Guns of the modern pirate

In 2010 the Russian tanker Moscow University was captured by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The Russia anit-submarine ship Marshal Shaposhnikov was nearby and quickly recaptured the tanker. The Somali pirates were carry the usual gear, rusted AK rifles (with no stocks) and RPGs.

Apparently the guns were in working order and well oiled inside.

After the ship was captured the pirates were patched up by medics, given food and water and then released.

Many more photos at Twower.

[ Many thanks to Andrey for the tip. ]

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.


  • Sean

    Treated and released? WTF? Should have been shot and thrown overboard. No one would complain

  • Samopal

    Wait, these pirates were captured, patched up and fed, then RELEASED? By Russia? Really?

    I’d expect Russia to line them up on the edge of the ship and pop them each in the back of the head, then dump those junk weapons overboard with them.

    Is it standard to feed and release pirates?

    • Hking

      What they did was actually worst than just shooting them. They “let them go” over 300 nautical miles from the coast, with no comm equipment, no engines, and no navigation equipment. It is highly unlikely the pirates survived. So they basically slowly starved to death while being exposed to the elements.

  • Lint

    Did I read this correctly? After the ship was captured the pirates were patched up by medics, given food and water and then released.


    Oh, thanks for breaking the law, here is a nice sponge bath and some free medical care, have a great afternoon.

    • Yep, you read that right. This is why piracy is such a problem. No country wants to spend a fortune trying to prosecute them, deal with bad press from amnesty, and then house them in prisons at a big cost to the tax payer. Easier to just send them home and let me be somebody else’s problem when they go on their next piracy raid.

      Everyone is doing this. At best they get a couple of months in a Kenyan prison cell until Kenya ships them back to Somalia.

      • Eugene

        I believe the pirates were released 300 nautical miles from the coast with no engines and no navigation equipment, and the Russians do not think that they made it to the coast.

      • Anonymoose

        I completely approve of deserting them in the middle of the ocean with no supplies and no way to get back to land. Maybe if some other pirates find their sunbaked, gull-pecked mummies they’ll reconsider being pirates.

      • John Doe

        @Anonymoose I’m usually not one to support a criminal, but they’re pirates because they don’t have anything else left to do. If they rethought being a pirate, the only other career left in Somalia is probably being jobless.

        I’m imagining they generally aren’t pirates by choice.

    • W

      there’s nothing a old fashioned plank walk couldnt fix.

      burial at sea and immediate sinking is a very simple solution to the problem.

    • Mike Knox

      From looking at the way somalia is right now, they need medical aid more than money..

  • atlemt

    tactical flip flops in pic 7!!!

  • WoodenPlank

    I’m pretty sure the boat they were “released” on no longer had a functional engine.

    The complete lack of uniforms and decent footwear from the Russians is pretty funny, though.

    • Gidge

      Plausible deniability. In-case they are photographed “releasing” the prisoners it’s best not to look like Russian armed forces.

      • bbmg

        The most amazing thing is that Russians actually seem to giving a damn about PR!

  • darrel

    Ew, gross. Looks like the weapons the afghans tossed for being too gross. I guess the salty sea air takes a toll on even the mighty Kalashnikov.

    • bbmg

      … and yet if it still works, a great testament to the design.

    • Sian

      an AK can be totally grody on the outside, as long as the piston and bolt carrier are clean (ish), the springs are good and the barrel is generally not totally ruined, it will shoot.

  • 7.62x25FTW

    I can see the pirates conversation now.
    Pirate 1:”Well friend it was good knowing you”.
    Pirate 2:”You too”.
    Pirate 1″Wait we are not being shot?”
    Pirate 2:”not YET”.
    Pirate 1:”Do you think they might let us go?”
    Pirate 2″No you idiot we are going to die”.
    Pirate 1:”And they are feeding us AND fixing Abuel’s wounds,I think we are going to live!”
    Pirate 2:”Maybe,but I still think we are going to die”.
    Pirate 1″Look they are putting us back on the boat! We are going to live!” Pirate 2: “Maybe you are right,maybe we will live!”
    They both get on the boat.
    Pirate 2: “You were right,we are going to live!! I am sorry I ever doubted you!!!”
    Pirate 1:”UM….I have something to tell you”
    Pirate 2:” Yes?”
    Pirate 1:” We don’t have a engine”
    Pirate 2:”Damn it……”
    Pirate 1:”But look on the bright side,maybe we can still ge-”
    Pirate 2:”Just shut the fuck up”..

