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14.4.2021 : 21:37 : +0200

Craft Production

Craft production of small arms refers principally to weapons and ammunition that are fabricated largely by hand in relatively small quantities. Government authorities may tightly regulate and oversee these artisans’ activities and outputs (expensive replica antique firearms legally produced in the United States are a good example). Often, however, this materiel is produced outside of, or under limited, state controls. These weapons are often used in crimes and against government targets.

Several countries have long traditions of artisans producing rudimentary firearms. The practice is widespread in many countries in West Africa where blacksmiths produce a range of small arms including pistols and shotguns. The artisanal firearm industry is especially developed in Ghana, with some gunsmiths reportedly able to produce assault rifles. The Peshawar district in Pakistan is reportedly home to some 200 workshops producing a wide range of inexpensive small arms. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) produce copies of Italian semi-automatic pistols and US sub-machine guns.

Craft production of small arms ammunition is less prevalent. Reloading ammunition, whereby empty cases or shells are constructed into finished cartridges, is a popular pastime for hobbyists, known as handloaders around the world and usually practiced on a small scale for personal use. The Free Aceh Movement practiced reloading ammunition and video evidence suggests that reloading cartridges is conducted on a much larger scale intended for retail in parts of Pakistan.

Many light weapons are also craft-produced. Mortars are perhaps the most common example given the relative ease of acquiring the necessary materials and constructing and storing the weapons. The Irish Republican Army (IRA), for example, produced numerous examples of mortars, often equipping them with delayed or remote-control mechanisms. More sophisticated light weapons include single-launched rockets, which various Palestinian armed groups produce in large quantities. Other craft-produced light weapons include grenade launchers and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). The Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, for example, has fabricated copies of the Soviet RPG-2 rocket launcher and the US M-79 grenade launcher.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are often constructed from commercially available and relatively inexpensive products—such as ammonium nitrate, acetone, hydrogen peroxide, and potassium chlorate—the main charge and booster can also be sourced from conventional ammunition, such as artillery shells and mortar bombs.


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
  • Handmade and Deadly: Craft Production of Small Arms in Nigeria, by Matthias Nowak and André Gsell. Briefing Paper, June 2018.

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  • From Replica to Real: An Introduction to Firearms Conversions, February 2015. Issue Brief No. 10.

    Download (618.84 KB)
  • The Highway Routes: Small Arms Smuggling in Eastern Nepal, November 2014. Nepal Armed Violence Assessment Issue Brief No. 4 (see also Annexe).

    Download (1.5 MB)
  • Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, October 2014. Research Note No. 46, Weapons and Markets. 

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  • Legacies of War in the Company of Peace: Firearms in Nepal, May 2013. Nepal Armed Violence Assessment Issue Brief No. 2 (also available in Nepali).

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  • Craft Production of Small Arms, March 2011. Research Note No. 3, Weapons and Markets.

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

    More information
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Other Publications

  • Stohl, Rachel and Doug Tuttle. 2008. The Small Arms Trade in Latin America. NACLA Report on the Americas. March/April 2008, pp. 14-20. Washington D.C.: Center for Defense Information.

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