Weapons: For Those Who Cannot Afford The Real Thing


September 19, 2012: Spanish port police recently checked a cargo container going from Turkey to Djibouti (via Algeciras) and found 22,272 starter pistols and 13,500 additional pistol magazines. The container was supposed to contain clothing. These pistols are built to fire blank (no bullets) ammo and have an obstruction in the unrifled barrel to prevent a bullet from passing.

But Djibouti is in Africa, north of Somalia, and Africa has been building crude firearms and modifying starter pistols to fire real ammo for many years. Starter pistols cost less than half of the real thing, use 9mm ammo, and can be converted in a few hours by a skilled metal worker. Starter pistols use lower quality metal because the blank rounds impose less stress on the weapon. The conversion results in a weapon that is less reliable and more prone to blowing up.

Most parts of Africa have a metal working tradition that goes back over a thousand years. The manufacture of crude weapons is mainly to supply hunters, gangsters, and anyone needing an illegal firearm for any reason and cannot afford to buy a factory made model (even the cheap stuff from China). 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. These are accurate enough for something within 2-3 meters (5-10 feet). Not much good for hunting. These cost $25-$40 each. These gunsmiths can 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 place, 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.

The converted starter pistols look like the real thing (an intentional design and marketing decision and it's legal) and once converted sell for $300 or more. At close range (under 10 meters/31 feet) they are about as effective as the real thing.





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