Guns, Ignorance And Superstition In Africa…

Y-man's Shotgun

Firearms Ignorance of the masses…

In Most of Africa, and in some other parts of the world, the superstition and mysticism perceived as behind the use and effect of firearms is more prevalent than common sense or science. Most people around here, even the educated ones still believe that firearms kill by some sort of white man’s black magic, some sort of advanced voodoo, or that guns somehow shoot poison to kill victims, or that it is the fire and heat that actually goes out to kill. [Some sort of early Laser – fire thinking?]

The idea is that once you point and fire a gun, any firearm in the general direction of your target, you will destroy it!

Unfortunately, even the armed forces and Police as well as paramilitary forces have members, even officers, who believe this!

Let me talk about my own country… A West African country…

[I’m the only one not masked in the picture below…] Other police forces carry pistols primarily, in my country, they carry AK 47s!

Nigeria Security for TFB Post

Training, and lack of training…

What do you expect? Training is minimal: recruit the guy, teach him how to march, and then take him out to the range and allow him to fire thirty rounds with minimal instruction. On a thirty year-old AK 47. Almost no one is taught the mechanics of HOW bullets work [A simple demonstration with a ballpoint pen would suffice!]

Yes, there is some teaching, caring for firearms, basic disassembly and cleaning of the majority of firearms, but not much more than that. Most of what the typical Policeman learns, he learns on the job. Unfortunately, this translates into some scary behavior. Policemen [especially] flag themselves and others ALL the time, in some cases, fingers firmly on the trigger.

But it’s not all bad: the Army, the Air Force and the Navy have a deep and long tradition of British training, and that reflects in reasonable trigger and muzzle discipline. Unfortunately, a larger number of former criminals and uneducated people are in the military now… And it shows!

There are also “elite” special teams: started and run by enlightened and forward thinking officers, which are better equipped, train with the world’s best regularly: and these cut across the Police, the Army, the Air Force and the Navy. These guys have trained, and continuously train with the British, the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, The Pakistanis, hell, actually: they are all-round training whores! Anyone would do!

Wrong impressions and ignorance.

The ordinary citizen also has many wrong preconceptions. There is always this belief that the armed robbers and insurgents have bigger and better arms than the law enforcement or military forces: but I always point out the fact that both sides all have the same ubiquitous AK 47 or the Chinese Type 56.

In fact: several military units are equipped with Israeli Tavors, and the FN F2000, as well as the FN P90.

Training is also much better than robbers and such. It is when the trooper becomes a robber, or a rebel or militant that the REAL problem begins.

Masking-tape wrapped AK 47 magazines are seen to be sign by most ignorant citizens that the whole firearm is “held together by tape” and cannot be more than “shakaboolah!” So the Police must have weapons that are falling to pieces… They do not realize that even advanced forces tape additional magazines together…

A “shakaboolah” [Pronounced exactly like that…] is a locally reproduced wide-mouth muzzle-loading blunderbuss made out of hand-pounded materials including water pipes, used in the villages more as a deterrent in communal fighting, than for hunting… It can cause grievous harm when fired too: filled with rusty nails, ball bearings and sometimes: excrement! [There can be no greater victory than showering your enemy with sh*t!..]

In most cases, it is even better handed to the enemy to shoot at you with, as majority of firings cause more harm to the shooter, than to target!

Related to the shakaboolah phenomenon, is the irrational belief many have that Tear-Gas guns must be weapons of great power… So you find Policemen standing at checkpoints brandishing these projectors menacingly… Even the Policemen themselves believe that the big muzzle and bore must mean that a single shot can “explode” someone. They do have a point though, if such guns are used to fire actual grenades, of course there would be little left of the person…

Then there is the fetish belief on both sides:

Many policemen, even soldiers and the criminals all believe in the power of black magic, voodoo or “Juju” as we call it here… You hear tales of guys in the forces who brag about how they went home to “get cooked” in the strongest charms built to stop bullets from harming them…. Some guys have amulets and little tightly-sewed leather pouches tied around arms, torsos and groins… Then ironically, you also see a Bible verse crudely written on the butts of their rifles! “Though I walk through the valley…”