    • Máté

      Is that red thing on the back of the boat not an engine?

      • 7.62x25FTW

        I do believe they disabled the engines at over 300 miles from shore.

      • Eugene

        The assumption being that that picture is of the boat that the pirates were released on.

        The report i read mentioned that the were released on an inflatable. The report could be wrong, or the picture could be the wooden boat being captured and tied alongside and they were released on something else

    • That boat looks like a fishing boat converted to piracy (ehi, no ships? You can still feed yourself!). They usually don’t have an overboard motor, it lies under the body. Also, piracy is often the second work for anyone who owns a boat, such as fishers.

  • jim

    I still like better what they did with the other bunch, few months ago. They put them back on their boat, let them go and then shot the boat to pieces with all the stuf they found on the distroyer (125mm, 30mm aaa auto cannon, 12.7mm hmg, rpg’s and good ol’ ak.

  • Cameron

    I’m the kind of guy who lovingly cleans his guns stem to stern after each and every range visit, fusses over new dings and scratches, and blows out & relubes his carry gun weekly. Seeing guns in such deplorable condition makes me weep as a hobbyist, especially when I’ve seen some truly gleaming Arsenal and VEPR rifles.

    From a more practical standpoint, what a fantastically robust design! I’ll always prefer my Daniel Defense M4V1, but that’s with a workbench, a Hoppes boresnake, and plenty of time. These pictures make a convincing case for the AK’s robustness.

    As for the pirates? Carjackers at sea. Good on the Russians deserting them. Saves a valuable 7.62.

  • Ben

    Would not like to be standing on the right of that RPG when its fired

  • Máté

    I found an article of an other case where Russians were nice to pirates:
    I understand nothing.

  • Komrad

    I’m a bit disturbed by the number of people advocating extrajudicial execution of these pirates. Everyone deserves a fair trial, even terrorists and pirates, especially in cases of capital punishment.

    • alannon

      They got a fair trial; they’re pirates. There’s no evidence that can counter that fact. This isn’t a case where they may or may not have done it (they did, they were caught at the scene), and it may or may not have been premeditated (they wouldn’t’ve been there if it wasn’t).

      It’s like someone breaking into your house: you don’t have an obligation to figure out the why or the wherefor, they shouldn’t’ve been there in the first place.

      • Komrad

        No, I don’t have to conduct a trial in cases of immediate danger, but if the danger is no longer immediate, then denying a fair trial is inexcusable.

      • Geodkyt


        “Fair trial” and “civilian trial held in the Hague with millionaire defense attorneys” are not identical.

        The international law on piracy, for thousands of years, has been that pirates are enemies of mankind, and outside the protection of civilized law. Fair game for ANY nationally flagged ship — regardless of nation.

        Therefor, they can be tried by courts-martial, under the authority of the captain (Master under God), and executed — right there, by the ship that caught them. After the rise of standing professional navies, this was generally left to warships and vessels commanded by naval officers, because they have more experience holding trials and formal inquiries than merchant captains. Of course, the officer corps of the merchant marine fleet of many nations is composed of officers holding reserve naval commissions (so they can be activated with full Geneva Convention combatant protection in case of war).

        Catch ’em, try ’em, and if convicted, execute them on the spot. The risk/reward cycle for piracy is mostly broken these days — the risk they actually face isn’t really any greater than they would if fishing: insignificant risk of getting shot, significantly lower risk of being lost at sea from “natural causes” during short “in and out” piracy raid versus a long fishing run in their crappy boats, the work unbelieveably easier, and the rewards far more lucrative.

        Going from “catch & release” to “catch, court-martial, kill” would readjust the risk/reward balance so that piracy would no longer be a feasible career path over fishing and smuggling. Just as it historically has happened WHENEVER strongly dealt with by primary powers.

