Touring the Iraqi Tariq Pistol Factory

Nick Crawford contacted me after seeing my recent video on the Tariq pistol RIA is selling this weekend, to mention that he’d had the opportunity to poke around the factory where those pistols had been made. I asked Nick for details, and he generously obliged with the following writeup of his experiences:

I watched Ian’s recent video on the Tariq pistol with great interest as it brought back memories of my experiences with the Tariq. My personal experiences with the Tariq pistol were during my 2003 deployment to Iraq. I served as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 1 and participated in the invasion and initial occupation of Baghdad. After two weeks in Baghdad my unit began our retrograde to the city of Al Hillah, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. It was at Al Hillah that I first examined the Tariq.

Once in Al Hillah, our company was quartered at a factory complex that manufactured the Tariq pistol. This complex included bulk fuel storage, warehouses and vehicle storage areas. The actual pistol factory was about 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in size and part of the larger overall industrial complex. Prior to the invasion the complex was under the control of the Iraqi Army. The factory was looted by civilians during period the Iraqi Army left and U.S. forces arrived. This was a common occurrence with other sites we had encountered previously. While in Baghdad we were quartered briefly at the UN Assistance Mission and it had also been looted prior to our arrival.

After being at the industrial complex a day or two a fellow Marine approached asking if I wanted to see something interesting. The Marine then handed me four pieces of metal and asked if I could identify them. The first ones I examined were not a complete pistol but two slides and two frame assemblies in various stages of completion. Of the two slides I examined, both had Arabic characters and the word “Tariq” in English on the slide. The state of completion was approximately 60-80% for both slides and frames. The frames were not identical as one was larger than the other. The “Tariq” marked slides seemed to fit the larger frame. As a long time collector the overall design looked very similar to the Beretta 1951/Helwan pistol. The smaller frame was not recognizable to me at the time. The overall completion of the smaller frame led to an educated guess on my part. I told the Marine the larger pistol was most likely a Helwan copy and the smaller frame was most likely chambered in .32 ACP or .380 ACP with the possibility of 9mm Makarov. Only after returning to the United States did I learn the smaller frame was a copy of the Beretta M70 model.

When I asked the Marine where he had gotten them he pointed to the building behind us. It seems that for the last 2 days I had been sleeping beside a firearms factory and I wasn’t even aware. A group of us walked over to the building and looked through the windows. The windows were mostly broken out and allowed for a good view of the interior. The scene reminded me of photos taken of the Walther factory by US troops during World War Two. The factory had work benches arraigned along the outer walls with various machine tools in the center. The benches had pistols on them ranging from raw blanks to assemblies in 60-80% completion.

After seeing the factory I wanted to see what else was inside and looked for a way into the factory. I located a side door and proceeded to look around and examine what was being manufactured. The operation was very basic and not at all advanced. The operation relied on standard machine tools such as lathes, milling machines and drill presses. The floor of the factory was littered with production jigs, gages and small parts. The factory had been looted and nothing of value remained inside. As I examined the factory I realized I had not seen a single magazine or magazine assembly. Maybe the magazines were manufactured offsite or another location in the complex. This was my sole visit to the factory as it was under guard afterwards and remains one of the best memories I have of my time in Iraq.

Overall I encountered a variety of weapons during my time in Iraq, everything from 1886/93 Lebel rifles to Colt Diamondback revolvers with German proofmarks. While I had a background as a small arms repairman/armorer, I always sought out weapons and militaria as a collector first and foremost. What some saw as a worn out old rifle or curiosity, I viewed them as unique historical artifacts with interesting stories. In some ways I went to war not as a United States Marine but as a hardcore Cruffler/collector and my experiences reflected my interest in historic arms.

Nick Crawford inspecting arms in Iraq
The author inspecting arms in Iraq (not at the Tariq factory)

Robert “Nick” Crawford

Military Experience
U.S. Marine Corps (1998-2004)
B Company 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion
MOS 2111 Small Arms Repairman/Armorer

Civilian Experience
Curio Relic FFL Holder 1994 to Present
Firearms collector for 22 years
Specializing in pre 1950 military weapons

Texas State University-San Marcos
Master of Arts History Program
Currently enrolled

Texas State University-San Marcos
B.A. Anthropology/History Double Major
Graduated 2014

Honor Graduate of U.S. Army Ordnance Center and School