PRIO Network

Emerging From Obscurity: The Global Ammunition Trade

Herron , Patrick; Jasna Lazarevic , Nicholas Marsh & Matt Schroeder , 2010. 'Emerging From Obscurity: The Global Ammunition Trade' in Eric G. Berman, Keith Krause, Emile Le Brun & Glenn MacDonald, eds, Small Arms Survey 2010 Gangs Groups and Guns. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press (34).

This study is the first to examine the trade in ammunition for both small arms and light weapons. While a weapon can remain functional for decades if it is properly maintained, its utility depends on the continuous production and delivery of ammunition. Consequently, international transfers of ammunition for small arms and light weapons are as sensitive as those of the arms themselves, but, to date, they have received far less attention from policy-makers and in crucial areas the provision of public information on the trade is almost non-existent. This study puts forward estimates of the annual USD value of transfers—both documented and undocumented—of small arms and light weapons ammunition. The chapter also presents an update of the Small Arms Survey’s Transparency Barometer, which measures the extent to which states report on their arms transfers.

This study is part of the Small Arms Survey’s ongoing, multi-year reassessment of the value of authorized international transfers of small arms and light weapons, their parts, accessories, and ammunition. The reassessment unpacks the previous estimate of the total trade of USD 4 billion (Small Arms Survey, 2006, pp. 66–67) one element of the trade at a time. This chapter focuses on the ammunition component and significantly improves upon previous estimates. It supplements figures derived from trade data with additional research methods and data sources—particularly public procurement data—and it estimates the annual value of the authorized trade in ammunition for small arms and light weapons at USD 4.3 billon. This figure has been disaggregated into ammunition for small arms and for light weapons, and the documented and undocumented trade (see Table 1.3).

The ten-year period from 1998 to 2007 saw an increase in the trade in ammunition for small arms, for both shotgun shells and for small-calibre ammunition for rifles, machine guns, and pistols.

Download the full chapter from the Small Arms Survey here.