The Armory Blog had a “pretty cool” graphic that purports to show what country uses what weapon. It would, indeed, be “pretty cool” if it was correct. As they said:

Here’s a pretty cool map of the rifles used by all the various militaries around the world. Guess which rifle is used the most around the world. Click the link for a full-size version of the map to find out.

via World Map Of Military Rifles | Armory Blog.

Here’s the graphic; you can click to embiggen (and will need to do so if you want to read who’s running what — or who the makers of this graphic think is running what).

military-gun-mapFirst, it’s a gross oversimplification, listing only one rifle per nation. (Note the Army and Marines have some divergent rifles). But even given that, it just ain’t right. It’s all messed up, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

  • Afghanistan? The US and Canada have given them some M16s, M4s and C8s, primarily for their SOF, but for every M16 they have, there are dozens of AKs.
  • Bolivia? They have some M16 series rifles, but mostly still run ancient FALs. Some of their units have AKs.
  • Czechia? They’re running the Bren 805 now.
  • India? The INSAS has been a rather spectacular failure, and India’s seeking a COTS replacement that will almost certainly be an M16 platform weapon.
  • Zimbabwe? SA80? Well, according to guys who’ve been there, and Jane’s Infantry Weapons, the Zims run a mix of UDI-era South African small arms (R1 FALs) and AKs, with the AKs beginning in the Nork-trained units in the late 80s and now predominant.

Trying to figure out the source of this, and why it so badly off and so strongly biased towards the M16 platform. The source link at Armory Blog went nowhere. One probable source for some of it is Steve Johnson’s post on The Firearm Blog, which includes a nicer, if M16-series-specific, map.

m16-world-map21This one may not embiggen for technical reasons. You can always check it out at Steve’s blog post, which is five years old (and so probably understates AR global distribution).

But the thing is — Steve’s post is not showing countries where the M16 series is the main combat rifle of the nation. He’s showing countries that use M16 series guns for any purpose. Those are two different things. Steve’s source for many of the countries listed was Colt (as he shows at the linked post) and Colt’s criterion seems to be, “did these guys ever buy an M16?” With the popularity of the M4 among SOF — even Chinese SOF train with their domestic knockoff, although they didn’t at the time Steve made his map — naturally the AR platform seems to be near-universal.

Again, we don’t know who did the original map as featured at The Armory Blog. We’d have a lot more faith in Steve, who had the confidence to put his name on the map! But his map isn’t really an equivalent.

Almost 30 years ago, noted firearms writer Edward C. Ezell tried to address the who-uses-what knowledge gap with the book Small Arms Today, which made the 1984 state of world gun issuance fairly well-documented. The plan was for this to be to the Ezell-edited Small Arms of the World what annual yearbooks were for hardbound encyclopedias. There was a second edition of Small Arms Today in 1988, which can be picked up (at this writing) for under a buck, plus shipping, at Amazon. (The 1984 version is a few bucks, no more). Unfortunately, Ezell’s plans for the continuation of the series ran headlong into his mortality, leaving the 2nd edition hopelessly out of date as the Iron Curtain fell, a wave of democratization surged over Latin America, and Ezell himself passed away in 1993.

Nowadays, the best guide to who-runs-what is still the ponderous Jane’s Infantry Weapons, but the desk reference is priced for government agencies, as is the website, and both are out of the hobbyist or even small-scale professional’s price range. We do find outdated copies, particularly in used bookstores in Northern Virginia and near Columbia, Maryland, reasonably priced.

This entry was posted in Foreign and Enemy Weapons, Rifles and Carbines on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

4 thoughts on “Just because it’s graphic, doesn’t mean it’s good


I love that they have the UAE running with an experimental Korean knock-off of the experimental XM-25/M4 system, and the Saudis & Omanis using the AUG.

I did some weapons training for the UAE Coast Guard, and the stated standard rifle in UAE service is the Colt 727 “Abu Dhabi” carbine, but like a lot of countries in the region there are a lot of “legacy” weapons still in the arms room. We had to persuade FN Minimis into mounts that were made for HK21s with a rubber mallet so we could shoot off of the boats, but that is another story.

All of the Omani and KSA border guards I saw had G3s or MP5s, FWIW.

Hognose Post author

Yeah. What Jane’s does is imperfect in that they just list all the stuff Nation X is known to have in stock, let contracts for, etc. If you’re the USA with five largely autonomous armed forces, 16 fiercely indepenedent intelligence agencies, 70 Federal agencies with armed officers and uncountable thousands of state, county, regional, local and special-purpose police forces, you can say almost anything is an official weapon.

Likewise, if you’re Bolivia and Paraguay and have barely gotten over rockin’ some of the stuff you used in the Chaco War, and your recruits routinely train with rifles their fathers’ age. All that stuff’s on Jane’s list just the same as the modern arms your elite units are using.