Thing from the Vault: Barnett Enfield (Real, or Darra Adam Khel?)

Some of you who have hung out with us have seen this long gun and its cousins, and heard the story of how it came to catch a C-17 ride home wearing a GI souvenir tag, and palletized in a purpose-built wood box with a number of its brethren. Exactly how and why your humble blogger became the FFL Type 02 (Pawnbroker) equivalent for a remote and allegedly Taliban-infested valley is a story to be told face to face, but suffice it now to say that such a thing happened, and a variety of antique oddities lounge about Hog Manor in consequence thereof.

afghan_enfield_01_-_16_overview

We are about the furthest thing you can imagine from expertise on British black powder guns, so our answer to the question in the title is more a matter of supposition and deduction than it is of confidence. But we believe the rifle to be a Pashtun copy, made at some unknown time by hand, probably by the gunsmiths of the Adam Khel tribe in their home city, Darra Adam Khel.

Some of the reasons are: the light-colored no-name wood of the stock; the uncertain-looking brass parts, which look more like they were cast by cottage industry than by a mid-19th Century industrial plant; the spiral seam in the barrel, where it was made by hand-forging a rectangular bar in spiral form around a mandrel; the flimsy sheet metal piece opposite the lock; the weird heads, threads and alignments of the screws.

afghan_enfield_01_-_22_spiral_seam_in_barrel

On the other hand, the engraving is clear and without misspellings. Since many Darra gunsmiths are illiterate in any language, you frequently see mirror-image letters and other wierdness in inscriptions. The lock date (1869) is much too late for a P53 Enfield, but it could be a P59, a similar musket made in smoothbore strictly for the use of native troops in British India. So it could be a P59 that has, over the last near sesquicentury, become the host to many repaired and replaced native parts.

afghan_enfield_01_-_19_lockplate_area

Click more to see some more of the uneven and sometimes crude construction, and many character-rich repairs, of this venerable firearm.

Markings

This is interesting. It’s correct, oddly enough, for the Queen Victoria cartouche to have a period after the “V” and not the “R”. (Here’s an article that raised our eyebrows, about how a reenactor might alter a reproduction Enfield to make it more “authentic” looking). As mentioned above, the Queen’s Crown and VR cartouche looks authentic.

afghan_enfield_01_-_1_vr_engraving

Note the tape wrap, a classically Afghan repair. More on repairs under their own heading below.

This next image appears to be proofmarks, in the correct position on the left side of the barrel opposite the percussion cap nipple, degraded to beyond the point of illegibility by pitting:

afghan_enfield_01_-_8_illegible_proofmarks

An original Barnett rifle (or smoothbore musket, as we suspect this may have been) would have been proofed in London. Often, but not always, either “Barnett” or “London” is in italic script on originals.

The last “marking” we have is the faint trace of a white diamond-shaped sticker on the stock. Your guess is as good as ours what this might have been.

afghan_enfield_01_-_10_sticker_remains

Construction Details

Here’s a look at the left side of the lock area. Look closely and you can see that, far from being inletted into the stock, the trigger guard’s nose has an air gap! The side plate appears to be nothing but a piece of sheet metal hammered flat. The stock is inletted to accept its irregular shape. This part, at least, didn’t come from London.

afghan_enfield_01_-_27_trigger_guard_gap

The picture above does not make it clear just how much the screws stand proud of the side plate, but the picture below should give you an idea:

afghan_enfield_01_-_7_side_plate_screws

It’s hard to believe an established London gunmaker built that.

On the other hand, the trigger is notably well shaped:

afghan_enfield_01_-_23_trigger_shape

The guard seems a little off. Here’s the underbelly view…

afghan_enfield_01_-_20_trigger_guard_and_repair

And from below and an angle. The crudity of the parts is inescapable here.

afghan_enfield_01_-_25_trigger_guard_under

The tang screw also stands a little proud, but given the looseness of the parts here, it could just be an artifact of stock shrinkage.

afghan_enfield_01_-_9_tang_screw

There is a stout lug for a bayonet on the right side of the barrel near the muzzle. It appears to have been shaped to fit and then silver-soldered in place.

afghan_enfield_01_-_6_bayonet_lug

Here it is with a little more context, and showing the rudimentary front sight.

afghan_enfield_01_-_13_lug_and_sight

The rear sights are interesting. These old Enfields had a ladder & battle sight like a Mauser (or Mosin 91/30 or AK, which copied the Mauser design, adapted to Russian ammunition), but oriented the other way — in the picture below, the butt end is to the left and the muzzle to the right.

afghan_enfield_01_-_3_sights

Here’s the sight raised for volley fire, which really was a thing in those days (and up to WWI):

afghan_enfield_01_-_12_rear_sight

Repairs

It was once customary to repair stock cracks with pins. These repairs could have happened any time in the 19th or 20th Century. (Probably not the 21st: the rifle came into our possession in early 2003).

afghan_enfield_01_-_8_stock_repair

Of course, the classic Afghan repair is clear (or translucent!), strong tape, here overlaid on a pin repair, perhaps of an earlier generation or even century.

afghan_enfield_01_-_11_tape_over_pins_repair

Here is an interesting repair: a shim for one of the barrel bands. Shims are required because, as wood ages and dries, it tends to contract. We’ve seen these on many Afghan-provenance muskets. This one is coming loose.

afghan_enfield_01_-_4_barrel_band_shim

It looks like the sling swivel has migrated hither and yon over the years. The sling appears to be a Russian or Chinese SKS or SMG strap, and it appears to be tied to the swivels in a simple overhand knot.

afghan_enfield_01_-_24_sling_and_swivel

That’s today’s Thing from the Vault™.  We hope you enjoyed it!

