Khyber Pass Handmade Bolt Action AK Lookalike

Today we are looking at a unique rifle in the National Firearms Centre collection – at first glance it appears to be an AK in a full-lenght rifle cartridge, using a Bren gun magazine. A closer look will show that it is actually a bolt action rifle, and a careful inspection just makes things stranger.

The entire weapon is manufactured from scratch, not using scrounged parts. While the magazine looks like aBren magazine and the bolt looks like a P14 Enfield, both are actually handmade. The “gas tube” is entirely decorative, and the “cleaning rod” is fake; both too short and too large in diameter to fit down the barrel. Intriguingly, the caliber of the rifle is a bit of a mystery – it is crudely marked “7MM”, but the barrel is larger than 7mm in diameter. The most likely cartridges for a rifle from this area of Afghanistan or the Khyber Pass / Darra region of Pakistan would be 8mm Mauser, .303 British, or 7.62x54R – and none of these fit. Since the filming of the video, a chamber cast has revealed that the cartridge is 7x57mm Mauser. It is entirely possible that the rifle is intended to be just a decoration. I would certainly not want to the the first person to try firing it…

Armament Research Services (ARES) is a specialist technical intelligence consultancy, offering expertise and analysis to a range of government and non-government entities in the arms and munitions field. For detailed photos of this rifle-like object, don’t miss the ARES companion blog post!



  1. How does anyone get 7×57 Mauser over there? And who thought the gun was a good idea for any real action? Not me!!

  2. In Improvised Modified Firearms by J.David Truby and John Minnery, there is a photograph of what they describe as a Vietcong “home made AK-47, probably built from parts of downed aircraft”.

    In fact, the rifle began life as a Russian Tokarev SVT 1940 in 7.62 x 54R. Somebody shortened the barrel and gas tube, and moved the distinctive SVT40 stamped sheet-steel gas tube jacket back a bit. Then they fitted it with a homemade wooden pistol grip and Type 56-style underfolding steel stock, as on this one. Finally, they modified it to use an 0.303in Bren magazine. (The 7.62 x 54R rounds should have worked quite well in the Bren magazine, also designed for a rimmed cartridge with a fairly sharp case taper.)

    And yes, it had been modified to selective fire.

    I suspect that rather like Chinese “mystery pistols”, such arms were probably originally made for some local Fearless Leader or other, as a sort of “prestige” item. Although the guy with the ersatz “Tokalashnikov” had a fairly practical rifle (more like a SAW) with some serious killing power. How controllable it would be on overdrive is debatable, though.



  3. I observe this “Khyber pass” non-sense for some time, but never gave it serious attention; I do not consider it worthy of. Cheesy copycatting at best, that’s all.

    First thing: how is it possible that Pakistani government sanctions basically illegal, out of auspices of their official armory production? This by itself is telling. Answer is: because it is souvenir junk, something like typical hand made shoddy jewelry which you see thru-out Middle East and beyond.

    On technical side: anyone who produced even a fancy horseshoe known that you have to take piece of paper and pencil and lay down some outline. Then, you have to count between one and ten. Without doing that there is no result of anything of use. Nowadays the high-tech computer programs are used to design firearms; go and ask FN. Anything less is destined to be …. a piece of junk.

    • Denny:

      The Pakistan government does not sanction what goes on in the North West Frontier province. It is an area basically ruled by native tribesmen who do not accept the rule of outsiders.

      I had a schoolteacher who had been an officer in the Indian Army before WWII. Even the British Raj never really subdued these people, and at best there was an uneasy truce with them, but in the late 1930s there was something akin to a guerilla war. Even during WWII the Raj had to keep large numbers of troops in the North West Frontier province to secure the borders of India. My old teacher had a high opinion of the Pathans as warriors, they are a very martial race.

