Background: reminder on Gun Laws in Nigeria.
Nigeria has laws that restrict ownership of firearms to citizens being barely able to purchase and possess pump-action shotguns at the most, and single or double barrel shotguns generally. Aspiring gun owners need to be over 35 years of age, and al$o ‘qualify’ for the necessary licenses. [No error in the last sentence!] Licenses may only be approved by the President of the Federation [!] though this authority is delegated to 36 State Commissioners of Police.
Gun ownership is fraught with the dangers of being attacked by robbers who want “that thing, that fire-stick”, and from the Police: who may shoot first and then read your bloodstained license afterward.
This is when you have your firearm AT HOME. It is expressly forbidden to drive or move around indiscreetly with one’s shotgun. Most hunting is done from the smaller towns, and since there is usually less police presence: one can carry his firearm in his car or tied up on a bike to the farm or something.
Some very senior persons in civil society have gotten approval$ for owning handguns. [No error in the last sentence either!]. There are quite a few Beretta, Colt, Glock, and Webley pistols in open as well as underground circulation here, and a strong local [illegal] industry copying the simpler models too: crude locally fabricated semi-auto handguns, revolvers, single shot pistols and shotguns amongst others.
The hunting culture in the localities…
In Nigeria, there are concentrations of cities and towns, as metropolitan as many European cities, but almost everyone comes from a “Village” some distance from the town/ city. Usually, a few hours drive from the town: these are the hometowns, with everyone knowing everyone, and mud huts everywhere [being overtaken more and more by the “Whiteman’s progress” of brick buildings, barbed wire fences, tarred roads, electricity, mobile phones and air conditioners.]
These “villages” are almost all surrounded by farms and large expanses of unexplored lands. Perfect hunting grounds, they are increasingly being roamed by local or visiting hunters. Game hunted here include antelopes [A kind of deer] “grasscutters” [badger-like/ sized animals], squirrels, flying fox bats, quail, pheasants, and monkeys among other animals [large pythons are a delicacy!]
Hunters have come across animals as diverse as Hippos, Elephants, Gorillas, and even a Manatee [or Dugong?] recently and almost all have gone into cooking pots in some villages somewhere. Do not judge them too much – people are HUNGRY here, and the laws are not very well managed even for the nature reserves.
What do the Hunters in Nigeria use to shoot game?
In the boondocks: the locals make their own…Most hunters who can afford it, or who had a good inheritance have a minimum of a single-barrel locally fabricated shotgun at home somewhere. This is what they use. Shooting at the hunted game is a very deliberate thing as the cost of a single birdshot cartridge is as high as $2 [In a country where up to 75% of the population survive on less than $1 a day! That’s what the Economists say, but you and I know that 97.56% of all statistics are made-up!]
There are NO slugs to be bought, and birdshot shells are barely available. I recently discovered that some buckshot shells can be bought, at about $3 a shell. A few persons have melted shot and improvised slugs or buckshot for their shotguns. Seized smuggled cartridges are even “recycled” into police use – and have been found to be sold on in a clandestine manner at a much higher premium to hunters, and sadly, to the “night-boys”.
Locally made Shotguns in Nigeria.
More of the African hunters, however, use locally made shotguns which are in some ways built like foreign single-barrel, single-shot ones. It is important to note that all the materials used are locally sourced. These are scrounged from materials as varied as a tractor steering shafts for barrels, and even plumbing pipes. Wood for stocks is in abundance. Local gunsmiths, however, manufacture these shotguns using hand tools including files, chisels, and grinding wheels. They fabricate these shotguns to either shoot regular shotshells or reloaded shotshells. Remember my article about African shot towers?
Sometimes damaged or defective shotguns are cannibalized for fabricating new locally made ones. The video below shows a shotgun being fabricated for me using the “discarded” barrel from my Mossberg shotgun, for example. NOTHING is ever thrown away. The makers of these guns have very ingenious ways of working and are very highly skilled. Please enjoy the video below.
Muskets and Black-powder Muzzleloaders are still ALIVE.
Muskets, which are called “Dane” guns in Nigeria, are manufactured in many villages. They are called “Dane” guns because of the Danish and Portuguese explorers and traders who came first to the shores of West Africa in the 1400s. They brought and sold firearms to the tribes first. Usually, a simple pipe with one end crushed, then a firing hole bored through. A spring-loaded firing hammer is usually fixed, and all fastened [Sometimes with simple hose clips] to a locally carved and cured wooden stock. Many variants, including the infamous “shakaboolah” blunderbusses, have been seen in the villages.
Some of them are obviously not for hunting – but the premise is the same. Black Powder, locally manufactured, is poured down the pipe and rammed in. Then a piece of a plastic flip-flop is used to seal it. Shot [Steel pieces cut from bedsprings or shot cast from Lead recovered from tyre balance weights, and from discarded batteries, as well as good old steel ball-bearings [Locally called “Boris” here – a bastardisation of the word “Bearings” …], are all the payload of choice. These are rammed down, and then another piece of plastic flip-flop seals everything.
A regular cap from children’s play cap-guns is placed over the firing hole, and when ready to kill that Buffalo, the hammer is cocked back, and fired.
What does this translate to? Most importantly, some meat for the extended family, and some money [From game sold] in the pocket for the children’s school fees.
I have mentioned these firearms and the industry in previous posts. One recurring appeal to me has been to present pictures of the unique firearms manufactured and used by the villagers. Well, here it is, however late and with apologies.