WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

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WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Liz » 15 Oct 2008 11:54


A specific warning about Khyber Pass copies of British guns was published in the August 2007 issue of Australian Shooter magazine as part of an article by Royce Wilson.
I have retyped the warning here for the information of members as it raises important safety issues.

Royce Wilson wrote:
The Khyber Pass region of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border has long been home to gunsmiths making homemade copies of firearms from whatever materials come to hand, be they railway lines, wrecked vehicles or scrap metal.

During British expeditions in the North-West frontier in the 19th century, the locals acquired numbers of rifles from the British. These were generally Martini-Henrys, but later on Martini-Enfields and even Lee-Enfields were acquired. They then began making copies using the afore-mentioned locally available materials.

The quality on Khyber Pass-made rifles is generally considerably inferior to factory-made examples and they may, in fact, be dangerously unsafe to fire. Khyber Pass Copy rifles cannot generally stand up to the pressures generated by modern commercial ammunition and it is generally advised that they not be fired under any circumstances.

The most obvious way of spotting a Khyber Pass Copy rifle, aside from the overall poor quality, is a reversed 'N' in the 'Enfield' markings on the receiver or 'VR' (Victoria Regina) ciphers with dates after her death in 1901.

Khyber Pass rifles are relatively rare in Australia, but they have popped up in reasonable numbers in the US and UK and will no doubt eventually make their way here. Their value is understandably low, as they were never 'official issue' service firearms and, more importantly, cannot safely be fired with commercial ammunition. Nonetheless, they are a subset of military rifles of the British Empire and are therefore valid collectable pieces.
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Re: Warning on Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Mark » 15 Oct 2008 21:28

Thanks for the heads-up Liz :)

Looks like not even antique obsolete firearms are immune from the fakers and forgers.

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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Enfield577 » 30 Jun 2009 06:48

Greetings from Afghanistan!

These guns are not really fakes or forgeries - they were copies made ca. 100+ years ago, for the tribesmen to use againt the British military. All of these that I have seen in Afghanistan were historic guns - made years ago - not any recent fakes, and not in any attempt to deceive (although they certainly do deceive the majority of military shoppers in the bazaars here, unfortunately).

These are pretty easy to spot, IF you know what you are looking for, and one is not just shopping for "an old gun" to take back home. Compared to the genuine RSAF or Birmingham contract article, the lack of quality in all parts is obvious (although some genuine parts were often used in construction). Most of these guns have markings that are obviously wrong. The tribesmen tried to copy the British markings, with various degrees of success. I don't know why they did this - whether it was an attempt to make a good copy, or somehow to fool their fellow tribesmen - who knows? They obviously didn't read English, as the attached photos show.

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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Mark » 30 Jun 2009 16:52

Geoff

Thanks for the info and in particular the photos, very interesting.

I think your suggestion of including the markings in order to deceive other tribesmen stands a good chance. I expect there was quite a trade in what were modern firearms of the day in Afghanistan.

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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Liz » 02 Jul 2009 03:32

Geoff

Thanks for the photos, they illustrate beautifully the fact that these weapons can be easy to spot. Unfortunately, some of the craftsmen in question had greater attention to detail than others and not all local copies are easily spotted. I think the key issue is not so much the craftsmanship* but the risks involved in firing these weapons particularly with modern (hot-burning) powders.


Liz

* Let's face it, when not under pressure to mass produce, local craftsmen were more than capable of producing high quality weapons... quite a few participants in the 1st Afghan War expressed the view that Afghan jezails were more accurate over longer distances than the muskets carried by the British.
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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Sawubona » 28 Jul 2009 12:10

First post here, but as good a topic to leap into as any. There's a well known sporting goods retailer here in The States named Cabellas and though I'd normally be more discreet about the name, my experience in one of their stores has earned them that dubious distinction. Some months ago, I was admiring a lovely sporterized MK II Martini in the "Gun Library" when the clerk told me that they had another Teenie in the rack outside the gun room. The rack gun was a .303 conversion (well, not really) of a MK III with the forend off a CLLE, a unidentifiable cleaning rod and rear sight, a Queen Victoria cypher over a date of 1913 (!), and a $750 price tag. The overall quality wasn't too shabby, but it was still quite obviously a "Khyber Pass" knockoff and I told him as much. When pressed, I pointed out the more glaring irregularities and made an embarrassing (to him) offer of $100 as I thought it a collectible example of the genre.

I never heard from them again, never received any response to two emails which I wrote stressing to them the danger of selling the gun as a proofed original (particularly in .303 caliber for which ammo is both more readily available and notably hotter than .577/,450) and was further shocked that it was still there on the rack three months later and still being offered as an authentic service Martini-Henry (and still for the original price). I had even sent them an email with the link to the well-known internet site that offers a primer on how to recognize a Khyber Pass copy Martini from a long way away. And none of the above even touches upon the questionable legality of selling a recently made .303 "antique" without the proper ATF paperwork and background check. Maybe it's a "curio and relic" qualified gun, but my understanding is that if the vintage can't be incontrovertibly determined then it's considered to be new, at least in this caliber. And forging serial numbers on firearms or knowingly selling a firearm with a forged serial number?-- I don't even want to go down that road.

I'm familiar with the concept of Caveat Emptor, but the lesson to be learned here is that even a reputable seller is capable of what doing whatever is thought necessary to protect an investment, no matter how dangerous or "shady" it is. Someone representing this retailer obviously paid good money for this weapon in his ignorance and, Dang It, there's a profit that must be made in its resale. It's not unlike a counterfeit ten dollar bill-- if you get one and turn it in to the authorities, then you'll be out the ten dollars entirely. But if you can pass it on to some other schmuck, then it becomes his problem and you've lost nothing. There's always the possibility that my enlightening discourse fell through the paperwork cracks, but I rather believe it simply fell on uninterested ears.

Anyone from Maine, perhaps around Portland? I'd be curious to know if it's still there all these months later. If it's gone, then I'm afraid that it was most likely sold and I hope the proud new owner still has ten fingers (and a nose)!
Last edited by Sawubona on 28 Jul 2009 13:31, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Sawubona » 28 Jul 2009 13:18

The distinction between the words "copies" and "forgeries" is mighty hazy and perhaps this is semantic quibbling, but the presence of British service markings sure seems like an attempt to dupe a buyer, be he Afghan or a Westerner, into believing that one of these rifles is the "real deal" and that makes it a "forgery" to me. It seems to me that the difference in sense of the two words is a question of whether or not there's an intent to defraud. Are there any (or many) of these things that aren't so marked? I've never seen one, but then why would I since such a specimen isn't likely to be purchased in a local bazaar and brought home by a Westerner.
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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby Liz » 16 Feb 2011 12:02

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Re: WARNING: Khyber Pass copies of British guns

Postby deadsweetheart » 05 Sep 2014 02:06

Im surprised no one has made mention of the small influx of webleys that came into the US during the beginning of the afghan war . I remember seeing several pop up on gunbroker. you noticed they were wrong by the flying bullet being either all over it or backwards and that a few of the letters in spelling on parts of it werent right.
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