A Frankengun in Every Way
By Jonathan Ferguson
This bizarre craft-produced weapon was acquired by the then-Ministry of Defence Pattern Room in 1996 from another UK government department. Although it arrived with no documented provenance, it was most likely produced in the tribal areas of Pakistan/Afghanistan, perhaps the famous town of Darra Adam Khel. It is an entirely scratch-built weapon inspired primarily by three extant designs. The receiver/action body is based upon that of the British Enfield Pattern 13/14 (U.S. Model of 1917) bolt-action family of rifles. This action is incorporated into what is effectively a Kalashnikov AK-inspired chassis, complete with a purely decorative gas block (featuring pointless gas relief holes), a fake too-short cleaning rod and an AKS style under-folding stock. Many corners have been cut in the making of this “Frankengun.” For example, almost every surface is rounded off due to crude machine or hand finishing, with the result that a sharp tug on the bolt will pull it free of its retaining latch and clean out of the gun. The folding stock is extremely stiff and difficult to operate. However, it is relatively well finished with bluing and “decorative” knurling on the barrel and flash-suppressor. The wooden furniture is visibly handmade. The rear sight was missing when the rifle entered the collection.
The magazine is patterned after that of the Bren light machine gun, but this too is scratch-built. It is spuriously marked with a Russian Izhevsk arsenal mark on its baseplate. The lips are very shallow and barely retain a cartridge, but in fact this can be effectively loaded when fitted to the weapon, using the receiver walls as the feed lips. Thus, while detachable for cleaning, this is effectively a fixed magazine; even the Lee-Enfield magazine struggles to retain its cartridges when removed from the weapon while loaded. Due to the pronounced curve and the chosen cartridge type, only ten rounds can be crammed (with some difficulty) into what would otherwise be a 20 round magazine. The magazine design has clearly been chosen to preserve the AK-like appearance of the weapon despite its long receiver and large cartridge.
While the chambering of this weapon had not been determined at the time of photographing, it has since been established by means of a chamber cast and test chambering of an actual cartridge. It is now known to be 7x57mm Mauser. This corroborates the sole marking on the gun, “7 MM,” which is stamped on the receiver. However, it is a relatively scarce cartridge type for the region, which favors 7.92×57, .303, 7.62x54R, 7.62×39 and 7.92x33mm. Therefore, whereas it may have been destined for a decorative role on somebody’s wall, it probably was built as a real, firing weapon—at least in theory. As to its purpose, it has long been hypothesized that these relatively rare hybrid weapons are intended for grizzled tribal shooters who cut their teeth on older manually operated rifles, but who appreciate the aesthetics of the Kalashnikov. Explanations from Pakistani sources include the lesser legal status of manually operated firearms and “non-military” calibers, the fact that not all makers are capable of making self-loading rifles in the first place and an interesting suggestion that there may at one time have been large stocks of 7x57mm ammunition that gunsmiths exploited with these designs. While it would be an engineering challenge to design and build an AK in 7x57mm, a bolt gun is a relatively straightforward proposition. Whatever the intent, this piece is certainly not the only example known.
Caliber: 7x57mm Mauser
Overall length: 933mm (36.73 inches)
Barrel length: approx. 425mm (16.73 inches) incl. flash suppressor
Weight (with empty magazine): 3.71kg (8.18 pounds)
Feed device: approx. 8–10-round detachable box magazine
With thanks to Miles Vining.