Goofy Stocks of the Past

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!

Arquebuses Rifle

Arquebuses Rifle

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.

Shooter with arquebus.

Shooter with arquebus.

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.

Jezail of Afghanistan

Jezail of Afghanistan

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.

 

 

 

Scott Mayer

www.tacticaltshirts.com

www.john1911.com

“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

Scott Mayer

Scott Mayer

Writer at John1911
Mayer began his outdoor industry career in 1993 on the NRA Technical Staff where he became American Rifleman magazine first Shooting Editor. Mayer left NRA and entered the business end of publishing in 2003 as Advertising Account Executive for Safari Club International SAFARI Magazine and Safari Times newspaper. In 2006, Mayer was named Publisher of Shooting Times magazine where he was also tasked with launching and leading Personal Defense TV, the first television show of its kind.

In 2008, Mayer returned to the editorial side of publishing, this time in the digital field, as Editorial Director for Guns & Ammo, Shooting Times, Handguns and Rifleshooter online magazines. After a brief stint in 2011 as the Digital Media Director for an ABC TV affiliate, Mayer returned to the outdoors industry and Safari Club International where he is currently Assistant Publisher and Multi-Media Communications Editor.
Scott Mayer

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  • Mikial

    Good analysis. I always wondered how anyone could shoot a jezail, but this makes sense. Having seen more than my fair share of Middle Eastern architecture and design, I assumed it was just another aberration of the region, but your explanation is actually logical.