During my research and follow-up with the locally made arsenal of Syrian rebels (and other armed factions), I’ve found lots of their improvised firearms. There is a wide variety of quality of items, and this article will be a roll-up of the more poorly made stuff. More distinctive and interesting weapons will continue to get individual articles. In this article, I am going to cover a number of weapons chambered from 12.7mm to 23mm…are you ready?
12.7x108mm Rifle – Ahrar El-Zawya
The first one is a 12.7x108mm made by a guy from the Free Syrian Army, his faction is called Ahrar el-Zawya (el-Zawya’s Freemen; part of the FSA). The rifle is single shot bolt action, the barrel is, as usual, taken from a Russian or Chinese made heavy machine gun. The receiver and the bolt are machined from steel cylinders and the firing pin seems to be hammer actuated. The buttstock is made out a wooden piece. One last thing that we don’t usually see in improvised firearms from the middle east is a ladder rear sight. The rifle looks carefully made, but from a mishmash of components.
12.7x108mm Rifle – the Southern Front
Another very rugged and simple made anti-material rifle from the Southern Front- Khaled Seif-Allah Brigade (part of the FSA).
The tubular receiver has a very narrow loading and ejecting port and has a Picatinny rail mounted for a scope. The bolt appears to have two handles (one for pulling the bolt and another to cock the striking firing pin). The buttstock as it appears is only a rectangular woodenpieces hollowed with a thumb hole. Nothing much to talk about here.
12.7x108mm Rifle – Al Hamza Brigade
The Al-Hamza Brigade is also a part of the FSA. This rifle is even more poorly made than the previous. It features a barrel taken from a DShK machine gun cut down to be shorter in length and thinned on a lathe then attached to a very short receiver. It’s so short that when the bolt is cycled and pulled it will totally come out of the receiver’s chassis. And the scope is mounted to the left side of the receiver not on top. The bipod is fixed non-adjustable V-shaped iron rods welded into metal bar that is also welded under barrel, the grip and trigger guard and the butt stock are all the same, welded metal parts. But if it works, it works…
12.7x108mm Rifle – Forsan El Sunna
Forsan El Sunna (or Sunna Knights) is a small faction based on religious ideology. Here they are showing off a 12.7x108mm rifle while zeroing the scope and test firing. The rifle is a typical bolt action mounted on a locally made tripod. In fact, the bolt, receiver, and trigger are apparently locally made. The barrel, scope and Picatinny rail are aftermarket.
12.7x108mm – Mujahedeen Battalion
Another religious based faction, the Mujahedeen Battalion is located in the Kurdish mountain region-Jebel el Akrad. This rifle looks decent compared to others with its heavy barrel and spiked bipod. There is also a rectangular receiver which makes us think if they took a PKM’s receiver, threw away the receiver’s cover and performed some blacksmithing to adapt it for its new purpose as a single shot bolt action? This rifle appears to have a low recoil which likely helps with accuracy.
12.7x108mm Hand Cannon – El Rahman Corps.
El Rahman Corps is another unit of the FSA and what appears here is a 12.7mm hand cannon mounted on a tripod, the receiver is rectangular shaped with a grip trigger like the M2 Browning HMG (deceiving since this one is a single shot). The cannon shows a reasonable accuracy because what appears in the video is targeting a 57mm gun nest and it seems the guy there got roasted.
23x152mmB Hand Cannon – Al SHAM Corps.
A simple single shot bolt-action made out of a 23mm barrel, the hand grip is made of coil wire and apparently it’s not in use, the trigger is pulled by a wire from a distance. Look at how that scope is mounted. Given the construction of this weapon, I’d want to be far away from it too…
14.5x114mm and 23x152mmB – Civilian Protection Organization
CPO is a part of the FSA which operates in the city of Telbisa. In this video, they introduced two hand cannons with the same design but with different calibers.
The cannon is clearly single shot and attached to a mount similar to naval or base defense mounts. The barrel looks very huge initially but it is actually shrouded to help for accuracy and decrease the recoil (by allowing the actual barrel to move backward while the shroud remains fixed to the mount). You can see it clearly in one of the pictures when fired. This also means there must be a set of recoil springs allowing the barrel to return into battery. The first picture will be for the 14.5mm while the rest are for the 23mm.
23x152mmB Hand Cannon – 16th Infantry Division
The 16th Infantry Division is also a part of the FSA. What appears here is an anti-aircraft, Russian-made Shilka barrel modified to be a single shot cannon. The firing mechanism is threaded onto the barrel after loading. The trigger is a handle cocking a firing pin under spring tension–it operates by rotating to the side rather than pulling back.
One major problem apparent with this weapons is the gas port of the original barrel wasn’t sealed/plugged. This can result in ejecting gases which can roast the operator’s face if he isn’t careful and/or leaned to a side while firing it. The weapon also generates a massive recoil even with the gas exhaust.