There is a major shortage of firearms in Kurdistan today; this is primarily because there is a war being waged. With the small amount being trafficked into Kurdistan and the majority of the weapons from the coalition being sent to Iraq and Syria, very few find their way into Peshmerga hands. This creates very unique problems and solutions for the region.

Pistols are more of a status symbol than a matter of practicality to the Kurds. That’s not to say they don’t serve a purpose, just not the way they do in the West. To them, a handgun represents authority and seniority, especially when it comes to military personnel. It also provides a side bonus of a little extra security. A reliable, professionally built handgun will cost you an arm and a leg if you want one, though.

For instance, a Glock 19 goes for about $2000 on the black market, while a Makarov—on the low end of the spectrum—costs around $800. This isn’t an issue for a ranking officer, provided he wasn’t issued one, because their salaries are substantial enough to cover the cost. What about the average soldier who wants to carry, though?

This is where things get interesting. A huge influx of Turkish-made handguns have found their way into Kurdistan, no doubt through smuggling. These knock-offs are often poorly manufactured and potentially dangerous to the end user. They come in a wide variety of models, to include Glock, Walther, Sig Sauer, and more. I haven’t decided if someone is just trying to make a quick buck, or if the Turkish hatred of Kurds knows no bounds. Maybe it’s both.

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Chambered in 7mm, the cartridges are small and short. The frames are produced using a cheap plastic that will crack under heavy use and obviously wasn’t meant to handle stress. The receivers themselves are churned out on assembly lines and milled out of a substandard aluminum. None of the parts are of firearms quality, really, particularly the barrels.

Fighting ISIS: A Look at the Handguns of the Kurdish Peshmerga

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The barrels are steel (surprise) but poorly machined and have zero rifling whatsoever. When you pull the trigger, provided the trigger mechanism works as intended, it feels as if a sewing needle has been set free, and upon reaching the limit of its allotted travel, has collapsed.

You never really know if one of these gems is going to explode in your face or fire the way it was intended (maybe explode the way it was intended?). Because of the poorly milled chambers and their sloppy fit to the barrels, cartridge cases may not seal inside the chamber. Perhaps the round blows out the side halfway down. You get what you pay for.

One of these Turkish terrors costs between $100-200, which is why they have become so popular. Like I said earlier, a sidearm is largely used as a status symbol here, so these serve as an affordable option for a young Peshmerga soldier to elevate himself above his peers ever so slightly, or to simply protect himself while off-duty, provided his weapon doesn’t backfire. More than likely, he will never even fire the gun, just wear it, so what does he care if the thing is a POS? It just goes to show that if there is a demand for something, someone is going to fill the void and supply it.