These are not your father guns


Friend of mine shown me the photo of modified double-barrel vintage Maxim machine gun (WWI) from the Arms & Security 2017 exhibition  in Kiev, Ukraine. So I decided to attend it.


Beforehand I made my home-work, searching internet. It was easy finding photo of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, keeping short-barrel version of “Thompson submachine gun” (“Tommy-gun”) during an inspection of invasion defenses on July 21, 1940. Internet search gave some other results though: photos of Tommy-gun awarded to then-Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2015 on his birthday (and Maxim machine gun awarded by another state agency on the same occasion); photos of vintage pistols awarded to influential people. It seemed to be a trend. True, or not, let this be the question to media. I was more interested in its plausibility from the legal point of view.

Briefly on firearms control in Ukraine

Out-of-service police, journalists and members of registered territorial self-defense units are permitted to carry traumatic weapons. Any kind of pistol, hand-gun, revolver as well as assault rifles, machine guns, are forbidden in Ukraine for general public (“civilians”). With exception of traumatic and hunting weapon, gas pistols (professionals consider gas – pistol as nuisance), provided civilian shall obtain special permission. The permission is to be issued to healthy individual, and weapon must be kept in special safe box, except for occasions, when an unloaded weapon is allowed to be carried around; weapon to be used at registered specially equipped for shooting site.

Permitted weaponry for civilians includes so-called hunting weapons: all types of demilitarized army weapons, even Mosin–Nagant and Kar.98k (WWI) rifles, as well as shot guns. Stock of army assault weapons have been mass converting into semi-automatic weapon up to now, such as renown AK-47.

Indeed, next-door Ukrainian could legally possess permitted weaponry with relevant accessories, enjoying his “dangerous” full-fledged military look in the mirror until he may scare himself; but it may not impress “real guys” much, because the demarcation line between next-door and really rich and powerful lies in legalized possession of assault weapons, especially pistols, hand-guns, revolvers.

It is cheaper for a kin

There is possible loop-hole in gun control rules in Ukraine for influential civilians. Starting from 2014 a whole regiment of Ukrainian MPs and officials were awarded with personal premium firearms (“Наградное Огнестрельное оружие”), which shall be only in possession of awarded person and shall be returned to state after the his/her death. Only selected state officials are authorized to award personal premium firearms. This way around gun control was in place in this territory for decades, but it became spread since the conflict in the East of Ukraine erupted. The favorite motto of recent years “It is cheaper for a kin” (“Для своих дешевле”) applies. Now there is no need to organize an African king presenting somebody with  personal premium firearm for “For Special Services to Vaterland”.

In line with official statistics of military of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, there were registered the following:

  • around 930K civilian holders of “hunting” weapons,
  • around 3,5K holders of personal premium firearms in Ukraine in 2004-2014, from that around 1,3K were awarded since 2014;  mostly awarded to military professionals, majority of personal premium firearms is modern.

So far so much about gun control in Ukraine. The last question where vintage firearms might come from?

Tales from a salt mine

Rumors go, that in WWII, when the former Soviet Union obtained massive Land-Lease support, including firearms of different times, types and calibers. A lot of these weapons were safely kept in the salt mine on the territory of present Eastern Ukraine and majority of these vintage stock is still rests peacefully there. After all, there should be special ammunition for such a specific weaponry. They say eastern rebels fought for getting control over this mine, but failed. Anyway, we do not see much media reports on rebels using vintage machine-guns, but some evidence of an army disposal.

So personally I would not entirely dismiss stories about second and third life of vintage firearms in Ukraine.  If comparing usage of arms now-days with that of previous generation, we might find a lot vintage guns as a public choice today. Some are your grand-father guns.

Luckily, my city Kyiv hosted the Arms & Security 2017 exhibition  on 10-13.10.2017.  So I went there to see what is on offer.  More about it in my next post.

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