AK 47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova, obrasza 47)

This Soviet-Russian assault rifle is probably the single most manufactured small arm in the world. Estimates suggest that there are between 50 and 100 million AK47, some of which without serial numbers. The rifle was designed by Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov in 1947 and is used in about 60 states armies. The AK47 is renowned for its extreme robustness and reliability (neither dirt nor sand, mud or water impede the functionality of the rifle; at the same time, it can be repaired with the simplest of tools.


In Germany, one differentiates between military weapons and armament. What is the difference? Part 1, section A of enclosure AL of the German Foreign Trade Ordinance (AWV) describes which goods belong to the category of weapons, ammunition or armament. Goods that are also listed on the Military Weapons List (see military weapons) are treated according to the Military Weapons Control Act (‘Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz’). All other listed goods, such as motors or propulsion systems specially designed for military purposes, military crash helmets and protective masks, equipment for the simulation of military scenarios and other electronic instruments and means of communication are subject to the German Foreign Trade Law and therefore fall under the category of armament. Arms exports are subject to a permit with ban reservation. This means that the manufacture, trade and movement of arms is permitted as long as the authorities have not explicitly forbidden it. Armament only makes up one per cent of Germany's domestic product.

Arms exports licences

In Germany, arms exports licenses are regulated by the Military Weapons Control Act (‘Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz’), Federal Act on Foreign Trade (‘Außenwirtschaftsgesetz’) and the political principles. The German Federal Ministry of Economics, the Federal Foreign Office (military weapons), the Ministry of Defence and the Federal Security Council are responsible for granting these licences. They have to take into account (non-legally biding) norms and values, such as human rights or the EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP of the Council. One differentiates between advance inquiries, individual licences and collective export licences. The decision-making process on granting a licence takes place in camera and is thus not transparent.

Arms exports report

The Arms Exports Report is a medium that is used by EU member states to publish the amount and scope of their national arms export licenses and, in part, their actual arms exports. The European Union also publishes its EU Arms Exports Report on an annual basis. Arms exports are categorized into recipient countries and weapons / weapons parts. The Reports are part of the Common Position and support better mutual and public control. The annual German GKKE (Joint Conference Church and Development) Arms Export Report shows its points of critique of the European arms exports.

Arms industry

The arms industry is the industrial sector in which weapons, related materials and ammunition are manufactured. These weapons are categorized into light and heavy weapons as well as nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The European arms industry is subject to many national and European restrictions. These are to prevent that arms are shipped into areas of conflict and crisis, contributing to an exacerbation of these. They are also to prevent a dictatorial regime from enforcing the repression against its people or neighbouring states with these weapons.

Automatic firearms

Depending on how ammunition is loaded into a small arm, one speaks of repeating rifles or automatic weapons, also called self-loading weapons. Automatic firearms can either be fully automatic or semi-automatic rifles. Semi-automatic rifles fire a single round with the pull of a trigger and use the energy of that shot to chamber the next round while an automatic rifle is a firearm that automatically loads and fires rounds as long as its trigger is held down and until the magazine is empty.

Cluster munitions

Cluster munitions (container bombs) are vessels that contain numerous smaller explosive devices (bomblets) that can cause a fire or propel shrapnel. While the large number of bomblets cannot destroy a larger individual target, it can certainly destroy various targets over a large area. Due to these characteristics, today, cluster bombs are dropped from aeroplanes rather than shrapnel shells. To avoid the drop zones from being contaminated by bomblets, today, efforts are made during manufacture to assure that they explode automatically after four to 48 hours after having been dropped. Still, a large number of bomblets remain on or in the ground as duds where the risk they pose to living beings is comparable to that of landmines and their effects are just as devastating when they explode.

Combat aircraft

Combat aircraft fall into the category of heavy weapons systems. The purpose of these aircraft is mainly to destroy a target on the ground or another aircraft, and they are equipped accordingly. Combat aircraft can also take over other military tasks, such as reconnaissance. One distinguishes between three different purposes: purely air-to-air defensive fighters (fighter planes), air-to-air and air-to-ground capable combat aircraft (fighter-bomber aircraft) and air-to-ground aircraft (bombers). Combat aircraft are either fixed-wing or swing-wing aircraft that is equipped to fight targets by using missiles, rockets, bombs, machine guns or cannons fixed to the aircraft or other weapons of destruction. This definition includes each model or version of such an aircraft that carries out other military tasks, such as reconnaissance or electronic warfare.

