Weapons of Rio’s crime war

It’s generally well known that Brazil, like many (most?) of the world’s countries, is pretty much involved in a war against crime, more so when it comes to drug trafficking-related offenses. Nationwide (and here we’re talking about 8.5 million square kilometers), LE forces face extremely tight budget restrictions which reflect into low training standards and lack of adequate material, in general, and armament, in particular. On the other hand, criminals find no limitations in their funds to buy and bring into the country whatever guns they find available, mainly from neighboring countries like Paraguay and Bolivia, major, well-known illegal weapons sources. Together, these two countries share 4,788 km of lightly patrolled border lines with Brazil, most of which in rivers. For the record, other South American nations with borders to Brazil are Peru (2,995 km), Venezuela (2,199 km), Colombia (1,644 km), Guiana (1,605 km), Argentina (1,261 km), Uruguay (1,068 km), Suriname (93 km), and the French Guiana (730 km). Yessir, it’s one helluva task to keep an efficient eye on all that, mostly jungle, area, responsibility of an also limited-resources Federal Police Department and, to a lesser extent, the Brazilian Army.

The three most numerous rifle types seized by Rio’s Military Police in 2016 are exemplified here: AR-15s, FALs, and AKs. The BOPE (SpecOps Battallion) operative in photo carries an Armalite AR-10A4, the unit’s standard, while the flag on the wall reads “What you do in life echoes through eternity”.

In the Rio de Janeiro State, a major area of conflict, the first line of defense is the PMERJ – Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, whose 46,800 men and women (of which only 4,400, less than 10 per cent, are on actual street duties each day) have the difficult task of providing acceptable levels of security to a population of 16.46 million souls in a territory of about 43,000 sq km, slightly larger than Denmark, for example. Sadly to say, the Military Police force has an alarming rate of casualties, which in 2016 alone totaled 143 deaths, most of them (105) off-duty. As a comparison, U.S. fatalities in Afghanistan 2016 were 16… Yes, criminals virtually hunt LE agents in Rio!

TFB update for the month of January, 2017: 19 killed, 44 wounded.

K9s of BAC –Batalhão de Ações com Cães (Dog Actions Battalion) have proven extremely helpful in finding drugs and weapons in Rio’s crime areas. Seized rifles here are a flat-top 5.56x45mm AR-15 type and what appears to be a 7.62x51mm AR-10, while BAC trooper on left is carrying an FAL.

Major crime-fighting efforts are, of course, concentrated in the State’s capital city, Rio de Janeiro, a major center of drug-trafficking activities. An example of how criminals take the necessary steps to assure control of their areas of activity is the growing number of guns they carry and use. This is exposed by the quantity of rifles that were seized by PMERJ in 2016 alone: 328! Statistics made available to TFB show that 111 were AR-15 platforms, 94 were AK types, and 50 were FALs, with the rest including Ruger Mini-14s, H&K G3s, SIG SG.542s, Armalite AR-10s (new makes), etc. “Other” and “non-identified” rifles totaled 26 examples, these including  several “Frankenstein” contraptions.

TFB update:  42 rifles seized in January, 2017.

Among the many highly-modified rifles that have shown up in criminal hands in Rio de Janeiro are this SAFN 49 (top) and the M1 Garand.

Handguns, of course, also abound here, with current criminal use of pistols, rather than revolvers, being the vast majority.  Confiscated guns from bad guys’ hands call the attention for the extreme variety of foreign-made types found, other than the expected local (i.e. Taurus and, in smaller numbers, Imbel) models that usually re-enter Brazil after being legally exported to neighboring countries. Generally considered a status symbol “must” is the 9x19mm Glock 17 or 19, mainly so when equipped with a full-auto firing mechanism and large-capacity (30-33 rounds) magazines. A relatively new incomer to the scene in Brazil are Turkish-made 9x19mm pistols such as the Canik TP9 and the Girsan Yavuz 16 Compact, examples of which have been seized both before and after reaching criminal hands.  Here and there, other somewhat unusual items show up, such as RONI-type ACPs (Adaptive Carbine Platforms), more often than not with a selective-fire Glock inside. Oh, yes: pistol-caliber (usually 9x19mm) AK-type submachine guns are also eventually apprehended.

A seized RONI Adaptive Carbine Platform (Airsoft version?) with a selective-fire Glock fitted is seen here in the hands of a PMERJ (Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro State Military Police) first-class soldier, whose uniform badge on chest shows he has had some previous airborne troop experience.

Heavier stuff do occasionally appear in Rio’s crime war, such as this .30-06 Browning M1919 machine gun and the companion 7.62x39mm RPK, both with field-applied camo finishes. Armed security for beer crates?

