Variety of Iraq weapons astounds expert

Sgt. Kurt Smith holds a 1944 Russian PPK submachine gun confiscated during a raid by soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery.


By JASON CHUDY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 31, 2003

CAMP THUNDER, Iraq — Sgt. Kurt Smith is spending his time in Iraq as a full-time medic and part-time historian.

Many of the weapons that his unit, the 4th Armored Division’s 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, have confiscated belong in museums rather than their arms room, he said.

There are two 1917 Webley revolvers, World War I-era British Enfield rifles, World War II-era German Mauser rifles, Russian PPKs and British submachine guns.

“I’m a weapons enthusiast,” said Smith. “My dad was a weapons collector and he passed on some weapons to me and my brother.”

For the past few months, Smith has become a expert of sorts on the unit’s collection. Those he doesn’t know about he checks in two reference books: one issued to units explaining what weapons to expect in Iraq and another on World War II weapons.

Some of the weapons are too old for either book.

“There’s stuff that I’ve only seen in museums, in books or on the Internet,” said Sgt. 1st Class Nelson Castro, the 3-16th’s master gunner. “Most of this stuff is in fairly good shape.”

“I was surprised to see the [British] Sterling submachine gun,” Smith said, “plus, similar to the Sterling, the Sten. They were World War II weapons and ... are different than the AKs and other automatic weapons.”

There have been, of course, hundreds of AK-47s collected, a handful of Dragonov sniper rifles, a half-dozen or so rocket-propelled-grenade launchers and even a box of Beretta pistols, which were recently cleaned and oiled.

Many of the modern confiscated weapons, such as the AK-47s, have been issued to Iraqi security or police units.

The older ones, however, will remain in the unit’s arms room for the foreseeable future.

“I hope that they’re not going to be discarded,” Smith said.

Many of the older weapons, though seemingly in good shape, won’t be test fired because of safety concerns.

“Maybe they’ll go into a museum,” he said.

A British World War II Sterling submachine gun, bottom, and the similar Sten submachine gun lay alongside more modern Russian-designed machine guns in the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery, arms room.

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