Arms trade

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The arms trade describes all processes in connection with the transfer of ownership of a weapon . While hunters, sport shooters and collectors nowadays use the term arms dealers to define companies that sell firearms, hunting, sporting and firearms, in history the term is mainly used in connection with armories and arms exports and currently in the media with arms exports and illegal drugs. and human trafficking .

For thousands of years, people made their own weapons. Since the invention of the metal, the manufacture of weapons has concentrated on certain places that were predestined by their raw material situation (iron ore, coal, shipping). These included in the Middle Ages u. a. Nuremberg , Suhl , Steyr , Liège , the Ruhr area , Damascus and Kyoto .

Documents prove that there was an international arms trade already in the 10th century, which was controlled by laws and regulations. The arms trade is therefore inevitably linked to arms exports and arms control.

Arms manufacturers are people and companies that manufacture arms on a commercial basis. Arms export refers to all processes in connection with the transfer of arms outside of the state.


Before 1800


In addition to merchants and travelers who needed weapons to protect their trade routes as well as cannons for their merchant ships, in the Middle Ages only the nobility privileged to hunt privately bought weapons for themselves and their employed professional hunters, as well as clerical and secular pensioners. Every man had a more or less long knife (Sachs) and often a skewer. However, gun ownership was partially prohibited or restricted for the lower classes. Their weapons in the peasant revolts were therefore also tools such as scythes and flails . The city armories and arsenals renewed their equipment from time to time. The demand for weapons was very low in peacetime. During the war, however, the demand for weapons increased rapidly.


The manufacturers sold locally to private individuals and the municipal armories. They handed over production surpluses and contract work to the travelers. In peacetime the low private demand was mainly satisfied by private merchants.

In times of war the cities got involved up to the point of monopoly. The government of the imperial city of Nuremberg was actively involved in the arms trade. The municipal armory had to ensure that the inventory was always state-of-the-art. However, this was only possible by regularly shedding outdated weapons and buying new models. In the Thirty Years' War, however, the Zeughaus no longer only sold discarded types, but acted like a private trading company. If the sources are to be believed, the public share of the arms trade was enormous. Between 1621 and 1629, state trade ranged from 4% to 36%, and between 1630 and 1635 it rose to 78% to 100%.

After 1800


Until the bourgeois revolution in 1848, hunting and gun ownership was a privilege of the nobility in Central Europe. The need for hunting rifles, which were technically identical to military rifles at the time, was correspondingly low. In 1848 hunting was generally released and the bourgeoisie allowed the possession of guns. This is reflected u. a. by the issue of the number of hunting licenses issued, which doubled to 250,000 between 1878 and 1923, thus generating more demand.

In the 19th century, many shooting clubs also formed umbrella organizations: the Société Suisse des Carabiniers in Switzerland in 1824, the British National Rifle Association in England in 1859, the German Schützenbund in Germany in 1861 and the National Rifle Association of America in the USA in 1871. Sports shooting became Olympic in 1896 and, like the national championships for Olympic qualification, increased the demand for civilian firearms.

The German Army would have been the largest buyer of firearms. In the course of the 19th century, German states had waged war several times, increased the army strength in the German Empire to 1% of the population by 1890, and three different ordonance weapons were introduced in quick succession: the needle gun , the 88 gun and the 98 gun . However, the German Army had these weapons produced in state rifle factories and placed direct orders with Mauser, Steyr, FN and Zastava. Commerce was not involved.


The increased demand for hunting and sporting weapons from the bourgeoisie and the boom from the early days led to some weapon manufacturers, such as B. Sauer and Merkel , concentrated on civil weapons at an early stage and sold them to customers via arms dealers. Before 1850 the arms dealers were mostly gunsmiths, but now colonial warehouses have also been added.

Many gunsmiths also emigrated from the Thuringian Forest in order to set up as independent arms dealers with a gunsmith's workshop all over the Reich. The Zella-Mehlis gun shelling museum notes: “ Until the 19th century, representatives of Zella and Mehlis gunsmith families such as Anschütz, Bader, Barthelmes, Böhner, Büchel, Capell, Diem, Diemar, Ditzel, Döll, Drechsler, Ernst made here , Fischer, Glantz, Graefenstein, Gressmann, Happ, Helfricht, Hengelhaupt, Hoepfel, Kehl, None, Child, Klett, Kneifel, Kolb, Kommer, König, Lämmermann, Langenhan, Lepper, Lesch, Luck, Mangler, Marr, Moritz, Muth , Reuss, Ritz, Sauerbrey, Schindler, Schneider, Schilling, Schlütter, Schramm, Schübler, Sontag, Spörer, Stockmar, Triebel, Weihrauch, Weiß, Will, Wirsing, Wolf, Zerr or Zöller. "

