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.