The Jezail, Afghanistan’s Homemade Sniper Rifle

The Jezail was a reverse engineered musket or rifle made from western firearms by Afghans after the invasion of Britain. The stocks, barrels, and other simple components were often hand made and sometimes beautifully decorated.Typically a musket, the jezail often had parts stolen from the Brown Bess muskets of the British Army. During the Anglo-Afghan Wars the jezail was the primary ranged weapon of Afghan warriors and was used with great effect against British troops. The British Brown Bess smooth bore muskets were effective at only 150 yards and accurate at 50 yards while some rifled Afghan jezails were effective up to 500 yards. Because of their advantage in range, Afghan rebels typically used the jezail from the tops of cliffs along valleys and defiles during ambushes. This tactic repeatedly devastated the British during their doomed retreat from Kabul to Jalalabad. British commanders were understandably terrified of Jezail armed Afghan snipers.

The added length of the jezail also made reloading easier from horseback, as the butt stock would rest upon the ground while the muzzle would be at eye level. The jezail was fired using a horn or metal bi-pod, and it has been speculated that the highly curved stock was tucked under the arm and cradled tightly against the body, as opposed to being held to the shoulder like a standard musket or rifle. The argument against this method of firing is that the flash pan would be dangerously close to the face and the weapon would be harder to aim. It is more likely that the rifle was only tucked under the arm of the rider whilst riding horse or camel. Many Jezails were ornately engraved to mirror the beauty and lethality tribal warriors felt they possessed themselves.

The Jezail was also mentioned in Rudyard Kipling's poetry describing British casualties in colonial wars:

A scrimmage in a Border Station
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.


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