Again, you hear their tales of how “targets” refused to die when shot, because they too had “jazz” [local slang for protective black magic] and these targets actually derisively shook off shots fired at them, in some cases actually catching bullets in their hands, and mockingly showing back to the boys in blue [Or black or green…] These targets could be “well-cooked” armed robbers, kidnappers, oil-theft criminals, or so called militants… Many police [and soldiers] have fallen to the voodoo-controlled return fire from these criminals who have even been ascribed powers including being able to disappear by clapping twice or by pinching the bridge of their noses… All these according to the widely exaggerated stories from the policemen or soldiers.

There have been several cases where a “cooked” person insists on testing the “product” and insists on shooting the witch-doctor to test if his anti-bullet charm actually works [You can’t be a doctor unless you yourself have all the inoculations, right?] Would you know that the witch-doctors almost always refuse? Haha!

Several times the “bullet-proof” charms have been tested on goats or cows… needless to say: there is usually a feast that night.

And actually, some criminals HAVE tested the anti-bullet charms by shooting at their witch doctors… It usually adds murder to their list of crimes.

But they still believe all this!

So some law enforcement agents, who have good rapport with their own medicine-men [Or Herbalist or “witchdoctor” or “Jazz-man”… take your pick] have come up with solutions for these criminals who are so well “cooked” and refuse to “take bullet” and “kpai” [Pronounced like “die” – “kpai” is just one of the slang words for someone kicking the proverbial hand-held H2O storage and conveyance receptacle, also known as bucket…]

So for many witch-doctors, it is like the Vickers Company in the UK: they have a massive factory complex; in one wing, the slogan of their tank manufacturing section is “We make tanks NO anti-tank gun can defeat!” and just across the field, in the same compound, the Anti-Tank Gun section boasts: “Our guns can destroy ANY tank!” Haha… So the witch-doctors claim to make their clients bullet-proof, and at the same time can ensure the destruction of “cooked” enemies, for a higher price… “My juju is better and stronger than your enemy’s!”

Some solutions…

Some policemen SWEAR that tying a red rag that had been at one time soaked in the blood of a sacrificed goat on the sight of one’s rifle will GUARANTEE that one’s enemy will be killed stone-dead, even with one shot. No matter the amount of jazz “cooking” that person had gone through, and even without aiming.

Picture for TFB Post

Others insist on the efficacy of, [wait for it…], pouring a handful of fine, dry sand in the muzzle of one’s rifle before blasting the misguided enemy, guarantees a good kill…


In a rifle!



The ONE thing that most people just do not do, is AIM their guns!

You all have seen the picture of the Liberian rebel warrior in his Life-jacket vest, lips twisted and doing the “booyakah” stance with AK 47 sideways, pointing firmly towards the ground… LOL.

Ah… The power of ignorance…

Well, let me get you guys all up to speed on MY own adventures recently…

I tested my shotgun with a top rail, Troy Battle sights, and the exceptional Mako Folding Tactical stock… It all failed spectacularly… Haha! Got a busted lip from my poor fitting of the stock, and the rail made for poor or no accuracy. What a waste! Well, they were samples. [Anyone want to buy barely used Troy folding battle sights? LOL…] This video below helped me confirm the failure…

So, then I simply went back to basic: and installed a Magpul SGA stock, went back to a simple clip-on Hiviz plain barrel sight… and actually got some good improvement. I also fabricated a simple groove-type rear sight by filing a groove into a bolt fixed into the factory-made thread on the receiver which you can see in picture below. It provides a perfect “V” with the bead, a very good, instinctive sight picture…

Ah! Dremel: where have you been all my life?!


Video before was BEFORE the simple filed bolt rear-sight.

I have now improvised a shell holder, using some spare velcro materials I found around me at home, and it is functional!


Next idea in mind is a brand new 12ga rifled barrel, with factory sights… A man can dream, can’t he?



