Definitions of Small Arms and Light Weapons
There is no universally accepted definition of a 'small arm' or of a 'light weapon'. The Small Arms Survey largely adopts the proposal put forward by the 1997 UN Panel of Governmental Expert (available on www.un.org) which considers portability a defining characteristic. The Panel’s list includes both civilian, private, and military weapons that fire a projectile with the condition that the unit or system may be carried by an individual, a small number of people, or transported by a pack animal or a light vehicle. The Panel’s list is organized into 'small arms' and 'light weapons':
- small arms: revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, sub-machine guns and light machine guns.
- light weapons: heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable anti-tank guns, recoilless rifles, portable launchers of anti-tank missile and rocket systems; portable launchers of anti-aircraft missile systems (MANPADS); and mortars of calibres of less than 100 mm.
To this list, the Survey has added single-rail-launched rockets and 120 mm mortars as long as they can be transported and operated as intended by a light vehicle.
The Survey may use the term 'small arms' to refer to small arms and light weapons, as well as their ammunition and parts and accessories. The term 'light weapons', however, always refers just to those items. The term ‘firearms’ comprises small arms and heavy machine guns.