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Traditional M/L Guns from Afghanistan

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Since the Ottoman/Caucasian/India Threads brought so much interest, I thought I would start yet another............

Based on the quantity of original remaining specimens today. What appears to have been the most popular long gun with local Afghan tribesmen during at least the first three quarters of the 19th century (and probably a bit earlier) is commonly called a Jazail (there are 2-3 different spellings). These guns are typically recognized with their long barrels and unusual curved butt stocks. The Jazails were likely produced in small shops throughout the Country. The quality ranged from very plain to highly decorated. Like other Eastern areas during the period, they built a definate gun style that remained popular with the locals for a long time. Here are some observations by components...

STOCKS: Most of the stocks I've seen are some type of walnut. Occasionally wood from the coast of India, There has always been much speculation for the reason for the curve in the butt stock. And to my knowledge, no one yet has unearthed any genuine historical evidence for it's purpose. So there is still only speculation. The wrist area is a wide, almost vertical grip. Yet it gradually flattens on it's way to the butt cap. My guess has always been that it was designed to be carried under the arm pit while moving, and the gun kept in a "ready" state when the need arises. The sling being used in what might be perceived in less hazardous surroundings. Can't seem to come up with any other logical reason for the curvature of the butt stock. If you grab the rear of the fore stock with one hand, and cup the curve of the butt stock under your arm pit, it is actually quite comfortable to walk around with. Especially considering the long, usually muzzle-heavy barrels on these guns.

LOCKS: Jazails can be found with matchlocks, flintlocks, percussion locks, and the usual conversions. Most of the existing specimens seem to have been made as flintlock, or converted to same from matchlock. Many of the flintlocks that were used were from damaged/captured EIC British muskets from the period. But there seem to be just as many copies of this specific lock, usually of lesser quality, made by locals, often with spurious markings. Interesting that now, as then, the Jazails with genuine EIC British locks bring a premium at auctions.

BARRELS: The average barrel seemed to run from 44" to 48" and the caliber from about .60 to .70 Tapered round, octagon to round, octagon, etc. - all the different barrel profiles of the period seem to turn up on these Jazails. LOL Overall, the outside barrel profiles seem to take on a Persian influence. The barrels could be rifled or smooth bore. One seemed to be as popular as the other. The existing examples today do run about 50/50. The barrels could have been made locally, bought/traded with neighboring countries, or imported from Europe. It was known that Europe made and exported barrels expressly for various Eastern markets. So, I guess all of the above. One curiosity: Even with the preferred use of the EIC British locks, I've never seen a Jazail with the attempted reuse of an EIC musket barrel.

These Jazails seem like they were built more for rest shooting versus off-hand. Bi-pod, rock ledge, etc. The long barrel and profile tend to make the gun muzzle-heavy. They are indeed more pleasant to shoot from a bench.

Here is a pic of my Jazail shooter. More pics a details of it and others later. If anyone else has these guns in their collection, please post photos.

Rick
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I used to have a percussion Jezail with a British lock around .45-.50 caliber and bone bipod with iron wrapped tips. Never shot it and wish I never sold it. Shouldering it was uncomfortable but laying prone with the bipod allowed an almost pistol grip with the stock shape.
 
That looks like something Edgar Rice Burroughs might have imagined for a resident of Barsoom to be carrying! Have you ever actually attempted to shoot it? I wonder how one would even shoulder it with that stock...
Hi Dale

It does indeed feel odd when you first shoulder it. But the butt of the stock fits the cup in your shoulder better than you would think. The real difference is the rear grip/wrist area. Your hand is almost in a vertical position, somewhat like a pistol grip. This grip is more comfortable from a bench than off-hand, as you could imagine. It even seems to help in the amount of recoil. It does not take as long to get use to this hold as first imagined.

Rick
 
I used to have a percussion Jezail with a British lock around .45-.50 caliber and bone bipod with iron wrapped tips. Never shot it and wish I never sold it. Shouldering it was uncomfortable but laying prone with the bipod allowed an almost pistol grip with the stock shape.
Hi Cyten

Yes, that's why I believe these guns were designed by their builders with rest-type shooting in mind versus off-hand. Those original bi-pods are fairly rare today. And they bring a premium at auctions, with and without the gun. LOL

Rick
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Hi Dale

It does indeed feel odd when you first shoulder it. But the butt of the stock fits the cup in your shoulder better than you would think. The real difference is the rear grip/wrist area. Your hand is almost in a vertical position, somewhat like a pistol grip. This grip is more comfortable from a bench than off-hand, as you could imagine. It even seems to help in the amount of recoil. It does not take as long to get use to this hold as first imagined.

Rick
It almost looks like it would be an interesting stock-making project for a certain T/C Hawken I have with a cracked stock. Maybe Some Day.
 
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Is the mechanism of the matchlock Jezails the same as on Indian Toradar? I am assuming so based off the similar trigger and distance between it and the match holder.
Hi John

Generally, yes. At least all the ones I've seen. The trigger being positioned roughly mid-way between the wrist area and the butt cap. Of course this would change with the use of flintlock or percussion locks requiring the trigger to be placed in an appropriate position.

Actually, the barrel on my shooter above started life on a matchlock gun and was later restocked with a flintlock. The pan was removed from the barrel and a thick piece of leather was inserted between the barrel and the upper edge of the lock plate where it meets the barrel. Truly a tribal fix. LOL The lock now has a piece of sheet brass in place to make up for the gap.

