— Hussain Afzal
It is a case of whether the chicken came first or the egg. In this case, the nine millimetre caliber weapons or their bullets as the 9mm pistol is most popular all over the world due to the ready availability of 9mm bullets. But then the bullets are produced in quantity and are easily available because there is a demand for them.
Still, the handsome and stylish pistols are also sought due to their handiness. When compared to the Kalashnikov AK-47, the 9mm pistol also has a more affordable licence as 9mm after all comes under non-prohibited bore (NPB) and its licence for civilians costs Rs4,000 with Rs500 for annual renewal. Just like this, the licence for a shotgun is Rs2,000 with Rs400 for annual renewal. But the licence for the AK-47 is Rs15,000.
It falls under the prohibited bore category also makes it difficult to acquire. Automatic weapons that shoot in bursts have especially expensive licences as they are not meant for civilians. A civilian wanting to keep the weapon anyway may have to try other means such as bribing the people concerned to get a licence issued for an AK-47, which means the cost of the licence can go up to Rs100,000 to Rs125,000. The hassle is not welcomed. The AK-47, anyway, is usually owned by companies and businesses to arm their guards.
Another reason for the AK-47 to be no match in popularity against the 9mm pistol is its size. “It’s an assault weapon, which is not handy enough due to its size. As for the pistol, it is far easier to carry around,” Mohammad Asim Afridi, a weapons dealer near the Lucky Star intersection in Karachi, points out.
Karachi and Lahore are the biggest markets for quality weapons as these are big cities importing the guns. There are a variety of branded 9mm pistols available, for instance, Smith and Wesson, Glock, Heckler & Koch (HK), Walther, Taurus, Sarsilmaz, Ceska Zbrojovka (CZ) and Norinco. Of the brands mentioned the best seller is the Norinco, which is made in China, the Turkish Sarsilmaz and the Brazilian Taurus pistol. “The Chinese costs around Rs50,000, the Turkish between Rs50,000 to Rs100,000 and the Brazilian around Rs100,000. Prices for the rest range between Rs100,000 to Rs400,000. But looking for cheaper pistols, one can also go for the ‘Made in Pakistan’ variety as we manufacture copies of all the big brands, in the range of around Rs15,000 to Rs20,000,” the weapon dealer shares.
The biggest local weapons manufacturers are now located in the Industrial Estate on Kohat Road in Peshawar. After the closing down of the illegal Darra Adam Khel weapons factories, most manufactures there have now got manufacturing licences and are making good quality guns legally.
As for the 9mm bullets and how much they cost, Afridi discusses all kinds and their prices. “There is the hydra shok bullet that explodes after penetration. It is the most dangerous and most expensive bullet, costing Rs500 each. Hollow-point is another kind of bullet that spreads in size after penetration and each bullet costs Rs100. Then the high-velocity subsonic bullet costs Rs150 each. This bullet with a blunt tip when shot can break hard surfaces. Finally, there is the ball ammo bullet with a full-metal jacket [FMJ]. The Chinese make is Rs36 each and local Rs20 each,” informs the expert, while adding that different guns have different magazine capacity with most carrying up to 15 bullets.
In comparison with the quality of local guns, which is not so bad, the local bullets are of poor quality. “They produce much smoke when fired and the corrosive residue left behind by these inside the weapon encourages rusting. They are poor in quality because they are cheap. The quality can be improved, like those manufactured at the Pakistan Ordinance Factory at Wah Cantt, of course, but then the price will go up,” the dealer concludes.