Gunsmithing in Pakistan

A reader was sent this collection of photos said to be of Pakistani gunsmiths and gun dealers. The photos appear to be from different sources and a few look like frames taken from videos. While I would not want to fire these guns, the results they achieve in poorly lit rural workshops is impressive. Note how they load the ammunition: using a hammer instead of a loading press and very primitive dies.

[ Many thanks to Andre for emailing us 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.


  • kzrkp

    Why wouldn’t you fire one? I see craftsmen who take pride in their work, those guns probably function great. Also the tools they’re using are better than what was around for some of the antiques I’ve fired.

  • Vhyrus

    So you would NOT trust a hand made firearm? I guess Ed Brown is screwed then.

  • bbmg

    If I remember well some stills might have been taken from this report.

    • tincankilla

      second on this Vice story – very informative of the politics and culture of the region: “Many sons and lots of guns.” I like it.

    • JonMac

      Not from that video, although Tineye shows these images have been online (Chinese forums) since around the same time (2007);

  • Jack

    Well, Ed Brown is not a primitive peasant, is he?

  • Anonymoose

    I’m really diggin that gold-plated SLR. I wouldn’t fire it because it would probably KB with standard-pressure ammunition, but it would look awesome hanging over the fireplace.

    • Gidge

      Re-finish the wood furnishings with multiple coats of a darker varnish to get a nice dark gloss effect to contrast with the gold inlays and you’re set.

    • chino

      I believe this SLR is a factory-made weapon which the gunsmiths merely decorated.

  • A good Second Amendment line:
    Legally made, tightly controlled, traceable Firearms,
    or this, (Photos)
    you choose!

  • Sardaukar

    Oh god, that FAL…

  • hikerguy

    The PDW being held by the guy in the white shirt looks pretty sharp. Probably Tokarev 7.62 caliber. Not a bad design.

  • Having been on the wrong end of some of those handmade firearms, they function pretty damned effectively.

    Just because it was made in a mud brick hut by someone whose sandals were once part of a tire does not mean the weapon will not function well enough to attempt to kill you.

    Disparagement of that weapon will only increase its effectiveness in making your day suck, and possibly resulting in you being shipped home in a bag.

  • A. Hodges

    I may be the only one saying this, but I’m actually intrigued by that Bren rifle!

    • chino

      It is actually a real Bren with some local mods/repairs. These gunsmiths do not make high quality military-grade automatic firearms. They merely sell them as this is, after all, a arms bazaar. These bazaars are also veritable museums as they stock everything that’s been in the tribal heirlooms from the time of the first British expeditions into Afghanistan. Some arms dealers have 4 or 5 Lewis LMG in their shops. And most stock AK’s that come from all over the world – none of them made by these crude gunsmiths.

      • JonMac

        They also stock a crapload of locally made copies – muzzeloaders, Martinis, Enfields, Mausers. Those who know can readily distinguish them. Same goes for modern weapons – it’s not much harder to make a functional AK than an SMLE.

  • Brice

    1st world problem: Only trusting something if it’s made by a large corporation that can afford to have an ad campaign.

  • Pete Sheppard

    Are those tools and techniques much different from what JMB used?

    • Phil White


      In a word yes. To clarify things take a look at the video I posted a link too in response to Allanon’s request.

  • MJS

    It’s fascinating to see how these men work without high quality precision tools, this is a trade they learned in wartime, and I’m sure that if any of those cloned firearms came to the U.S., even if its a blatant clone, it would still have a decent price because it isn’t a mass production example. These settings have whole families who work in the trade, and the trade is passed down from generation to generation, the grandfathers who made the original Henry-Martini Khyber Rifle Clone probably have grandsons making AK-47s, it’s very interesting in that way.

  • Ian

    I’m glad to see the readers of this site realize that these gunsmiths are no different from those who cobble together custom pistols with identical tools (hammers, files, bench vises, drill presses) that people pay upwards of $10K for.

  • Esh325

    It all depends on which person made it. I’m sure you’ll find high quality examples, and poor quality examples. The people in the photos appear to take pride in what they do.

  • alannon

    I’m sure the curve of quality is wider than with mass-produced firearms, but at the same time I’m sure there are some truely high-quality guns being put out. They may not (probably aren’t) going to compete with high-tech precision rifles, but I would bet that more primitive designs (the AKs, for example) function as well as their mass-market brethren. We won’t see Glock/XD/M&P/etc knockoffs, but I don’t see a reason all-steel guns wouldn’t be just fine.

    I’d not mind seeing an end-to-end video of these guys at work. If importing were possible, I could see decent money being paid to get a video of your gun from raw blocks to shipping box.