Rick
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If they were meant to be fired low down, how were they meant to be loaded? Is it assumed the shooter would load it bipoded, or stand back up?

On the topic of loading, how was ball loaded in the rifles? Did they use patches?
 
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If they were meant to be fired low down, how were they meant to be loaded? Is it assumed the shooter would load it bipoded, or stand back up?

On the topic of loading, how was ball loaded in the rifles? Did they use patches?
Hi John

Honestly, I don't know the answer to either question. LOL

I do have an original Afghan rifleman's belt for use with these Jazails with a large amount of counterarguments attached to the belt. Inside one of the pouches were two pieces of linen. Which one could assume was used for patching, cleaning, fire-making, or all.

The bi-pods that Cyten mentions above that seemed to be often used with these guns are able to fold backwards, vertically for carrying with the gun. Some of these bi-pods were mounted with a pin through the forearm of the stock. Others, have a clamping devise that wrap around both the barrel and fore stock. The clamp would allow adjustment up and down the length of the barrel as well as being able to quickly change and re-mounted on another gun.

Rick
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I saw a video on YT, where the host, a former special ops sniper, opined that the unusual stock shape was ideal for shooting downhill at a 45-degree angle or so.

In past history, that’s how the Afghans slaughtered the British walking through that valley … firing rifles down from the hills as the Brits marched in formation … with Brown Bess muskets no less!

Maybe the Khyber Pass, lol???!
 
I saw a video on YT, where the host, a former special ops sniper, opined that the unusual stock shape was ideal for shooting downhill at a 45-degree angle or so.

In past history, that’s how the Afghans slaughtered the British walking through that valley … firing rifles down from the hills as the Brits marched in formation … with Brown Bess muskets no less!

Maybe the Khyber Pass, lol???!
Hi Flint

Now that's interesting ref the sniper ops comment.

Marching in formation......like the old saying: shooting fish in a barrel. While the Brown Bess locks were popular for building these guns, the barrels were not suitable for this style of long range shooting. And apparently why we see no Jazails with re-use of Brown Bess barrels.

Here's a couple pics showing the butt stock from the rear position. Note the thick wrist area thins and flattens as it travels back to the butt cap ending in an oval shape. My other three Jazail flintlocks all have this same feature. Placing the butt stock under the arm pit would also make it easier for one handed movement of the gun to different firing positions on the hills leaving one hand free to carry other gear. Just speculating.

And a of the bi-pods used with these guns. The overall design of these guns seem to be for sniper type use.

Rick
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Super cool gun! I've always been fascinated with the Middle East.

That stock looks like it would be very good for shooting in a laying down position on a rest.
 
BARRELS: The average barrel seemed to run from 44" to 48" and the caliber from about .60 to .70 Tapered round, octagon to round, octagon, etc. - all the different barrel profiles of the period seem to turn up on these Jazails.
Three questions if I may:

Is it known if the powder charges used were similar to the amounts used in European military muskets?

Are there any original samples of the Jazial powder from that time period (grain size, coatings, mixture, quality)?

Where was the Jazial powder made and what was the source of charcoal? The very little I know about the Middle East is that forests are not common, at least not today.

Thanks for the photos and info, very interesting.
 
There is a common misconception that Afghanistan is in the "Middle East"
However, it is part of Central Asia and only borders one Middle Eastern country, Iran.
afh.jpg



Although not the most forested place, they certainly are around. For instance, Kunar Province.

32b0df312ce6b1b242c9991669c7c8bb--afghanistan.jpg



There is a book in the works that will cover mainly Kabul production of breechloaders, but also Jezail manufacture etc. Hoping there will be some good info.
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Of interest, someone on another forum found a crate his grandfather had shipped from Afghanistan full of Jezails and pistols
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In it was something I've never seen, a Jezail with a back action lock
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And some photographic "evidence" of the stock being used to be shouldered

Jazail.05.jpg
 
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Re these stocks, (and must say I love the pictures and info you provided Cyten!)
yes, regarding the stocks ideal for shooting down hill;

I can see that but! we must remember that in Afghanistan, everyone shoots at any invader.
If no-one is invading, they invariably shoot at each other.
I am sure many will have read Gordon Sinclair's book Khyber Caravan. He goes into detail about this, and how shooting people in the next village was quite normal if there was no foreigners to shoot at.
My point being, that half the time, these hill people would be the "ambushers", and the other half of the time they could be the ambushed.
In other words, these guns Had to shoot as well Uphill as down.

Best,
Richard.
 
Three questions if I may:

Is it known if the powder charges used were similar to the amounts used in European military muskets?

Are there any original samples of the Jazial powder from that time period (grain size, coatings, mixture, quality)?

Where was the Jazial powder made and what was the source of charcoal? The very little I know about the Middle East is that forests are not common, at least not today.

Thanks for the photos and info, very interesting.
Sorry, can't answer any of those questions. Although I did pull a load from an original Albanian Tanchika musket and here is what I found:

The interesting thing was the black powder. It looked more like cake flour than the corn meal we are use to seeing.

Rick
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More info on the OP's Jazail shooter:

The stock was mostly refinished. There was a crack near the wrist area that was glued and filled in. Loose trigger guard was removed and eventually re-nailed. The white, bone slab near the butt cap was cracked and turning some kind of greyish color. That was replaced with a new slab and the horn butt cap polished out, and everything re-nailed. Here are some before and after photos:

Rick
 
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