      As to the gun makers, they have many decades of experiemce to draw on. No, they don’t have CNC lathes. What they do is take a gun and reverse engineer it. That’s how guns were made for centuries by craftsmen, there is no need for precise drawings, they do it by eye and by experience. It’s how some of the finest English shotguns are made. In the North West Frontier they copied the guns they captured. In the 19th Century it was the Martini Henry rifle, in the 20th Century the SMLE, now it is the Kalashnikov. The AK is not a complicated rifle, there is no reason experienced practical gunsmiths can’t copy them, and they do.

      • What you are saying JohnK,

        about ethno-graphics of concerned area matches what I have heard from one Pakistani man. According to him, no one in history was able to subdue people in NW of Pakistan, one time all-India. British have certainly their own experience firsthand.

        Technical part has few facets. One is industrial production as we are used to in West and I am reflecting on. The other is “handiwork” and this is what you are describing. One or the other, but not both. I’d not deny them their skill in what they are doing – and tradition they are immersed into. But sorry, I do not feel, as a person with technical background, compelled to have great deal of respect for that. Yeah sure, doing this and the same over and over looks like a copy of something. Mind you, I might run into hard surprise if I saw one of them in their candle lit shops running kinematics analysis on Catia. 🙂

        I do not tend to underestimate no one. I believe people who want, can achieve similar capabilities no matter race or culture.

        • Regarding “handiwork”, it may perhaps deserve to say this: there is nothing shameful or demeaning about it, if mated properly into overall scheme of things.

          I give an example. Izhevsk Mashino-stroitelnyi Zavod (IZHMASH) in Izhevsk, Russia also utilizes in part of its production, handiwork. Many of us saw videos from barrel assembly line where female workers with great skill and care put together barrel assemblies for AK rifles.

          Why they do it in this way? I have my answer – it is cheaper than complex fitting/ interchangeability system a virtually scrap-proof. Tu assure long-term integrity, barrel assembly must be put together from components under tight press-fit in combination with subsequent spot-drilling and pressing in pins. This method does it for them, every time.

          So Khyber pass, heads up!

          • Denny,

            Yes “handwork” would be the term for these weapons. It is, after all, how all guns were made before the 19th Century.

            The gunsmiths in the North West Frontier tend to copy what they have seen, or, as in this case, formulate a new gun out of familiar elements. They could not make an Armalite type rifle, as the industrial processes involved are beyond them, they use simple hand tools to make their guns. No-one would claim they are as good as a factory made gun, but I suppose they suffice when there is no alternative.

            Your Pakistani friend is right. If the Pakistani government tried to exert full control over the North West Frontier, it would have a war on its hands. These people like to be left alone to run their own affairs, and they do not take kindly to outside interference, to say the least.

          • I hear what you are saying JohnK

            we are talking about pre-industrial era and those who excelled with primitive methods to their disposal were true masters. But in 21 century we do not have to do anything like that; it is not practical and result will not meet expectation of serious customer (outside of souvenir market). This is the point I attempted to make from start – futility of what those guys in Khyber pass are doing. Just my sober assessment.

            Other than that, thank you for pleasant exchange with you.

          • Denny,

            You are welcome. However, I fear you are optimistic in thinking there is no need for such home formulated guns in the 21st Century. If you live in Britain, that might be the only way to go!

            From the point of view of the Pathans, these days the area is awash with real Kalashnikovs, so they probably don’t need the home made SMLEs and AKs of the Darra gunsmiths. But the ability to make guns does symbolise their mindset of self reliance, and refusal to submit to the rule of the central government.

          • “This is the point I attempted to make from start – futility of what those guys in Khyber pass are doing. Just my sober assessment.”
            Ok, this might be true with assumption that this particular example is best achievement (nothing better can be done), but it don’t have to be so.

          • @JohnK

            John I appreciate the fact that people in Khyber pass and surrounding area are so genuinely freedom-minded. They should be good sample for all of us. This is almost like proto-libertarian dream. My thumbs up for them!

            Back to guns. If you want to proportion barrel and lock-up you have to know exactly what you are doing. One thing is black powder propellant case, something quite different is the smokeless. On factory made arms the factor of safety is not very big – maybe around 1.5 times. In addition, firearm made in every ‘civilised’ country has its own approval authority who attached their stamp thus certifying the gun is safe to use under nominal conditions.

