STUDY: Russia, China and India Top List of Countries with Most Military & Law Enforcement Firearms


    Russian Troops parade during the 2015 Moscow Victory Parade (Globaltimes)

    A new study published by the Small Arms Survey has estimated the number of firearms held by both military and law enforcement agencies around the world. The study estimates the total number of firearms owned by civilian, military and law enforcement agencies to be over 1 billion.

    While over 857 million firearms are owned by civilians, with 400 million of those in the US, the remaining 155 million are held by military and law enforcement agencies around the world. While US civilian firearms ownership far outstrips other nations, with India a distant second, the US falls behind a number of nations who’s military, security and police forces have more firearms.

    The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey faced greater difficulty in estimating the number of firearms held by government agencies saying, in their press release which announced the study, that they did not find the same level of transparency with military and police forces around the world as they did with civilian information sources. In fact only 28 countries “released information on their military stockpiles and 28 did so regarding their law enforcement firearms holdings, with the rest based on estimates.” Eric Berman, Director of the Small Arms Survey, said that “governments’ lack of transparency regarding their procurement, stockpiles, and transfers of small arms makes this exercise a most challenging undertaking.”

    Along with the report Small Arms Survey also created a handy dedicated interactive map that shows the distribution of firearms globally and by civilian, military and law enforcement ownership. The maps and lists compiled below are taken from this interactive map.

    Firearms Owned by World Militaries Around the World

    Map of firearms owned by military around the world (Small Arms Survey)

    The report’s estimates put Russia’s military firearms holdings at over 30 million, just ahead of China and well ahead of the US which has an estimated 4.5 million firearms in service. In south America, Brazil leads with 1,316,300 firearms while countries including Pakistan, Egypt and Indonesia and Thailand round out the top 10.

    1. Russia – 30,0272,900
    2. China – 27,466,400
    3. North Korea – 8,363,100
    4. US – 4,535,380
    5. India – 3,900,000
    6. Iran – 3,333,550

    Firearms Owned by Law Enforcement Agencies Around The World


    Map of firearms owned by law enforcement agencies around the world (Small Arms Survey)

    In terms of law enforcement and security agencies Russia again tops the list with just under 2.5 million firearms estimated to be in service and stores. In contrast to the large number of firearms owned by American civilians, US police agencies are estimated to have just over 1 million guns. Pakistan, Brazil, Turkey, France and Germany – all estimated to be below 1 million, round out the top 10.

    1. Russia – 2,432,000
    2. China – 1,971,000
    3. India – 1,700,000
    4. Egypt – 1,530,000
    5. USA – 1,016,000

    It is understandably a mammoth and difficult task to estimate exactly how many firearms are in government and military stockpiles around the world but the report makes an valiant attempt and is undoubtedly interesting reading. You can check out the interactive data map yourself here.

    Sources: 1 2

    Matthew Moss

    _________________________________________________________________________ – Managing Editor – Managing Editor

    Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. He also runs Historical Firearms, a blog that explores the history, development and use of firearms. Matt is also co-founder of The Armourer’s Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms.

    Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news.

    Reach Matt at: [email protected]