List of arms dealers who were founded before the Second World War, sorted by year of establishment:

  • 1640: Kuchenreuter , founded in Regensburg, since 1824 in Cham
  • 1750: Triebel, founded in Suhl, since 1915 in Berlin
  • 1752: Hambrusch, in Ferlach (Austria)
  • 1790: Le Hanne, in Crefeld, owned by the Giesen family since 1912, closed in 2009 due to a lack of sales
  • 1809: Hoerning, in Hamburg, business closed in 2012 due to lack of successor
  • 1820: Wertgarner in Wels (Austria)
  • 1831: Winkler, founded in Traunstein von Strassberger
  • 1836: Joh.Springer's heirs , in Vienna (Austria)
  • 1843: Knappworst, in Braunschweig
  • 1848: Daurer, in Rosenheim
  • 1853: Föll, in Hofheim am Taunus
  • 1865: Meyer, in Wolfenbüttel
  • 1873: Dorfner, in Vienna as a metal goods shop, since 1979 pure arms trade
  • 1879: Mayor, in Geneva (Switzerland)
  • 1881: Krausser, in Munich, founded in Zella St. Blasii
  • 1884: Schmithüsen, in Xanten
  • 1884: Kettner , 2012 All German branches closed due to a lack of sales
  • 189 ?: Take care, in Kronach
  • 1903: Dittmann, in Garlstorf
  • 1903: Schumacher, in Düren
  • 1906: peoples, in willows
  • 1908: Frankonia
  • 1908: Halbach, in Aachen
  • 1908: Volber, in Uelzen
  • 1909: Kratz, in Lemgo
  • 190 ?: Will, in Hanover
  • 1911: Bader, in Hanau
  • 1912: Piel, in Hollwede
  • 1913: Becker, in Hagen
  • 1913: Binarsch, in Braunschweig
  • 1913: Bassing, in Mainz
  • 1921: Adamy, in Suhl
  • 1921: Hammer, in Passau, founded by Nöbauer, owned by the Hammer family since 1961
  • 1922: Grünig & Elmiger, founded as an arms factory by uncle Walter Lienhard in Kriens (Switzerland), since 1968 in Malters
  • 1922: Schmitt, in Goch
  • 1924: Tramm and Hinners, in Hamburg,
  • 1925: Merkle, in Backnang
  • 1927: Kruschitz, founded in Ferlach, since 1938 in Vienna

Arms trade today

The privileges and restrictions of the medieval classes (nobility, bourgeoisie, clergy and peasants) were replaced by national gun laws, the approaches of which are still in force today. In addition, international treaties and agreements restrict national weapons law.

EU legislation

The European states that have joined the Schengen Agreement, including the German-speaking states Germany , Austria and Switzerland , as well as the other states of the European Union have agreed to incorporate the 1991 EU directive on the harmonization of firearms law into their national one Right to implement.

For the purposes of this EU Directive , an arms dealer is any natural or legal person whose profession or trade consists, in whole or in part, of manufacturing firearms, trading them with them or exchanging, renting, repairing or converting them.

Arms dealers should be checked for their personal and professional reliability if they deal in weapons of category A (prohibited firearms) and B (firearms subject to approval). In countries in which it is possible to trade in weapons in category C (notifiable firearms) and D (other firearms) without a license, a notification requirement is to be introduced. In Germany z. For example, all four weapon categories are subject to approval for the arms trade in the form of an arms trade license or weapons manufacturing license . This can be restricted to certain types of firearms and ammunition.

The dealer must, according to EU directive (Not to be confused with ABC weapons) for weapons of category A, B and C weapons trading book lead from which emerge the type and quantity of firearms, their origins and fate. These trading books must be kept for ten years even after trading has ceased. The retention period now extends to twenty years.

Civil firearms must be marked with a serial number . In the meantime, the country of manufacture and the country of import must also be marked on the firearms. In its directive, the EU stipulates that category B, C and D civil weapons may only be acquired by persons who are at least 18 years old. There are exceptions for hunters and sport shooters. When purchasing a weapon of category B (semi-automatic weapons), the purchaser must also provide a justification and must not endanger themselves or public safety. The category A weapons should be banned according to the EU directive. States can also enact stricter or lighter regulations. In Germany z. B. Persons under the age of 25 can only acquire large-caliber pistols and revolvers (category B) with a psychological report. Hunters and marksmen are allowed to train with some weapons before they reach the age of 18, but they are not allowed to acquire them.