    • Phil White

      All you have to do is ask:-) This is a short video of the full length 30 minute documentary.

  • Back in 85 during basic at Ft. Sill, I fired a Pak SMLE and a Pak AKS. Other than the markings being off they were almost identical to the real deal. According to my DI the AKS had already had over 30K rounds through it and the only thing the armorer had done was to replace the firing pin in it as it peened over a bit resulting in some slam fires. I wonder what it would take to import a few thousand of the SMLE’s in .308 for a decent price.

    • chino

      These are government factory-made, nothing to do with the cottage-industry.

      • “These are government factory-made, nothing to do with the cottage-industry.” – chino

        According to Senior Drill SFC Johnson the SMLE and the AKS were hand made in Pakistan. They had been brought back by a training team who had them made. I can’t remember the other details, it was over 20 years ago, but he specified that the training team watched the rifles get made. The other detail I remember is the SMLE cost the team 14 dollars american and the AKS cost them 35 dollars american. I shot about 30 rounds through the SMLE and I was consistently hitting the 200 meter target with it from prone. I put about 90 rounds through the AKS and other than my cheek taking a beating it was hitting the 100 meter target consistently.

        All I am relating is the info I received from my DI’s, and the fact that I fired those weapons. As I stated, the markings were were off, as we had real AKS’s AKM’s AK-47’s and SMLE’s to compare them to. I don’t know of any SMLE’s that have Cyrillic markings except that one, and the AKS had the factory info misspelled, which leads me to believe what Senior Drill told me.

  • robert

    We need to send a film crew over so they can have ther own reality show.

  • Tyler

    Probably still more reliable than a century build.

  • chino

    Do not be confused. None of the pictures actually show the gunsmithing of high quality assault rifles. All I see being made are shotguns, bolt actions, and pistols. Most of the actual assault rifles are factory-made weapons which are merely stuff they have “for sale”. None of the text claim that the AK or the FAL was made in these cottage industry workshops.

    After all, the first line of the text says “photos said to be of Pakistani gunsmiths and gun dealers”. The smiths and the dealers are not one and the same. The smiths make crude primitive weapons while the dealers can sell anything they get their hands on including the Dshk.

  • chino

    What these cottage gunsmith make:

    Maybe they do make a decent SMLE or even a recoil-operated weapon like the pistols. But they cannot make gas-operated (piston) weapons.

    Just because lots of military surplus are sold in these arms bazaar does not mean these tribal gunsmiths make them.

  • Mike Knox

    Image #9: some funky hair..

    • bill

      It’s a religious thing. The kid’s will dye their hands red as well. Exactly what the reason is inside of it just being religious, I don’t know.

      • Mike Knox

        It’s geneologically inexplicable, but readheads are also found naturally in the middle east. Some say the mutation got there through Siberian branches..

      • bill

        I’ve seen both in Afghanistan. I literally shit bricks when I saw a true ginger kid.

      • W

        it is not terribly uncommon to see a blue eyed or ginger afghan. The Russians left their legacy in more ways than one.

      • Mike Knox

        Middle eastern redheads have been noted as early as the 1600s..

    • Simon

      Following up on the guys commenting.
      Afghans/Pakistani (Same people, just a British drawn border)
      Dye their hair with hemp, it makes it red.

      They do the same thing with hemp painting of the female hands.

      In the 80s the russians raped a lot of Afghans, because of this you see kids aged 15/17 with ginger features among the locals.
      They are shunned because they are obviously bastards but this guy is surely not one of them.

      • luv.htlr

        where did you get your history lesson from ? did you not know that the greeks under Alexander passed though Afghanistan, and injured vaterans stayed in Aghan villages, no body rapes afghan women, stop making up your own version of history

    • W

      ill add that the soviets cant be the only causation. Britain ventured into afghanistan multiple times during the 19th century, though im sure they were there before that. I would have to talk to a anthropologist to be sure 😀

  • Chase

    What’s up with that submachine gun? It’s got a rear sight from an M16A1 and a front sight from an HK gun, and they’re not even close to being aligned.

    • bbmg

      They’ve seen the movies, they want the guns, this is the best they can come up with, and they love it.

      Reminds me of this amusing peugeot advert from a while ago:

  • Alex

    Probably better builders/assemblers than Century.

  • Malard

    defention of doing the best with what you have.

  • Jeff Smith

    Why are people questioning someone not wanting to shoot a handmade firearm? I’m sure some of the stuff works just fine (as someone earlier said, they have been on the wrong side of a Khyber Pass AK), but I’m not sure I would be too comfortable with the questionable quality control of a place like that.