The boogey-man around us right now! I am based in a city that has not reported any cases, and we do hear it seems to be getting better slowly: with some patients having improved and being discharged… We all hope things get better soon, but for now, we almost never shake hands anymore in greeting, and anyone who coughs in the midst of a gathering of people, is accused [playfully] of having been sent, as per voodoo [Or “Juju” as we call it here…] by “the enemy witches from one’s village” It is all in jest, but everyone is taking measures nowadays: better hygiene, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers which are all over the place now [I carry a spray can of Industrial alcohol which I spray on my hands and other exposed areas to disinfect regularly.]

There is really strong government effort to stop the spread of this virus.

It was not helped that a few days after this outbreak started, I FINALLY watched Brad Pitt’s World War Z… I was terrified! [And my kids actually barricaded themselves in the little sitting room, blocking any view and sound of the bigger TV with a mattress! It was so funny…

I really hope it is all controlled soon, and will be over early enough for me to plan my trip to the US in January… SHOT Show, here I come!

When I come over in January, I will NOT be offended if you guys in the US all seem to give me gloved-hand fist bumps rather than handshakes! Haha!

You guys remember that I was in Dallas earlier this year, and got a Cowboy hat gift and enjoyed the hospitality of TFB’s own Alex C? [Bless him!] Well, I ended up combining the cowboy initiation I got in Dallas, with my regular job in the oil industry, when a Scottish colleague and friend gifted me a Cowboy-style safety hard-hat!



Now my kids call me “Cow-Engineer” [A play on “Cowboy”]

PS – That safety hat could have several other… Ahem… “uses” in a pinch!



Y-man is based in a firearms restricted environment in West Africa, he is really interested in shotguns [Which is all he can legally get], and he makes the best of whatever he is able to lay his hands on.

Y-man had some training at an early age in the “Gentleman” forces of the Air Force in his country, including some weapon training…

He also appreciates your advice, comments and feedback almost as much as the air he breathes…


  • DaveP.

    Many thanks for the insight, sir.

  • Payce

    Always love Y-Man’s articles. They give insight into a whole other way of thinking and creative solutions.

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    An excellent and well-written article, Y-Man — I enjoyed it very much. Misconceptions of all sorts concerning firearms abound in every society and culture throughout the world, including the ones that are supposed to be better-educated and more aware about the subject, the United States included. Those misconceptions might not extend quite so far as some of the more obvious examples centered around superstition that you have cited, but they are just as incorrect in their own way. An example, among countless others, is the idea that “assault” rifles account for a majority of fatalities in gun-related violence ( the fact that the media tend to grossly play up the use of semi-automatic rifles in the relatively rare though individually spectacular mass-killing incidents in which they have been used, while conveniently ignoring the statistical fact that these rifles are in reality involved in a very small percentage of homicides, doesn’t help the dissemination and acceptance of the truth either ).

    Even military personnel who ought to know better often have their share of such misconceptions. I distinctly remember a certain lieutenant, who was my platoon leader / instructor in boot camp, extolling on the theory that a spin-stabilized, high-velocity lightweight bullet ( such as the 5.56mm 55-grain M193 used in the M16 ) fired from a rifled barrel caused major wounding in soft tissue because of the “spinning effect of the bullet boring into the human body” ( those were his exact words )! We all know that such a bullet actually inflicts that sort of damage due to de-stabilization, yawing and tumbling upon encountering and penetrating human tissue, but you will be surprised how many people still believe this errant nonsense.

  • Blake

    interesting perspective as always, Y-Man. Keep ’em coming. Here’s to hoping Ebola stays far far away from your neck of the woods.

    “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

    -Derek Bok

  • Nimrod

    Gotta love Y-Man. Good stuff.

  • MrSatyre

    Y Man rocks.

  • Mystick

    The same could be said of some people in the US, too… believing that guns are some kind of magic boogeyman that kill and maim just by their mere presence. Just look to your left to see this flawed worldview.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Excellent point — and you might be surprised that it encompasses not just the left but also many aspects of the right and every category in between. The fact remains that there are people of all world views and political inclinations who grossly misunderstand firearms and their relations to the community as a whole.