In March 2014, the Swiss National Council relaxed arms export regulations and decided that “in future, weapons should also be delivered to countries with problematic human rights”. This decision was justified "with the difficult situation in the Swiss armaments industry".



The buyers of almost all hunting and sporting rifles, as well as many pistols and revolvers, are private end users. You either buy locally from the retailer, nationally by mail order or import yourself.

Lt. According to the magazine Deutsches Waffen-Journal (DWJ) there are around 340,000 hunters in Germany. In 2004 they spent around € 754 million on hunting and hunting protection. In approx. 18,000 clubs, shooting is practiced by approx. 2.5 million club members. Including all amateur shooters, the DWJ estimates the number of sport shooters at 5 million.

In all constitutional states, the seller or import customs authorities check the national legitimacy of the buyer. Within the EU, the authorities of the seller (Member State of departure) and the authorities of the buyer (Member State of destination) must give their approval before the sale. In Germany, for a purchase in Germany, proof of legitimation for weapons requiring a permit is provided in the form of a weapon possession card or a hunting license , for weapons that do not require a permit , proof of age is provided.

Police and military

The armed forces, the police and the public services are not subject to national gun laws or EU directives. You can also purchase weapons of war.

When equipping national agencies, the commercial arms trade is mostly bypassed. From 2003 to 2009, the French police were supplied with 250,000 German SIG-Sauer pistols directly from the manufacturer in Eckernförde. Arms dealers are only asked to submit an offer in the case of small, hands-free orders from the authorities.



Wholesaling in the functional sense occurs when market participants procure goods, which they usually do not work or process themselves (commercial goods), from manufacturers or other suppliers and sell them to resellers, processors, commercial users (e.g. authorities) or others Institutions (e.g. associations), unless they are private households, deduct. Arms wholesalers are often general importers of certain weapons manufacturers or specialize in certain import countries or ranges. As a rule, they refuse to trade with private end consumers, but supply the state authorities directly and in some cases also end consumers in third countries or the European Union.

The most important wholesalers are, in alphabetical order, AKAH (Austria and France), Waffen Ferkinghoff (hunting and sporting weapons), Helmut Hofmann (USA), Manfred Alberts GmbH (Scandinavia and Italy), Schumacher (Eastern Europe) and Waimex (sporting weapons).

retail trade

Whereas in the past the retail trade was responsible for the regional needs of hunters, marksmen or authorities, today modern businesses have often specialized in niches in the arms trade. There are companies that mainly offer hunting weapons, handguns, precision weapons, Olympic small-caliber weapons, large-caliber sporting weapons, sport shotguns, used weapons, antique weapons or free weapons. These specialized companies often have an Internet presence and export worldwide. In contrast to the trade in sporting goods, which is now dominated by branch chains worldwide , the arms trade is still largely in private hands worldwide. In Germany, for example, there are almost 1000 arms dealers for “free weapons” and weapons requiring a purchase license in the Association of German Gunsmiths and Guns Specialists e. V. (VdB) organized. There are around 500 arms dealers in Canada with around 1.8 million arms licensees. There are 1,800 shooting ranges and specialist dealers in England. In 1997 there were 250,000 licensed arms dealers in the United States.

The most important chain stores are Frankonia and Kettner in Germany with branches in neighboring countries and Cabelas in the USA. The German mail order company Alljagd has no branches, but as a wholesaler supplies the almost 90 participating retailers, each with a local shop.

Craft trade

Many retailers are mixed companies. Gunsmiths with their own workshops carry out repairs, sometimes manufacture firearms themselves or modify factory goods according to customer requirements and sell merchandise. In Germany gunsmiths have to be registered in the handicrafts register in order to get a weapons manufacturing license. They are only allowed to manufacture and modify weapons with this license. In Germany, these mixed companies are compulsory members of the local Chamber of Crafts and Chamber of Commerce and Industry and must pay both fees in full, otherwise they lose their manufacturing license and are only allowed to carry out repairs.

Direct sales

The manufacturers of military equipment always sell their products to the national and international armed forces directly or through intermediaries. Some firearms and ammunition manufacturers bypass national wholesalers by supplying retailers directly. These include a. the German manufacturers Blaser Jagdwaffen , Mauser , RUAG , JP Sauer & Sohn , SIG Sauer GmbH & Co. KG and Umarex . For exports, they supply resident wholesalers or their own foreign subsidiaries. Some firearms manufacturers bypass retail and supply end users directly. The Swiss company Grüner & Elmiger is one of the most important international direct sellers to international end consumers .