This load of Turkish CanikTP9 pistols en route to the wrong hands was intercepted by the Paraná State Civil Police hidden in empty LP gas tanks. Many examples, however, have been found in criminal use in different Brazilian cities, Rio included.

This Girsan Yavuz Compact 16 is another Turkish-made 9x19mm pistol that found its way into the crime scene in Rio de Janeiro State. Basically, it is a Beretta 92 clone.

Also from the Girsan factory came this 9x19mm MC 21, a SA/DA short-recoil operated pistol with a 15-round magazine that was introduced in the market in 2009. Are those rubber bands non-slip attachments?

Several 9x19mm AK submachine gun variations have been confiscated by PMERJ. Solid stock weapon in top photo is beside a Walther MPK of the same caliber (a longtime issue of Rio’s Civil Police) and a couple of pistols, while the example in the bottom pic has an AK-74-type side-folding stock.

A local drug trafficker poses with his stockless G3 fitted with a sound suppressor and a double (welded together) magazine. The guy is no longer in business…

The curved magazine in this scoped AR platform in criminal use in Rio indicates it is chambered to 7.62x39mm. Looks like the bad guys don’t have logistics problems for ammo supply, since the caliber is not used by the Brazilian military or LE forces.

In October, 2014, a bunch of drug traffickers decided to invade a swimming pool scheduled for use in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and enjoy the water for a while. Oh, yes, they took their AR, G3 and FAL rifles along… and showed the pictures in the social media!

This 5.56x45mm Steyr AUG was very recently (early February, 2017) seized by PMERJ. It must have been one helluva status symbol for the owner…

BREAKING: This photo of a an M1919 in criminal hands in Rio has just been posted in the social media…

Ronaldo Olive

Ronaldo is a long-time (starting in the 1960s) Brazilian writer on aviation, military, LE, and gun subjects, with articles published in local and international (UK, Switzerland, and U.S.) periodicals. His vast experience has made him a frequent guest lecturer and instructor in Brazil’s armed and police forces.


  • SP mclaughlin

    I’d rather go to Syria than end up in a favela drug war.
    Weird how the mainstream media seems to mostly ignore Brazil though.

    • DIR911911 .

      why should international media be concerned with brazil’s crime problems? should brazil be sending news crews to cover chicago’s crime??

      • John


        That’s a reporter’s job.

        • TW

          True. Chicago is like america’s Rio.

          • Uniform223

            I thought that was Detroit and to a lesser extent Los Angeles.

          • nighthawk9983

            They don’t have that kind of hardware floating around Chicago. It’s too far from the border.

    • LGonDISQUS

      I find it strange that little or no news about the US / NATO / Russia muscle flexing along Poland’s border.

  • Chase

    Those pistols appear to be CZ P09s not Canik TP9s.

    • Blaine

      As I panned down I thought, “that’s a lot of CZs….what about TP9s?”

    • Caffeinated

      I noticed that too. The CZ logo in the middle of the grip is a dead giveaway.

  • tiger

    Wearing a tin star is a lonely job. Sad to see Rio fall apart since the games. Hard to be in a Carnival mood there now.

    • Caio José Zubek

      Since the games?
      My friend, this country has been falling apart since the dawn of time.

  • B-Sabre

    …Polícia Militar do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, whose 46,800 men and women (of which only 4,400, less than 10 per cent, are on actual street duties each day)…
    That’s one heck of a tooth-to-tail ratio there. How does that compare to a US police department? Do they require ten officers to generate one set of feet on the street?

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      Does that mean that 4400 are on duty at any time or 4400 work at some point during the day?

      The dept I work with averages 20% of their officers on duty (including supervisors) at any time.

      • B-Sabre

        I took it to mean that out of a department end-strength of 46,800, they can only deploy a total of 4,400 “patrol capable” officers during a 24-hr period. I would think that by usual standards, there are a certain number of “patrol capable” officers not available each day for the usual reasons – on training, sick, or not allowed to for administrative reasons. But even if that was 50% more than the 4,400 (for a total of 6,600 patrol officers) a 10:1 or 8:1 ratio of support to patrol officers sounds high to me.

        • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

          It also doesnt appear clear to me whether or not the 46,800 includes administrative personnel, dispatchers, and other non-officer employees of the department.

          • B-Sabre

            I was assuming that the 46,800 was at least all the uniform-wearing members, whether they were administrators or armorers.

        • mannan

          No doubt a far higher rate of mental illness, obesity, stupidity, cowardice and corruption. The latter would especially be an issue, it’s probably cheaper to kill police than bribe them.
          The funny thing is though they probably still require you to be a certain height with certain degree of good vision to join. I always found these requirements incredibly stupid in first world countries but in lower tier nations who are desperate for good police, it’s criminal. But of course they let women join as well.

