The Sketchy AKs of the Libyan Civil War

Armament Research Services (ARES) has a database of Conflict Material (CONMAT), logging arms and munitions documented within the illicit sphere in conflict and post-conflict zones. I have been working on co-athoring a report with N.R. Jenzen-Jones covering Libyan arms trading conducted via social media platforms between November 2014 and November 2015 for Small Arms Survey. One of the interesting side benefits of digging through a database of thousands of documented arms is finding some particularly entertaining ones.

Let’s begin with a simple piece of conversion work. We all know that lighter is better for small arms, right? So why not remove the extraneous bits of your rifle to make it handier?

missing parts
Ensuring once and for all that only divine will can cause hits.

Ok, this started as an AK-103-2 (you can still see that marking on the receiver, above the magazine). It already had a polymer sidefolding stock that added basically no bulk and minimal weight…and would have really helped someone actually hit their target. But nope, it had to go. And since nobody will be making hits with this thing anymore anyway, might as well save another few grams by chucking the rear sight.

one ring
Plus one point for intent, minus two for execution.

Next up, this opposite take on accuracy. It’s another AK-103, but instead of removing sights, this person has added one. Good plan! However, the use of just one scope ring may not have been the right sort of optimization.

Libyan Tacticool

Now we’re talking! This guy dropped an entire aftermarket parts catalog on not one, but TWO nice AK-103s. Between them we have no fewer than four lights, three optics, and four vertical front grips!

Interestingly (and this is a general trend) the integral optics rail has been ignored, and all the sights are mounted on aftermarket top covers with welded-on Picatinny rails. Those things are notoriously terrible at maintaining zero, even though these examples are the ones with set screws that allow you to tighten them down against the trunnions.

The multiple vertical grips are a total mystery, because both guns also have lights mounted on the handguards (note the pressure switch wires strung back along the receivers). And how are you supposed to use that front front-grip with the rear one so close? More importantly, how do you remove the magazine with that Grip-Pod in the way?

double grip 2
A closer look at one of these masterpieces…

Lastly, we have…this. Hopefully this thing couldn’t possibly fire (if it somehow did everything would fly out the back into the poor shooter’s face). It appears to be an H&K G3 grip assembly and cut up receiver mated with a misaligned PSL magazine, all held together with electrical tape. Truly the definition of W.E.C.S.O.G. work.

I think the flip-flops would make more effective weapons.

I thought it would be fun to post a few of these examples, since the ARES/Small Arms Survey report is much more scholarly in tone. It should be out in a couple months, and I think it will make for very interesting reading for anyone interested in the current Libyan situation!


  1. “Interesting” assortment of rifles…

    Might the first rifle (AK-103-2) have been in a fire? The metal parts of the polymer buttstock appear to still be attached to the folding stock hinge. Also, the overall light rust with minimal surface scratches & dents may support the fire theory. Is it just the photo angle or is it also missing the rear sight leaf?

  2. I know a fella who was in Algeria, and he said they “one eyed pirate type Al Qaeda chap and his pals” just shot everyone after the security forces ran off better if they just had flip flops I should think, if that’s all you have given they are intent on killing you. He was adamant they were particularly vicious tricky mofos out yonder.

    • I find it hard to believe, unless the first sight was duff, so they used it as a mount, perhaps he was a lanky fecker. Double handgrips, which you cant get the mag off from- Clearly they weren’t used. I think, they’d notice.

      • Actually ones a magnifier I initially thought they’d popped a reflex on top of another type, I definitely need these glasses.

  3. Hard to tell without context, but for all we know the overly tacticoolized AKs might have been done as some kind of “rifle is fine” joke and not intended to be used like this.

    But maybe that’s just me trying not to assume people are stupid.

    • I am pretty sure the ones with two vertical front grips are a joke unless somebody proves otherwise. Not being able to change the magazine is not an error even somebody mesmerized by video game tacticool guns would easily make.

      • Those double fore grips just prove that they don’t need to change no stinking magazines. Glad to see the return of the 300 round magazine. Hah! Hah!

