Rigged Kalashnikov in Raqqa

This image of a rigged 7.62x39mm AKM has recently been making the rounds on social media, one of the first being the Twitter account of KufriusMaximus, a pro-Kurdish commentator. From what the chatter is telling us, the photograph is of an AKM recovered in the currently contested city of Raqqa, the former capital of the so-called Islamic State. Troops finding it were elements of the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Force (SDF), Peshmerga troops supported by Operation Inherent Resolve special operations elements through the use of advising and forward air controllers.

What we appear to be looking at is a victim operated IED, placed in the receiver of a Kalashnikov. The hammer might have been taken out to make room for the main charge, wrapped in a waterproof plastic container. It looks like the so-called Islamic State fabricators of this device were planning on, was for a user to cycle the action of the rifle, forcing the bolt to press against what appears to be a divider between the Duracell 9-Volt battery, and a primed charge, thus completing the electric circuit and causing an explosion that would most likely harm or even kill the person operating the rifle.

Rigged rifles are certainly not new phenomena, dating at least back to the Vietnam days of MAC V SOG inserting rigged ammunition into NVA weapons caches. It also isn’t new to the Syrian conflict, with Assad regime rigged ammunition being recorded in 2012. The problem for the SDF is that being a smaller, rebel force, it almost relies on captured weaponry and ammunition in order to sustain itself, especially operating very far from logistical hubs and markets back in Kurdistan/northern Iraq.


Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at miles@tfb.tv


  • BattleshipGrey

    That’d be a blast to shoot that rifle.

  • No one

    The British also rigged caches of 8x57mm rounds that were airdropped over hostile territory in perfectly mimicked German munitions crates during WW2

    • BattleshipGrey

      I never read about that one. Thanks for sharing.

      • KestrelBike

        yeah nice. Perfect when you don’t use the same ammo as the enemy!

        • PK

          The Brits did use some 8mm Mauser, in their Besa LMGs mounted in some tanks.

    • PK

      They sure did! Salted ammo has been a fairly common trick for a long time, at least as far back as WWII.


      • Rock or Something

        When Pepper spray isn’t enough…

      • iksnilol

        Salted ? What’d the salt do? Corrode bores?

        • FarmerB

          It’s an English expression usually used when talking about mines (the hole in the ground type). Salting a mine was where people might plant a small amount of gold in it to make somebody think it was a richer mine than it actually is.

        • PK

          No, it’s to bring out the flavor.

        • BaconLovingInfidel

          It makes the wounds sting more.

          • ONTIME

            Or just hang your meat………………………

      • int19h

        Kinda curious, why not drop the cotton and instead fill the jacket with more explosive instead of lead?

        • PK

          The weight would be very slightly off and a really sharp soldier could possibly notice. By putting a lightweight filler at the front, the weight was dead-on.

          The whole point of this stuff is to make people think that the ammo supply is utter garbage, by having one round blow up a gun. Then if/when a bunch of that batch of ammo is pulled down, nothing out of the ordinary is found. Time and again, BOOM, and when the report comes back from your boss “no, no, the ammo is all fine” – that’s demoralizing.

          If even one round is found as a sabotaged cartridge, there goes half the value of the exercise.

          • int19h

            That’s what I don’t get.

            The lightweight filler is lighter than the explosive, which is in turn lighter than lead – right?

            If you throw out the filler, and replace it all with the explosive, the round would be slightly heavier. But if you then take out some lead and replace it with more explosive, you could get the weight back to what it should be, no?

          • PK

            Why make an entirely new bullet? This was easier, quicker. For this particular use, you didn’t need a ton of HE.

          • throwedoff

            The projectile was the same weight. The smokeless powder was removed and a high explosive charge detonator/blasting cap replaced the smokeless powder. I think the cotton batting was installed more to keep the HE in place and prevent the movement of the detonator. The rifle primer was not a sufficient booster charge to detonate the HE necessitating the use of the blasting cap. Also the HE charge is denser than the smokeless powder charge and much heavier. You also did not want to fill the case with HE before seating the projectile and risk compressing the HE charge around the blasting cap as it could have made the blasting cap overly sensitive.

  • Shoot That Hipster

    Eldest Son, now with batteries!

