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New market for old guns in Kabul

By CNN's Diana Muriel

Guns have been part of the Afghan culture for years
Guns have been part of the Afghan culture for years

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Afghans have found a new market for old rifles. CNN's Diana Muriel reports (October 31)
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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Guns have been a way of life in Afghanistan for decades. But with last year's defeat of the Taliban, the Afghans have found a new market for some of their older weapons.

Westerners are buying guns left in the country by the British after the Second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-80.

In Jabal Saraj, as in many other marketplaces in and around Kabul, both old and new weapons are readily available for purchase.

Among the antiques are Enfield rifles manufactured at the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, north London. British Indian Army units were armed with Snider Enfields after 1857.

Although some are 150 years old, most of the guns for sale have been well maintained by their owners to serve a useful function.

"People in the country districts have been keeping these rifles for hunting pigeon and deer, so they look after them well," says Kabul market trader Haji Ghulam Mohammed.

Enfield guns sell for between $50 and $700 and are especially popular with U.S. Civil War enthusiasts, since the rifles were used in that period.

However, buyers still face an age-old problem. In one Kabul shop, where several rifles are sold each week, Afghans and Pakistanis have manufactured copies of the original weapons.

Known as "Khyber Pass Specials," the fakes can be difficult to spot.

Lt. Col. Bob Matson, a collector of antique rifles who bought a handful of guns himself while stationed at a U.S. base outside Kabul, says certain details can help buyers spot the genuine article.

A crown mark can distinguish an authentic gun from fakes
A crown mark can distinguish an authentic gun from fakes

"The main things you're looking for are the various stampings, the markings on the metal -- a very clear name of the manufacturer and the date on this kind of weapon, the British crown, the VR for Queen Victoria," Matson says.

The guns have proved popular with the U.S. military here. But since the start of the month, U.S. authorities have required soldiers shipping these weapons back to the States to become licensed collectors.

"Most individuals are trying to ship one or two home, which isn't a big deal, it's just trying to get the paperwork back," says Capt. Aaron Even, commander of the 175th Postal Company.

Some of the Enfield rifles here may have been used to defend a British fort in Kabul that was abandoned when the British were forced to withdrawl in 1880.

Now after more than a century, the Afghans have found a way to profit from their former foes on the spoils of war -- by selling Westerners back their weapons.

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