View Full Version : Tools of the Soldier: Insurgents’ Weapons Are Old But Effective

06-25-05, 04:48 AM
Tools of the Soldier: Insurgents’ Weapons Are Old But Effective
By Philip A. Quigley

Editor's Note: This is the second of an occasional series of articles on the weapons and equipment being used in the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the war in Iraq enters its third year, our troops continue to suffer casualties from an enemy that has largely learned to avoid force-on-force battles on open ground and instead strikes at our troops from a distance with sniper attacks and car and roadside bombings.

Such a non-linear, guerilla adversary, where combatant and non-combatant alike mingle amidst homes and marketplaces, mosques and shrines, and fields and farms, is beginning to resemble the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s between the Soviet Army and Afghani militiamen, who were little more than roving armed bands with aging – almost antique – military surplus battle rifles

That the seemingly outmatched Mujahidden fighters were able to outwit and later oust the Soviet occupiers was no common feat. Yes, the Afghanis did have some American funding, supplies, and training, but the Soviets were skilled practitioners in warfare – yet the Afghanis still were able to slowly whittle their enemy down to size. While most encounters ended with no decisive victors, over time the Afghanis' attacks demoralized the Soviet troops. The Afghanis clearly had more resolve and were determined to evict their invaders. The Soviets eventually withdrew in 1989, leaving a token force behind to protect their interests.

That conflict has obvious parallels with today's war in Iraq, where a technologically superior U.S. military force is still struggling to contain and defeat a tenacious insurgency backed by Arab terrorists. This article examines the tools of the enemy, commonly encountered small arms being used by the Iraqi insurgency.


Mannlicher Turnbolt Rifles (Country of Origin: Austria)
Cartridge: 6.5x53mm; capacity: 5 rounds; effective range: 400 yards

This rifle has a peculiar clip-loading system fed by stripper clips. The user opens the bolt & drops a stripper clip into the magazine. The rifle function like a typical bolt-action rifle, but with the exception that when the last round is loaded, the stripper clip drops out the bottom of the magazine assembly, and in some variations, ejects the clip upwards out of the weapon. The stripper clip is an essential part of the magazine, because without it, it becomes a single-shot rifle. Note: ammunition for this rifle is as plentiful as hen's teeth.

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Mauser Gewehr 98/Karabiner 98K (Country of Origin: Germany)
Cartridge: 8mm Mauser; capacity: 5 rounds; effective range: 800 yards

Even though some of these rifles have been around for nearly a century, they are well-made, accurate, durable as a coffin nail, and utterly reliable. Numerous copies were made by several nations. These rifles have a three-lug locking bolt, which locks into the receiver behind the magazine, making it the strongest bolt action made and often copied in other rifles. The user feeds the action with disposable stripper clips. Approximately 11.5 million of these were produced from 1935 until 1945, so this rifle is as numerous as it is deadly.


Mosin-Nagant Rifles (Country of Origin: Russia)
Cartridge: 7.62x54R; capacity: 5 Rounds; effective range: 500 yards

This design dates back to 1891 and remained in different configurations through World War II. Many versions had an attached bayonet. Copies of this rifle were produced by Poland, Hungary, Romania, and China. The user feeds the action with disposable stripper-clips and the weapon operates like a typical bolt-action rifle. There are estimates that as many as 5 million rifles were produced.


06-25-05, 04:54 AM

Short Magazine Lee Enfield [SMLE] (Country of Origin: Britain)
Cartridge: .303 British; capacity: 10 Rounds; effective range: 600 yards

The SMLE comes in many configurations and served in both World Wars and a good 20 years after. The SMLE has arguably the smoothest bolt-action operation ever made. Germans in World War II compared the volume of fire to that of a machine gun. SMLEs were produced by Britain, India, Australia, the United States and Canada, and it is estimated during production a total of 9 million rifles were produced.


CZ-58 (Country of Origin: Czechoslovakia)
Cartridge: 7.62x39 Soviet; capacity: 30 rounds; effective range: 300 yards

Although this rifle may look like an AK-47, don't be fooled. The CZ-58 is gas-operated and the bolt is locked to the receiver by a vertically-moving block. Gas is vented through a piston and moves the bolt carrier up and back forcing open the action. This is an extremely complicated action and is prone to jamming. Magazines are hard to find, though the ammunition not so. Most commonly seen is the folding wire stock variant.

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Simonov SKS (Country of Origin: Russia)
Cartridge: 7.62x39 Soviet; capacity: 10 rounds; effective range: 600 yards

This gas-operated, stripper clip fed, semi-automatic assault rifle was a staple among Communist nations and was later copied by China, North Korea, and East Germany. With a 24-inch barrel this weapon has longer range and marginally better accuracy than the AK-47 and CZ-58. It is estimated there have been as many as 15 million rifles made overall.


06-25-05, 04:54 AM

Kalashnikov AK-47 (Country of Origin: Russia)
Cartridge: 7.62x39 Soviet; capacity: 30, 40, 75, & 100 rounds; effective range: 400 yards

This rifle in all its variants, copies, clones, and rip-offs are as numerous as the Iraqi sands and could easily fill books with the sheer number of models and differences. Different countries of make will determine the hardware on the rifle, like different muzzle devices, handguards, handgrips, shoulder stocks, and etc. This is the most durable and reliable assault rifle ever made. This rifle is gas-operated, straight blowback, and has two modes of operation, automatic and semi-automatic. Take care when encountering this weapon because where there is one, there is guaranteed to be more.

Thus far, we have covered an army of weapons that our enemies in Iraq are using.

Still, the most important factor with any weapon is the skill of the operator. A rifle is only as good as the man using it.

AS our soldiers and Marines serving in Iraq know well, once you understand your enemy's weapons and tactics, you attain the upper hand. Hopefully, we will ultimately learn what the Soviets in Afghanistan did not: the fight isn't necessarily won with technology or force of arms, but with the willpower to fight.

In the end, our troops must be determined and resolved in taking the war on terror to the terrorists and insurgents. Major combat operations in Iraq ended two years ago, but the fight continues.