What Does the Invasion of Ukraine Mean for European Private Firearms Ownership?

Help support Ukraine:

National Bank of Ukraine armed forces account
National Bank of Ukraine humanitarian account
Come Back Alive

One of the interesting implications of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the potential for expanded legal civilian ownership of firearms, particularly rifles, in many of the smaller countries in Europe. We saw the Ukrainian government jump to legalize civilian arms ownership immediately after the invasion, recognizing its utility in countering the Russian attack. The idea of rifle-armed civilians fighting off jet aircraft is often derided, but in reality invasion and occupation require boots on the ground – and those boots are quite vulnerable to rifle-armed civilians. The US has certainly experienced that fact in several major military endeavors, and Russia has periodically rediscovered it in Finland, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine.

For a small country unsure of whether they would actually receive backup from NATO or other allies, the idea of a widespread civilian competency with rifles could be a significant deterrent to invasion – and a means of resistance should invasion happen anyway. It is also something that requires no government expenditure – simply allow people to own rifles and encourage martial style competition like the SRA matches in Finland (and elsewhere) and people will pay for their own arms, ammunition, and training.

More on the International Federation of SRA.


  1. Ian, thank you for your input, I was actually looking forward to this. Kind regards from Poland, we still have pretty reasonable gun laws (as for an European country and in terms of what we can own, not magazines and rifles) mostly because we haven’t implemented the EU firearms directive so far. As the licence owner myself I genuinely hope it’ll stay that way. Thanks.

  2. Thank you for this NPOV article, Ian.

    I would hope certain groups would remember this lesson domestically, particularly in states like mine where civilian ownership, training, and proficiency are derided and curtailed.

    A local county-run public range, replete with community plaque from the 1963 (post-WWII) citing the importance of the practice of marksmanship, was shut down by local council order for populist reasons. Including “noise pollution” in remote area, and unwillingness to allow remediation to questionable scientific requirements.


    It’s also worth noting Ukranian law (#ЗП7120) only extends to 10 days after release of martial law; upon which point all arms must be surrendered to government. Which further highlights the “fair-weather” nature the right (US) / privilege (EU) / requirement (CH) is currently treated.

    Proficiency and marksmanship takes years to decades to develop; and ranges permitting your 2-gun matches do more to develop that, than bench-only slowfire can ever hope to do. Again, decades of planning and foresight.

    I wish those lessons were rembered and practiced even in good times; not only immediately before crisis.

  3. beside the czech and finish.. they won’t. too many too unfriendly to put it mildly. beside we talk “elected governments” whom have not do not will not trust their countrymen one bit. you do the math why.

    • Assuming you meant “elected governments” satirically, you have the right drift. Governments are NOT elected they are named based on which party or coalition “won” the last elections. It is often he case they represent (particularly in case of coalitions such as in CR) a tiny part of population.

      Also, as Jacek correctly states there is an EU directive of private ownership of firearms which is hugely restrictive. If CR, Poland and Finland somehow escape its impact it may be only temporary. Keep your fingers crossed. General rule of thumb is – governments do NOT favor armed citizenry; they are afraid of it. They will quote a bizarre preconditions in advance of their objective.

  4. As an American duh, doesn’t even come close to the moonbat thinking of an unarmed civilian population. 1930’s Gemany ring a bell?

  5. There’s also the example of Switzerland. The Axis left them alone in 1940 in large part because the civilian populace was armed to the teeth.

    • No. Switzerland is a strategically unimportant land locked mountain.
      Germany also liked its banks and their willingness to do business with anyone. It would have been pointless to have attacked Switzerland.

      • Switzerland was one of the most strategically important locations in Europe, as they controlled many of the best mountain passes and tunnels between Germany and Italy.

        If the Germans invade the Swiss were prepared to blow the tunnels, rendering them useless the Germans. They also had defensive bastions in the mountain valleys their army would retreat into, and an extensive network of forts, bunkers, and pillboxes to guard them.

