Monday, 8 June 2015

From Russia with Love, Syria's Vepr-12s



The last two decades have seen a complete resurrection of civilian owned weaponry in Syria. The trend of owning and dealing weapons quickly declined after the 1982 Hama Massacre, after which fear arose that having a gun could have you linked to the uprising. Strict gun laws enforced shortly after the failed uprising also made it harder to acquire and own weapons. The fear slowly faded away during the 80s, and the shotgun, now tolerated by the regime, became increasingly popular as a hunting tool in rural areas throughout the 90s, much of which had to do with their favourable price.

Despite this, being in the possession of an automatic assault rifle was strictly forbidden after 1982. While some politically reliable farmers and shepherds were able to get a security clearance which allowed them to be in the possession of an automatic assault rifle before 1982, this clearance was too expensive for the general farmer. Illegally owning an assault rifle would generally result in two to six years imprisoment, and a fine of anything between 2000 to 10.000 USD before the revolution. This didn't deter some to get hold of an AKMS to ward off thieves raiding 'someone's' pistachio trees however.

Back to the shotgun, the use of which within the Syrian Arab Army (SyAA) and National Defence Force (NDF) remains limited. The Syrian military doctrine never focused on house-to-house fighting, and as a result specialised weaponry for such situations was never acquired. Limited numbers of military grade shotguns, such as the Italian SPAS-15, did find their way to private individuals in the Syrian coast in the past years however.

The Syrian Civil War and the widespread house-to-house combat through which it is often fought brought the need for weapons optimised for close-quarters combat, and a Syrian military delegation was sent to Russia to purchase such weapons. It is believed that the ВПО-205-03, along with the AK-104, was among the weapons inspected by the Syrian military delegation during a Russian weapons expo in 2012, which in turn led to the acquisition of a limited batch of ВПО-205-03 fully automatic shotguns, the military-grade variant of the Vepr-12.


The shotguns of the Vepr-12 series bear heavy resemblance to the AK-74M and AK-100 series, and one could mistake it for an assault rifle, especially with the conventional magazine in place. The picatinny rail with which it is outfitted, as opposed to the standard side mount seen on the AK series, accepts a wide variety of optical sights, vertical forward grips, IR pointers and flashlights.

The already compact ВПО-205-03 can be further shortened by the side-folding stock, making it an ideal weapon for close-quarters combat. Like most of the world's shotguns, the weapon fires standard 12-gauge shells.

As is commonly seen with deliveries of sophisticated weaponry to Syria, none of these shotguns found their way to the battlefront. Instead, all were immediately distributed to various important figures and parties in the coastal area. While the ВПО-205-03 would be a godsend for the regime forces fighting in for example Deir ez-Zor, corruption prevents the use of such weaponry in places most needed. Of course, in this case it concerns just the use of a single new type of shotgun, but ultimately such policies could end up costing the regime the war.

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12 comments:

  1. I've followed this blog for some time and it upsets me to have to point out that the main image in this article is...well it's a clear fabrication. The brake shifts angles in the middle of the man's shoulder, while the left forearm is clearly airbrushed.


    I thought better of you, Oryx.

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    1. Syrians often 'improve' their images by removing wrinkles, spots or wounds with photoshop, giving it an unnatural look. The image was given to me in this shape, so I couldn't undo the photoshop.

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    2. Fair enough, apologies for the accusational tone, I've been dealing with sockpuppets and was a tad tipsy and angry.

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  2. I know it's off topic, but could Oryx (or someone else) give me a hint on the situation in Idlib governorate?
    It's often stated that Friqqa is the last important regime held position in Idlib. However, especially with Abu al-Duhur Air Base near the border to Aleppo governorat the regime seems to still hold an important stronghold [+ al-Fuah and Kafraya (northwards of Idlib city)].
    Is it known whether Abu al-Duhur is still fucntioning? Wiki lists the Base as a garrison for L-39ZOs and MIG-23MSs.

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    1. There are no active aircraft stationed at Abu ad-Duhor (the former resident MiG-21 squadron left the airbase and the MiG-23MS's were retired years ago), only a few helicopters supplying the remaining garrison still touch the airbase.

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    2. May 2014 sat imagery shows 2 apparently active Mig-21s, 2 mi-8s, 7 apparently active Mig-23s, 6 Mig 23s in unknown/retired condition.

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    3. Except for the the detached Mi-8s, all are inoperational.

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    4. The Mig-21s are positioned as if they are ready to be flown away at any moment. Most of the Mig-23s do not appear mothballed.

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  3. Thanks for the answer!

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  4. So Syria purchased these ВПО-205-03s, and it paid for its AK-104s, just as it paid for the upgrade to its Su-24s and probably for its BM-30s and UR-77s. Further, Oryx previously posted a link to a purchase order that Syria placed with Russian arms exporter OAO Rosobornexport for everything from rifles to mortars to RPGs to ammunition.

    So my question: Doesn't Russia provide good, old-fashioned military aid -- free of charge -- like the old Soviet Union did? If Syria is Russia's ally and is in the middle of a cash crisis and a civil war, can't Russia dip into its unused stocks of AK-104s, Vepr-12s, RPGs, ammunition, etc and simply provide them for free?

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    Replies
    1. Most of the acquired weaponry is paid for by loans or promises, which will probably turn out empty in the end.

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  5. This guns is more similar to AK-47. these are amazing firearms. which is very strong.

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