      • From experience serving in this region of the world, I’d say the owner most likely fell victim to the same logical fallacy that preys on many 3rd world soldiers; “American soldiers are the best, and have lots of the best equipment- therefore American soldiers must be the best *because* they have the best equipment. If I buy as much of the best equipment I can get my hands on, I’ll be as good as they are, or at least look like I am.”

  4. I believe those scopes and grips are Airsoft parts, i will see if I can find a link.
    Personally I find it interesting to see where the FN F2000 shows up (Libya->rebels>Hezbollah). You can see one in the excellent documentary point and shoot.

    • That’s why we must keep getting into these wars, politicians read these reports that tell them the enemy are total tards.

      Then the public wonder why there’s loads of coffins coming back, if we are scrapping retards.

  5. My SWAG is that the jihadis, like gang-bangers everywhere, are more into style than substance.

    They see all these pictures of Western SpecOps and other troops with forty-eleven gadgets stuck on an M4, and they just gotta have something as cool. So they grab an AK and start sticking stuff on it- with absolutely no idea why it’s there, what it’s for, or where it is supposed to go on the rifle. Or even if it will actually work on an AK.

    It’s the equivalent of some street-ganger in Rangun making a 20-gauge zip gun from pipe and wood and a finishing nail, printing “DESERT EAGLE” on the side of it with a Magic Marker, and duct-taping a laser sight on top.

    Or in an old >Cyberpunk 2020 role-playing game* article I read, regarding “polymer one-shots”, cheap plastic-framed blowback pistols that looked like toys but were actually supposed to work as functioning (sort of) handguns with live ammunition;

    The sights on these weapons are rudimentary at best, and non-existent on some. One would be hard-pressed to hit a stationary target at 12 meters with one of these. these are some of the most inaccurate pieces of machinery ever to be mislabeled firearms. But it gets worse. When i was in Thailand a few years ago, I saw a wannabee Yakuza brandishing a $15 mauve-colored handgun that looked like a robot’s leg, and he had taped a $7000 cyberscope to it. These were unbalanced, scary people.

    -“Bubba and J.T. Test The Sternmeyer M-95A2”, in Solo of Fortune No. 1 , R. Talsorian Games, 1989, p.47.

    “Unbalanced, scary people” pretty well sums up the yahoos who patched these things together, too.

    The trouble with SF is that reality keeps catching up to it. Especially the really crazy, tripping-the-weird-sh!t-o-meter stuff.

    (*Usually abbreviated RPG, but of course we have an entirely different definition of that one.)



    • Now I have strange feeling, looking and Erma EMP 44 and it looks as masterpiece of engineering and quality

          • Most Mau Mau guns were even cruder that the first two examples. Typically, a large door bolt would be used as the firing mechanism, pulled forward by either a hood spring from a truck or a rubber band cut from a tire inner tube. Firing pin was a nail driven into a hole drilled in the end of the door bolt. Barrel was generally a piece of pipe that only approximately fitted the cartridge. Stock was whittled wood and attachment was by tin straps cut from tin roofing or rain downspout straps, nailed in place. Or just the same fence wire they used to make snares for small animals for foraging.

            Caliber was whatever ammunition they could beg or steal from the settlements. 12 gauge, 16 gauge, and .410 gauge shotgun were common, as was 0.303in rifle and 0.380in revolver. Surprisingly to us, .22 RF was seldom used, simply because there weren’t that many .22s in circulation in Kenya at the time.

            The result was a “slamfire” zip gun, that almost invariably blew the casehead. It was said that a Mau Mau could be spotted by the burns and wounds on his face and hands courtesy of his own weapon.

            The mMau Mau’s only “proper” guns were generally sporting rifles or shotguns stolen from farmers or hunting guides, or service arms stolen from the authorities. Dedan Kimathi, one of the Mau Mau leaders, had a double rifle, apparently a .450 of one sort or another, which would be typical of the “actual” guns they used when they could obtain them. General China (yes, that’s what he called himself) was captured with an Enfield 0.380 revolver- for which he had no ammunition at the time.

