The guns of the Libyan rebellion

C. J. Chivers, who more often than not is found where lesser men fear to tread, has published a fascinating account of the weapons and tactics, or lack thereof, he has observed in Libya. Chivers reports

A PKT machine gun, a weapon designed to be mounted on a Soviet tank and fired electronically by a crew member inside, has no manual trigger, no sights and no shoulder stock. That does not prevent many Libyan rebels from carrying it as if it were an infantryman’s gun.

A Carcano cavalry carbine — probable refuse from Italian colonization in Libya between the world wars — is chambered for a dated rifle cartridge that the rebels have not been able to procure. That did not deter four rebels recently seen wandering the battlefield with these relics, without a cartridge to fire.

Rebel carrying German WWII vintage MP38 submachine gun. Byan Denton (C) NYT

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Clint

    i’ve got a Carcano cavalry carbine…. fun to shoot and ammo is actually cheaper these days since Prvi sells it cheap. accurate enough for my dad to hunt boar with, comes with a nice bayonet for any follow up.

  • Burst

    While the article’s warning of arms proliferation IS a real threat, mainland Africa isn’t exactly unknown for loose ordinance itself. I’d rather it be used alongside NATO than against it, I guess.

    You’ve gotta admire whoever manages to get $2000 for a battle-worn AKM, though. Somebody’s making a mint.

  • GrosVentreGeorge

    That is too bad, In my heart I feel that we should supply them with better weapons. In reality though I know that any weapons we supply them would be turned against our interests as soon as Qaddafi was ever deposed. It is a catch 22 if I have ever seen one.

  • charles222

    Finding it kinda hilariously ironic that a weapon that’s more or less the symbol of German oppression in WW2 is being toted by a Libyan freedom fighter.

  • dpear

    Chivers writes good stuff.A former marine near fearless.You know zilch about ‘assault rifles’ unless you’ve read his book,’The Gun’ about the development and history of the AK47.

  • Jim

    ” mainland Africa isn’t exactly unknown for loose ordinance itself. I’d rather it be used alongside NATO than against it, I guess.”

    Loose manpads are a terrifying prospect anywhere in the world. No one wants 200 deaths on their hands if one of those units gets into the hand of al-Qaeda in five years.

  • j

    i bet they NEVER clean them

  • John C

    It would help if they didn’t fire half of their ammo into the air for no reason. And about C.J. Chivers —I just got his book “The Gun.” I am planning on reading it as soon as I get some time.

  • MibZ

    It’s definitely a crappy situation…I saw a news broadcast a few weeks ago about the US arming them, but that was all I heard of it so I don’t know if it was a proposal or an actuality.

    If it were my decision I would have to say assist but do not arm them. Let them pick spoils from the battlefield, providing they are actually devoted enough to fight; I’ve heard many reports of them simply running at the first sight of an enemy. I can’t say I would be able to stand and fight, but it is somewhat sickening to see that they can’t shoot anything other than the air.

  • 6677

    why give them weapons when they dont know how to use them. I believe training them to use poor weaponry well would give them a better chance than them using good weaponry badly.
    Organisation of their forces may help aswell

  • RollTide

    Training,communications,medical,food stuff. They have plenty of weapons. Maybe some munitions of some form…but no weapons or high end stuff. They can raid or recover enough arms with NATO (US) air support to knock current leaders out. Plus if it all goes too fast the leadership vaccuum will certianly be filled by “bad guys” not the peoples choice.

  • subase

    Whether through Saudia Arabia or some other channel, the U.S will provide these rebels with weapons, as well as training by special forces.

    All that these Libyan rebels need is humility and leadership, otherwise they will reject training. (they’ve already rejected british SAS) A tall order.

  • Big Daddy

    They need weapons, training and organization. Mostly they need an idea of tactics. There tactics should be to draw out the Gaddafi military so that NATO air power can identify and destroy them.

    Right now the big issue is that NATO’s hands are tied, until they have a way to identify who to shoot at they will not shoot. So the rebels must develop a tactic with NATO to get them out in the open by aggressively attacking and retreating then letting NATO air power finish them off. Kind of simple.

    So in essence all the rebels need are AKs, PKs and RPGs, maybe some 12.7,14.5 and 23mm guns mounted on trucks. Those weapons are inventoried by ALL countries especially in that area, even the USA has those weapons. Bands of semi trained rebels with these weapons attacking in small but semi organized groups with one mission, get the forces out from hiding and mark them. Besides weapons they need communications directly with NATO forces so they can work in concert. Then let NATO air power take them out.

    If they can accomplish that it will all be over really soon, then there will be no need to arm the rebels with anything sophisticated, let them then buy their arms when they have a government with their oil money.

  • Aurelien

    They need training.
    With training, even with outdated and/or locally built weapons, you can be deadly.
    With the good tactics, a Carcano rifle can be used to sap the morale of the enemy. Guerilla tactics can be applied to make up for the lack of weapons.

    After all, once the airborne units were wiped out of the sky, the Afghan destroyed the mighty Red Army with rocks and sticks. And .303 Enfields.

    “I know that any weapons we supply them would be turned against our interests”

    Well, as long as NATO countries do not bolt or appear as as invasion force when all of that is over, we should be fine. Most of those people have been oppressed for the last 50 years and just want there part of the freedom cake. Plus, they are pretty much surrounded by westernized countries (Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia…) and Chad.

    And don’t forget that Ghaddafi has been providing terrorists with weapons, ammo, money, transport and safe haven for the last few decades. So you can’t really go downhill from that.

  • And no magazine. And for those claiming they are freedom fighters and it is ironic that they are carrying German guns, they aren’t freedom fighters, they are led by Al Queda terrorists.

  • Nicks87

    I love the Libyan Rebels!

    They have great taste in classic weaponry AND great taste in fashion.

    I saw a pic of a guy carrying an RPG-7 and wearing skinny jeans and Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Sneakers.


  • justin

    I loved this picture I saw on drudge that showed a toyota with a rocket pod from a hind helicopter mounted on it.

  • justin

    oops should of read the linked story because there it is right on top.

  • subase

    Just some peed off Libyan hippies (only with guns). The aim of the U.S is to be involved with whoever will take the new leadership of Libya, presuming of course that Gaddafi remains insane. If he strikes a bargain with the west though the rebels are toast.