Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Gunz in Laoz

Posted by somsai on 16/8/2009 at 22:15

On another thread Big Ross said, "I noticed your reference to "long muzzle loading rifles". I've seen them too, and was struck by the extraordinary length of the barrels. Do you (or anybody) know if these are rifles or shotguns, and why do they make the barrels so long?
I wonder what the most common game is that they hunt. I've often seen people in markets offering very small deer (which appeared to have been shot)for sale, and some odd, cat-like animals, as well as squirrels.

I think they are rifled bore but long so to increase speed. The barrels come from Thailand, (or that's where the good ones do I was told) the action and stock are home made. I've seen them shoot 3" groups at 30 yards, I think that is about their range.

Up north I've seen people making thier own black powder, down south I've heard they use stuff from UXO. Shot they buy at the market. I've only seen them shoot oblong slugs that look to be about the size of a 22 or slightly larger, don't know what that would be in mm 5.0, 6.0? Thirty grains or so.

I've also seen them pack a few chips of lead into the barrel to give the shotgun affect. Often people are just headed out to shoot anything they see. The action gives off lots of smoke so they hold them extended away from their face, not with the butt against the shoulder like us.

Besides barking deer they also hunt regular deer (guang) and guang yai, the large muntjack in English, traders pay over $100 US at the market for the large horns. Various varieties of civet (tomien) are one of the most common animals hunted. I think the omniverous civet reproduces rapidly, there always seem to be some. I've seen new pelts and heard stories of the hunting of all the various cats except tiger. Marbled cat, leopard, (all called sua something) sua is the generic name for wild cat. All names are standard Lao, Lao Seung have their own names. Tiger are around but of such value I figure people don't talk. I aslo know somone jailed for shooting a guar. $1000 US fine.

They hunt all these animals with their tiny long barreled muskets I guess you'd call them. I've heard of guys getting badly mauled by sun bears. After that one shot all they have is their long knives. One day I asked a guy to walk behind me, he was carrying his long rifle over his shoulder and I was looking right down the barrel, not cocked but still, one twig catch away. My guide had grown up around the military and understood my hesitancey. Not much muzzle disciplin.

Most villages also have a government issued SKS (pronounced si kuh sey, from the French pronunciation of the consonants) which is a semi auto shooting the same cartridge as the AK. Hard jacket military round but better than those muzzle loaders, very expensive to shoot. While I was staying at a headmans house someone came to borrow it to kill the pig that they had shot the day before that had torn up two dogs, the headman jacked the shells out of it and handed it over empty.

I'd mention I'm not that familiar with guns, not being a real gun nut. Also I seldom eat meat in upland villages figuring better it goes to the women and children eating after me. (I made an exception when my host's sons shot a full sized deer, tasted like home)I also neither encourage nor discourage the hunting of all animals while in villages. The isues involved are beyond my superficial understanding. Many animals thought to be close to extinction are actually shot and eaten with regularity.

But!! Until there are much more accurate surveys of species it will be impossible to know how many animals are left. Certainly I worry more about the trade in species occuing in town than I do the shooting in the forest. Likewise deforestation is high on my list.

I dread the day the 22 caliber scoped rifle at five cents a cartrige arrives. Let's hope never.

#1 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by MADMAC on 18/8/2009 at 17:53

Hunting has to be regulated or it can become avracious. This was even true in North America before the arrival of white settlers. Even primative man has the werewithal to hunt a species close to extinction. When done properly, hunting can actually enhance animal population numbers.

Given that's not the case, I can understand the reticence of seeing superior weaponry in the hands of hunters in Laos. But understand that this sentiment:

"I dread the day the 22 caliber scoped rifle at five cents a cartrige arrives. Let's hope never."

If it is just based on nostalgia is misplaced. A scoped out rifle with quality ammunition and a properly tooled barrel is MUCH more accurrate, and that means far more one shot kills. This spares the animal unneccesary suffering.

The world doesn't stand still - not in Laos or anyplace else. Nor should it.