    • DrewN

      Because as long as humans have been engaged in maritime trade the penalty for piracy has been death? NOT killing pirates is a relatively new development, not the other way around. I’m generally quite the stickler for rule of law, but piracy on the high seas is/should be punished by death on the spot, like it has been for thousands of years.

      • Komrad

        Is there some special factor that makes piracy so much more heinous than any other crime that justifies the lack of a trial?

      • John Doe

        Because rules that have been sticking around for thousands of years are ALWAYS applicable to modern society.

        The Somalian pirates are doing this because they just like messing with people. They have a family to support and Somalia’s job market isn’t the most fruitful.

    • Máté

      People just like to think those people have choice between a normal job that earns them enough money to get their food from the corner store, and piracy, not a choice between certain death, and possible death. These people chose possible death.

      • DrewN

        Most of are well aware of the desperation these folks feel, but they aren’t commiting piracy for food,water and shelter, they are demanding millions of dollars in ransom.

        • Máté

          Guess if they are risking their lives, they don’t just want 1 week’s worth of food.
          It may sounds like I’m supporting them, but I don’t. I just understand their reasons, and I’m not a fan of killing disarmed people and the fact they don’t have a lot of other ways to make a living.

      • gunslinger

        how many weeks of food is OK? but even for a year’s worth of food, you don’t need millions of dollars…

        • Máté

          Now I really am just guessing, but maybe they don’t only need food for themselves, maybe they don’t just want food, and maybe if they have nothing, but their lives, they wouldn’t want to risk it for a small amount of money or supplies.

      • lolinski

        One person doesnt need millions of dollars for a year of food but you havent thought about their village on the land. Maybe one group is supporting entire village.

      • gunslinger

        so now it’s for an entire village? what about the NATION they are stealing from. that makes it ok? it’s for their village?

        sorry, still not bying it.

      • W

        i strongly agree. the cycle of poverty in somalia makes it impossible for somebody to simply “choose” how they make their dough for a living.

        That doesn’t make it any more acceptable. I still believe the consequences for piracy should be burial at sea. I believe in giving people options to succeed and desperation simply arises due to a lack of resources, though I also believe in crushing little problems like this.

        • Máté

          I’d say it would be best to reintegrate them into a normal society, but that would require a society, that their home probably lacks. Maybe it’s better for them if they die.

      • Bandito762

        I seem to remember some benevolent country trying to supply food to Somalia during a famine, and then shortly thereafter Somalis shooting down some helicopters and killing soldiers who were only there to make sure the food went to the people and not the militias…

        • Máté

          I assume it wasn’t done by women and children, but by people who wanted to keep their control, or people, who didn’t know why they were there, and just assumed, that “if they could kill us, they probably will, unless we do something”.

      • W

        “I seem to remember some benevolent country trying to supply food to Somalia during a famine, and then shortly thereafter Somalis shooting down some helicopters and killing soldiers who were only there to make sure the food went to the people and not the militias…”

        exactly! though I wouldnt credit the US as being “benevolent”, such hubris shouldnt discredit the american soldiers there that put their lives on the line. The problem with Somalia was that America was also led by a timid coward. That coward not only contributed to US forces venturing into Mogadishu without adequate support and armor (where M1s were left in storage instead of being used on the streets…IN THEATRE), but also the horrendous slaughter in Rwanda and Srebrenica perpetuated by Post-Gothic Serpent casualty aversion. Ill leave it at that…seeing that son of a bitch on TV still makes my blood boil.

    • WoodenPlank

      Except they are stealing ships in international waters, where there are no legal protections for them. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    • schizuki

      A fair trial? Under what defense? They were out fishing when a bunch of AKs washed into their boat, and they were just trying to sell them to the tanker crew?

      They’re PIRATES. You can hang them from the yardarm, or you can have a show trial to make everyone feel all justicey and stuff, and THEN hang them from the yardarm. Why waste the time and money? For some morally self-indulgent affirmation drama?

      Piracy was stamped out for hundreds of years under the boots of people with balls. Why did they do it? Because trade is the foundation of prosperity and the vast majority of it travels by sea.

  • NyMike

    Were those official Russian issue Flip Flops that the Russians are all wearing? What a great way to go into battle.

