "junk" metal or even rocks as a type of grapefruit charge. The lantakas shown below were those of Datu Utto of Cotabato.