Fast & Furious Fifty-Cal Recovered In El Chapo Raid

    A Barrett .50 caliber M82-series semiautomatic anti-materiel rifle, transferred to criminal elements through the BATFE’s Operation Fast & Furious, found its way into the hands of notorious Sinaloa drug cartel lead Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, report news outlets during the week of SHOT Show. The large-caliber rifle, erroneously described as being designed to “shoot down helicopters”, is nonetheless an extremely capable weapon which can defeat a large number of lightly armored vehicles and virtually all personal body armor. Fox News reports:

    A .50-caliber rifle found at Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s hideout in Mexico was funneled through the gun-smuggling investigation known as Fast and Furious, sources confirmed Tuesday to Fox News.

    A .50-caliber is a massive rifle that can stop a car or, as it was intended, take down a helicopter.

    After the raid on Jan. 8 in the city of Los Mochis that killed five of his men and wounded one Mexican marine, officials found a number of weapons inside the house where Guzman was staying, including the rifle, officials said.

    When agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives checked serial numbers of the eight weapons found in his possession, they found one of the two .50-caliber weapons traced back to the ATF program, sources said.

    Federal officials told Fox News they are not sure how many of the weapons seized from Guzman’s house actually originated in the U.S. and where they were purchased, but are investigating.

    Out of the roughly 2,000 weapons sold through Fast and Furious, 34 were .50-caliber rifles that can take down a helicopter, according to officials.

    Federal law enforcement sources told Fox News that ‘El Chapo’ would put his guardsmen on hilltops to be on guard for Mexican police helicopters that would fly through valleys conducting raids. The sole purpose of the guardsmen would be to shoot down those helicopters, sources said.

    The Fast and Furious operation involved federal agents allowing criminals to buy guns with the intention of tracking them.

    Instead, agents from the ATF lost track of 1,400 of the 2,000 guns involved in the sting operation.

    The operation allowed criminals to buy guns in Phoenix-area shops with the intention of tracking them once they made their way into Mexico.

    While the idea of .50 caliber anti-materiel rifles being used by guardsmen to shoot down snooping helicopters is not terribly far-fetched, as Hognose points out in this article, the Barretts don’t seem to have actually seen much use. Instead, the Mexican drug lords probably had more banal motives for acquiring the rifles: They just wanted them, and they typically get what they want.


    A screencap of some of the weapons discovered during the raid. Image source:


    The raid on Guzmán’s house was conducted on the 8th of January, 2016, by Mexican Marines, during which the Barrett rifle and other weapons were captured. Why a gunwalking operation ostensibly intended to track the flow of weapons from the United States into Mexico needed to transfer Barrett anti-materiel rifles to criminals is something I doubt anyone has a good answer for.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]