A Few Historical Weapons in Libya

Armament Research Services (ARES) has a database of Conflict Material (CONMAT), logging arms and munitions documented within the illicit sphere in conflict and post-conflict zones. I have been working on co-athoring a report with N.R. Jenzen-Jones covering Libyan arms trading conducted via social media platforms between November 2014 and November 2015 for Small Arms Survey. One of the interesting side benefits of digging through a database of thousands of documented arms is finding some particularly old items that have been wandering the planet for 50 or 100 years.

For example, this Italian M91 Carcano cavalry carbine. It could have been lost during the North African campaigns of WWII, or could have come into the country at some other time thanks to Italy’s colonial influence in Libya. It’s chambered in 6.5mm (we can tell this from the rear sight configuration), and it actually not a bad little gun, contrary to its reputation (although this one has definitely seen better days).

carcano cav
M91 Carcano cavalry carbine

Here’s another view – the folding spike is a bayonet (affixed to the gun to simplify a mounted cavalry trooper’s ability to use it). The photographer appears to not realize that purpose, though, and seems to to be suggesting its use as an ad-hoc monopod.

carcano cav monopod
“I do not think that does what you think it does”

Here’s another bolt action rifle documented in Libya; a No4 Lee Enfield. It’s missing its magazine, but it most likely chambered for .303 British. Again, could have been lost during WWII or come into the country through any of a bunch of other routes.

lee enfield
Single shot without it’s magazine…

It’s not just obsolete rifles that make an occasional showing, but also handguns. For example, Webley revolvers – both military and commercial pattern. Here is one of the Mk IV .38/200 caliber examples documented in the ARES database:

webley army
Impressively, this gun’s owner appears to actually have the proper ammunition for it.

And here’s a smaller commercial pocket model (also a Mk IV, somewhat confusingly):

webley pocket
A smaller Webley factory configuration intended for the civilian market.

In some cases, the guns that do not show up in the database are as interesting as the ones that do. For example, the Mosin Nagant is curiously absent, although there are many documented examples of DP-27, PK/PKM, Dragunov, and PSL. The ammunition is not lacking, and we have seen Mosins in other regional conflict zones – but they seem to be absent in Libya.

If you are interested in the subject, you will definitely enjoy reading the full report when it is published in a few months. Stay tuned!