New Issue Brief — Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Basic Guide

Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons

A Basic Guide

A new guide offering practical advice on recording the identification characteristics of small arms and light weapons will help to ensure that all essential data is recorded accurately, so that a specialist may make a conclusive identification.
The Issue Brief, Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Basic Guide, gives a step-by-step approach to documenting small arms and light weapons, as well as an overview of safety procedures and guidelines for undertaking documentation work in the field. It concludes with a section on the weapon that is most commonly observed in conflict zones: the AK rifle and its variants, copies, and derivatives.
This Issue Brief was written with a range of professionals in mind. For those who are involved in the military or law enforcement communities, or who spend time in conflict zones as journalists or with non-governmental organizations or government agencies, it should provide some insight into the often-murky world of arms identification.
The Issue Brief includes:

  • An explanation of the importance of accurately recording and identifying weapons, to assist in tracing ownership histories and thereby uncovering and ultimately disrupting illicit supply channels.
  • A synopsis of the methods and processes involved in arms tracing; and the international policy and legal framework for global arms control and tracing.
  • A discussion of the identifying features and markings of small arms and light weapons.
  • Guidance on fieldwork techniques, including a checklist for photographing weapons for the purpose of identification and tracing.
  • More detailed treatment of the ubiquitous AK-pattern rifles (which are often inaccurately recorded under the label ‘AK-47’).

Small arms include handguns, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, shotguns, sub-machine guns, and light and medium (‘general-purpose’) machine guns. Light weapons include heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft guns, portable antitank guns, recoilless rifles, rocket launchers, portable anti-tank guided weapons (ATGWs), man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), and mortars of calibres up to 120 mm.
Documenting Small Arms and Light Weapons: A Basic Guide

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The Small Arms Survey is a global centre of excellence whose mandate is to generate impartial, evidence-based, and policy-relevant knowledge on all aspects of small arms and armed violence. It is the principal international source of expertise, information, and analysis on small arms and armed violence issues, and acts as a resource for governments, policy-makers, researchers, and other stakeholders.   

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