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Who makes the world's guns?

The global trade in small arms is big business - 1,250 companies in at least 92 countries produce weapons, parts or ammunition. But who are the big players?

ARMALITE

Makers of the M4 and M16 assault rifles, which are popular with the US armed forces and soldiers from many other nations. The design was quickly bought by Colt.

Armalite weapons were also popular with the IRA, hence the republicans' long-time policy of the "Armalite and the ballot box", meaning employing both military and political strategies.

BERETTA

The Italian company, which dates back to 1526, employs 2,700 people worldwide and has an annual turnover of 400 million euros.

The firm produce about 1,500 guns a day, ranging from shotguns to assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols.

Beretta exports to 100 countries and the United States - where they have their own factory - is by far the largest market.

A Beretta pistol
A Beretta 9mm pistol is believed to have been used to kill Jill Dando

One of Beretta's most famous guns is the Model 92 9mm pistol, as seen in both the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard action movies.

The company also supplies police forces and armies all over the world, including France, Italy, Turkey and the US.

But Beretta weapons have also been a weapon of choice for criminals. In August 2004 a Beretta pistol was used by a Nottingham gang to kill John and Joan Stirland at their home in Trusthorpe, Lincolnshire.

In September 2007 a similar gun was brandished by an armed robber who was shot dead by police in Chandler's Ford, Hampshire.

BROWNING FABRIQUE NATIONAL

The name of Browning has long been synonymous with firearms.

The Browning family were of stout Utah Mormon stock and supplied frontiersmen all across what was then the Wild West.

Browning began filing patents in 1878 and later went into partnership with the Fabrique Nationale (FN) arms company in Belgium. In 1977 FN bought the Browning Arms Company, but they continue to use the brand.

Browning's main claim to fame is the invention of the 9mm Hi-Power semi-automatic pistol made by FN, of which more than 10 million have been manufactured since 1934. One of the most popular military pistols, it is used by British forces, who know it as the L9.

In 2006 the company also obtained the rights to the Winchester brand of rifles.

COLT

Colt has sold 30 million firearms since 1836, when 22-year-old Sam Colt won his first patent for a revolver. Train robber Jesse James was rather fond of using a Colt .45 in his escapades.

The company has been responsible for a wide variety of weapons, from the famous percussion Colt Dragoon revolver, through the Colt 1911 automatic - developed with Browning - to the M16 rifle developed by Eugene Stoner at Armalite, and latterly the M4 carbine, an assault rifle popular with the US military and widely used in Iraq.

Detective Mark Lillienfeld holds up a Colt Cobra revolver
A detective holds up a Colt revolver at music mogul Phil Spector's trial

But in recent years the company, based in Connecticut, has undergone lean years with boardroom turmoil and a damaging strike by workers demanding better pay.

Part of the problem was its attempts, in the mid-1990s, to come up with a gun that would be impossible to use by unauthorised people - such as children or someone who had stolen it.

The plan backfired and lost it many friends in the powerful gun lobby in the US.

A Colt Cobra revolver was at the centre of the recent trial of music mogul Phil Spector.

GLOCK

The Austrian company was founded in 1963, by Gaston Glock, an engineer who originally manufactured curtain rods.

Glock weapons rapidly built up a reputation for ruggedness and reliability the company now sells about 2.5 million firearms annually.

Among its biggest customers are law enforcement agencies around the world, including the FBI and several British police forces.

It was one of the Metropolitan Police's Glock 17 pistols that fired the bullets that killed Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell station in south London on 22 July 2005.

HECKLER & KOCH

Heckler & Koch is a German company whose products are nowadays synonymous with law enforcement.

All of Scotland Yard's Armed Response Units are equipped with Heckler & Koch MP5 or G36 carbines, as well as Glock 17s.

SAS officers storm the Iranian embassy
The Heckler & Koch MP5 was good enough for the SAS in 1980

The company was founded in Oberndorf, Germany, by Edmund Heckler and Theodor Koch in 1948 and is therefore free of associations with the Nazi regime.

Its big break came eight years later when it won the tender to make the first infantry rifle for the new West German army, the Bundeswehr.

The company went from strength to strength and was owned, between 1991 and 2002, by British Aerospace.

In 1980 the SAS used Heckler & Koch MP5 carbines when they brought to an end the Iranian embassy siege in London.

ISRAEL MILITARY INDUSTRIES

Makers of the Uzi submachine gun, which was invented in 1948 by Maj Uziel Gal, an Israeli Defence Force officer who died in 2002.