    • mananan

      That’s alot of police comfort women, I knew brazilians were good, but not that good.

  • thedonn007

    “The curved magazine in this scoped AR platform in criminal use in Rio indicates it is chambered to 7.62x39mm.” I do not think so, I think it is a 40 round 5.56 magazine.

    • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

      I would agree that the curve is closer to a 5.56 curve than a x39 curve. It is a little more curved than a PMag 40 though.

      • DIR911911 .

        I’d guess 60 rounder by the length of it

    • Caffeinated

      It looks like possible domestic production not so much a different caliber, especially given the A2 upper and older CAR stock assembly.

  • Ark

    Brazil: Where the leading cause of death is skinny dudes in motorcycle helmets.

  • iksnilol

    Police shooting up the streets, criminals shooting up the streets. Whilst civilians have to fend for themselves.

    Sure, keep on fighting the drugs, at least we’ll get to see cool guns like this in the media.

    • Wow!

      The issue isn’t drugs. Stopping drugs is a good thing as recreational drugs propagate crime and have no benefit to society. However, weapons have a tendency to be used by good guys when available. Stop the drugs, arm the people.

      • iksnilol

        Dude, we tried that with alchohol. Alchohol is worse than most drugs.

        And it isn’t the recreational drugs themselves that propagate crime.

        Also, weapons have no tendencies, they’re used by good and bad alike.

        • Wow!

          Alcohol is in no way the worst of the narcotics available, it is pretty benign and takes a lot to reach the symptoms of other narcotics. Also prohibition actually didn’t start organized crime, nor did it end it when it was lifted. Organized crime originated from immigrants who did not decide to embrace the American culture (like the Japanese did) and thus formed their own clicks and “families” within their own previous nationality. Likewise, if legalizing is the solution, why didn’t organized crime end after prohibition? Crime is like a business, once you legalize something, criminals won’t become legal, but rather shift to the next demand they can supply. After prohibition many moonshine stills still ran (and still do due to the low cost), and many gangsters switched to bank robbing. It was only the work of LEA’s who started working together and sharing intel that allowed coordinated raids on organized crime which is now the model for LE information gathering and intelligence sharing.

          Drugs do propagate crime as it inhibits one’s ability to weigh risks. Why does alcoholism cause so many car accidents? Why do people frequently do stupid stuff while under the influence of narcotics? Why are a majority of the guys we catch under the influence of some narcotic? Narcotics do have a significant effect in pushing people to do crime who otherwise would decide that there are better options.

          Weapons do have a tendency to be used by good guys when available. Good guys always out number the bad guys, and when good guys are armed, bad guys won’t arm themselves if they don’t have to because they want to avoid any extra charges of assault, and they don’t want to give the good guy any more excuse to shoot them. Testimonies from countless felons in pro-gun areas revealed that they feared the gun owners enough that they wouldn’t challenge them to a gunfight and trusted that they would just have them arrested, which was better than dying in the street. As a side note, those who were armed and found to be on narcotics also had the same belief, but at the time the only thing they could think of was the reward of the crime, and couldn’t even think of street smart tactics.

          • iksnilol

            No offense, but you obviously know very little about narcotics. Most drug users you don’t even know about (so called high functioning addicts). Cocaine and meth makes people more productive (thus iti s a pretty white collar drug), whilst opiate addicts usually come from the broken health system which gives them out like candy to get you addicted, and my personal favorites; weed and acid are basically harmless, they just make people relaxed. Worst thing I’ve seen from those “junkies” is raiding the pantry, they’ve not got the energy for more. Alchohol on the other hand, drunk people driving and hurting other people, fighting other people or just hurting themselves happens almost as often as alchohol is used at all. For fun, I check the police logs in the areas I frequent. Every weekend there’s drunken fighting and whatnot, never seen it say “high man attacks” or something like that. Chasing drugs is just a false legitimacy for police, and a waste of their resources to be honest. Legalize and tax it like you would tobaco or alchohol. Then the risk of smuggling and shooting up rival gangs wouldn’t be any profitable.

            If anything, I’d say weapons are used more by bad guys than good guys. Just look at cartels and various guerilla movements, armed to the teeth every single one of them.

          • Wow!

            Only more productive relative to other addicts. Drugs have a withdrawal opposite of their effects meaning that any gains of a drug user becomes negative as soon as they are off it. They become a slave to the chemical due to tolerance.

            Weed and acid are far from harmless. Cannabis has an effect on disrupting the myelin sheaths on nerve cells turning them from saltatory to passive conduction which results in schizophrenic effects. The effects are subtle, as the brain has the capacity to rewire from damaged pathways, but as you use the drug, you lose “untouched” nerves which is why long term users have mental deficiencies even if the intensity of their use was low. While the active molecule does have a short half life, the damage it leaves behind is cumulative.