Convention on Cluster Munitions

In 2003, 150 organizations got together and formed the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) with the intention to ban cluster munitions following the example of the ban of landmines. A small number of counties followed that idea and banned the manufacture, stockpiling and use of cluster munitions. In 2008, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted and opened for signature. By April 2016, 119 countries had signed the Convention. It entered into force on 01 August 2010. The European Parliament strongly urged all member countries to sign and ratify the Convention. A little more than half—Germany amongst them—have implemented the Convention's requirements into national law. A number of countries that manufacture cluster munitions, such as the United States, China or Russia have not acceded to the Convention.

Conventional weapons

Conventional weapons and weapons systems, their ammunition or other weapons are to be treated separately from projectiles accelerated by propellants or explosive devices. These can only be called conventional when they are not reinforced by nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Battle tanks, combat aircraft and SALW are all conventional weapons. Wars fought with conventional weapons were the norm until poisonous gas was used in the 1920s. Conventional weapons are commonly used in conflicts—in civil wars they are used nearly exclusively.

Demining, mine clearance, render safe procedure

These terms describe the often difficult, time and cost-intensive disposal of land- or naval mines. Disposal may be part of the military's activities and often takes place during times of conflict under time pressure. There may also be extensive civilian demining activities after the end of violent conflicts and wars with the aim of using these areas again without the danger of unexploded ordnance. First, mines will have to be located either manually or with the help of trained animals (sniffer dogs, giant pouched rats or dolphins) as mine fields are only very rarely marked in maps or land registers. Mines can either be disposed of manually, with machines, or detonated—either after having been removed from the ground or purposely on-site. When mines are laid, often various types of mines are mixed, which makes their disposal even more difficult. Only in the rarest cases are areas completely cleared of mines; often quite a high residual risk remains in former areas of crisis. It is assumed that it will take another few decades to clear particularly high mine-affected areas, such as the border between Laos and Cambodia of mines.

Duds (unexploded ordnance)

Duds are ammunition, grenades, bomblets or bombs that fail to fire or detonate after having been fired/dropped. A technical malfunction, wrong handling or sabotage may result in this. Heavy bombing of Germany during World War II in particular, also resulted in a high number of duds that are discovered still today, for instance on building sites. The method of disposal depends on the origin and type of the unexploded ordnance.

G3 & G36

The rifle G3, designed and manufactured by Heckler & Koch was introduced as the standard rifle of the Bundeswehr in 1959. Besides Germany, at least another 15 countries have manufactured the rifle under licence; licensing to Iran and Myanmar was strongly criticized. The total number of G3 rifles is estimated at seven million, which makes it one of the most common weapons. Compared to other rifles (AK47, M16), the G3 features a very high rate of fire of 750m/second. All rifles are tested before delivery; particularly accurate weapons are modified and furnished with a scope.

Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development

The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development entered into force on 07 June 2006. Over 100 countries (by 2012) supported the idea that states and societies have to develop measures to reduce political and criminal violence to improve sustainable development on the global, regional and national level. Violence constitutes a major obstacle to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The signatory states made a strong commitment to the implementation of prevention programmes for violence and conflict in their regional, national and bilateral development goals, to the conduct of surveys on the economic and humanitarian effects of armed violence and to the support of existing initiatives in this field. Presently, the Geneva Declaration is the strongest political statement / declaration that links the effects of armed violence with development. More than 100 countries supported the idea that countries and societies have to reduce violence triggered by wars, crime and social unrest. They will work particularly on procedures, risks, avoiding violence, humanitarian, social and economic costs. Armed violence reduction on the national and regional level is one of the preconditions for attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

Heavy weapons systems

They are defined as larger machines that can be used in immediate combat and integrate various military needs (movement, firepower, etc.) into one system. The most common heavy weapons systems are tanks, helicopters, combat aircraft, submarines, rockets and warships. These systems differ from SALW (that can be carried by one or two persons) and from non-conventional weapons, such as nuclear bombs or poisonous gas. The delivery systems of non-conventional weapons, however, belong to the category of heavy weapons systems.

International small arms control

Since 1995, conventional weapons control has been in the focus of the United Nations. In 2001, the first small arms conference took place, and the small arms control programme was initiated. The United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) has since then been responsible for all matters of conventional arms control. Included in its today's tasks are the UN Firearms Protocol, the UN Register of Conventional Arms, international marking requirements, Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS)

MANPADs are portable air defence systems. It is a type of weapon that was originally designed to defend ground units against attacks from the air and which now is a highly effective weapon against slow-moving aircraft, such as helicopters, passenger planes or cargo aircraft. For this reason, terrorists in particular are interested in these highly effective weapons. Today, MANPADS are only manufactured and sold by a few countries, but MANPADS in particular from Russia, China and the United States are sold to many countries.

