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14.4.2021 : 6:59 : +0200

Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites

Since 1979 over 500 events involving unplanned explosions at munitions sites were recorded. The Small Arms Survey has released online detailed findings from its Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) database, providing information on the location, causes and casualties of each incident.

For up-to-date information, see the Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites pages.

State Stockpiles

Government-owned small arms inventories are a major small arms category, covering some 133 million military small arms and about 22.7 million among law enforcement agencies. These also form the largest category stored in coherent stockpiles.

The basic sources and techniques for enumerating state arsenals include: reports from governments, production reports, and estimates based on the number of personnel and operational doctrine. Because few governments release comprehensive information on their inventories, and procurement reports tend to be incomplete, most countries’ official arsenals must be estimated.

While civilian weapons are distributed among millions of owners, official weapons, especially military weapons, often are stockpiled. This puts them at special risk, vulnerable to theft and diversion. Loss of individual small arms—through theft (by outsiders) or pilferage (by members of the armed forces or law enforcement agencies)—also is a universal problem. Examples of large-scale loss from theft and pilferage include large quantities of weapons lost by the Russian Federation in the early 1990s, and loss of small arms supplied to the Afghan and Iraqi security services in the 2000s. Massive hemorrhaging in catastrophic incidents is rare but also possible. Well-known examples of the latter include over 500,000 small arms looted in Albania in 1997, massive quantities of small arms lost by the Iraqi and Syrian state security services during the rise of Islamic State in 2013–14, and losses by Yemen to Houthi rebels in 2014–15.

Unplanned explosions are another risk associated with stockpiles. Since 1980, more than 550 incidents of this nature—often causing extensive damage, injury, and loss of life—have been reported in more than 100 UN Member States.



Small Arms Survey Publications

  • The Three Ds: Disposal, Demilitarization, and Destruction of Ammunition, by Adrian Wilkinson, 2006. In Stéphanie Pézard and Holger Anders, eds. Targeting Ammunition: A Primer.

    Download (1.62 MB)
  • Targeting Ammunition: A Primer, edited by Stéphanie Pézard and Holger Anders, co-published with CICS, GRIP, SEESAC, and Viva Rio, June 2006.

    More information
  • The Role of Small Arms During the 2003–2004 Conflict in Iraq, by Riyadh Lafta et al., September 2005. Working Paper No. 1

    Download (173.77 KB)
  • A Fragile Peace: Guns and Security in Post-Conflict Macedonia, by Suzette R. Grillot et al., commissioned by UNDP and co-published with BICC and SEESAC, June 2004. Special Report No. 4

    Download (596.88 KB)
  • Beyond the Kalashnikov: Small Arms Production, Exports, and Stockpiles in the Russian Federation, by Maxim Pyadushkin with Maria Haug and Anna Matveeva, August 2003. Occasional Paper No. 10

    Download (212.98 KB)
  • Demand, Stockpiles, and Social Controls: Small Arms in Yemen, by Derek B. Miller, May 2003. Occasional Paper No. 9 (also available in Arabic)

    Download (441.32 KB)
  • Politics from the Barrel of a Gun: Small Arms Proliferation and Conflict in the Republic of Georgia, by Spyros Demetriou, November 2002. Occasional Paper No. 6 (also available in Russian)

    Download (367.83 KB)
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