            LSD causes psychosis in the central nervous system and lower homeostatic balance in the sympathetic responses of the peripheral nervous system.

            The biggest problem is that people are not capable of accurate self diagnosis and they also assume that if they can’t recognize their own behavioral changes, then there isn’t physiological changes either. This assumption is what makes drug users think they are fine when they are not, and the difference is only made most visible in high stress scenarios.

            The diagnosis of various narcotics is not the role of LE, the focus is on the crime itself. It is a fact that drug users are much more likely to be participants in crime and of course, I am not discounting alcohol, but including it.

            Also police do not just “chase drugs”. Information gathering is not gained by targeting a crime, but rather by pursuing all crime and putting the pieces together. This was the mistake of the prohibition LEAs which is why the current model of policing involves heavy sharing of information for intelligence development. If you turn a blind eye to one crime, you miss out on other related or sometimes unrelated crimes of equal or greater consequence.

            You missed my previous comment, but I explained that legalizing narcotics historically has zero effect on reducing crime, and much research from states suggest that crime actually increases steadily.

            Cartels and militant factions are most armed in anti-gun countries and locations where the citizens cannot fight back. In pro gun areas, many of the cartels have a much more covert presence for the reasons I outlined prior. These guys may say they are fearless, but the reality is that it is all just business, and there is no point getting rich if you get shot dead trying to fight back. For career criminals, doing time is considered a part of their work.

          • iksnilol

            Yeah, no, it is “chasing drugs”. Y’all giving drug addicts sentences in the double digits in for profit prisons and wonder why those who profit (AKA those in power) are against legalizing or treating addicts.

            So are you arguing now that during prohibition alchohol related crime was lower than it is now? I gleaned that from your second last paragraph on this post. Because sure as perdition almighty, alchohol related crime did indeed sink after prohibition was repealed. I am baffled that you can’t see how the “war on drugs” isn’t really any different. Only difference was that the “war on drugs” was state sponsored. “them bricks came in on military planes” if you remember back in the day the Contras.

            I don’t care where they are most armed, i just care that they are pretty well armed. Militaries and cartels historically do the most crimes and also coincidentally are the best armed. Correlation ain’t causation and all, but I just mentioned that example to show you the hypocritical way of your thinking.

          • Wow!

            That is your opinion, but criminal science says otherwise. Like I said, you can’t pick and choose what crimes to investigate, you check up on everything because things are related that may not initially be apparent. Drug addicts shouldn’t do the crime if they aren’t willing to do the time.

            Of course alcohol related crime would reduce, since alcohol was legalized. However, the acts of crime that were proliferated from narcotic use did not end. For example, would legalizing murder stop the problem of murder? As I said earlier, prohibition crime was a factor of immigration integration, not necessarily alcohol. This is evident in that after prohibition, crime remained up switching to other fields such as bank robbery. This was short lived however, due to LEA adopting the newer intelligence approaches of coordination which quickly crushed most of the old organized crime syndicates and the ones that rose post-prohibition.

            It isn’t hypocritical because as I said in the first comment, guns can stop other guns, but drugs self-administered without an educated and impartial mind only serve to proliferate it’s own existence through addiction.

  • Bernardo Costa

    Great post as always, Mr. Olive! Brazil’s, and, perhaps to an even greater extent, Rio’s ‘Status quo’ is simply chaotic, though it is also widely ignored by everyone but the front-line Law Enforcement officers.
    Best regards from a lifetime, staunch fan of your work!

  • Uniform223

    I wonder how in statistics it compares to places like Juarez or Tijajuana.

  • Michael Rice

    I’d like rescue that poor abused M1, give it some nice clothes and burn that gaudy crap it was forced to wear.

  • poaja

    If everybody had guns then the elite couldn’t steal as much, and would be forced to work more. The violent criminals who take advantage of this defanged population are a side effect.

  • n0truscotsman

    America: 2030.

  • Bill

    “Show us your guns!”

  • Connor Christensen

    Those are definitely not TP9s, look just like a CZ P07 or P09. That slide profile isn’t even close to a TP9 and you can clearly see the hammer, and the TP9 is striker fired, but still surprising they’re buying so many CZ handguns. Wonder if they’re popular there or something

  • nighthawk9983

    Nice to see strict gun control and regulations are doing a lot to keep ‘dangerous weapons of war’ off the streets. Democrats and journalists will be busy sweeping this under the rug and keep talking about Australia for some reason.

  • krinkov545

    Wonder how many of the weapons are compliments of OGolfo and Holder?

  • BRM

    They all “ent do nuffin, min.”

  • Hossi Blumengaarten

    its like judge dredd