The world is a big place, and it’s full of guns, lots and lots of different guns. If you are a military member, certain branches of the federal government, an overseas contractor, or simply a traveler who appreciates the more dangerous parts of travel, we need to talk. Specifically, we need to talk about the guns you might encounter on your missions, objectives, and travels. I call them threat weapons.
Threat weapons are the firearms you are most likely to encounter in your travels to the dangerous and more interesting parts of the globe. I couldn’t possibly list them all, but I can give you a rundown of the most common threat weapons you are likely to encounter. Yet, keep in mind, that if it was made in Russia, it’s likely in the threat weapons category.
What You Should Know About Threat Weapons
Knowledge is power, and when it comes to threat weapons, you’ll want to have a working knowledge of them. As a gun nut prior to my first deployment, I was able to use my knowledge of firearms extensively in Afghanistan. I knew how to clear, make safe, and even disable the wide variety of firearms we encountered.
This is just a list of weapons, a starting point. If it piques your interest, take this list and learn the following:
Firstly, basic information regarding the weapon’s capabilities: This includes the caliber, magazine type, and maximum effective range.
Secondly, how to clear the firearm. This is likely the most important skill you’ll learn regarding threat weapons. Clearing means removing the magazine, if present, the ammunition from the chamber, and effectively unloading the weapon.
You should know the basic functions of the weapons as well. How to load it, disable the safety, and fire it.
Without further ado, here are our nine most common threat weapons.
1) The AK Family
The AK series needs no introduction. Every third-world tinpot warlord has his men armed with Kalashnikovs of some variety. Plenty of actual countries issue these rifles; they pop up everywhere and on nearly every continent outside of Antarctica.
Featuring a brilliantly simple design knowledge of the AK series is essential for police, military, and prepared citizens. If you can only learn one of these threats weapons, learn the AK family.
The AK series involves various generations of assault rifles, submachine guns, light machine guns, and even sniper rifles. Knowing how to clear and use a basic AKM rifle allows you to use and clear an RPK, a Dragunov, a PSL, an RPK, and many more.
Kalashnikov designed a simple rifle with a simple system. If it’s a true AKM, then always remember the selector’s first selection is full auto and users run it to the bottom for semi-auto.
2) Makarov Pistol
Like Russian rifles, this Russian pistol is widespread. Digging them in caches was common in the far reaches of Afghanistan, and they were produced in Soviet Bloc countries and cloned in Communist Asian countries.
Makarovs are relatively compact pistols that take a lot of inspiration from the Walther PP series of pistols. Like the AK the Makarov series is simple to use, robust, and reliable. These weapons can last nearly forever and tend to make their way around the world.
Learning the ins and outs of the Makarov takes no time at all. Don’t be surprised by a terrible double-action trigger pull and some hand-slapping recoil.
3) Browning Hi-Power
Browning began but was not able to finish the Hi-Power pistol that bears his name. It was finished by accomplished engineers at FN Herstal and went on to become one of the most popular pistols of all time outside of the United States. As usual, they spread to criminal and terrorist forces and became threat weapons.
Often considered the first wonder nine, the Hi-Powers packs 13 to 17 pounds of 9mm. The Hi-Power ranges far and wide being used in Western Europe, South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Ghaddafi famously owned a gold-plated engraved Hi-Power. At one point, both Allied and Axis forces were packing Hi-Powers in World War II.
The Hi-Power uses a single action trigger that’s quite nice but hurt by the presence of a magazine safety. Many a Hi-Power will not fire with the magazine removed, but some may. Never trust the gun without a magazine, and never trust that it won’t fire because you don’t have one.
4) Glock Family
Glock pistols have become one of the more common modern pistols across the world. They are often in the hands of police and military forces, but as always, when a gun becomes popular, it drifts into the civilian and criminal world with ease.
These simplistic pistols are inherently reliable and very capable weapons.
Glock pistols are, essentially, all the same. They all use the same overall design, so knowledge of how to use and clear a Glock 19 will translate to Glock 17s, 35s, 43s, and beyond. The only oddball is the Glock 18 in terms of function.
5) CZ 75 Family
CZ 75 pistols and their clones are the most replicated firearms in the world. This Czech design takes inspiration from the Browning Hi-Power and the SIG P210. Most are 9mm, but with the series being so widespread, they show up in 40 S&W, 38 Super, and many more variants.
These DA/SA guns come in a wide variety of configurations, including models with safeties, decockers, and even single action or double-action-only modes. CZ 75 handguns are spread across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North America.
While they are known as Czech-designed guns, companies from Italy, Asia, the Middle East (and especially Turkey) produce various clones. If you can learn the basic CZ models, you can expect to have functional knowledge of most CZ models.
6) Uzi Family
The Israelis sure know their way around a machine shop. The Uzi is a testament to the Israeli weapons industry. It’s a widely produced weapon that’s also been very popular. Reportedly, Israeli military industries have sold two billion dollars worth of Uzi SMGs to almost 100 countries.
These weapons fall into bad guys’ hands all too often. The Uzi family of weapons includes the full size, mini, and micro. Uzi SMGs are simplistic open bolt weapons that spew 9mm pills at a rather rapid rate.
Burma, Serbia, China, and Vietnam copy the Uzi to varying success levels and none of these countries are superbly tight on who gets the guns. If your Uzi lacks a star of David, the red star of the communist party might be present.
The G3 is a Teutonic killing machine produced by the Germans to modernize their army during the Cold War. The G3 is a full-powered rifle that was produced in rather large numbers by not just the Germans, Norwegians, and Swedes but also by Iran, Turkey, Colombia, and Pakistan. Dozens of countries make the gun, and some are less tight on arms exports than others.
That’s why the G3 and its variants are common threat weapons. This roller delayed blowback gun is quite potent, powerful, and decently accurate. It’s an old warhorse, but it has a lot of life left in it.
These guns are popular among Mexican forces and G3s are often seen in the hands of cartels. HK did make the weapon relatively simple, and working knowledge of the G3 can translate over to the MP5, HK33, and other HK roller delayed variants.
8) FN FAL
The ‘Right Arm of the Free World” is a name the Belgian designed FAL wears with pride. At the end of WWII and with the creation of NATO, the FAL became one of the most popular rifles with European forces and even competed against the awful M14.
The FAL’s service in Europe, South America, Middle East, Africa, and Asia makes it widespread with actors ranging from the military and police to terrorists and criminals. It’s a must-have in a threat weapons curriculum.
Like the G3, this is a 7.62 NATO rifle, but instead of a roller delayed blowback system, the FAL goes with a short-stroke gas piston. FALs come in numerous variants, but most, if not all, function identically.
9) S&W Double-Action Revolvers
Finally, the last entry on the list is one of the most common handguns in the world. Smith and Wesson revolvers and their clones exist on every populated continent in the world. When police and military forces ditched revolvers for automatics, they typically sold or gifted them en-masse to third-world countries.
The popularity of these guns makes them a common sight in all corners of the globe. The 38 Special, mid-frame models are the most common, especially the Model 10 variants that pop up everywhere you can find guns. Knowledge of a basic S&W double-action revolver will translate to nearly every model of double action S&W revolver.
Now that you know what weapons to expect, it’s time to begin your education. You have access to the internet, the most powerful information resource known to man. Stop looking at pictures of cats and educate yourself on the threat weapons you could face.
This article was originally published in April 2021.
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