      • Mystick

        Agreed. I personally believe that the whole red/blue friction will be the crack that destroys the structure of our society as we know it. It’s been taken too far for too long.

  • Zachary marrs

    Great post, stay safe y-man

  • dp

    Ignorance, superstition? Well you can call it that way. Maybe it is just excess of spirituality the black race seem to be imbued with. Actually, even ‘rational’ Europeans of past were often not so different.
    Regarding fighting skills though, be it with firearms or machete, there is hardly anyone better that Africans themselves – they have lots of ongoing practice. Just look at long list of post-colonial wars on that continent.
    Thanks for entertaining article! It is best to read write-up by man who comes from the environment and understands it.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      DP, I think you are absolutely right. The battle records of “Colonial” or “Native” Troops in the service of any country in the 19th and 20th centuries are but mere examples of how much these troops excelled in their chosen professions, eg., the German East African Askaris who served under Von Lettow-Vorbeck in East Africa during World War One and achieved outstanding success against overwhelming odds in the face of Allied domination ; the largely still-forgotten French North African troops who served so valiantly and unquestioningly during the Second World War, and whose contributions and sacrifice in the name of duty and honor rank among the highest one could ever ask for ; the Malay Regiment troops who literally fought to the last man, risking retribution against their immediate families and communities, and even when they knew all was lost, during the Japanese conquest of Malaya and Singapore in 1942 ; and the South Pacific Scouts, New Guinea Scouts, Fijian Scouts and Coastwatchers who risked everything to do their duty in a silent and deadly war where both sides neither asked for, or expected to give, any quarter.

      • dp

        I am glad to read your remark DE.
        In somehow ‘tricky’ connection the local fighters and German overlords of the time achieved remarkable success against British interest, true. What I meant is more the ‘double-sword’ of African in-fighting after they largely received independence. It is sad history which holds back progress in Africa.
        As you mention past history of Malaysia I can clearly trace your pride of resistance your people put against Japanese attackers and occupiers during WWII. I personally hold your people’s valor at high place. That’s the base of tradition you can built on.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Thanks for your understanding, DP. Empathy is a really wonderful thing, is it not?

  • SP mclaughlin
  • Snarlingiron

    I certainly enjoyed the article on Guns, Ignorance And Superstition In Africa…. I would really love it if Y-Man could post some photos of a Shakabula. The superstitions are rampant here too. I recently had a conversation with a gentleman that told me that he purchased a Glock 22 just after 9-11. I asked him how many rounds he had put through it. He gave me an incredulous look and said “I haven’t shot it yet, I haven’t needed to.” I’m betting he had no idea how to load it or make it ready. But because he had bought it, in his mind he and his family were now safe. Talk about ignorance!

  • USMC03Vet

    “SAND! in a rifle!

    Oh, God. I lost it there. Y-Man you are a national treasure and don’t ever let anyone try to tell you otherwise.

  • schizuki

    Reminds me of an article I read decades ago in SoF magazine (remember those days?)

    I can’t remember if it was South Africa or Rhodesia, but the security forces would pick up AK’s from downed insurgents and would often find the rear sight at maximum, and the folding bayonet extended. The writer asked why, since engagements were at short range and hand-to-hand combat was unheard of. The reasons were that the insurgents thought setting the sights to maximum would give the bullet more power, and extending the bayonet would “guide” the bullet, making it more accurate.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      Interesting “superstition” — thanks for bringing it up!

    • Paul

      So strange, because I read the Zulus did this with captured Martini-Henry’s, boy how the rumor mill works. Who knows where these things come from

  • Nicholas Mew

    I think a weak 18 year old nerd like me can be a better gun fighter than them. And that is saying a lot.

    • wetcorps

      I’m week and nerdy too but still wouldn’t bet my life on it though :b

  • I have been looking forward to this article for a long time Yman. Excellent as usual!