Brokers bring manufacturers and end users together without having to stock the merchandise themselves. Intermediaries often appear in the export of military equipment. In many constitutional states, like arms dealers, they are checked for reliability. It does not matter whether they are based in their home country or abroad.

private sale

Used weapons that are already in the possession of an authorized end user can be sold directly to another authorized end user . Sales must be reported or registered in many countries.

Arms trade exhibition

Retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers meet at national and international arms fairs . The world's most important trade fairs are the International Arms Exhibition (IWA) in Nuremberg (Germany) and the Shot Show in Las Vegas (USA).

At the annual IWA, over 1,000 exhibitors from over 50 countries present themselves to over 30,000 trade visitors from over 100 countries. This fair is limited exclusively to hunting and sporting weapons, classic outdoor equipment and security equipment, which also includes official requirements.

Arms trade in the EU

In 2012, the annual report of the European Association of Arms Dealers AECAC listed key figures on the arms trade. Since not all EU countries are members and not all members provide the required figures, the table is incomplete. In addition to firearms, arms dealers also sell ammunition, accessories, clothing (including traditional costumes), binoculars, hiking gear and the like, which are included in the sales figures.

Arms trade in the EU
country Number of establishments Employees Sales in euros
GermanyGermany Germany 1,500 35,000 1,000,000,000
FranceFrance France 800 4,000 450,000,000
ItalyItaly Italy 1,200 10,000 250,000,000
SpainSpain Spain 700 2,500 250,000,000
AustriaAustria Austria 455 725 86,000,000
FinlandFinland Finland 413 1,500 90,000,000
BelgiumBelgium Belgium 250 1,500 110,000,000
GreeceGreece Greece 700 1,400 35,000,000

Criticism of the EU directive

The EU directive represents a compromise between the various weapons rights of the 27 member states, which does not meet with approval everywhere. It restricts gun rights that have grown over time. It also gives cause for the restrictions on national legislation to be interpreted more strictly than the directive provides. In addition, the guidelines initiate measures that make retailers complain without increasing security.

Through the information that small arms without serial numbers are being traded illegally, the identification of the countries of origin and importing countries was introduced. However, it was not taken into account that civil weapons have always been manufactured with serial numbers and that these are verifiably almost 100% authorized for export by the EU states. This additional marking leads to higher costs for dealers and affects the appearance of the weapons, especially handguns.

The EU directive restricts national paragraphs by stipulating to EU states who can be supplied and what can be delivered. In more and more EU countries, national laws implementing the directive are reducing the number of customers. The directive also calls for more documentation from dealers and national weapons authorities, which leads to higher costs for dealers and buyers.

A standardized EU form can be used for shipments so that translations are not necessary.

The summary of the national laws that should be presented to the licensed arms dealers and arms authorities has not yet taken place 20 years after the directive was passed. This makes the sale more difficult if it is a question of weapons that are subject to registration in the country of dispatch, while they are not even subject to registration in the country of destination.

The individual countries have different priorities as well as the individual user groups. This is shown in detail in the EU Commission's report of July 26, 2012. The commission evaluated these sensitivities on the basis of a questionnaire sent to the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice, as well as to the largest associations of manufacturers, dealers, hunters, shooters and collectors. The dealers want z. B. common guidelines regarding antique weapons, replicas and decorative weapons. The next changes should be presented to the council by July 28, 2015.

UN efforts towards a 2012 global arms trade agreement

The United Nations tried from July 2 to 27, 2012 at a conference in New York to negotiate a global arms trade agreement. The arms trade treaty is intended to regulate and restrict the trade in conventional weapons, especially handguns, whereby states commit themselves to strict export controls. The European states advocated strict regulations, while many other countries wanted to enforce exceptions, including China, which saw its light arms business in Third World countries at risk.

The UN conference, led by the Argentinian Roberto Garcia Moritán, ended on July 27 with no result. Among other things, the draft treaty provided for the prevention of the export of armaments if they could be used for war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity. Representatives from Germany did not go far enough in the restrictions, while states like Iran and Syria felt that the regulations were too strong. The United States said it needed more time to review the final draft of the agreement. Thereupon Russia and China also delayed their decisions. The US government had previously opposed the inclusion of ammunition in the agreement. Conflicts also gave rise to the distinction between the commercial trade in arms and the free transfer of goods. China advocated that the treaty only apply to commercial trade. The negotiations are to be continued in autumn 2012 at the UN General Assembly.