  • neckbone

    I noticed Miles slides in a snark about the Assad regime, instead of saying it was isis that left the ak behind. At least Assad kept a lid on the terrorists for the most part.

    • Jim Slade

      “Snark” being a link to a relevant article about the same conflict.

    • How is it snark to make note of a tactic employed by both Assad and MAC V SOG?

  • Major Tom

    Too bad it couldn’t be more creative like the drip guns of WW1.

  • Jim Slade

    Says a lot about the psychology of who they’re fighting when you try to figure out how many sandbags filled or something else productive could have been done in the time it took to tinker that thing up, all the while at risk of blowing up on the workbench anyways.

    • PK

      Productive, in this view, means killing/disabling/demoralizing your enemy. I’d say that however underhanded, this sort of thing is certainly productive from their viewpoint. It’s extremely unlikely that every single found weapon would always be found by someone who remembers to check, or that they would be rigged in such a way to allow discovery instead of detonation. What if the setup had included a second switch that detonated the charge when the take-down button/recoil spring were pressed in to take the dust cover off?

      • iksnilol

        I mean, isn’t one of the first things one does when picking up a weapon is working the bolt (to see if it is loaded)?

        • PK

          Exactly. It seems like this was only discovered because of the missing FCG causing the safety to feel weird, odd weight, or perhaps the plastic was showing. Dumb luck.

          Either that, or after a few found rifles exploded, word went out that you really ought to inspect them to see what’s up, rather than just rack the action.

        • It is for professionals. But THAT would trigger THIS charge…

          • iksnilol

            Yup, thus I can see why it’s clever.

    • Ninoslav Trifunovic

      It’ll take about 15 minutes for average man with basic knowledge in explosives and demolitions to make something like this. It’ll take much more to make booby trapped AK, that is rigged in such manner, that there’s no way to figure that out without X-ray. And even than, there’s a trick to fool x-ray machine and to hide a small charge and blasting cap…
      Talking ’bout rifle ammo, all it takes is to use fast burning pistol powder. Works like charm!

      • Slobodan Milosevic

        Dump some titegroup in that kurva! or even clays or red dot.

  • PK

    Good catch.

  • gusto

    I don’t get the Vietnam thing.
    if special forces could make their way undetected all the way to a ammo-cache
    why not just blow it? what good would leaving some tampered ammo do? yeah sure they would get a few vietcong but all the other bullets would come flying towards your own soldiers…

    • Duh

      Moral, Bra. It’s always fun to make the enemy lose confidence in their weapons and equipment.

      • Duh


    • Phillip Cooper

      “Psychological operations”

    • James

      ROI, you’re not going to find EVERY ammo cache, but you only have to alter a small number of the ammo caches in order to make them ALL suspect.

    • James

      ROI, you’re not going to find EVERY ammo cache, but you only have to alter a small number of the ammo caches in order to make them ALL suspect.

    • SuperFunkmachine

      The idea was to stir up arguments between the U.S.S.R China and the North over faulty ammo/ improperly made weapons.

      It was leting them have a few crate of ammo in the hope of stopping many more from ever being shipped.

      • In fact, part of the plan (a KEY part of the plan) was they had figured out how to insert “routine” messages into the enemy commo system.

        Like, an “all hands” note for political officers to read the men to deny that ANY problems could exist with quality control of ordnance their Socialist Brothers had provided, rumors that troops have been killed by exploding rifles due to bad ammunition are purely capitalist propaganda, and anyone who feels differently is a defeatist or a spy.

        Then, a few weeks later, insert ANOTHER message stating that, “There is a slight problem with some ammunition in earlier production, and units should stop using ammunition with dates of 1965 or earlier”… at a time when pretty much ALL the ammo on hand would be dated before then.

        If you can get a few actual rifle Ka-BOOMS to occur throughout each general area in between the two messages, the effect is magnified…

    • Bal256

      From what I’ve heard described, they didn’t sneak up to ammo-caches in enemy camps. They floated crates down the river to enemy encampments with the invoice written in Chinese. They covered it in chicken blood or something to make it look like it the guards were killed defending the shipment.

  • Dan

    Nothing says “classy” like Mercedes PVC lawn furniture.

  • RSG

    No difference between this and IO AK’s.

  • Ebby123

    I hope one of their own picks it up and blows off his goat ****er. Filthy child killing animals..