    As Suroosh Alvi from VICE Magazine stated, the legend goes that many of the weapons were created using scrap metal that was collected after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There are many different grades of steel and not all of those are suitable for firearms making. I highly doubt that your average person could tell the difference between those types. If the metal that they use was created by simply melting down a bunch of scrap metal, that could result in a pretty dangerous firearm. Also, I have heard (I believe on TFB) that the ammunition created in the Khyber Pass is purposely down-loaded as to be safe when fired through the weapons.

    On the other hand, I could be totally wrong. They could (at this point) be experts in firearms manufacturing. But I don’t think it’s fair to compare these weapons to handmade firearms from Ed Brown.

    • Jeff Smith

      Skip to 2:15 to see Ed Brown’s factory.

      • Daniel

        Yeah, CAM machines, CAD software and access to some really expensive machine tools is going to make for some really high quality firearms. I bet some of those Pakistani 1911’s have some character though. It’d be interesting to be able to go look around.

      • Jeff

        I’m wondering, why does that video have so many dislikes?

    • bbmg

      Is it just me or does Ed Brown use the font from the “Hitman” game series…

      • 6677

        Dunno but in some cases games and films just buy a license to use an existing font so that could have happened here (I believe one of my mates has the hitman one on his system aswell)

    • Tierlieb

      It is highly possible that the material they work with is scrap metal. Then again, everything we westerners work with is scrap metal, too. The question is simply how well the refining process was performed.

      As for the average person not knowing what material is suitable: Surely.

      But the first lesson every blacksmith learns is how to estimate the basic composition of steel using nothing more than a magnet, an angle grinder and some acid. With a basic knowledge what tool steels are common, you can do pretty good guessing. It is a skill nearly every backyard blacksmith has.

      So that is not the problem. You can assume that these guys can, if they take their time, build guns equal to what a western custom gunmaker can do. Every mechanic apprentice I know has at least once hand-filed a thread or cut a cog wheel with a jewel saw that have been tested as replacement parts in big machines. It is of course too time consuming and therefore expensive to do this in the first world, but it shows that this is entirely possible.

      What you cannot expect (I assume) is consistent measurements as common in industrial production, so switching slides or uppers for example is probably out of question. Same thing for standardized measurements like chamber-, field- and land-dimensions and barrel twist.

      • Jeff Smith

        @Tierlieb, thanks for the info!

  • Chariman Mow

    Looks like the back room at Redjacket, only with fewer hand drilled holes and less black spray paint.

    • schizuki

      And a more sophisticated workforce.

      • W

        shit…im crying from laughter because of you…

    • Jeff Smith

      I’m sure that someone here hand loads and possibly could answer this question for me. Is the technique they are using to load ammo in these pictures safe? I know that the bullet needs to be seated in the case at a pretty specific depth. Can you really get the precise overall length you need through this method?

      • Jeff Smith

        Oops, sorry, meant to post that as a new comment, not a reply.

      • Simon

        As a junior reloader, I think you have pretty wide margins to go with.
        As long as the cartridge remains under the maximum/mimimum length it should feed fine.

        Also if the cartridge gets crimped too much and becomes mangled and/or smaller than the bore it will be inaccurate.
        Still that won’t blow up your gun.

        As long as you use good primers and powder I think they can make reliable ammo with very wide tolerances. So not worth much on the longe range shooting. But cheap and effective.

      • Phil White


        No it isn’t safe. They can probably get close as many gazillion rounds as they have made. One problem in the full length video of them working is they have little kids doing this.

      • matt

        A shorter COAL and crimping both increase pressure. Download a demo copy of QuickLOAD to see for your self.

      • Jeff Smith

        @Simon, Thanks for the info! I would love to see a more in depth look at the technical side of their process. Is it possible that you could have a cartridge long enough that it engages the rifling and creates a situation similar to firing a 5.56mm round out of a rifle chambered in .223 Rem? I know that the difference there is in the throat, but is it possible to not seat the bullet in the case deep enough that you have the same problem? They could have some way of preventing that, but loading with hammers seems like a pretty primitive way of doing things.

        @Phil White, Thanks for the info! I can’t imagine shooting ammunition that was loaded by a child. I’m nervous about shooting commercially sold reloaded ammo!

        • Phil White


          Kinda scary isn’t it!

      • noob

        Out of curiosity, are the handloaded cartridges being assembled with hammer and die 7.62x25mm tokarev?

        I’m trying to increase my russian firearm knowledge and I’m just guessing from the apparent length and the bottle neck.