They were used to great effect in the Arab-Israeli War and subsequent conflicts and were also manufactured under licence in Germany, Belgium and the US. The Uzi was popular with the US secret service and was used to defend President Reagan when he was shot in 1981.

The gun, which fires 9mm rounds, later became one of Israel's most popular exports. Two million have been sold to security forces, but many have also fallen into the hands of criminals.

Thankfully Uzis are very rare on British streets. The only murders known to have been committed with one were the killing of two brothers in Lincoln in 2001.

IZHMASH

Indian officer looks through a display of AK-47 automatic weapons in Srinagar, part of a cache of weapons seized through the 1990s
An Indian Army officer examines AK-47 assault rifles seized during the 1990s

Izhmash was founded in 1807 in the town of Izhevsk by the Russian Tsar Alexander I and has produced a variety of weapons under various names.

Its most famous product is the AK series of rifles, the first of which was the AK-47, the latest being the AK-74 and the 100 series.

It was developed in 1947 by Soviet Lt Gen Mikhail Kalashnikov, and soon became one of the most widespread weapons of the modern era.

Apart from the Red Army and other Warsaw Pact countries, customers included guerrilla groups all over the world.

AK series rifles are still made at the Izhevsk works in Russia and manufactured in many countries, including Bulgaria, China, Romania, Albania, North Korea and Iraq.

They are rarely seen on the streets of Britain but in October 2003 Glasgow-born gangster Dave King was gunned down in a gym in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, by two men armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Other gun brands made in Izhevsk include the Makarov, Tokarev and Baikal.

Many British police officers have flagged up concerns about Baikal gas pistols, which have increasingly been converted and imported into Britain.

REMINGTON

The eccentrically named Eliphalet Remington founded the company in New York in 1816 and it is one of the most established gunmakers in the world.

In recent years the company has concentrated on shotguns and rifles. It stopped making handguns altogether in 1998.

Earlier this year the company was sold to a private equity firm in a deal worth $118m (56.5m).

The new owners are based in Madison, North Carolina, while the Remington factory is based in Ilion in upstate New York.

The gunmakers sold off their Remington electric shaver business in 1979 and nowadays there are no connections between the namesakes.

SIG SAUER

In 1972 the German company Sauer & Sohn entered into a collaborative venture with the Swiss firm SIG Arms to form Sig Sauer, although both trade names remain.

Sig began as a small gun manufacturer in Switzerland in the middle of the 19th Century.

Its reputation has grown, especially since World War II, and its handguns are now used by a number of elite forces, including the SAS, the British Army and the US Coastguard.

In the 1980s the company made it big by when it broke into the US market.

It now has a separate US arm, Sigarms, based in New Hampshire, which imports Sig Sauer weapons.

WALTHER

The Walther PPK
The Walther PPK was immortalised by James Bond

Carl Walther Sportswaffen, to give the company its full title, was founded in 1886 and is based in the small German town of Arnsberg.

By far its most famous product is the Walther PPK, which was originally developed in the 1930s. Legend has it that Hitler used his own PPK to kill himself in his bunker.

The PPK, which stands for Polizeipistole Kriminalmodell (Police Pistol Detective Model), has been updated over the years and remains popular.

Its most famous owner is 007 James Bond.

SMITH & WESSON

The Massachusetts-based corporation is the largest manufacturer in the US and is one of the most famous names in gunmaking.

Smith & Wesson was founded in 1852 by Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson and when the American Civil War came along 10 years later it turned the company into a major manufacturer.

In 1964 the Wesson family lost control of the firm and it passed through a number of corporate hands before being sold to the Saf-T-Hammer Corporation in 2001.

The company's most famous models are the Model 29 .44 Magnum - made famous by Clint Eastwood in the Dirty Harry movies of the 1970s - and revolvers chambered for the .357 Magnum cartridge.

The Smith & Wesson Model 10 firearm - which fires .38 Special ammunition - is the only handgun in the world to have been in continuous production since it was introduced in 1899, with six million produced.

It was popular for many years with law enforcement, but has been gradually superseded by the Glock 17.

OTHER MAKES

Less well known manufacturers include China's Norinco, Zastava from Serbia and Taurus, which is based in Brazil. Norinco (China North Industries Limited) mass produces tens of thousands of cheap pistols for export.

Other brands are Spain's Astra, CZ from the Czech Republic, MKE of Turkey and Miroku, based in Japan.




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