The decline of the gun industry in India

When I recently blogged about TACOM’s efforts to expand the US small arms industrial base, Btr astutely noted that if the government was really interested in expanding the industrial base they would re-open the machine gun registry.

In India the opposite has occurred. The Indian government has a monopoly on the manufacture of civilian arms. Only a limited number of Olympic class shooters are allowed to import guns.

Indian government manufactured “Revolver 32 (7.65 mm x 23)”. It costs about US$1366 (excluding taxes).

The consequence of this is that the government factories, which number about 40, can afford to let quality drop because they have a captive market of over 1 billion people. Now even the military are complaining about the monopoly.

The Hindustan Times reports:

“India produces the shoddiest guns in the world and sells them at ridiculously high rates,” says Swaran Singh, who owns an arms repair workshop in Jalandhar. “Every gun which comes out of the factories in Jammu or Bihar or the ordnance factories in Kolkata and Kanpur has a problem,” he says. Guns manufactured by the ordnance are marginally better, adds Singh, who repairs at least 25 new guns manufactured in Indian factories every month.

However, private licence-holders aren’t the only ones complaining. Forced to cope with weapons considered virtually obsolete in the international market, armymen are also saying it would be wiser to allow private players to manufacture arms and ammunition. “The government monopoly would break, the quality of weapons would improve and prices would fall,” says an official at the Army Headquarters. Besides producing defective weapons, the ordinance factories also do not meet delivery deadlines, says an official.

Over the years, the army has moved from the 7.62 mm self-loading rifle to the next generation Indian National Small Arms System (INSAS). But this 5.56 mm assault rifle is also known to develop major defects like cold arrest, breakage and cracking of components in strategic areas like the Siachen Glacier, Kargil and other high altitude areas, senior army officials say. Such defects were seen even during the critical Kargil conflict. The government was then forced to allow the import of one lakh AK-47 assault rifles from Romania at a cost of Rs 85 crore.

I highly recommend reading the whole article [ Google Cache Link ] . It gives insight into a unique situation.

Many thanks to Mehul for sending me the link.





Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Avtomat

    good heavens, are those the only arms civilians are allowed to have?! Not a single modern design or even modern caliber.

    • Avtomat, I am not 100% sure, but I think those are the only choices for new firearms.

      And very very expensive as well!

  • Andy

    Though, I do dig the concept (if not perhaps their implementation) of a Webley clone.

  • Carl

    Behold the result of protectionism.

  • mrw

    The link to the article didn’t work for me. Here is a link to Google’s cache of the article. Very good, btw.

    http://74.125.93.132/search?hl=en&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.hindustantimes.com%2FNews%2Findia%2FGunning-for-change%2FArticle1-237974.aspx&aq=f&oq=&aqi=

    • mrw, yes, I had problems with the link as well. Thanks for posting the google cache.

  • West

    I wonder if India’s inability to produce quality rifles and ammunition for conventional warfare would increase the probablitiy of their going nuclear faster in a regional conflict with Pakistan…? What a mess over there with the militants taking hostages at the freaking Army HQ.

    Im glad they all have the bomb.

  • jdun1911

    Lets look on the bright side of things. At least they can produce firearms. I won’t name names but some Western European States don’t have the capabilities to produce small arms anymore.

    In order to produce quality and updated guns you must have a strong civilian market. Without it there is really no incentives to improve. You can’t live forever on military and government contracts.

  • Komrad

    I’m not sure if reopening the machine gun registry would do much. Many states have their own bans on automatic weapons. Also not many companies would be able to produce anything right away. You also have to think about who is going to buy them and why. I have confidence that everyone who reads this blog would use them frequently, responsibly, and for good purposes but your average person or even casual shooters would not buy them and use them for anything. Its really sad that a country as large as India has trouble producing small arms and when prices for an AK can get as low as one chicken in certain parts of Africa. Come on. If they can make serviceable weapons for that price, then India with its billion plus people should be able to produce something. Its not like making quality firearms requires hidden knowledge. If all else fails copy someone else or buy guns from them.

  • Ken

    Wonder if the nukes are the same quality as the guns? Scary huh? LOL…

  • subby

    Well that explains everyone shitting their pants int he ‘Slumdog millionaire’ movie with the slumdog and his Colt .45.

  • Btr

    Komrad,

    Actually, tooling up machine gun production for ordinary people could begin instantly. Frequently, there is very little difference between production of an automatic rifle and a semi-automatic one. Look up the LEO cost for a semi-automatic AK-47 converted to a full auto one- if I recall, it was only slightly more expensive (~$100) than the semi-automatic.