  • Lance

    I see alot of copies of Chinese copies. I saw a video on this a few years ago. Type 54 pistols (TT-33 Tokarovs) Type 56 rifles and carbines (AK-47 and SKS-45) are the most popular along with Lee Enfields. After a disaster of owning a Egyptian Beretta copy (made in state arsenal not in some garage) I never will fire or look at Middle Eastern (None Israeli) weapons ever.

    They have a bigger chance of blowing up in your face than killing your opponent.

    • Lance

      I also admit though, too bad we cant get a hold of some they can deliver none banned Chinese AK parts to refurbish MAKs though 😉

  • Jack_Samuelson

    Pretty much a show and tell on why gun bans would never work. These gents don’t even seem to have the same level of machinery available in your average body shop.

  • Wei

    I wonder how they make the rifling by hand. Do they have some sort of special tool or technique for that process? Accuracy is also one of the most important things to a firearm next to its reliability.

  • Fluffy

    Trying to make a postapocalyptic fantasy world that has AK47s. One of us keeps insisting that they would run out of bullets and acts like guns are more sophisticated than they really are. HA! If this and Metro 2033 have taught me anything, it’s that it’s not especially hard to make guns. Or bullets. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

    • madwill

      check out the post-apocalyptic rpg the mutant epoch.

  • Rod

    That is pretty awesome to cast and cut a prperly chamfer that inside cut in a 1911, and they do it all in their pajamas to boot.


  • Chip Chipperson

    Let’s have the GPS coordinates from the exif data, please.

  • Big Daddy

    I wonder how many of those weapons are being used against NATO and US forces?

    • John

      If we don’t go and kill their childrens they will never harm us and will not use these firearms against NATO and US forces.We are in their territory SON.

    • charles222

      Compared to the metric asstons of equipment the Russians left behind? Probably not many, given that these guy’s Filipino equivalents can manage one Colt .45 every two weeks in a factory as opposed to a mud hut :p

    • Bandito762

      Guns not Politics…

  • HK93

    Probably more care and skill here than in most of the “tacti-cool” crap sold here. If these guys had access to decent manufacturing equipment I think they might give some of our manufacturers a run for their money.

    • noob

      although, imagine how costly the weapons would be if all that labour went in at union wages.

      a CNC milling machine never goes on strike or asks for a raise. it just breaks down once in a while.

      • gfanikf

        Cant make a Colt Anaconda or H&H gun though.

  • Henry

    Must Watch; Gun making in Pakistan

  • FailBlog

    I remember watching a vid of an islamic jihadist showing off his AK only for it to explode in his hands. It was probably one of these.

  • 50 Cent

    I want that bling-bling FAL.

  • BLG

    I can’t help but feel impressed with what they are doing.

  • Jeff

    I’m pretty certain most of these firearms are parts kit rebuilds which don’t require much past basic tools… also might explain why you don’t see glocks lying around these shops

  • Eugene

    Check out channel “VICE” in youtube.

    They did an episode on this whole gun workshop stuff in pakistan.

  • Daniel

    It occurs to me that this would be an awesome place to find some antique firearms that you would never see Stateside. Old obsolete Russian guns would be really nice to add to a collection. I think there was even a muzzle loader from more than a century ago that they showed Suroosh Alvi.

  • chino

    They do not make modern military grade automatic firearms, period.

    Just because we see racks of mil surplus firearms one shouldn’t draw the conclusion that these gunsmiths with nothing more than an electric drill are churning out flawless copies of AK’s. We may like this romantic notion of the little guy in a cave making high quality modern automatic weapons… But no. The shops sell them, but they are actual factory made weapons.

    A almost new factory-made AK costs about USD180: a fortune. What these cottage gunsmith do is fill the lower price range with their indigenous products.

    An AK may be cheap and easy for a factory to build but if you lack sheet stamping equipment, or precision milling equipment, forget it. The AK’s gas bleed, piston etc may be considered simple and crude, but quite impossible to reproduce flawlessly and reliably if you are not factory-equipped.

    • JonMac

      Depends upon your definition of ‘factory’. The AKs, ARs, HKs and bizarre hybrids are made locally in workshops just like the pistols, shotguns etc – nothing we would define as a ‘factory’. They are roughly made with a ‘blurred’ look from too much grinding on angled surfaces, and cold-blued. They aren’t exactly made entirely by hand filing, but they aren’t mass-produced either, and they (the examples I’ve seen) aren’t imported factory guns from China, Iran, Russia or anywhere else that makes AKs. Clearly these originals DO get imported, but they command concomitantly higher prices.

      Have you actually handled these things? They are rough as hell, though some are pretty impressive regardless.

