Insurgency weapon

An insurgency weapon is a weapon, most often a firearm, intended for use by insurgents to engage in guerrilla warfare against an occupier, or for use by rebels against an established government. While the term "insurgency weapon" is not generally used outside of the Hillberg designs mentioned below, there are a number of documented firearms that share many similar characteristics, and may be classified under the same label. Similar in purpose is a sanitized weapon, which is a weapon of any sort that has had normal markings, such as the manufacturer's name and/or serial number, omitted or obscured in an attempt to hide the origin of the weapon.

Insurgency weapons differ from improvised weapons also commonly used by insurgents in that insurgency weapons are carefully designed and manufactured outside the area of rebellion or insurgency, while improvised weapons are manufactured on the spot. An example of an improvised weapon used by insurgents would be the improvised explosive devices used in Iraq.


A fairly recent class of firearms, purpose-designed insurgency weapons first appeared during World War II, in the form of such arms as the FP-45 Liberator and the Sten submachine gun. Designed to be inexpensive, since they were to be airdropped or smuggled behind enemy lines, most insurgency weapons are of simple design, typically made of sheet steel stampings, which are then folded into shape and welded. Tubular steel in standard sizes is also used when possible, and barrels (one of the few firearm parts that requires close tolerances and high strength) may be rifled (like the Sten) or left smoothbore (like the FP-45).

The CIA Deer gun of the 1960s was similar to the Liberator, but used an aluminum casting for the body of the pistol, and was chambered in 9×19 mm Parabellum, one of the all-time most common handgun cartridges in the world. There is no known explanation for the name "Deer Gun", but the Deer Gun was intended to be smuggled into Vietnam, attested by the instruction sheet printed in Vietnamese. It was produced by the American Machine & Foundry Co., but was a "sanitized" weapon, meaning it lacked any marking identifying manufacturer or user. Details of the manufacture of insurgency weapons are almost always deliberately obscured by the governments making them, as in the designation of the FP-45 pistol (see below).

Other insurgency weapons may be sanitized versions of traditional infantry or defensive weapons. These may be purpose-made without markings, or they may be standard commercial or military arms that have been altered to remove the manufacturers markings.

Due to the nature of insurgency weapons, documenting their history is often difficult if not impossible. Those that can legally be traded on the civilian market, like the Liberator pistol, will often command high prices; although millions of the pistols were made, few survived the war.


These examples are all arms that were either used as insurgency weapons, or designed for such use. "Purpose-built" weapons were designed from the start to be used primarily for insurgent use, and are fairly crude, very inexpensive, and simple to operate; many were packaged with instructions targeted to speakers of certain languages, or pictorial instructions usable by illiterate users or speakers of any language. "Dual-use" weapons are those that were designed with special allowances for use by insurgent troops. "Sanitized" weapons are any arms that have been manufactured or altered to remove markings that indicate point of origin.

Purpose-built insurgency weapons

: More specifically, this invention relates to a four barrel break-open firearm which has a minimum number of working parts, is simple to operate even by inexperienced personnel, and is economical to manufacture. : —Second paragraph of U.S. Patent 3,260,009, by Robert Hillberg

The FP-45 Liberator was a single shot .45 ACP derringer-type pistol, made by the U.S. during World War II. It was made from stamped steel with an unrifled barrel. The designation "FP" stood for "flare projector", which was apparently an attempt to disguise the existence of the pistol by obscuring the nature of the project. It was packed with ten rounds of ammunition, and was intended to be used for assassinating enemy soldiers so that their weapons could then be captured and used by the insurgents. The instructions were pictorial, so that the gun could be distributed in any theatre of war, and used even by illiterate operators. Most were sent to the Philippines.

The CIA Deer gun was a single shot 9×19 mm Parabellum pistol, made by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. It was packaged with three rounds of ammunition in the grip, and packed with instructions in a plastic box. If air-dropped into water, the plastic box containing the pistol would float. Like the earlier Liberator, it was designed primarily for assassination, and meant to be replaced by an enemy soldier's equipment. The instructions for the Deer Gun were pictorial, with text in Vietnamese.

A unique example is the Soviet S4M pistol, designed to be used expressly for the purpose of assassination. It was a simple break-open, two-shot derringer, but the unique features came from its specialized ammunition, designed around a cut-down version of the 7.62mm rounds used in the Soviet AK-47. The casings of the round contained a piston-like plunger between the bullet and the powder that would move forward inside the casing when fired. The piston would push the round down the barrel and plug the end of the casing, completely sealing off any explosive gases in the casing. This, combined with the inherently low-velocity round resulted in a truly silent pistol. The nature of the gun and ammunition led to it being wildly inaccurate outside of point-blank range. To add further confusion and throw possible suspicion away from the assassin, the barrel rifling was designed to affect the bullet in such a way that ballistics experts would not only conclude that the round was fired from an AK-47, but that the round was fired from several hundred feet away. Due to the politically devastating nature inherent in this design, the S4M was kept highly secret. Information on the pistol was not known by western governments until well after the end of the Cold War.