23 thoughts on “Thing from the Vault: Barnett Enfield (Real, or Darra Adam Khel?)

  1. DaveP

    “… barrel … made by hand-forging a rectangular bar in spiral form around a mandrel”

    Wait, what? Wound, heated, beaten to seal; or brazed, soldered, something? Would someone flesh this out a bit or give me a link about fab process?

    (‘My body is a temple.’ Made me snort loud enough to wake the dogs before false dawn this AM.)
    DaveP

    1. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

      The strap of steel would be heated to welding temperature, wound around the mandrel in slightly overlapping turns, and the overlap would be forge-welded.

      If you want to see forge welding, find a blacksmith’s shop near you and ask. Forge welding is a skill most blacksmiths still use today.

    2. Claypigeonshooter

      YouTube Gunsmith of Williamsburg. There is an old documentary showing the whole process of making a rifle using original techniques.

      1. DaveP

        Ah, thanks folks. The ‘rectangular’ part vs ‘strap’ made me picture subsequent wraps butting flush vs lapping, which seemed to present a greater hurdle for sealing against pressure. Got it now.

        DaveP

  2. TRX

    I’d guess it’s a Darra-made rifle with a handful of real British parts, to account for the engraving and trigger.

  3. ChrisA

    Very interesting. Thanks. Perhaps it was an Afghan homebrew made with some authentic parts.

  4. stuart wear

    A lovely example of a 2 band enfield parts gun with lots of character .
    The Enfield Armory had perfected the barrel rolling process before he American civil war something the Springfield armory here in the States struggled with perfecting.
    The acceptance stamp on the lock looks too good to be a copy ,Barnett was a private gunmaker who is more known for their trade guns in the collecting community .It’s correctly spelled and likely real .
    The spirally forged barrel is definitely old school .
    While the Brits could definitely forge such barrels and did especially Damascus twist barrels for their shotguns spirally forged barrels are harder to make than one with a simple lap seam along one side .
    I question whether the barrel is original to the gun .Is it even still rifled for the Pritchett ball? and if so how many grooves?

    1. Hognose Post author

      There’s no visible rifling. The 1869 date makes me doubt it’s a P53. By then the British Army was in breechloaders (Sniders).

      1. stuart

        Two bands were often called Naval rifles (also P58 ) ,but it could just as easily be a three band (rifle musket length at 39”)cut down to two band length . The two band barrels are thicker at the muzzle that the three band if cut to the same length . The barrel profile is different .
        Burst barrels were often cut down ,a quick and easy fix .If the barrel length is at 33” it might be the original length two bander .

        It did appear as if there were proof marks at the breech but indistinct . Perhaps you can read them .

        The Brits proofed everything and the copyists were known to fake those as well . Locks were mostly interchangeable between the Sniders and the earlier Enfields just like the 1863 Springfields shared and interchanged parts with the 1868 Springfield trapdoor conversions in .58 rimfire and then .50-70. Hammers interchanged on the tumbler spindle so a later 1869 lock with an earlier hammer might indicate the mix master nature of this charming relic .
        If I were a poor tribesman a muzzleloader is easier to maintain and feed than a cartridge Snider.

        Similar looking salvaged military surplus guns bored smooth with Enfield locks and breeches were also sold through the Hudson bay company in Canada .

  5. Dyspeptic Gunsmith

    As for how crude it appears:

    The one thing I’ve noticed about these hillbilly hacks in pictures and movies of their trade in Pakistan, Afghanistan, etc is that they have poor to nonexistent work-holding in their shops. They’re often sitting on a dirt floor, holding the parts in their hands or with their feet, hacking away with files and saws.

    I maintain that you can’t do anything but poor work if you cannot hold the workpiece reliably and properly. I invest a lot of money into vises in my shop – they’re all made by Wilton, even the ones I buy used, because Wilton vises hold up. Then all my benches are sized for how tall I am, so that when the workpiece is in a vise, it is the height of the bottom side of my forearm held parallel to the floor. I firmly believe that the only thing a gunsmith can do properly and successfully sitting down is take a dump. OK, maybe you can detail strip and re-assemble guns on a bench while sitting on one’s rump, but that’s about it. If you’re working with files, hacksaws, chisels and polishing paper, you simply must be standing to do the job correctly.

    Sitting on the dirt floor? Well, everything about that is just wrong.

  6. Jonathan Ferguson

    I’m afraid the lock’s not original British either. Better made & marked than usual though, as you say. Trigger guard likewise I suspect.

  7. 68Whiskey

    Ah yes, the tape repair. Perhaps you could do an entire article on Paki tape at some point, I never really got it and didn’t want to ask.

  8. James

    Sweet find! If you don’t mind, please share how you came about acquiring said franken-musket (I mean that in a politely jealous way) and the hoops you had to go through to get it home. Injun Trading? Finders Keepers?

  9. Hartley

    Interesting relic! The rear sling swivel is definitely a later addition – the original would have used the hole at the front of the trigger guard.
    You realize that you will eventually have to tell us the details of your Afghan recovery mission. :)

  10. Cap'n Mike

    Very cool.
    My Brother was over there as an MP around the same time and I believe he brought back an old black powder pistol of similar vintage.
    I really need to get him to show it to me, Ill take some pics.
    He brought back a few AK Bayonets as well and gave me one.

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