  • JJ

    Stepmom picked up a pocket watch in a field as her family made escape from German troops during WWII. Her dad snatched it from her and threw it as far as he could. About the time she got upset, it touched off. She didn’t touch another object after that. I suspect nobody else did in the group either.

    • Christopher Goldbeck

      Jesus Christ. Glad her dad noticed!

    • Diamond Daniel

      I’ll take things that never happened for $500 Alex!

      • BaconLovingInfidel

        Totally happened dude.

        But the watch wasn’t rigged, JJ’s stepmom’s dad just happened to hit a landmine with his toss.

        Here are some more details:

        It is Captain Koons (Christopher Walken). Koons comes closer to Butch and says hello and then proceeds to tell him the story of the legendary Coolidge Family Gold Watch. His great grandfather Orion Coolidge bought the gold watch in a General Store in Knoxville, Tenneesee at the turn of the century. He then was enlisted to serve in World War I. Orion came home and gave the watch to his son Dane, who later served in World War II. At the Battle of Wake Island, Dane realized he might not make it home alive so he gave the gold watch to an Air Force gunner named Winocki (a character in the Howard Hawks film Air Force). He had Winocki promise to give the watch to his widow and his son. Butch’s father got the watch and went on to serve in Vietnam where he was shot down over Hanoi and put in a prison camp. The only way he could save the gold watch was to hide it in his ass. Before dying from dysentary, Butch’s dad gave his friend, Captain Koons the watch to give to Butch. Captain Koons had to hide the watch in his own ass as well to keep it safe from the Viet Cong.

  • Christopher Goldbeck

    We actually have been flying in large amounts of small arms and ammo to the Kurdish Cantons in northern Syria also the SDF do not get any arms or support from the Kurdish Regional Goverment in Iraq. Just my 2 cents.

    • VieteranGunsmith

      This particular rigging looks quite amateur. No attempt made to hide any of it and if you have ever looked at an AKM it is very easy to see the explosive and battery in there with the top cover on. This did not come from the US that way.
      If we wanted to load up an AK with C4, we could do it without it being noticeable, and without hampering the function. Taking the fire control parts out of the receiver precludes the possibility of passing a function check. Of course, the explosive charge could be made of PETN or some explosive that can be shaped into parts with a hardened shape that would not look like a big wad of clay. This was a battlefield expedient booby trap for souvenir hunters, who may not have looked at it that closely before picking it up. They were obviously counting on someone picking it up and moving the safety or charging handle, depending on which had the switch wired on it, and then boom.

  • Davd

    The sdf literally have nothing to do with iraq or peshermga

  • Ark

    Fascinating. Looks like more than enough explosive to ruin your day. Unless for some reason you removed the dust cover first, I doubt you’d notice it.

    • VieteranGunsmith

      Yep, there is roughly two grenades worth in the receiver, along with detonator and 9volt battery, plenty of power to blow up and kill the shooter and anyone else within 20 feet of him. Definitely enough to ruin one’s day for eternity.

  • iksnilol

    That kind of rigging? Was expecting it was rigged to shoot automatically or something. Turning a rifle into a bomb seems like a waste.

    • Not if it eliminates opposition fighters and discourages them from arming themselves. Or discouraging opposition fighters from clearing weapons they find.

      Rigging ammo is more effective, even if the blast radius is smaller (basically, the shooter gets a bolt carrier group through the skull), because it makes the fighters wary of ammunition they cannot adequately inspect. Unlike a rifle where they theoretically COULD inspect it beforehand… although anyone professional enough to think to tear it down for inspection before using it would do *what* before disassembly? That’s right — clear the weapon by pulling the bolt back, which sets off the bomb.

  • Edeco

    But… but… the victim would think they had a new firearm and then they wouldn’t really get a gun and instead be blown up. I’ve always been relatively cynical to flowery notions about war but that’s sick.

  • micmac80

    SDF like other moderate jihadis gets weapons curtesy of uncle SAM not battle field pickups.

    • Marcus D.

      Both, actually. Captured weapons and ammo are recycled.

  • 22winmag

    Mercedes emblem molded into the chair?

  • USMC03Vet

    Fake news. Everyone knows that is where you hide your best POG collection.

  • Gregory Peter Dupont

    Another descendant of ” Elder Son”.