The Shot Towers Of Africa

by Y-man

Yesterday Steve wrote about the Shot Towers of the USA, Europe and Australia. Today I will tell you about how shotgun ammunition is made in African villages.

In most of Nigeria, we all come from one village or the other.. Of course, with schooling and work, we mostly live in the cities, BUT almost all have a village we belong to, and go visiting few times a year.

In my village, we have a lot of hunters, and what you could call “neighborhood watch guys, who protect the village from armed robbers, and occasional raids from OTHER villagers when there is inter-community strife (Which does happen at least once in 2 years in most cases.)

These hunters rely MOSTLY on locally fabricated guns, which they build out of plumbing pipes, doubled and “cured” in fire…(As barrels) and they carve out stocks from very strong, good wood we have here (Massonia wood, we call it.)

Massonia wood

The firing pin mechanism and trigger are usually very basic systems: something like a “falling block” kind of design, and springs from beds are best used to create the tension.

These are one-shot guns in most cases, though local ingenuity comes into play sometimes, and I have personally seen a double-barrel design (Over and under to boot.)

They work! The hunters almost always come back with game for the cooking pot, and a lot to sell to supplement whatever money made from selling crops and other menial work.

The shells – they are always happy to get empties fired and “thrown away” by city “wastrels” such as myself… I drive home in my 2010 4 x 4 truck, I come with 20 shotshells, set up a target and “waste money” (According to them. Several went and reported this to my dad, who lives in the town right beside the village…”Your son came an was showing off, wasting ammunition…”)

Once they have empties, they make their own gunpowder: sulfur, ash, other components I really do not know… Ground together and mixed thoroughly..

They pour this (In most cases crude, instinctive measurement handed down from generation to generation.) into the shotshell.

Primers are (I was shocked to discover!) derived from refill caps from children’s cap guns. The pry out the used primers, and simply replace with caps.

Of course, when they fire, the caps are destroyed, but I hear they can get up to 5 firings from a shotshell before they become too unstable to use again. They simply pry off the fired cap, and insert a new one…

Crimping is usually a crude form of star-crimp, using a hot piece of metal.

Payload: they melt lead from discarded battery cells, and drip from trees into buckets of water to get spherical balls of lead…

Wads are made out of discarded flip-flops. Cut into ‘disks’ and rammed down the shotshell to compact the powder down to get good burn and compression.

I hear that the kick, and impact of these shotshells can be double of factory shells.

You know the old saying: where there is a need, there must be a way…


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 in terms of DIY and improvising. He did have some training at an early age attending military school in his country, including some weapon training...He always appreciates all your advice, comments and feedback.

More by Y-man

Join the conversation
2 of 27 comments
  • Mike G Mike G on Sep 22, 2013

    Would it be possible to get some pictures?

  • Anonymous Anonymous on Oct 06, 2013

    Hello Y-man!

    Just out of curiosity, would it be legal for you to own an air rifle?

    I know that power would be an issue, but it could serve as a sort of aiming practice that doesn't spend valuable gunpowder and cases, and the bullets could be re-used if found.

    If you managed to get your hands on a powerful air rifle like the Girandoni, you could even hunt animals with it, and you could always have very cheap ammo.