General approach

There is a general lack of accessible, publicly available and non-specialist information on commonly used SALW in organized violence. SALW have become part of the everyday lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, yet few people know the difference between a small arm and a light weapon, or that not all assault rifles are AK-47s. BICC aims to fill this gap by providing a non-specialist, user-friendly platform to learn the distinctions between different SALW categories and types; their whereabouts in the world; and where possible, by whom they are held.

The Guide can be used to answer the following related questions:

  1. Which weapons are you likely to see if/when you enter country X?
  2. Where can weapon X be found around the world?
  3. How can one distinguish between different makes and models of weapons?

The first question may be of interest to anyone who is travelling to or doing research on a foreign country, or even to citizens of their own country. This includes, but is not limited to researchers, investigative journalists and photographers.

The second question may be of interest to those concerned with specific types of weapons. This includes civil servants new to the SALW portfolio; policymakers dealing with the spread of SALW in their own country or region; and researchers interested in production capabilities, to name a few examples. The final question may be relevant for all of these groups, but also to border officials that are responsible for securing highly trafficked borders around the world.

Depending on which of these questions is more interesting to the user, the website can be entered either by searching for a specific country, or by searching for a specific weapon or weapons category.

Where possible, the Guide also offers data on whether a weapon is held by the government of a country, or by non-governmental groups in the country (cf. Methods and Definitions). Unlike other databases, we are not concerned with the number of weapons in the possession of these groups or in a country. Oftentimes, the type of weapon that is found in a country says more about the intensity and capacity for organized violence in that country than sheer numbers of weapons can do alone.

Finally, the SALW Guide can be used to assist in the identification of a weapon by providing visual images, markings and descriptions.

The content of the Guide is based on the German Bundeswehr Verification Center’s (BwVC) printed Small Arms and Light Weapons Guide (2016), and validated by other Information and Data Sources.