Recently while browsing a Rock Island Auction online catalog I was reminded how far we’ve come with gun ergonomics, and how much ergonomics change to meet the need. When you look at some of the old jezails and arquebuses, you have to ask yourself how the heck they shot them. I mean “scope-eye” is one thing, but early Japanese shooters held the ends of their stocks against their cheek! Ouch! Not to mention a pan of powder erupting inches off the end of your nose!
I spoke with my friend Steve Comus about stock shapes from that era, and though he admits he was a little young at the time, says, “They didn’t really have it all figured out.” Even so, there are some reasons for the weird shapes.
Take for instance a jezail. These ornate rifles are often associated with Afghanistan and have a seriously hooked buttstock and there’s no way you could possibly put the buttstock on your shoulder and see the sights—if one even had sights. Instead, some speculate that the hook helped carry the gun on horse or camel back by letting you hook the butt in your armpit as the animal ran. The deep hook could also have been helpful in shooting the jezail, because you held one with your arm outstretched like a pistol, and hooked the buttstock under your forearm.
As for an arquebus, Comus reminded me that they often shot them, too, like a handgun, but off of shooting forks. You’ll also see handguns from the time that are either near straight or nearly at a right angle, but both with a large ball on the end of the grip. “They shot two-handed and the ball was the grip,” Comus tells me. Many of these handguns were long and heavy so the ball also worked as a counterweight against the sometimes long, large caliber barrel hanging off the end. He opined that the more straight pistols were ergonomically designed (for the day) to shoot down from horseback.
So while they’re goofy looking to us today, it seems those shapes had their purpose.
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”