        All of this together made it not worth Germany’s while to devote the huge resources required to invade and occupy Switzerland.

        • Like I said. Strategically unimportant mountain as Germany was able to fight very successfully in Italy with limited resources throughout the war. They didn’t need tunnels.

          • Oh, yeah? Try shipping troops and supplies by ox cart after somebody dynamites the railway. Oh, did I mention you would have to go around Switzerland if that were the case? The guys waiting for your reinforcements would be starved to death by the time you arrived! And forget cargo planes, Swiss fighter planes would eat them alive!

      • One major reason that Nazi Germany did not invade Switzerland was Swiss plans to collapse major rail tunnels and bridges. Sans rail links, Switzerland was useless to fascists like Hitler and Musilini (sp?). Hitler could not afford to lose the sealed trains that the Swiss allowed to routinely pass from Germany to Italy.

        As for the myths about armed Swiss civilians …. they had all done their year or three of compulsery military service … like most other European nations All Swiss Army reservists had to re-qualify on shooting accuracy every year. They just took their uniforms and rifles home when still on reserve status. Many of them mustered at local machine gun nests, anti-tank guns, etc. covering local choke points: bridges, tunnels, mountain passes, etc. Once at their muster points, they fall under the regular army chain of command all the way up to the elected cabinet.

    • Well the Swiss also had universal conscription, training, organization and a healthy adult male wasn’t actually a civilian at all but a reservist.
      Every square centimetre of Switzerland was covered by interlocking fires and local reservists trained to literally defend their homes.

      So the government played its proper role in Switzerland.

  6. My childhood friend, who still holds a fort in Poland, and is an enthusiastic hunter, told me that military-calibre ammunition disappeared from the huners’ shops. Not because of problems with a supply chain, but due to rapid increase in demand…

  7. A ‘down from the military’ approach has certainly been helpful. The Finns ‘guard’ and the armed reservists of Switzerland or Israel. ‘Up from civilian’ sounds chancier…the Germans used the claim of ‘Franc tireur’ sniping to justify killing thousands in mass shootings in 1941 and ’40. And what may be intended as a ‘well regulated militia’ can slide over into Freikorps-ish political mercenaries, or private armies.

    Anything the Baltic States etc. can do to discourage Russian adventuring is probably worth doing, even doing badly.

    • That whole massacre of franche tireurs was the result of different population densities and attitudes towards civilian hunting. The Prussian soldiers who executed franche tireurs came from a densely populated country … so densely populated that if every civilian who want to hunt rabbits on Sunday afternoons did, rabbits would soon go extinct in Prussia. There for, hunting was reserved for the wealthy who owed their own private forests where only the wealthy and powerful could engage in the sport of hunting. Prussia had a centuries old tradition of wealthy men hunting with specialized boar swords, boar spears and specially trained hunting dogs. So Prussian soldiers were totally baffled at the concept of French civilians owning guns or going shooting whenever they got the urge. Ergo, Prussian soldiers tried to impose Prussian attitudes on French farmers and they blamed Paris for arming and encouraging franche tireurs. That gave Prussian soldiers a rational for executing any French farm boy that they caught with a rifle. French farm boys were baffled by this hash justice as they considered small-caliber rifles to be the equivalent of fishing rods.
      In reality, Paris and the French general staff did not have the first clue as to what franche tireurs were doing.
      OTOH France was still more rural and a far higher percentage of the population were still farmers who routinely spent their Sunday afternoons hunting foxes and other predators that killed their hens, etc.

    • A properly regulated militia being essential to the liberty of a free people…etc.
      Properly regulated meant organized and trained, so hardly down from the military.
      The Founders and their ancestors had been in or around militia their entire lives.
      They knew well it could not be a mob – or atomized individuals as we presently have – and succeed at anything.

