Kurdistan’s Gun Markets

ISIS have left plenty of guns in their wake, and because of the threat they pose demand is high in Iraqi Kurdistan. In other words, it is a good time to be a Kurdish gun dealer. Matt Cetti-Roberts & Kevin Knodell write

Before ISIS you didn’t find many guns and bullets, now people bring them to me to sell.”

He sells AK-47s for $700. M-16s go for $3000, but he says these ones are only for the Peshmerga. A Chinese Type 56—a Vietnam-era AK-47 copy—is $1,000. An AKMS—a modernized AK-47 with a folding stock—is $2,000.

He has an M-4 carbine with holographic sight and forward grip for $9,000.

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.


  • random name

    And i thought paying 1000 for an ar is too much!

  • Arjan Blom

    Those are hefty prices.

    • Pooter

      Considering these are in all likelihood select fire weapons, I’d say its pretty cheap considering our own Class III prices at home

    • Ken

      Probably not so much for a fighter in a war zone who’s life depends on it. It also would not surprise me if that money does not come out of the pockets of the fighters. They may get funds from friends, family, or whatever militia unit they’re a part of.

      If you find articles and videos on the arms dealers in Syria, their prices are just about the same..

  • USMC03Vet

    “When the Iraqi army abandoned its bases, dealers grabbed some of the weapons the soldiers left behind.”

    Well at least somebody found a use for them I guess.

    • Thracian Beast

      Fu$k that Teufel Hunden!! USMC03Vet!!!! Stay up Devil!

      • Thracian Beast

        I don’t know If I can post a picture ova her. Over a Lightfighter it’s all the rage.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      The most unfortunate aspect of this situation is that it was ISIS who found the most use for captured Iraqi Army ordnance and supplies. After taking everything they wanted for their own use, I would not be surprised if they sold the rest on the black market — regardless of who the end users might be, even potential enemies, since a buck is a buck after all — to get hard currency to finance other “ventures”.

      One other aspect of ISIS’ ongoing success that is often overlooked is the fact that they operate very much in the same vein as Genghis Khan or Alexander The Great did — by living off the land, i.e., victualing from a combination of captured enemy supplies and materials, and from any civilians unfortunate enough to be in the areas they have over-run. This is why Western intelligence and Western governments, including agencies of the United States, have consistently under-estimated and incorrectly assessed ISIS’ capabilities on the battlefield. Without the long lines of communication and supply that conventional armies have to deal with, ISIS is able to operate autonomously and not worry about the complications of a logistical train.

      The only ways in which ISIS can be deprived of their ability to resupply and replenish are as follows :

      1. Organize the local population in the impacted areas into well-defended communities or strongpoints with adequate resupply and a powerful support infrastructure so as to deny ISIS the ability to pillage and live off the land, as the British did in Malaya during the Emergency ( Communist insurgency ) of 1948-1960.

      2. Pursue a total “Scorched Earth” policy that will destroy everything of conceivable use to ISIS in the affected areas. This would be akin to Stalin’s orders to do the same during the long retreats of 1942 and thereafter in order to deny the German Army any supplies or materials ( including farm crops ) that might be of aid to them. This is obviously the less politically and humanistically-desirable option by far if carried out to the maximum degree due to its terrible implications.

      3. Pursue a consistent long-term policy that combines selective elements of both of the above, along with a “third leg” that interdicts any possible external and internal avenues for resupply as well.

      Having a certain certain familiarity with this sort of scenario in other places at other times, it infuriated me to hear the President’s speech a short while back denouncing ISIS while referring to them as the “Junior Varsity Team” . ISIS deserve to be denounced for what they are and for their barbaric actions, but to cavalierly dismiss them as some sort of second-rate force is sheer ignorance combined with a disrespect for the hard and unpalatable truth. They are tough, they are determined, they are smart and well-trained, they are ahead of everyone thus far in the use of social media ( the “hearts and minds” game all over again ), they have clear objectives, and they will do whatever it takes to achieve their end goals. That is who we are dealing with, like it or not.