The Winchester Liberator is a 16-gauge, four-barrelled shotgun, similar to a scaled up four-shot double action derringer. It was an implementation of the Hillberg Insurgency Weapon design. Robert Hillberg, the designer, envisioned a weapon that was cheap to manufacture, easy to use, and provided a significant chance of being effective in the hands of someone who had never handled a firearm before. Pistols and submachine guns were eliminated from consideration due to the training required to use them effectively. The shotgun was chosen because it provided a very high volume of fire with a high hit probability. Both Winchester and Colt built prototypes, although the Colt eight-shot design came late in the war and was adapted for the civilian law enforcement market. No known samples were ever produced for military use.

Dual-use weapons

The Welrod pistol was a simple, bolt action pistol developed by the SOE for use in World War II. It was designed as much for use by covert British forces as foreign insurgents. The pistol designed with an integral sound suppressor, and was ideal for disabling sentries and other covert work; the bolt-operated action meant that cocking the gun produced almost no noise, and the bulky but efficient suppressor eliminated nearly all of the muzzle blast. Welrod pistols included an eight-shot magazine that doubled as a hand-grip, and were originally produced with no markings save a serial number.

The Sten was a 9×19 mm Parabellum submachine gun manufactured by the United Kingdom in World War II. Intended for use by both British troops and partisan forces, the Sten was made in 9 mm calibre to allow the use of captured German ammunition by partisan troops who had no line of supply. It also proved popular with some British troops, and one was even carried by King George VI for self-defence during the war.

Sanitized arms

The Yugoslavian Mauser M-48BO (for "bez oznake", 'without markings') rifle was manufactured (or remanufactured by refurbishing German World War II rifles) with no markings save for a serial number. These were made in Yugoslavia for delivery to Egypt prior to the Suez crisis of 1956. Yugoslavia was technically a neutral country, and by sanitizing the rifles sold to the Egyptians, it hoped to distance itself from the conflict between Egypt and Israel. Only a few hundred of the few thousand made were delivered to Egypt, the rest remaining in storage in Yugoslavia until recently rediscovered. They are currently being sold to civilian collectors.

A 2003 seizure of weapons in Iraq by US forces turned up at least one sanitized weapon, a pistol identical to a Sig-Sauer P-226 handgun, with no markings save a serial number.

Covert weapons

Recently police and military forces have been encountering improvised firearms (zip guns) which are disguised as common items, making them more difficult to detect and interdict. These are used by both criminal and terrorist groups, and in most cases little is known of their manufacture. For more information, see Zip Gun.


* [] page on Hillberg Insurgency Weapons, with pictures of Winchester Liberator and Colt Defender prototypes based on Hillberg patents.
* [ Canada's National Firearms Association's] page on the FP-45 Liberator and the CIA Deer Gun.
* [ Marstar Canada] firearm's retailer's info page on Yugoslavian M-48BO "sanitized" rifle.
* [ Christian Science Monitor article] 0n 2003 seizure that found a sanitized Sig Sauer pistol. (May 15, 2003 edition, author Warren Richey)
* [ Modern Firearms: S-4M silent pistol]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Insurgency in Laos — Date 1975–present[1] (substantially quelled) Location Hmong: Central and Northern Laos (1975–2007) Royalist …   Wikipedia

  • Weapon — For other uses, see Weapon (disambiguation). See military technology and equipment for a comprehensive list of weapons and doctrines. Warfare Military history Eras …   Wikipedia

  • White phosphorus (weapon) — This article is about the military applications of white phosphorus. For more general information, see Phosphorus. White phosphorus (WP) is a flare and smoke producing incendiary weapon,cite web | title=Pyrotechnics, Explosives, Fireworks |… …   Wikipedia

  • List of multiple barrel firearms — This page is a list of multiple barrel firearms of all forms from around the world.[1] Contents 1 Pistols 2 Revolvers 3 Shotguns 4 …   Wikipedia

  • Molotov cocktail — A Finnish soldier with a Molotov cocktail in the Winter War. The Molotov cocktail, also known as the petrol bomb, gasoline bomb, Molotov bomb, fire bottle, fire bomb, or simply Molotov, is a generic name used for a variety of improvised… …   Wikipedia

  • Derringer — For other uses, see Derringer (disambiguation). Palm gun, and Palm pistol all redirect here. not to be confused etymologically with origination of Mousegun. An original Philadelphia Deringer made by Henry Deringer. This was the pocket pistol used …   Wikipedia

  • Holocaust Education and Avoidance Pod — HEAP is an acronym for a Holocaust Education and Avoidance Pod , a concept created by author Neal Stephenson in his book Cryptonomicon . The HEAP is basically an instruction manual on guerrilla warfare, designed to be distributed among peoples at …   Wikipedia

  • FP-45 Liberator — Infobox Weapon name= FP 45 Liberator caption=The FP 45/M1942 origin= flagcountry|United States type= single shot pistol is ranged=yes service= 1942 1945 used by= dropped into occupied territories for use by insurgents wars= World War II designer …   Wikipedia

  • COP 357 Derringer — A COP 357 Derringer …   Wikipedia

  • Welrod — The Welrod was a British bolt action, magazine fed, suppressed pistol devised during World War Two at the Inter Services Research Bureau (later Station IX), based near Welwyn Garden City, UK, for use by irregular forces and resistance groups.… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.