    Open bolt submachine guns are cheaper and easier to make the semi-automatic ones.

    Prior to the ban machine guns were not really any more expensive than their semi-automatic counterparts (minus the $200 tax).

    The 1986 ban on new machine guns has damaged development of new small arms… now, unless an inventor or gunsmith can somehow get a military contract right of the bat for an improved design, his invention is worthless expense to him or her. If the inventor could produce small quantities for sale to individual collectors, he or she could make it profitable to develop and improve the gun for eventual military contracts.

    The Hughs ammendment banning new machine guns is a national security liablity and should be eliminated.

  • jdun1911

    It would be instantly. For AR15 the only thing a company need to do is put the automatic version CAD file in the CNC computer and hit start. Both auto and semi version use the same blank forged receiver. The difference is cuts and extra hole.

    For plastic receive new moles have to be made for the auto version if they didn’t have it already.

    Price wise semi and auto version should be about the same. IIRC the M4 cost around $500 for the US military.

  • Cymond

    Komrad,

    I would expect ownership of MGs to be approximately as common as ownership of sounds suppressors – very popular! There are several major suppresor manufacturers and hundreds of small companies.

    I know I would certainly buy one. MG prices are currently high and growing fast. I will probably never afford one because their value will probably grow faster than my salary.To give you an idea, current prices are about $9,000 for an uzi, 10,000+ for an M16, and $4,000 for a sheet metal Mac-10. Average quality semi-auto versions of those weapons currently cost about $1000, $1000, and $500 respectively. Removing the ban would cause a massive price drop overnight.

  • mrw

    Try closer to $15k for an M16. Looks like FA prices have plateaued. Probably because of the current economic client.

  • jdun1911

    There is really no difference between a semi and auto AR receiver other then inter cuts , extra hole, and trigger assembly. The upper is basically the same as any civilian version that has a 14.5″ barrel.

    Keep in mind this is a plain M4 with plastic handguard with no knights products ad-on or optics.

    However I did a google searching and some people stated around $600 to $1000 per unit cost. I’m petty sure at $1000 that would include Knights rails and other accessories. LEA get their plain M4 for less then $800.

    Full auto AR for the general public cost 15K and up. That is due of the rarity and not manufacturing cost.

  • Steve,

    Thanks for posting this link. I am always saddened by news about India and gun restrictions there because I was born there a long time ago and I remember when a boy could go out on a bicycle with a 22 and people would stop and talk to him. These days you can get arrested even for going out with an air rifle.

    The Indian ban on gun ownership came in with other severe restrictions in 1984 – the age at which you could get a gun license was raised from16 to 21, the number of guns that an individual could own was limited to 3 and all imports were banned with the exception of target shooters as you point out. Despite this complete nonsense, the country has produced some very good shots and the number of Olympic shooting medals that India has received have been increasing in recent years. On the other hand, the Un estimates that there are more than 40 million illegal guns in the country and the Indian government doesn;t dispute the figure because it has no idea even of how many licensed firearms there are! Those who think that Washington (and State capitals like Albany and Springfield) have incompetent buffoons for bureaucrats need to look at the jokers in government service in India to see what stupidity really is like. But then that is a socialist country and I don;t think anyone can expect anything better – my only hope is that this kind of stupidity does not become mroe widespread outside India.

  • Fulcrum

    Am an Indian and am new to this forum and i am not so technically sound…so plz excuse any obvious gaffes i might make…

    First thing u need to undertand bout my nation is dat the police and the law establishment hate the idea of the common man having a gun…even if its an air pistol 🙂

    getting an arms license here is ridiculously frustrating…the police is the primary authority which decides whether u really need a weapon for whatever reason it may be (sports,self defence,etc) and right now due to the many shooting incidents(by indian standards) by a few famous ppl it is nearly impossible to get a licence unless u are police officer urself or a politician or an extremely rich businessman….

    Coming to the weapons themselves the most powerful calibre which u can own without any complications(cost,availabilty) is the .32 acp. This and the .22 are the most common types of ammo available and u should’nt have much problems getting them.However each bullet could cost u between 1$ and upwards upto perhaps 3$. And u can only keep around 30 rds with you..Coming to how much a handgun could cost u lemme give u an idea of how expensive it can be…a webley mark IV revolver which could be atleast 45 yrs old and in any godforsaken condition could cost around 5000$ in indian currency… i really don’t know much this ancient ww2 revolver costs in the US but i am willing to bet my life on the fact that it can’t be 5000$ 🙂

    if u have a rifle and u are not a sports shooter recognized by the govt. it better not be a semi automatic…the maximum calibre u get is .30 06 and again that is restricted to the shooters.

    if u want a brand new weapon then u can only get it only from the the govt. factories and the less said bout these peashooters the better. u can’t import a weapon even if u manage to find a loophole u still end up paying almost 250-300% customs duty!!