      It should be noted that I don’t honestly think the President himself is guilty of this sort of gross under-estimation, but rather it is the advisors and intelligence infrastructure whom he relies on for accurate information who have made the mistake of glossing over the painful facts ( much as they all did when they under-estimated the opposition in Iraq and Afghanistan ) who have therefore let him, and the nation, down on this particular subject.

      • Wetcoaster

        It reminds me of the trouble that UN forces had with Chinese troops in Korea – The Soviet-equipped and organized North Koreans they had been fighting before were equipped and fought conventionally, but the Communist Chinese troops fought as light infantry* with a much lighter logistical footprint, making it much harder for UN airpower to be brought to bear.

        *It makes perfect sense in historical context. As the underdogs in the Chinese Civil War and WW2, the PLA would have needed to fight and travel light by neccessity. The change away from that revolutionary mass army model doesn’t really start until after being trounced by better equipped Vietnamese troops in the Sino-Vietnamese War.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Good analogy and perceptive observations — thank you!

  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    “In war, some get killed, others get rich” – Lt. Progrebniak / Khokhol (9th Company 2005)

  • Yellow Devil

    “While American 5.56-millimeter rounds cost 50 cents each, the more
    popular Soviet 7.62-millimeter ammunition sells for 75 cents.”

    Damn…and I’m guessing it’s the 7.62X39, not the 54R.

    • Jon

      Looking at the weapons he manages he is refering clearly to 7.62X39.

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    I think I’d have to go with an AK just for the reliability and increased parts/magazine commonality over there, since I wouldn’t expect to find many more M4 parts

    I would be tempted to go for an M16 for 3 grand, though. Especially if it’s a more recent one.

    • SP mclaughlin

      I’m sure plenty of M4/16 parts were left behind after the US withdrawal.

      • Michael R. Zupcak

        But judging by those prices, there are still no where as many replacement parts total versus the AK.

  • dan

    interesting looking short barreled under folder top left w/ white tape. Its got a gas block/fsb combo i dont think ive seen before.

  • Michael R. Zupcak

    Anyone know the top right black rifle with the super-long magazine? I’m thinking that might be side-fed since it looks like the rifle might be mounted on the wall funny (the pistol grip coming toward us perpendicular to the wall?)

    • iksnilol

      Looks like a Sterling SMG to me.

  • Martin Grønsdal

    What is the magazine fed weapon at the top right of the photo?

    • John

      I think it’s a Sterling SMG. Looks weird because the pistol grip is pointing at the camera

      • Martin Grønsdal


  • John

    “But American weapons are plentiful. One dealer explains that the Islamic State’s weapon of choice is a captured Iraqi army M-16.”

    Is that really the trend now??

    Also, just realized that all the AR-type rifles in the pictures are flat tops… which means they are probably less than 20 years old vs the AKs (who knows when those were made)

  • DiverEngrSL17K

    Steve, thank you for posting this article about the “other side”, i.e., the black market aspect, of the current crisis. Please see my reply to USMC03Vet below. It was written as a follow-up to his astute observations, but I really intended it for all of us. Many thanks, as always.

  • dp

    There is opportunity to made buck out there and many are doing just that. In addition to EU countries also Canada, one time foolproof peacemaker, is in the game too,
    What do you think will happen soon after? They will get recycled and used potentially against western interests.
    Regarding private sales – it is all possible although I cannot see how anybody local could pay that steep price. Most likely, those to Kurdish combat units, they are ‘issued’ and paid by someone higher up.

    • dp

      One thing to mention here is an increased threat to Turkish security – right after Islamic State is sorted out. PKK is on war footing with Turkey for decades and there is chance of new flare-up at any time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turkey%E2%80%93PKK_conflict
      Turkey’s interests as NATO member should also be ours. At the end, this is foolhardy venture with uncertain outcome.

    • 2gunzbaghdad

      yeah, by the US. We gave billions in US cash to the Kurds, by the pallet load. so sure someone is going to pay, you and me. bought and paid for

  • Martin Grønsdal

    Give this to them, two parts machinegun.

  • Jim

    Actually when I served a year in with the kurds they had a booming gun market with about any weapon you could think of. Ammo was in short supply and also optics in high demand.