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18.4.2021 : 4:11 : +0200

Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Basic Guide

A new guide offering practical advice on recording the identification characteristics of small arms and light weapons will help to ensure that all essential data is recorded accurately, so that a specialist may make a conclusive identification.

The Issue Brief, Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Basic Guide, gives a step-by-step approach to documenting small arms and light weapons, as well as an overview of safety procedures and guidelines for undertaking documentation work in the field. It concludes with a section on the weapon that is most commonly observed in conflict zones: the AK rifle and its variants, copies, and derivatives.

This Issue Brief was written with a range of professionals in mind. For those who are involved in the military or law enforcement communities, or who spend time in conflict zones as journalists or with non-governmental organizations or government agencies, it should provide some insight into the often-murky world of arms identification.

The Issue Brief includes:

  • An explanation of the importance of accurately recording and identifying weapons, to assist in tracing ownership histories and thereby uncovering and ultimately disrupting illicit supply channels.
  • A synopsis of the methods and processes involved in arms tracing; and the international policy and legal framework for global arms control and tracing.
  • A discussion of the identifying features and markings of small arms and light weapons.
  • Guidance on fieldwork techniques, including a checklist for photographing weapons for the purpose of identification and tracing.
  • More detailed treatment of the ubiquitous AK-pattern rifles (which are often inaccurately recorded under the label ‘AK-47’).

Small arms include handguns, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, shotguns, sub-machine guns, and light and medium (‘general-purpose’) machine guns. Light weapons include heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable antitank guns, recoilless rifles, rocket launchers, portable anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs), man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), and mortars of calibres up to 120 mm.


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