UN Arms Trade Agreement 2013

On April 2, 2013, the UN General Assembly passed the first global agreement to control the arms trade. 154 member states voted in favor. Syria, North Korea and Iran voted against. Russia and China abstained, as did 21 other countries.

The treaty is intended to create global control standards for the trade in conventional weapons for the first time. All signatories undertake to check in all arms deals whether the weapons could be used by terrorists or whether they could be used to commit human rights violations. The treaty takes into account these conventional weapons:

  • small and light weapons and large-caliber weapons and weapon systems
  • Military vehicles and tanks
  • Combat helicopters and warships
  • Missiles and rocket launchers

At least 50 agreeing states still have to ratify the agreement. It can take several years for the contract to come into effect. The provisions of international law would then only apply to those states that have ratified the treaty.

Illegal arms trade

Surrendering legal firearms and ammunition from authorized persons to unauthorized persons, surrendering or acquiring prohibited weapons without a special permit, as well as trading without a trade permit are punishable by law.

Illegal weapons

Objects are illegal weapons if they are prohibited by the national weapons law. In Germany z. B. Throwing stars , butterfly knives , steel rods , switch knives , camouflaged weapons (ballpoint pen pistol or stick sword ) and fully automatic weapons belong to the prohibited weapons . If the conversion of a weapon that requires a purchase certificate into a decorative weapon does not comply with the current requirements of national law, it becomes an illegal weapon. Anyone who legally acquired a weapon that was prohibited by the amendment prior to an amendment to the weapons law, owns an illegal weapon.


A buyer or seller acts negligently if he trades in a prohibited item in ignorance of the current law or acts without permission.


Anyone who collects weapons on a large scale without permission is acting deliberately. Attempting to purchase is also a criminal offense, especially when it comes to war weapons.

Anyone who, as the holder of a weapons trading license, trades in illegal weapons is, according to the law, a particularly difficult case. Anyone who declares real weapons as decorative weapons by means of forged reports and then sells them functional is also acting with gross intent. If the prohibited weapons are also exported, there is also a violation of the Foreign Trade Act. Dealers and gang members are punished with up to ten years imprisonment if they regularly engage in illegal arms trafficking.


Illegal weapons come from unreported old possession, are illegally imported or illegally manufactured.

Old property

Despite the Arms Act of 1972, there are around 17 million weapons in Germany that have never been registered and are therefore classified as illegal today in private households. These were acquired without a permit before 1972. Before 1972, adults could legally buy Wehrmacht K98 carbines or semi-automatic, sub-machine gun-like small-bore rifles from Landmann or via a catalog (e.g. Neckermann). The very liberal use of weapons in other countries, such as Belgium and Italy, but also among the US allies, favored imports to Germany.

In Switzerland, trading in sporting and hunting rifles and ammunition was free until the Weapons Act came into force . Each conscript has his own rifle in the apartment and can use it for practice purposes on the shooting range. Swiss arms legislation is one of the most liberal in the world.

In the United States, gun law is partially regulated at the federal level. The Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits mail order of guns. Only since 1990 have there been legal restrictions on school land based on the Gun-Free School Zones Act , whereas in 1992 a student tried before the Supreme Court . Up to 2008, nine further legal disputes were known in which individual persons tried to take action against the federal regulations. Due to federalism there are different regulations in each state.

Illegal import

Weapons are illegally imported on a small scale if the buyer can legally acquire them abroad and imports them with his luggage without authorization or orders them by mail order.

Illegal arms imports on a large scale are mostly in the "framework of organized crime carried out," said Austria mainly to and from Southeast Europe ... is considered weapons transit country .

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many weapons of the Russian army remained in the satellite states. Allegedly 29,000 machine guns are said to have been left behind in Chechnya. From Chechnya, many weapons were then sold on the world market via the so-called free trade zone . The same applies to the inventory of used weapons in Ukraine. Although Ukraine hardly produces any weapons, it has been one of the medium-sized exporters of undocumented weapons for several years.


In Austria, after a coordinated investigation by the French and DACH authorities, illegal arms trafficking was uncovered in March 2018 and 3 suspected illegal traffickers were identified and reported in Vorarlberg and Lower Austria and over 150 long and handguns, around 300 kg of ammunition and 100 stabbing weapons were confiscated.


Individual evidence

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