      Calling the Freikorps a private army or political mercenaries is not accurate, they were veterans formed into units led by veteran officers and operated with the Social Democrats blessing to smash the Communists. There were some demobilization headaches, but that all lasted until the Night of the Long Knives and isn’t at all unusual.

      Liberty has an essential precondition: violence. For violence to succeed it must be organized like any other common effort – we call these organizations armies and their members soldiers. Then we have individual liberty – which means an armed society.
      You can have Utah and indeed most of America still at the risk of individual violence or matters of honor – or you can have the Balkans, or the Middle East and blood vendettas. It must be emphasized that both types of society’s are ‘free’, it’s that Utah and most of America have a common social contract and essentially police themselves. The Balkans and the Middle East do not – but the men there are freer than any bugman.

      Which is why the shredding of the rules and the social contract that underlay America bode ill for public safety – but liberty in some form has a bright future for those who seize it.

  8. The WWSD market has just expanded, but I think the Ukraine need a demo Ian. When will you be leaving?
    PS I made a donation, great thinking.
    PPS We should be able establish a specific fund to purchase WWSD for the Ukraine.

    • Please refer to Ukraine as Ukraine. Not “the” Ukraine. It’s a very important point. Especially to Ukrainians. Thanks.

      • “the Ukraine” is a Russian expression that implies that Ukraine is a small sub-set of the Russian Empire. Too few Ukrainian citizens enjoyed Russian rule. That is why Ukrainian citizens prefer to that their country be referred to simply as “Ukraine.”

  9. The two most militarily successful countries on the planet have strong civilian rifle shooting traditions.

    Sweden and Switzerland.

  10. Ukraine war and flooding the country at the last minute means they’ll be lots and lots of ‘gray market’ opportunity to shop all over Europe especially Eastern and Central Europe.

    As far as waiting on the legislatures…see Ukraine. Where you see they were caught with their pants down on Finnish style self defense because they’re more afraid of their own people then any foreign army. This fear of your own people is not isolated to Ukraine.

    Any sovereignty left in Europe lies in nuclear weapons as for a brief moment did Ukraine’s sovereignty.

  11. Ian started gently urging subscribers away from Patreon some time ago. Now he’s been confirmed.

    The third group he mentioned, “Come Back Alive” was cut off by Patreon because they don’t allow purchase of “military equipment” using donated funds.


    I haven’t heard Ian comment on this, so I assume it’s still a delicate topic.

  12. The lack of free access of citizens to weapons in Ukraine is a direct bastard legacy of the Soviets (practically, like in Russia).
    This is a direct sign of corrupt government systems, where officials receive (directly or indirectly) bribes for issuing permits. At the same time, many of these officials are direct or indirect, voluntary or involuntary, but direct accomplices of the Russian Federation, especially in the eastern regions.
    The “side effect” is that the citizens of Ukraine go unarmed against Russian soldiers, marauders and other shit.

  13. Why should you donate your money you’ve worked hard for when you’ve already involuntary donated your tax money to this cause?

    • Why did you even come here?
      Have a good time?
      Nobody is forcing you.
      Spend “your money you’ve worked hard for” on a stray dog ​​shelter or lipstick.

      And go to hell or ass, your choice.

      • I think you don’t see the reason in my comment. You, I and everyone on this comment board have already donated involuntarily to this cause through taxes levied on our income from US/Western backed governments. Personally I chose not to support either side. Pray for peace and a quick resolution for all parties involved.

        • +1

          Bummer that this comment section is getting political, a trap it usually avoids. I, for one, come here for the tech/history talk from knowledgeable people, not heated opining over current events — there’s the rest of the garbage internet for that.

          Perhaps given the topic it was inevitable? I think there’s a way to discuss the matter at hand without personal attacks. Regardless, I too don’t want to have to “pick a side” in order to participate.

