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20.4.2021 : 10:08 : +0200

Light Weapons

The Small Arms Survey defines light weapons as mortars up to 120 mm in calibre; hand-held, under-barrel, and automatic grenade launchers; heavy machine guns; portable anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems; anti-materiel rifles, recoilless rifles, and guns; portable rocket launchers and portable rockets fired from rails. As of 2008, at least 51 countries manufactured light weapons, with 45 producing one or more complete systems and 6 additional countries producing components or providing upgrades for existing systems. Light weapons are used by militaries around the world and have proliferated widely among armed groups. The latest generation of light weapons is more lethal, more portable, and generally more capable than older systems, raising concerns about their uncontrolled proliferation. According to Small Arms Survey estimates, guided light weapons are or have been held by at least 60 non-state armed groups'.


Small Arms Survey Publications

  • Beyond State Control: Improvised and Craft-produced Small Arms and Light Weapons, by G. Hays and N.R. Jenzen-Jones. Small Arms Survey Report, November 2018.

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  • An Introductory Guide to the Identification of Small Arms, Light Weapons, and Associated Ammunition, edited by N.R. Jenzen-Jones and Matt Schroeder. Small Arms Survey Handbook, November 2018.

    More information
  • Anti-tank Guided Weapons, April 2012, updated June 2017. Research Note No. 16, Weapons and Markets (also available in BCMS and Bulgarian).

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  • Man-Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), January 2011, updated June 2017. Research Note No. 1, Weapons and Markets (also availabe in Arabic, BCMS, and Bulgarian).

    Download (359.52 KB)
  • The Online Trade of Light Weapons in Libya, by N. R. Jenzen-Jones and Graeme Rice, April 2016. Security Assessment in North Africa Dispatch No. 6. (also available in Arabic)

    Download (1.64 MB)
  • Recoilless Weapons, December 2015. Research Note No. 55, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (387.24 KB)
  • Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Basic Guide, July 2015. Issue Brief No. 14 (also available in French).

    Download (1.19 MB)
  • Guided Mortar Systems, April 2015. Research Note No. 51, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (178.94 KB)
  • Automatic Grenade Launchers, February 2015. Research Note No. 48, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (546.85 KB)
  • Armed Groups and Guided Light Weapons: 2014 Update with MENA Focus, December 2014. Research Note No. 47, Armed Actors. (also available in Arabic)

    Download (300.07 KB)
  • Rogue Rocketeers: Artillery Rockets and Armed Groups, by Matt Schroeder, July 2014. Working Paper No. 19

    Download (1.13 MB)
  • Armed Groups’ Holdings of Guided Light Weapons, June 2013. Research Note No. 31, Armed Actors (also available in BCMS and Bulgarian).

    Download (459.15 KB)
  • Accessories for Small Arms and Light Weapons, February 2013. Research Note No. 26, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (705.96 KB)
  • Anti-materiel Rifles, June 2011. Research Note No. 7, Weapons and Markets (also available in BCMS and Bulgarian). 

    Download (239.44 KB)
  • Heavy Machine Guns (including anti-aircraft guns), April 2011. Research Note No. 5, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (311.67 KB)
  • Mortars, February 2011. Research Note No. 2, Weapons and Markets.

    Download (293.56 KB)
  • Conventional Ammunition in Surplus: A Reference Guide, edited by James Bevan, co-published with BICC, FAS, GRIP, and SEESAC with support from the German Federal Foreign Office, January 2008.

    More information
  • Basic Characteristics of Ammunition: From Handguns to MANPADS, by James Bevan and Stéphanie Pézard, 2006. In Stéphanie Pézard and Holger Anders, eds. Targeting Ammunition: A Primer.

    Download (1.73 MB)
  • Small Arms and Light Weapons Production in Eastern, Central, and Southeast Europe, by Yudit Kiss, October 2004. Occasional Paper No. 13

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Other Publications

  • Federation of American Scientists. Missile Watch: A Quarterly Publication on the Proliferation and Control of Man-portable Air Defence Systems.

    More information
  • Bonomo, James, et al. 2007. Stealing the Sword: Limiting Terrorist Use of Advanced Conventional Weapons. Santa Monica: RAND Corporation.

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