Gun Exports

G3 Rifle Used by Militias Worldwide, Made in Germany

A Kurdish peshmerga fighter poses for the camera at Buyuk Yeniga village. The German government is shipping G3 rifles to the Kurds.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The G3 assault rifle, developed for the German armed forces almost 60 years ago, is still in widespread use around the world.

  • Facts


    • The German government wants to send 8,000 G3 rifles to Kurdish militias.
    • The G3 is being made under license in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan.
    • More than 10 million G3 assault rifles are estimated to be in circulation worldwide.
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The product weighs 4.8 kilograms (10.5 pounds), is 1,023 millimeters (40 inches) long and is available in green, black or beige. The G3 is used and copied worldwide, even though the rifle is more than 60 years old.

Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the United Nations, rates this successful German product as one of the “weapons of mass destruction of the 21st century.”

The name G3 stands for Gewehr, or rifle 3, an automatic assault rifle included in the group of weapons known as small arms. More people are killed with the G3 in wars today than with any other weapon.

In its current weapons export report, the German government concludes: “By far the largest number of casualties in internal and cross-border conflicts are attributable to the use of small arms and light weapons and the corresponding ammunition.”

Nevertheless, the government has now decided to deliver 8,000 G3 rifles to the Kurdish Peshmerga militias in northern Iraq, so that they can use the weapons to fight the Islamic State, or IS.

The Peshmerga will also receive other small arms from old German military stockpiles, including rocket-propelled grenades, MILAN missiles and hand grenades.

The Kurds’ adversaries are also equipped with German weapons.

MILAN anti-tank missiles, a German-French product, were supplied to the government of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad decades ago, and now the Islamists have captured some of these weapons.

In addition, Qatar is suspected of having passed on weapons purchased in the West to IS and other groups.

The Islamists could also have acquired missiles that were delivered to rebel groups in Libya in 2011, when the West armed them against then dictator Moammar Gadhafi – a strategy that proved unsuccessful in the long term.

Only a few years after the war, Libya continues to descend into chaos, while weapons used there have ended up in Mali, Syria and Iraq.

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