Military weapons

In Germany, one differentiates between military weapons and armament. What is the difference? According to the Military Weapons Control Act (‘Kriegswaffenkontrollgesetz’), all items, substances and organisms listed in Annex 1 of the Act are military weapons destined for warfare (list of military weapons). Amongst military weapons, one can find nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons and conventional weapons, such as missiles, battle vehicles, torpedoes, mines, bombs, SALW as well as ammunition and other major parts. These listed items may only be manufactured, placed on the market, moved, transported and traded with prior approval of the German government. The German government can transfer these rights of approval to four ministries. The importance of military weapons for Germany's gross domestic product lies below 0.5 per cent.

Mine Ban Treaty

The Mine Ban Treaty (the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Construction) is an international treaty on the ban of anti-personnel landmines that forbids the use, manufacture, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines. By late 2011, the Convention had been ratified by 159 countries. These countries have made a strong commitment to destroy their stockpiles of mines. Countries that have not acceded to the Convention so far are China, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Russia and the United States, amongst others. Germany ratified the Convention in 1998.


Mines are explosive devices that in the broadest sense can be described as booby traps. While victims often trigger mines themselves, they can also be triggered by remote control. The military aim of mines is to decimate the enemy, limit its freedom of movement or to destroy its vehicles. Anti-personnel mines are intended to kill or at least injure persons and thus stop and deter the enemy. Anti-tank mines are much larger than anti-personnel mines and are intended to stop tanks by damaging their vehicle tracks. They are mostly laid in combination with anti-personnel landmines so that the anti-tank mines cannot be removed. Fragmentation mines are designed to project metal fragments either into a certain direction or their entire surroundings. Bounding fragmentation mines have a small lifting charge that, when activated, launches the main body of the mine out of the ground before it detonates at around chest height. Often, mines are used that kill in an as wide a radius as possible. Mines are triggered by a number of things, including a change in pressure, temperature, trip wires, changed magnetic field, vibration, time fuse or by remote ignition. Mines are particularly problematic as they to a great part affect the civilian population and remain active long after a war or conflict has ended. Mined areas are inaccessible and cannot be used.

Small arms and light weapons

Small arms and light weapons are portable arms with a calibre of up to 100mm. They range from revolvers and pistols, assault rifles and machine guns to grenade launchers and MANPADS (man-portable air defence systems). Small arms are firearms that have been designed for the use by one person and have a calibre of up to 12.7 mm, while light weapons have a higher calibre (12.7 to 100 mm) and are operated by a team of two or three. Their acronym is SALW.


Military submarines belong to the category of heavy weapons systems. Submarines are used in battle, for deterrence, reconnaissance and supply. They are often used for military purposes as they can operate while they are hidden and can only be detected by the enemy with difficulty. Depending on their use, submarines differ in their drive type, size and weapons. Due to their self-sufficient energy supply, nuclear-powered submarines can stay below water for some months; other drive types are very quiet and thus allow submarines to remain undetected for longer.


Tanks belong to the category of heavy weapons systems. They are mostly heavily armoured vehicles, often with tracks but also with wheels. There are different types of tanks depending on how they are used and their equipment. The most common tanks are battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armoured transport vehicles. Armoured transport vehicles are mostly light-wheeled tanks used to transport soldiers. They are equipped with a cannon of a calibre of less than 20mm. Infantry fighting vehicles are heavier and mostly run on tracks. Their calibre size is at least 20mm. Battle tanks are armoured vehicles with 'caterpillar' tracks that weigh at least 16.5 tonnes (unladen) and that can be equipped with a tank gun of at least 75mm calibre.

UZI (2/2A1)

The UZI gun is a compact Israeli fully automatic submachine gun that has been produced in Israel since the early 1950s. Its inventor was Uzi Gal, hence the name UZI. The Israeli Army has used the firearm officially since 1954. The UZI is in circulation in 90 countries worldwide and has predominantly been manufactured in Israel, Belgium and South Africa; in the course of time, further variants have been designed. In some countries (Israel, Germany), the UZI has since been removed from the armed forces' stock and has been replaced by later models, such as the MP7.


Weapons in the narrow sense are items that can be used to compromise living beings in their physical or psychological capacity to act, to injure or to kill them. Weapons enforce one's own power or replace it. The threat of using a weapon can influence people in their decision-making and their capacity to act. Weapons can be either used to attack or to defend oneself. In the broader sense, actions, such as disinformation and sabotage that serve to demoralize the enemy, are also considered to be weapons—thus going beyond the tangible object.

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