Weapons: The AK-47's African Competition


p> December 11, 2007: As the civil disorder increases in Nigeria, so does the proliferation of weapons. The wealthier gangsters and rebels can afford modern assault rifles. That's expensive. A year ago, a black market AK-47 cost about $1,500 in Nigeria. With prices like that, gunrunners smelled profits and more weapons poured in. Now the price is under $500 each. Other weapons, like the U.S. M-16, or European weapons, are more expensive.

But for the guy just starting out, there are some cheaper, locally made, alternatives. These are the "Awka Guns," named after the southern city of Awka, which developed a tradition of handmade firearms in the 1960s, when it was part of the breakaway Republic of Biafra. The Biafran rebels needed weapons, and Awka, which had been a center of metal working for over a thousand years, mobilized thousands of metal workers to build crude firearms. The weapons manufacturing continued after the war, mainly to supply hunters, gangsters, and anyone needing an illegal firearm for any reason. The cheapest of these weapons is basically a single shot pistol firing a .410 (10.4mm) or 20 gauge (15.6mm) shotgun shell. This is for a young thug, or a homeowner desiring protection. Accurate enough for something within 5-10 feet. Not much good for hunting. These cost $25-$40 each. The Awka gunsmiths also make full size (or sawed off) shotguns (single or double barrel), that sell for $80-$250. These could be used for hunting. There are also handmade, 9mm revolvers for about $100. These weapons are found all over the country, but mostly in the south, and mostly among those who can't afford to pay a thousand dollars or more for a factory made weapon. On the down side, these weapons are more dangerous to use, often lacking a safety switch, and prone to exploding, rather than firing, when the trigger is pulled.

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