  14. In France after the 1870 war and up till 1914 there was rifle drill for the male under 10 year olds with wooden guns at school.The over 10 year olds had actual shooting training using lebel or gras copies chambered in .22 or 6mm bb caps
    Of course this would not swing today but pushing civilian shooting clubs is possible although the high cost of ar’s or ak’s would be a negative factor
    In the countryside we still have quite a few hunters and many are now using rifles not shotguns. As they are now in the government licencing database letting them have a B catagorie rifle (ar or ak) would be less complicated
    Also hunters already have hunting clubs with rules so the government would have somebody to talk too

  15. I ca assure you that this will NOT be the case in Germany. Gun ownership in Germany is strict – in fact, it has become stricter through the years. Even carrying a knife with a blade lenght of over 12 cm (4.72 inches) is prohibited by law. While people might become interested in the use of weapons (and they are: there is a srong upsurge in the so called “Kleiner Waffenschein” or “lesser / small gun permit”, which enables you to own gas guns), the idea of the German state doing a u-turn on gun ownership… no way. There might be programs by the Bundeswehr to resuscitate their military reserve (“Reservistenschiessen” / target practice for reservists), but guns in the hands of civilians is just a no-no. Just look a gun laws in Germany: its patronizing in the extreme.
    All this is so well entrenched in German culture since WWII, it would need a Russian invasion of Germany itself to start a process of re-thinking.

    • Well, no. The majority of Germans are behind the gun laws. Accordingly, they have a sound democratic foundation, just as people from the US point at their second amendment and that the majority are behind it.
      And the different system play out: look at the number of crimes commited using firearms in the US vs. Germany. Look at the number of deaths by firearms and compare those. Look at the overall crimerate in Germany: there is no need for its citizens to arm up to their teeth.
      OK, people in the US have the right to bear arms, but they are paying a price: if you are armed, the people around you are, too.
      Look what it does to policework: there was one incident recently where a poacher caught in flagranti shot and killed two police officers during a roadstop. There was a major outcry, because the man had access to firearms. The officers weren’t carefull enough, granted – but why should they have assumed this man was armed? There are only very few incidents with fireamrs… And in the US? Stepping out of your car having been stopped by the police? That is dangerous, isn’t it? Because the police has to assume you are armed.
      And I don’t see how giving Germans guns would stop “Looting by American LNG companies”.
      Recht und Ordnung, sure, but it works stellar without Germans being armed with privately owned firearms.

  16. In our country, Denmark we have an armed Homeguard and we don’t need any more crazy: Every man being able to shoot ones neighbor, if unsatified with the colour of his beard, and being able to buy a new gun on every corner, even if definitely insane! The number of private killings in the US are also insane, compared with most other countries.

    • The alternative to an armed society with the attendant costs is an enslaved society with it’s attendant costs. See April 1940.

      • You are insinuating, of course, that Danes armed with private firarms could have stopped the German invasion. Debateable, to say the least.

  17. States and armies care nothing about civilians armed with rifles and pistols. Wars are fought with guns (the proper ones with wheels), shells, rockets and bombs. Best bet for civilians is to stay out of wars and everything associated with it.

    • I’m a veteran and this isn’t true.
      States care very much if the population is armed or not.
      It is true that in battle especially conventional army on army battle artillery is the big killer.

      It is true it’s wise to avoid war.
      But will war avoid you?

      • Another question in reply: If you are unable to avoid war, will your private arsenal make a difference?
        If you think that the historic example of the “minutemen” has any relevance today… nah. I don’t think so. And the Ukraine doesn’t prove me wrong: the Ukrainians receive weapons from the government. Those weren’t kept at home.

          • Apart from having fun being able to defend the US from enemies “foreign and domestic” is the reason for the 2nd amendment. While the armed citizen using his/her arms against foreign enemies (as exemplified by the “minutemen”) may have worked 250 yrs. ago, it won’t work today. Participating in modern warfare… as a civilian… with your own arms? That’s what I was getting at.
            Sorry if I misunderstood your statement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.