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.
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.
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.
Click more to see some more of the uneven and sometimes crude construction, and many character-rich repairs, of this venerable firearm.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
It’s hard to believe an established London gunmaker built that.
On the other hand, the trigger is notably well shaped:
The guard seems a little off. Here’s the underbelly view…
And from below and an angle. The crudity of the parts is inescapable here.
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.
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.
Here it is with a little more context, and showing the rudimentary front 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.
Here’s the sight raised for volley fire, which really was a thing in those days (and up to WWI):
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).
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.
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.
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.
That’s today’s Thing from the Vault™. We hope you enjoyed it!