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27.5.2016 : 18:02 : +0200


Recent Publications

  • Dribs and Drabs: The Mechanics of Small Arms Trafficking from the United State. Issue Brief No. 17, March 2016.

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  • Diversion of Arms and Ammunition in Peace Operations: Observations based on Missions in Sudan and South Sudan, September 2015. Research Note No. 54, Armed Actors.

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The trade in small arms, light weapons, and their parts, accessories, and ammunition involves every country in the world. The Small Arms Survey 2012 estimated that international small arms trade is worth at least USD 8.5 billion. This estimate is significantly higher than the Survey’s previous estimate of USD 4 billion (in Small Arms Survey 2009), reflecting both an absolute increase in the value of transfers of certain items and a more complete accounting of these and other transfers.

The global trade in small arms and light weapons consists of both newly produced weapons and surplus arms that their owners no longer need. Trade in sporting shotguns, sporting rifles, pistols, and revolvers is much greater than that in firearms made to military specifications. A small number of countries dominate this trade; 18 countries are known to have exported at least USD 100 million in a single year between 2001 and 2010.

The Small Arms Survey's annual Transparency Barometer assesses and compares the relative transparency of countries’ export reports.

Many countries, including exporters and importers, serve as transit points, where arms are imported and then shipped on to other destinations.


An analysis of customs data suggests that six countries routinely export small arms worth more than USD 100 million. Forty-six additional countries have exported at least USD 10 million of such materiel in at least one year between 2001 and 2010. The number of major exporters and the value of their activity is likely under-counted.


An analysis of customs data suggests that 15 countries have imported small arms worth more than USD 100 million during a single year for the period 2001 to 2009.

Authorized Trade

The Small Arms Survey has focused extensively on the authorized trade, meaning international transfers that have been authorized by the importing, exporting, or transit states. In 2008, the Survey launched an unprecedented multi-year study of this trade, rigorously assessing each of its five sub-categories: small arms, light weapons, parts, accessories, and ammunition. The results of this study are summarized in various editions of the annual Small Arms Survey. The study will culminate in 2012 with a revised estimate for annual value of the entire authorized trade.

Illicit Trafficking

The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons occurs around the globe but is concentrated in areas afflicted by armed conflict, violence, and organized crime, where the demand for illicit weapons is often highest. Arms trafficking fuels civil wars and regional conflicts; stocks the arsenals of terrorists, drug cartels, and other armed groups; and contributes to violent crime and the proliferation of sensitive technology. 

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