    • J

      They aren’t just making guns with a drill like you say. The pictures clearly show they have a real mill. Assuming they also have a lathe that would give them the capabilities to manufacture a real weapon.

      • JonMac

        Where did I say they were making them with a drill? Clearly they have access to machine tools. That’s kind of my point.

      • Gnarly Sheen

        Reading is hard I guess.

    • uh no not really. check out akbuilder

    • Superabound

      Theyre still making firearms much superior to the ones Americans originally won THEIR freedoms with.

  • And nothing covers up that telltale gray hair and whiskers like henna.

  • Greg

    You know, if I wasn’t so afraid I’d be killed going there, I’d love to visit something like this

  • luv.htlr

    I see alot retarded comments here, people making up stuff.
    1, that red hair, is dyed red using henna plant, its NOTHING to do with religeon, just common cultural thing, no differnt then anyone else dying their hair
    2, Afghans and pakistani are not same people, this is incorrect. Although 15% of pakistanis are ethnically Pathans ( same ethnic group as majority of Afgans. Afghans with light skins are not a reuslt of rape by Russian troops, they are mostly decended from Greeks soldiers under Alexander who settled his wounded and old veterans in Afghan villages, these people have been there since 323 years before christ, this accounts for Afghans with red or blond hair and white skin, there is no race based discrimination there.
    3. Gun making area is along the lawless Afghan and pak border, its a very dangerous area, the most famous village for gun making is Dera adam khel, this area is full of Aridi tribe.
    4, DO NOT GO TO THE AFGHAN PAK BORDER. If you go there pakistani military will ask you to sign a paper saying you will not sue them or blame them if some one kills you there, thats where pakistani wanted criminals hide. I would not go there, even though I have a friend from Afridi tribe, these people are like KKK and see outsiders as KKK sees blacks
    5, quality of these weapons is VERY good, they copy everything, I once fired locally made 9mm SIG P-226, I fired lots of rounds through it, only thing that broke was firing pin, the quality of steel they use is suitable for gun making, these weapons will not explode in your face, but small pins and springs are not as good as factory made

    • W

      you’re right about the pakistanis, though I wouldnt dismiss the possibility of russian descendants due to the high volume of afghan refugees that crossed the border during the soviet-afghan war. there is truly no black and white answer since the british also stepped foot into afghanistan and pakistan also. alexander’s soldiers is a excellent hypothesis.

      this is a good explanation for possibilities

      Ill also support your contention to stay away from the border. LOL. It seems that Pakistan cannot even control that particular area of their own country.

      • snmp

        They are simply indo euroepan tribe with an Indo iranien language. The realy Arian are Old Perse like Iranian, Tadjik, Dari and that’s include the Pathan tribe.

    • Floyd R Turbo (American)

      Supposedly Alexander the Great had red hair.

      A lot of people in that area dye their hair red because they want people to think they are descended from badasses like Alexander the Great.

      That’s the weird thing about the Afghans – they fight like the devil to defend their territory, but if you manage to kick the snot out of them they turn you into a folk hero – particularly if you leave…

      This happened with the Greeks, the British, and it’s just starting to happen with the Russians.

      twenty years from now all the young Afghani men will be wearing dark sunglasses, camel packs, Universal Camouflage Pattern, and fake M4s with ACOGs.

  • btr

    Primitive gunsmiths most definetely do make assault rifles. I’ve seen many pictures of handmade AKs from pakistan.

    Some are extremely crude. I’ve seen pictures of ones made with milled recievers, with dimples cut in the side to fake the appearance of a stamped reciever. Mispellings and nonsensical engravings on them are common, as the gunsmiths attempt to duplicate factory markings.

    One Pakistani member of an AK board I visit posted pics of his recent AK purchase. They sold it to him as real factory gun, and he was upset to find it was a Pakistani replica (he posted pictures for verification).

  • Saif Afridi

    Dear .
    The gun market of dara adam khel is living from centuries old traditional gun smithing and it is a unique in the world for its manufacturing weapons of all kind with hand made tools which is very old and not modern. This market needs to regularise for the betterment of its craftsmen because they sell their arms with very low prices. Thier hand made guns can be used in hunting and sport games. There are more than five thousands small gun factories in the town of dara adam khel and over 25000 labours/smith/carft men are bussy in making these beautiful replica guns of all kinds.

  • Sam Suggs

    can you imagine tamping in a live primer in with a hammer. I forget is 7.62x21mm boxer or berden primed

  • Blank Guns

    your blog is very nice and have easy way to posting.

  • John Hutchison

    Hi great comments question about the milling machine used it seams very practical to use I seen the videos where can a person find out more about the mill thanks

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