            Most shooters probably do not realize that prior to this visible stamp/ certification the maker most likely did their own step known as Magnetic particle inspection; this is done routinely in N/A. Can I believe that the frisky boys in K/P have done the same? Did they use material with a specific composition and gone thru proper heat treatment? Can I put my safety into their hands?

            Personally, I would not pull trigger on that thing.

    • You are wrong in a number of ways. Guns have been made long before technical drawings and cnc were standard. Khyber pass guns may sonetimes be souvenirs today,but they existed long time before tourism entered this area….

  4. IIRC there was an article on the Darra arms industry in the now defunct “Guns Review” a quality British magazine. One of the pics showed one of these BA AKs displayed in a shop.
    The Darra arms industry did produce arms for real use.
    Recently they have been producing tourist grade Sniders and Martinis for sale to the foreign troops in Afghanistan. To see some of these go to “British Militaria Forums” Snider and Martini sections.

    • Very funny, there’s a trend like that where someone renames a gun in fiction just to avoid intellectual property suits!

  5. I think I saw this one in a series of videos on TFB TV channel by Miles Vining some 6 month ago. If you are interested in these handmade guns, you should definitely watch these. The AK look-alike in 7.62×25 Tokarev are really cute.

  6. “Reverse engineering” is a time-honored method of improving any technology by copying something the other guy built better than your original. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

    During the American Civil War, the Richmond Sharps was a Confederate copy of the Sharps Model 1861 cavalry carbine, made based on commercial models obtained before Fort Sumter. Its principal fault was metallurgy, rather than design; the breech assembly was steel, but the barrel was wrought iron. Needless to say, a carbine that cracks its barrel at the chamber end isn’t too popular with the troops.

    During WW2, the U.S. Navy was very interested in determining the secret of the Japanese Type 97 (1937) torpedo, known to ONI as the “Long Lance” and to the IJN as simply the “97” or “oxygen torpedo”.

    When a couple were finally acquired by Naval BuOrd during the Guadalcanal campaign, they took them apart and went slowly nuts trying to figure out what gave them a seven-mile range at a speed of over 45 knots (about 53 MPH). To all appearances, the 97 was a standard internal combustion (rotary) engine torpedo, running on alcohol burned with compressed air from a pressure flask, just like our Mark 16 of 1931 vintage.

    Then somebody thought to analyze what was left of the compressed air in the flask on one. Surprise- it wasn’t compressed air, it was compressed pure oxygen.

    “Air”,compressed or otherwise, is about 16% O2, about 80% nitrogen (N), and the other 4% or so a hodgepodge of gases like argon, CO2, neon, and etc. When you are using “air” to combust a fuel, (like alcohol), the only part that actually participates in the combustion is the 16% of the air that is oxygen; the rest is basically just dead weight.

    By simply filling the “air flask” of a standard type IC engine torpedo with compressed O2, the IJN had a power system in which, as with a liquid-fuel rocket burning LOX and alcohol, 100% of the “oxidiser” was available to burn the fuel, generating higher combustion temperatures and pressures, and greater RPM in the engine. Result; a faster, longer-ranged torpedo for basically no major investment in engineering R&D, other than making sure the engine was built sturdy enough to stand the gaff for about ten minutes maximum.

    This was the “secret” of the “Long Lance’s'” superiority. Not engineering; just somebody having a bright idea about propellant combustion.

    That’s the kind of thing you often can only learn from “reverse engineering”.



    • The simple answer will sometimes do the job better than any complicated scheme that amounts to “perpetual motion of the mind.” Do we have to mention how many problems can be solved without resorting to crazy ideas? The inverted inline airplane engine was developed after pilots bragged about flying upside down (and they’d have continued flying that way if the carburetor didn’t fail to feed due to gravity). Or: no license-built inverted V-12 for Ki-61? Get a Mitsubishi radial engine of similar weight and power output and streamline the fuselage areas, resulting in the Ki-100, a dogfighting champion supreme! Did I mess up?

