A Slightly Different Take on Pakistani Gunmaking

We’ve all heard about the guys making knockoff firearms in Pakistan with vices and hand files. Well, Al-Jazeera English did a story on some of these guys, with a somewhat different focus than you usually see. Apparently, they are really concerned about government crackdowns on armsmakers (where have we heard that refrain before?), and in particular that a general transition to computer-controlled tools will put them out of business.

(hat tip to Every Day No Days Off for the video)

One the one hand, my initial reaction is that a move to CNC equipment (even if it’s being used with C-clamps) is probably a big step up for the average Pakistani firearms buyer. On the other hand, you don’t get to stay in a job for 40 years if you make a lot of guns that blow up. Some of these guys are probably amazingly talented at what they do, and it’s a shame to see those skills lost. Of course, the economically sensible course if you are that guy is to cater to a high-end market and promote your hand-made custom quality instead of making generic knockoffs like everyone else.

Also, maybe a test stand for the proof firing would be a reasonable idea.

17 comments to A Slightly Different Take on Pakistani Gunmaking

  • Spending hours hand checkering a stock is one thing, spending hours hand-making every part for an AK just seems stupid. That’s like hand blowing a fucking beer bottle.

  • Nirvana

    Its interesting seeing one of the gunmakers worrying about his future, that machines will take over his line of work. Very unexpected.

    The directors political commentary aside, this is an interesting take on the subject as well:

  • Woody

    As a self taught machinist/hobbyist I marvel at their skill with a hand file. I think that is much more difficult to learn than the operation of a lathe or mill.

  • Woody

    @Nirvana…..Very interesting film. Up until sometime in the mid 1980s ads for plans to build guns from scratch were common in outdoor and “men’s” magazines. Most were designed to be made without machine tools. I have a few of them but I never got around to building one. A google search for “Scratch built AR15″ will bring you to a site describing how to build an AR lower from aluminum plate fastened together with socket head cap screws. The author’s only machine tool was a tabletop mini-mill. It looks like a straight forward project for the moderately skilled tinkerer.

  • I know people who DO hand-blow their own beer bottles – into which they put their hand-brewed beer. Don’t knock what you don’t know.

  • Keith

    I don’t think that CNC and the traditional art are mutually exclusive.

    Machine tools take the drudgery out of removing large amounts of metal.

    with a rigid set up and a more rigid machine than a bridgeport ;-) , one Hp removes up to one cubic inch of steel a minute, try that with hand saw, a chisel or a file!

    That frees up skilled hands to do what skilled hands do best, fitting and finishing.

    It also creates a demand for other skilled and semi skilled jobs; cutter grinders, machine setters, tool and fixture making, machine tool re-building…

    The guns aren’t like buggy whips – they remain in demand.

    In Europe and the US, best guns and the best cars are still hand made, the mass market is for machine made and mass produced – that way we can all afford guns and cars.

  • will

    This is an old video and, after it was made, the US Special Operations folks kicked al Q’s butt in Afghanistan so the director/narrator’s uninformed political comments were incorrect. He is probably correct about rhe Frontier area of Pakistan, though.

  • raven

    I would love to see a video about gun making in Darra from a machinists perspective- focusing on the details of the trade, instead of the brief news type overview.

    • Ian

      Me too…but I don’t think I ‘m interested enough to make the trip myself. :)

    • Keith

      Is there a reader with family connections to that area, who is both a machinist and good with a camera?

      Short of having all of those attributes, I guess it would either be a wasted trip, or material for yet another snuff video.

      There were some good shots a while back from the Philipines – now there’s a safer place for most of us to visit. I’ll see if I can find the links.

  • Nirvana

    If you all have more than a passing interest in the topic there is a book that covers a fair number of designs and modifications, though it is mildly dated. “Improvised Modified Firearms: Deadly Homemade Weapons” by Truby and Minnery. While it was published by Paladin Press, it is decently done and had a lot of strange and interesting guns.

    I think the topic as a whole could use another good book, with more and better pictures.

    • Keith

      the link to the pictures comes up in my browser as a series of question marks, but still works. My browser mustn’t like cyrillic script.

  • Wow….nice link. Here is google translates effort at it:

    Its interesting. No matter where or when people live, they want to have access to arms.

  • Storm

    Make no mistake : not a single firearm replica there is made “only with hacksaw and files” – although some kind of an weapon (fiream?) could be fabricated with such tools, not in a million years you could make such perfect looking replicas of an Ak, Ar,mp5,etc. or a pistol only with simple tools. The guns are just fit,assembled and finished using files and other rudimentary simple tools (emery cloth, etc.), and photos of this, last operation in the process are often shown, leading to false conclusions. I suspect gunmakers there machine the parts few thousands bigger, and than they are finely finished and fitted, as you see often with pistol frames and slides. I’ve also seen pakistani websites and blogs seriously advertising their products !

  • sth_txs

    Darn! No OSHA rules in any of those confined shops. How do they manage? :LOL:

  • duchamp

    i was in pakistan in the early ’90’s and spent a day going through the shops and factories in darra, the place is an incredible destination for someone interested in the history of small arms.

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