Updated: May 6
An often-misunderstood subject is how Khyber gunsmiths make their extensive selection of arms in the modern day. A major myth propagated by misinformed persons is the belief that gunsmiths of the Khyber region fabricate the parts for their firearms from scratch, by hand. The truth is, we aren’t living in the early to mid-1900s anymore and these smiths have no need to make these by hand – for the most part and haven’t done so for a few decades now.
The numerous component parts needed for a firearm are machined by a variety of companies that possess the correct, more modern technologies such as milling machines, lathes and CNC machinery in their own machine shops which are mainly located in both the town of Darra Adamkhel, in the ex-FATA region of KPK, and Peshawar city, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. Usually, a machine shop will specialise in certain components but this isn’t always the case. These shops/companies then sell these machined components parts to parts stores or sell them direct to their own customers. A gunsmith or small manufacturing company acquires those necessary component parts for building a firearm from these various parts stores or the manufacturers themselves and use these to assemble and fabricate a firearm. As with a lot of things such as older or antiquated arms, there are some things that need to be done from scratch due to the absence of parts availability in this day and age but component parts for most more modern arms are available if and when needed.
To help you understand what one of these small component stores looks like, we have linked a video from early 2020 by a Pakistani YouTuber, here:
The images below are screen capped from this video and as the video is in the Urdu language, the lingua-franca of Pakistan, let’s go through this step by step and explain to you what is shown:
The gentleman shows us a quick view of a part of the store and starts with a phrase not uncommon to hear locally or in any Islamic region of the world: “In the name of God, the most beneficent the most merciful, Peace be upon you.” He then goes on to look at various parts and explain things to us, the viewer, “Friends, we are currently in an arms market”, going on to showing us a close-up of one set of parts available; “here is a 9mm body (Tokarev TT30/33 derivative pistol upper and lower frame), take a look, it’s approximately Rs1,600 (~$10 USD / ~£7.50 GBP) for all these parts in this condition, after this it needs work as you can see it’s just simple metal in shape.”
He pans away, showing more off: “You can see a new (polished) piece in entirely raw form, it’s a .30 bore (7.62×25mm – a TT Tokarev type pistols upper and lower body), this is its basic structure, it’s available for Rs1,600, afterwards it needs work,” he then points out another frame in reference and tells us; “as you can see here the serrations that have been cut, this needs to be cut here,” he says pointing back to the sample he is holding himself, “its beautification needs to be done as well as machining (as in its finishing work and polishing), It needs an extensive amount of work, fitting the barrel too, all the parts need to be fit, again for Rs1,600 you will get it in this condition, they have a load of parts in different forms and bores (calibres).”
He is then handed another pistol component package sample to take a look at, continuing his explanation; “This is a Zigana (Turkish Tisas company pistol type), a Zigana body structure (Tisas – frame/upper/lower) in a Zigana design, take a look, after this it needs machining and filing (fitting), after this the whole system (firearm) is made, this is what I wanted to show you.”
He then pans over to another wall of parts and another firearm; “They also have some fully made firearms, this is a Beretta (a 9×19mm Beretta 92FS clone), let’s show you the Beretta, this is a complete pistol, it’s a Beretta design, let’s cock/rack the firearm in front of you,” the slide then locks back as he racks it, “as you can see the magazine is inserted inside it, when you take the magazine out then the slide will go forward like this, this is a Beretta copy and it costs approximately Rs10,000 (~$65 USD / ~£47 GBP), its available for Rs10,000, take a look,” he pushes the slide-stop to let the slide go home and then pulls the trigger multiple time to show the hammer action, “you can see the system, it’s a nice pistol. There are finished firearms and spare parts, very nice pistols,” he states.
He again pans his camera around at some of the other items available and he is then handed a magazine with a faux-drum attachment, “take a look at this magazine, a special magazine, 30 rounder – 30 round capacity, on the outside you can also hold some cartridges, it fits into the pistol and the drum is left protruding outside, it’s a double stack magazine for double stack pistols (TT Tokarev type pistols), its capacity is 30 rounds and the outside holds its own amount, this is for those people who fire a lot, a special design by these guys,” he is handed another extended magazine to inspect, “this is a double magazine (double-stack) in a large capacity that has been made and this is also their own design, this is also a 30 rounder and its price is Rs500 (~$3.25 USD / ~£2.50 GBP) which you can get it for from them, it’s a decent product and a reasonable/low price,” he picks up another Tokarev TT30/33 pistol magazine, “this is a standard magazine and it costs only Rs90 (~$0.60 USD / ~£0.45 GBP), it’s a standard 30 bore (7.62×25 – TT Tokarev) magazine in a 7 round capacity that’s normally used, this is it.”
Again, he pans away, looking at the shop display and then moving on to look at the small spare parts displayed in a variety of grubby baskets and old Soviet ammunition spam cans;
“here you can see the pistol spare parts, let me show you them, take a look at this (firing pins which are double sided- meant to be cut down the middle into two usable pins), this is the side grip (slide-stop/take-down pin) in its raw form which needs finishing, after this is a small part that goes in the trigger, this is the hammer, this is what goes next to the magazine and part of the trigger (trigger bar), this is a pin, this is another part, this is all for a whole system which makes the pistol, this is a 30 bore barrel (7.62×25 – Tokarev barrel), the 7.6mm (7.62mm) famous 30 bore barrel in its raw form, this is the raw magazine body, now after this is the internal part that fits in the frame (trigger group and slide rail) that gives it strength/support, there are also receiver parts (pistol upper slides and lower frames) which I’ve shown you, here is a hammer again, take a look, after this they also have many other parts and spare parts, this is the grip – take a look at the grip, a grip set that goes on each side, after going over these briefly, he then again moves away and directs his attention to a pistol, this is a completed pistol as you can see here in a golden colour,”
He then ends with; “I hope you get some knowledge from the video and enjoy it.”
As you can see, this isn’t an industry relying on hand-made parts that aren’t even cross-compatible with their counterparts, although the parts shown seem to be of low metal grade due to their very low pricing. As with everything, the better quality you want, the more money you need to put into that thing. This means more money, time and labour involved in building a firearm properly and using better metal grades. We hope this opens your eyes a little more and you can appreciate that this industry isn’t operating at some low-level craft type like it once was a few decades ago. Instead it is quite a complex, even somewhat advanced industry in some respects. Hopefully this glimpse into the world of the Khyber arms markets and the information shown gives you a better understand of things and shows you the truth about the industry in the Khyber / Pak-Afghan region.