    So my nation is just not the place for civilian guns(perhaps even military guns..).There are many reasons for these kinds of restrictions-

    law and order is the greatest threat to our nation…even our PM agrees with me…So imagine a scenario where the maoist terrorists(naxalites as we call em) or the pok terorists or just bout anyone with a grudge against the govt has access to perhaps..say an ar15 or an m14 or even a 50 cal barrett… I have no doubt in saying that my nation will become even more chaotic than afghanistan…there are millions of ppl who can afford to buy a weapon (afterall we have more than a million millionaires) they just are not allowed to.
    In fact the only reason why the naxalites have not already destabilized my nation is simply because they are armed with crappy lee enfields in 7.62mm,sten smg’s,slr’s and ofcourse AKM’s and a few bren lmg’s all in questionable condition and raided from police armouries…Imagine these ppl with modern weapons…scary..

    The police is perpetually undermanned,not that professional and simply overburdened. The only reason why we still have relative stability is because most criminals are armed with a knife at the most. Things become complicated when even a crude homemade firearm is involved.

    Coming to the weapons for the army any soldier would given a choice prefer the imported AKM to the INSAS for a variety of reasons..i won’t list all of em..u guys probably know bout it..i ‘ll list my favourite reasons though

    -no under barrel grenade launcher so far.
    -crappy polymer materials which can’t stand the -45 c in the mountains
    -i dont want to start a debate on the 5.56mm vs 7.62mm but most ppl i spoke to love the hitting power of the SLR and AKM even if its much heavier and unweildy than the INSAS.

    So anyway do point any errors i made and sorry for the really long post:)

    Cheers!!

  • Destroyer

    this phenomena explains what has happened to Enfield in Britain and various gun manufacturers in France. I mean, the L85 and FAMAS were obviously contrivances of inexperienced and ignorant gun designers.

  • manu

    I think Fulcrum has already explained the situation in detail.

    The only thing i would like to add is that the government has deliberately followed a policy of restricting of development of better fire-arms for civilian sector.
    It is not a question of protectionism or captive market, government does not wants arms in hands of civilians. Hence the draconian arms license regulations and prohibitive import duty.
    No private gun manufacturers are allowed in India, hence any guns available will be the under-powered crude antiques government allows.
    The idea is that if the bad guys don’t have guns or armed only with even cruder illegally manufactured single-shots, even these pitiful pea-shooters should suffice for self-defense.

  • Carl

    Protectionism may not be the explicit goal of these policies, but the end result is the same: The producers who are allowed to act on the market actually get worse, because they don’t need to compete with other producers. And that is also the definition of a captive market.

    Criminals will still import guns even if you totally ban them, so only the law-abiding will be disarmed. Banning guns would be great if criminals followed the law, but they don’t.

  • Indian

    @ West & other folks who fear about the Army’s weapons and the nukes be rest assured that the above article is about the plight of the cops and civilians in India. India has a huge “Defence Budget” which is as good as the GDP of a lot of countries and trust me the Indian Army is well armed and the nukes are pretty safe. And don’t worry about “Slumdog Millionare” it’s a work of fiction so don’t dwell so much over it.

  • Regretfully, India’s elite are interested in evolving military prestige in lieu of feeding and caring for its people – infants and mothers to name just a few.
    Keeping arms out of the hands of its people is consistent with that strategy. India needs to place its people first; certainly ahead of multi-billion dollar expenditures on military initiatives. India is living a smoke and mirror fantasy. India’s neighboring countries are not a threat to India’s national security, its flagrant disregard of its people is.

  • Indian Patriot

    @Sal Palma

    Don’t talk about things you don’t know. India since independence has been attacked no less than FIVE times by foreign powers, not to mention numerous border skirmishes caused by other countries’ military adventurism. Don’t give me that “neighboring countries are not a threat to India’s security” BS.

    I also don’t see how giving guns to regular civilians counts as “caring” for them. All it will do is result in a huge increase of domestic violence. Guns should be used by the police and military and no else. We are not some crazy rednecks who need to bring a gun everywhere we go.