  • gunslinger

    article by bbmg..pirate spokesman?? said the pirates just want other fishers out of Samalian Fishing Waters. um.. ok. i’ll buy that. but why hijack an oil tanker? or anything of the sort? then all bets are off. one thing to defend your turf/livelyhood. another to hijack, steal etc. to extort money.

    I also buy that most people don’t want their tax money to pay for imprisonment/trials of foreign pirates. and you can’t force a nation to pay for it’s pirates (otherwise their navy/gov’t would stop piracy first). but something’s got to be done. do we need to be humane to these humans? as bad as they may be, they are still humans. so, is it better to just shoot on scene or dump them in the middle of the ocean w/o any supplies, engine, nav, com equipment?

    i hope someone has an answer…i sure don’t

    • lolinski

      Do you think you wouldnt do the same when the western countries are using your country to get richer and richer while you are getting poorer and poorer. And it isnt only about fishing but also about transport through somalian waters, again i doubt US Marines would be happy about foreign ships in their waters if they havent paid for permits.

      • gunslinger

        um, these pirates don’t sail under the Somalian navy. they aren’t collecting transport fees. they are attacking ships in international water. so, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

        and yes i’m sure the navy/marines would go after ships in US waters w/o US permits. that’s the law. but the military of the government is going after them, not a bunch guys for personal profit.

      • Nadnerbus

        lol yeah, that’s what’s going on here.

        Somalia is a failed nation, and a failed society. The pirates are getting paid the only way they know how in a place that is so Mad Max there will never be any investment or jobs. It sucks for them, but until a Somali George Washington pops up and helps turn them into a modern society with rule of law, property rights, and all of the other things that are required to be a successful society, they are just shiat out of luck. And nothing we say or do can change that.

        In the mean time, nations will protect their commercial interests. Its just the way it is.

  • rjoiner

    For those commenting that they were released with no supplies and no engine, I’d really like to know your source on that. The picture shows a boat that does not use an outboard motor typically, with a large number of barrels that could hold food, fuel, or water.

  • West

    The owner of that sweet-ass RPG with the ski rope could pull a James Bond and water ski behind the tanker.

  • Michael

    This must be part of that new “catch and release” program for maintaining stock.

  • Poor sharks might eat one and get sick. Please think of the animals!

  • Tim V

    Holy crap can i join the russian Marines/Navy. Shorts, sandals, hoodies, and guns I love it already.

    • Vitor

      Given how miserably cold Russia is for most of the time, they really learn to appreciate a warm weather.

  • klyph

    Looks like century arms next batch of parts kits.

  • anon

    “After the ship was captured the pirates were patched up by medics, given food and water and then released.”

    When did the RUSSIANS go soft? 😉

    It’s a strange world we live in.

    • Lapkonium

      the joke was that they were far from coast with no navigational equipment on their boat. There’s been a scandal as far as I remember, cause they’ve never returned…

      • The Russians know the value of PR as well as anyone, so they do catch-and-release for now. This gets them close familiarity with other Navies, and a chance to hawk their weaponly wares. Win-win for them.

  • neblogenso

    Thought you might like to see – . The boat explode’s nice.

  • Brandon

    “After the ship was captured the pirates were patched up by medics, given food and water and then released.”

    Wow, people who get busted for online piracy get it waaayyyy worse than that.

    No wonder there are so many Somali pirates.

    • Sian

      Should have been released without a boat 10 miles off-shore.

      • bbmg

        Ah, but then you’re encouraging accelerated Darwinism. The ones that survive will breed stronger and stronger pirates, until finally in a few decades they won’t need boats at all!

  • Lance

    Looks like the Taliban and pirates share te same gun dealer crappy rusted Chinese Type 56s. Ive seen both bad guy groups weapons captured by US and this looks like Russian security groups. They look bad rusted corroded and mission parts. Too bad they dont blow up in the bad guys face when firing. It is a testament to the AKs action still firing in such horrible conditions by such stupid bad guys.

    Makes me jealous Russia got all of the security for ships in the Red Sea no US companies got any. 🙁

    • Chase

      They’re not stupid, just very very poor. They probably captured the tanker in an attempt to remedy that.