  • Gallan

    Seems just a lack of basic physics education, which is enough to explain how a firearm and bullet works. I wonder if your uneducated chinese has this problem.

  • Tim Wise

    Ni99ers deserve slavery, ghettos and prison for their subhuman asses!

  • Raunchy Dawg

    Hey man keep your head up over there

  • C.

    Extremely interesting piece. Well-written and witty. Great stuff!

  • joedeats

    Love the article, fascinating what other cultures believe. When you stop and think about though their superstition if twisted a bit sounds just like what Americas anti gun groups believe.

  • wetcorps

    As always fascinating post Y-Man, thanks for sharing!

  • gunslinger

    awesome article.

  • smartacus

    I like that short tie on the shortstop in the middle.

    Looks so debonair×260.jpg

  • Jim

    Keep spreading what you know and change the world one person at a time.

  • VaMtns

    ” There can be no greater victory than showering your enemy with sh*t! ” (Standing Ovation)
    Great article as always. I have worked & lived around a good number that believe in the “juju” and it’s a powerful belief.
    Our prayers are with you and your family for safety and healing for all those who are battling the Ebola outbreak in your part of the world. Be safe and God bless.

  • Zebra Dun


  • Madcap_Magician

    I love Y-Man’s guest posts.

    • Yup! A Y-man post is always a treat. A look into a totally different world of firearms.

      • Madcap_Magician

        And he’s so enthusiastic and creative in what he does. I loved his kitbashed shotgun slug posts.

  • Ckh88

    Eh, lack of information leads to ignorance. At least you’re safer when somebody is actually aiming at you! On ebola: Well,stay safe and avoid any body fluids! Love Y Man’s articles.

  • Fruitbat44

    Y-man – Thank you for the article. Good luck.
    On a lighter note; I haven’t seen the movie ‘World War Z’ but I can whole heartedly recommend the novel and the audio book. ‘The Zombie Survival Guide’ is also a wealth of practical information about a fantastical subject. 🙂

  • st4

    I recall a story there where cops arrested a goat because it was originally a criminal who shape-shifted into the goat to elude capture. And then the infamous, mass panic over witch doctors allegedly shrinking everyone’s penis.

    I never thought about how that sort of environment would affect firearms culture; very interesting read.

  • idahoguy101

    Great article… thank you!

  • billyoblivion

    “and in some other parts of the world, the superstition and mysticism perceived as behind the use and effect of firearms is more prevalent than common sense or science.”

    We’re totally past that here in America. Que 1911 .45 v.s. anything else in 3,2,1…

  • percynjpn

    Great post – very interesting!

  • Steve, what do you think of changing the name of TFB to “The Y-Man Blog”?

  • Leon Roy Sheppard

    First-time reader here Y-man, I enjoyed the article – funny AND informative! Best wishes for good health and safety to you and your family in these troubled times.

  • Mario AK

    Great article, this is the only way to effectively fight prejudice and ignorance, by exploring the human aspect… Thanks for the insight, I hope things turn out better for your country

  • Pelle Andersson

    I am thinking about a friends father that 1961 was sent to Congo and the crises. This batalion from the swedish army was sent to Katanga province and Kamina airbase to secure that for further operations. They were outnumbered and outgunned, armed only with small arms. They were attacked a few during the daylight hours. When I asked him why they didn¨t attack during the night he said. It was all calm because they were afraid of dark and refused to leave their barracks during the night. He said it was very odd.

  • Justin Moss

    This was such a great article! I really appreciate the point of view that you bring to the firearm blog. keep writing and i’ll keep reading!

  • Nathan Tramp

    You know, I didn’t like these posts at first, because they didn’t seem relevant to me, but now I really appreciate them for perspective. I’ve heard guys like James Yeager talk about the superiority of the bead sight on a shotgun and been like “What?,” but if Y Man can make a Dremelled bolt work, then I guess we shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. I like these now. Who knows. I might need his advice soon. :/

  • Justin Sporn

    You’ve got the cowboy hard-hat, all you need now is a Clint Eastwood style Hi-Vis Safety Poncho.