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

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
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
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: & Overt 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. Matt is also runs 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:

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10 of 54 comments
  • Anonymoose Anonymoose on Jul 19, 2018

    That's nice, but it's all just Mosins locked up in warehouses in Siberia and western China. lolololol

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    • Max G Max G on Jul 22, 2018

      @Anonymoose I remember ages ago IzhMash was pissed off when Russian MoD stopped buying AKs on the grounds that there 17 million AKs in warehouses across Russia.

  • ChinaTactical ChinaTactical on Jul 19, 2018

    Pretty interesting firearm ratio per officer, if you compare with the population. China has a lot of population but firearm ratio per officer is very low 0.7 compare to US with 1.6. Which is pretty accurate based on my experience, Russia on the other hand is the most armed it seems. If you use this and compare this to global safety index you can sorta see the effectiveness of LE of various countries also.

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    • Int19h Int19h on Jul 24, 2018

      @Sharp Russia has the National Guard as well now, which is separate from police, and also armed to the teeth - but has an explicit mission to handle "internal unrest".