    • Mike Knox

      From the looks of it, those aren’t type 56s..

  • Bob Z Moose

    Not pictured: the pirates rearming when they get back to shore for literally tens of dollars or maybe a couple of chickens.

    • milo

      ten dollars might be a lot of money for them. hopefully the russians put a geolocator on the pirate’s skiff. find home base, coordinated surgical strike, and then piracy goes down maybe 5% if we’re lucky

  • I apologize in advance, I just can’t resist…

    …anyone suddenly in the mood for Far Cry 2?

    • Samopal

      That was the first thing I thought when I saw these pictures.

      “Wow, these guns must have like 100 rounds through them to be so beat up.”

    • Bob Z Moose

      The concept of “hit it til it works” jam clearing applies here.

  • Chase

    Does anyone have any guesses about why pirates seem to prefer AKs without stocks?

    The only thing I can think of is that it makes it easier to negotiate the cramped companionways of the ships they board.

    • bbmg

      Also makes them easier to hide. Not to mention stocks are normally fitted to facilitate “aiming”, not a concept armed Africans appear to be familiar with.

  • RockStarArtist

    The situation on what to do with the pirates is definitely a quagmire of sorts. They have captured innocent lives at gunpoint(armed kidnapping), they have killed innocent hostages(remember the American Yacht?), and they currently hold hundreds as hostages(in deplorable conditions) for ransom and as indentured crewmen for the ships they capture. These actions by themselves would bring severe criminal punishment in many parts of the world. Most societies do not tolerate these kind of crimes; Leniency due to the criminal’s background just does not matter either, whether they came from a wealthy family or an impoverished one, these violent acts are met with incarceration or even capital punishment in most law enforcing communities. What is obvious, is that the few trials that have been performed on these pirates, their deaths at the hands of naval flotillas, and the increased patrols in the Red Sea/Indian Ocean by multi-national warships is not staunching this ever growing tide of piracy in the region of east Africa.

  • Also, in a youtube video posted by vice, you could see an AK with the slant muzzle brake mounted upside down. Great for high muzzle rise and dramatic “scars” (?) on the ship’s side, i suppose.

  • abprosper

    The current international custom is one of deescalation. It seems to work since almost no one is killed or seriously hurt and the stuff is insured anyway. I also suspect the Russians enjoy the practice. Its just dangerous enough to be fun and interesting for them

    As for the AK, at least the pirates keep the internals in good order. They look like crud but they apparently run.

    A last bit on the stocks, trimming the stock makes a certain amount of sense, the guns are mostly for suppressive fire and intimidation and have to be carried a long while on a cramped boat.

    Since the odds are slight for a prolonged fight, no need to worry about it.

  • Nicks87

    “After the ship was captured the pirates were patched up by medics, given food and water and then released.”

    Wow?! Really?

    Could I expect the same treatment if I decided to participate in piracy on Lake Erie?

    • IC

      Somalia isn’t a “country” the waters belong to no one, therefore you’re free to do whatever you want with prisioners with no nation in waters that belong to no one. Kill them and no one would know who did it or even care… I am surprised they just released them…

      Portugal boarded a ship with 5 marines and caught 18 pirates by surprise. they had exactly same type of equipment and quality, they were arrested, but later released by UN… I think this is stupid, we have fine militaries doing a great job for nothing.

    • jetman123

      There’s nothing we can do with them. Somalia is still in the middle of civil war. No jail is available to hold them. If you threw them in jail somewhere in the US or Europe, you’d have to hold a trial for them, but they’re really not worth the legal runaround that would cause. The best you can do is disarm them and send them home – that, and hope the civil war ends and that a stable government will emerge that can crack down on coastal piracy.

  • John

    If those AK were in the NFA registry, someone would totally pay at least $10,000 for them.

  • ¤

    SWEET MOTHER OF GOD *clutches SGL sits in corner quietly crying rocking back and forth* ;_; Q_Q :’C

  • Derek

    Throw them all overboard, but one, and release him to tell the tale.

  • Pirate Guns

    Pirate guns is very dangarous guns in enimations so i didint like this .

  • Voltran Major

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