    • The term “reverse engineered” does not mean same thing as “copied”. To truly reverse engineer something means to get to the core of original solution and offer an alternative, which suits the best under circumstances. Some do not bother with this and just purchase set of data from original manufacturer.

      As an example I can tell you that Colt Canada to satisfy production of new C6A1 (M240) machineguns for CDN gov’t chose to purchase documentation directly from FN Herstal. This is so much interesting since MAG58/C6/M240 is by now in public domain. Superficial look would lead to just taking it and running with it – for free. But, part of documentation in also metallurgy, methods of processing, gauging (QC) and so on. If you were to “reverse engineer” it you would be bound to spend lots of resources doing it yourself. Not a wise solution.

      Now just the opposite case. As you know, during WW2 the U.S.A. provided Soviet Union with material assistance, among others also mid-sized Dodge trucks. My father told me that just one year after end of it he was at industrial exhibition he saw Russian made truck of same appearance with Russian label on it. Was that “reverse engineering”? I doubt it. It was just straight copycat. How they solved myriad of issues such as tolerances, metallurgy and so on is beyond me.

      • Good points, but what about the case where a Sidewinder missile got stuck in a Chinese MiG? You should know that any Chinese copycat cannot produce American electronic guidance system if domestic material/intellectual resources at hand are NOT AMERICAN. Just HOW do you produce the guidance system then?

        • I give you a hint related to Chinese proverbial inclination to copy in modern industrial era. The best thing to do is – to forget it. Same thing had been said about Japanese, as they eclipsed western nations capabilities and offered products we can just barely manage to service (televisions, cars and motorcycles – just from top of my head)

          One of the most piquant affairs is to produce gas turbine engines for airplanes which would last required number of flight hours between service. Chinese had traditionally difficulty with it, although they are growing their expertise exponentially. For this reason they were buying the engines for licence built Sukhoi jets form Russians. But, as I say, tide is slowly turning and soon Chinese industry will be capable of doing it themselves. And let me assure you – this is high end science.

          There is no such thing as ‘inferior’ race or culture. West certainly does not have any monopoly to anything we collectively know. Everyone can do what the first one did – albeit with some delay. It is all matter of time and effort; sooner or later success will come.

          • I was talking sarcastically, sorry about the “copycat” tone. I was insulting the usual stereotype that Chinese were stupid copycats who killed off all the college professors just because they refused to kowtow to Mao Zedong. Let’s just say that when China got an dud Sidewinder (brought back by a fighter pilot who immediately freaked upon seeing the missile stuck in his plane after he got out of the cockpit), the USSR somehow convinced the Chinese to hand over the missile. The Soviets then managed to reverse-engineer the item, equip fighters with improved versions, and then sold some to China (who immediately started programs for upgrading the design). This does not mean that the Russians nor the Chinese had to make the missiles EXACTLY the same as the original American model. They just had to function the same (ignite rocket, follow victim, and then BOOM!) and use locally procured materials and locally designed components. The whole point is that if you don’t want to make exact copies (which can get pretty complicated since you can’t read the other guy’s mind), do something more productive like making an original design that surpasses the captured example.

          • Hi Cherndog

            there is nothing to apologize for; I like your style and we converse along with others for some time by now.

            I will say this to you and I am wondering what reception I will get – it is not going to be supportive to system we are living in. I am aware how it goes with high-tech Stateside; I know a man who is experienced electronics engineer and programmer in Golden state, but he is not the only source of knowledge I have. We, in this “market driven” system work based on cost of our labour, right. If system/ industry captains feels they can have done same work for less, they will go for that. As a result you may have unemployed American engineers/ programmers and at the same time having legions of foreign contractors filling their place. Those “imported professionals” are very often of Far Eastern origin. They may compose up to 2/3 – 3/4 of all expert personnel.

            Now tell me, how do you want to separate their allegiance to their temporary employer from that to their natural home environment? And yes, we all know that the West cost includes key defence industries.

            I think, here is part of my answer to your curiosity… and please do not feel depressed over it. We shall overcome, one day.