            Security forces used mainly SMLE and No. 4 rifles in 0.303in, plus FN (P-35) pistols and Sterling L2 “machine carbines” (SMGs) in 9 x 19mm. (The latter were generally still called “Patchetts” by the users.)

            There was also a semi-auto only version of the Sterling, the “Sterling Police Carbine”, that was mainly sold commercially to planters for home defense against Mau Mau rustling or “oathing” gangs. (The latter practiced murder as “human sacrifice” to their gods; note that they killed roughly 30 times more Kikuyu locals than they did whites.)

            The Police Carbine would be an NFA firearm here in the U.S., because while it is semi-auto only, it also has the standard 7.8in (19.8cm) barrel plus folding shoulder stock, and is thus considered a “short-barreled rifle”.


            Henderson, Ian, w/ Philip Goodhart. Man-Hunt in Kenya, aka The Hunt For Kimathi, Doubleday, 1958;


            (Probably the single best historical reference on the Emergency. Henderson was a Kenya territorial police captain at the time, and pioneered the “pseudo-gang” strategy against the bandits- whom the authorities never dignified with the term “guerrilla”.)

            Smith, W.H.B & Joseph. Small Arms of the World, 9th edition. Stackpole Books, 1969. PP.265-268 (section on Sterling/Patchett, inc. photo of the rare “Police Carbine Mk 4”)



  6. Another proof of Bubba’s Eighth Dictum of Human Nature: “Even Duct tape won’t fix Stupid.” And these are the morons who want to come over here and “improve” our moral, civic and personal character? The problem is that they are serious and dedicated. God help us and PLEASE give me a Secular Muslim for a neighbor instead of one of these idiots.

  7. If you’re going to wield this unstable POS it’s at least good to aim it at your buddies foot and keep your finger on the bang switch.

  8. Sadly as silly as these things seem, they are used in combat / criminal activity. People die. They look foolish to us but they will kill as sure as a factory made AK. Also remember many Arabs believe if one is killed in battle it’s God Will. A homemade totally humped up weapon will serve God’s Will just fine.

    • Yeah, but try to remember that not all Arabs are “Islamic extremists” considering that there is also a respectable population of Arab Christians.

      As for the “stupid can kill you” issue, the real question is whether stupid terrorists can get you in a fair fight that does not involve hundreds of car bombs and IEDs on the road. Plus, most of said terrorists tend to shoot targets who can’t fight back. In a fair fight, most of those bad guys would run away screaming “Mommy.” The Scots proved that during the Battle of Danny Boy…

  9. “Ensuring once and for all that only divine will can cause hits.”
    For me it looks like a modern version of Mosin Obrez. Basically a ersatz of automatic pistol – want automatic pistol, but can only get rifle? Solution: sawn-off as many as possible.

    “I think the flip-flops would make more effective weapons.”
    Apparently they believe in:
    1. EVERYTHING can be fixed with duct-tape
    2. If something looks as unrepairable that mean you should use more duct-tape

  10. All that junk hanging off of those AKs looks a lot like the tacti-fool ARs I saw at the range today. Didn’t help those clowns hit the targets, either. Maybe they needed some duct tape.

    • We’ve all seen it many times before. Monkey see, monkey do. As for me, keep that crap off my AK!!! I only use com bloc parts and accessories for my Kalashnikov copies.

    • Duct-tape gunsmithing is SO 20th-century – the modern-day tacticlueless has learned to cobble crap together with plastic cable ties. (Actually, I carry both milspec duct tape and cable ties in my “everyday emergency” bag, but I can’t think of a situation where I’ve ever put either on a firearm.)

  11. The first picture was very a common picture on both sides in Northern Iraq for some reason the ISI insurgents and Iraqi Army wanted “cruiser” AK’s. I think I even saw one in the the hands of the Peshmerga, and they should have known better.

  12. I am compelled, tonight, to weigh in on this: what I discovered in human behavior in stress that often, the actual efficiency of the weapons involved had nothing to do with the actual function of the weapons as machinery. People fighting wars often base their behaviors with weapons not on whether or not their interaction with those weapons work, but on how they LOOK while using them. Or how they feel while holding them. I’d go into this, but man, it’s very corrosive.

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