#2 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Posted by MADMAC on 19/8/2009 at 01:47

BTW I find the SKS to be an outstanding shooting little rifle - within the limits of the cartridge (frankly the 7.62 x 39 is a lousy round for environements with ranges over 200 meters). Much better balanced than the AK-47 (which is a lousy shooting rifle, but durable and simple) I find it easy to shoot and shoot well.

#3 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by somsai on 20/8/2009 at 10:10

About the 22 cal, I guess realistically I realize it's not the equipment but the skill of the hunter. Those Lao Seung live and breath to hunt. They have dogs and many different kinds of traps and methods. They've also been hunting those hills for hundreds of years and the animals haven't disappeared yet. There are still new species being "discovered" often at the market.

My own country has an enviable history of bringing many many species back from the brink of extinction that are now plentiful, almost always due to regulated hunting. Probably some very basic ideas like not shooting does would go over well. There are also a few different kinds of pig, two kinds of wild canine, one of which is agressive, lots of smaller things like bamboo rat and porkupine that everyone loves to eat. The more I think the more animals I remember seeing.

I didn't see the SKS until on walk abouts. In town the AK "Ah Kah" again from the French consonants or Ah Kah Tai Tuk for the folding stock they all have, is ubiquitous at markets of anywhere there are police. I don't think there is an official side arm. I know the SKS from the states, a poor mans deer rifle. Out where I'm at most like something bigger with a bolt. Lots of high big meadows and thick animals.

#4 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by MADMAC on 20/8/2009 at 12:10

"About the 22 cal, I guess realistically I realize it's not the equipment but the skill of the hunter. Those Lao Seung live and breath to hunt. They have dogs and many different kinds of traps and methods. They've also been hunting those hills for hundreds of years and the animals haven't disappeared yet. There are still new species being "discovered" often at the market"

The danger is of course human population growth. The more humans hunting, the greater risk of hunting a species to extinction. Laos still has a fairly small population, so perhaps this won't be an issue anytime soon. Habitat destruction might become an issue - we'll see.

#5 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957

Posted by BigRoss on 21/8/2009 at 18:50

Thank you for the information Somsai. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the matter (and I think Madmac is right on the money there)it is really fascinating to see nineteenth century technology still flourishing in the modern day. Thirty years ago I saw Dyaks in Borneo using percussion weapons and it fascinated me (They use Brazilian shotguns now!) The use of smooth bore "muskets" in 2009 is equally interesting.

#6 BigRoss has been a member since 17/2/2007. Posts: 19

Posted by somsai on 21/8/2009 at 19:36

I'm sure there are many factors in play effecting the hunting by the Lao Seung, no way to tell which way it will go but one thing I do know, things will change radicaly.

The population amongst established remaining villages is climbing rapidly due to reduced infant mortality. Government programs on hygeine and the availability of anti malarials. Offsetting is the relocation to roads and towns.

All firarms of any type are outlawed since a couple of years ago. Yet newly aquired cash and increased overall living standard nationwide has put the long barrel within the means of just about everyone. There also seems to be a general concencus that some species are allowed and others draw a large fine. In the market many traders aren't open. I've had people refuse my request for photos.

The pace of change jumps huge blocks of years. For many the first source of light has been the LED. Children grow up seeing solar panels but never having seen a car. I'm sure the internet and environmental activism is next. Wether it is soon enough is anyone's guess.

With habitat a species can be brought back from the brink in a very few number of decades, without habitat it's impossible. Is that wooden end table you just bought really made from "green" lumber of Brazil? Or maybe a clever factory in Vietnam that has paid bribes for the export of logs in Kahmmuane Province?

#7 somsai has been a member since 1/3/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 568

Posted by MADMAC on 22/8/2009 at 11:57

"The pace of change jumps huge blocks of years. For many the first source of light has been the LED. Children grow up seeing solar panels but never having seen a car. I'm sure the internet and environmental activism is next. Wether it is soon enough is anyone's guess."

It will be soon enough. Don't listen to the fear mongers. They are, and have always been, omnipresent.

#8 MADMAC has been a member since 6/6/2009. Posts: 6,957


Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.