      • If you write large, the Russians created an entire bomber by reverse engineering a B29; their Tu4, from B29s interred after bombing Japan, or so I understand.

    • “faster, longer-ranged torpedo for basically no major investment in engineering R&D, other than making sure the engine was built sturdy enough to stand the gaff for about ten minutes maximum.”
      Not, if you use air it is simple and safe – only need compressor. However pure oxygenium is extremely flammable, thus you must have special care for it.
      According to
      Compressed oxygen is dangerous to handle and required lengthy research and development, not to mention additional training for the warship’s torpedomen, for safe operational use. Eventually, the IJN’s weapons development engineers found that by starting the torpedo’s engine with compressed air, and then gradually switching to pure oxygen, they were able to overcome the problem of explosions that had hampered it before. To conceal the use of pure oxygen from the ship’s crew and any potential enemy, the oxygen tank was named the secondary air tank.

  7. Since I filled lots of space with ‘funny remarks’ already, let me just pop in one more.

    One thing which gets my attention with weapons made thru middle of 19 century and on is the quality of workmanship and surface finishes. What does it tell me is that they (the industrialised nations of Europe and America) had to their disposal quality machine tools (stemming fro rotary motion supplied by steam engine); the kind of result we see cannot be achieved by “chewing” it with hand file.

    Now I am going to disappoint those who believe that you can make a firearm without drawings of some sort. Maybe, but with great difficulty. Do not forget what drawing per see really is: it is a “plan of action”. Do you think you can be successful at first time without it? I certainly do not. You will produce pile of scrap before getting to something resembling the intent.

    The art of orthographic projection was pioneered by (who else then) French ingenieurs in 16 and 17 centuries. The reason for this was necessity to build fortifications, reliably and efficiently since artillery was becoming a decisive factor. The first known method developed was “Monge projection” and it was kept as secret for as long as possible. Manufacture of anything industrial since those times is hardly possible without drawing (it could be in form of engraving template into copper plate, but still – a drawing).

  8. Would love to see about 50,000 shipped to CA and given away for free. Just to drive law enforcement and the politicians crazy….

  9. some Darra guns beggar belief. I know of one P53, complete with shonky Tower marks on the lock that looks almost shootable. However on looking down the bore, it appears to have been made from 2 bits of barrel welded together with the rifling offset at the join. No idea what would happen if you did stoke it up. Maybe it would outshoot a real P53.

  10. Ive said it before many times, but need to repeat: these guns were hand assembled and fitted,
    but if anyone thinks they are “handmade” as in hacksaw and file (which is often “fact” on the web),
    forget it immediately, they are not.
    They absolutely have machine tools.

    I just dont know yet how their division of job in the village exists – does one shop makes everything for themselves,
    or one shop makes (casts?), for example, trunnions, and sends it to other shops that then fit and finish it to their rifle variations, this sounds more likely.

    Personally and honestly I don’t know what to think of it – is it a souvenir, or real deal, or between.
    From far away they look impressive, up close not so, if they were really handmade that would be something, but knowing they have machine tools, It feels like it could be better.
    Choice of materials and heat treatment would prevail – if its all junky and mild steel with no heat treatment, than these are potentially very dangerous souvenirs, better for wall then usage.

    But again, as they make it for their regional folks primarily, business would not last that long if every second guns explode in the users hands.

    • Storm:

      As you say, these rifles are made in small workshops, much as all guns were made until the 19th Century. Shotguns of fine quality were still being made in this way in Birmingham until World War II.

      Birmingham gun makers used to specialize in certain aspects of the trade, I don’t know if the guys in Darra do it that way. But the fact is that with simple tools and a wealth of experience good guns can be made, and as you say, if they blew up with any frequency they would not stay in business for long.

      I wouldn’t pick a Darra made AK over an Izhevsk example if I had the choice, but many people might not have the choice. If gun banning politicians had any intelligence or integrity (I’m joking of course), they would realise that functioning guns are simple to make, and however much they would like to “ban” guns, that is something which will never happen.

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