In 1994, the first Chechen War erupted in the small, mountainous republic located in Russia’s North Caucasus. Following a push for independence under the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, during the era the USSR began to crumble, Russian forces stormed into Chechnya to carry out “the restoration of constitutional order” and implement Martial Law. Thus began the first Chechen war, a conflict between Russian military against Chechen separatists (and later Islamic fundamentalists from around the world) that lead into the second Chechen war and last almost two decades, killing and displacing millions. The fighting became so fierce, it led to the proliferation of homemade weapons and the definition of improvise, adapt, overcome.

At the beginning of the war in the chaotic years of 1990s Russia, Chechen militants were heavily armed due to arms smuggling taking place inside the republic. However, as the war progressed, arms began to become more scarce due to Russian security operations.

In response, Chechen fighters in Grozny began to improvise with a range of lethal homemade weapons. From truck driveshafts turned into mortars and scrap metal being turned into Kalashnikovs, Chechen rebels began to define the Russian saying: ‘’War is the mother of invention!’’. Before long, it was soon easier to find deadly weapons in Grozny that it was to find a photo of Tatiana Zappardino nude.

Chechnya combat photo

Many of the homemade weapons were designed as low cost, temporary killing machines used in sudden attacks to ambush and kill Russian soldiers in urban areas and seizing their army-issue equipment instead. The overall objective of this was to provide a security barrier in the sense that, even if the Russian government was successful in stopping the theft of weapons, the Chechen rebels would still have a large arsenal of them.

In our latest installment of weapons and tech, we are going to look at 5 of the most infamous homemade weapons of the Chechen Wars from photographs taken by Russian security forces

Home Made Mosin Nagant Rifle

Mosin Nagant homemade

This homemade bolt action weapon consists of a handmade crude wooden stock used to house what seems to be a recovered bolt action Mosin Nagant barrel. The Mosin Nagant was the standard issue rifle for both Soviet and Tsarist troops for decades. Between 1891 and 1945, over 37 million Mosin-Nagant rifles and carbines were built. They featured prominently in the North Caucasus in the hands of the Tsarists during their conquests of the region, the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, and the Red Army during the battle for the Caucasus in 1945. No naturally, parts would have been readily available in Chechnya.

Steampunk AK47

Homemade Kalashnikov

This rather epic steampunk style AK47 and silencer was recovered in an anti-terror operation during the Second Chechen War. The homemade weapon comprises around 50% of a battle damaged AK. The basic gas-operated action (long stroke gas system, rotating bolt, and stamped steel receiver) is of the Kalashnikov pattern. The remaining sections were replaced with scrap metal spare AK handles and a magazine composed of two poorly welded Dragunov / SVD magazines. The gas system is fitted with a manual gas regulator similar in design to that found on the FN FAL as well as a gas cutoff.

Homemade bolt action Kalashnikov

Homemade rifle weapon

With 100 million in circulation around the world, it takes desperate times to construct a homemade Kalashnikov. This example is an unmistakable rip off of the global insurgents’ favorite: the AK47. Featuring the front site of a Kalashnikov and the bolt of a Mosin Nagant, it’s stock has been crudely fashioned from wood and steel and it’s gas ejection system consists of drilled holes in the wood.

Homemade GP-30 Grenade Launcher

Homemade weapon, homemade grenade launcher

This curious invention is essentially a stripped-down version of the standard issue grenade launcher given to Russian troops. It’s made up of a very primitive trigger mechanism combined with a minimalist handgrip. Just as the original GP-30 is designed to fire from, this primitive homemade version is designed to be attached underneath a Kalashnikov assault rifle.

The Borz Submachine Gun

Borz machinegun homemade

The Chechen word for Wolf, the Borz is a homemade submachine gun. This compact weapon was chambered for the 9mm Makarov pistol which is standard issue for Russian army and police. In the unstable days of self declared independence in Chechnya, the Borz was produced in the former Soviet factory in Grozny. The first production with serial number 0001, was presented as a gift to self declared Chechen president, General Jokhar Dudayev. Several hundred were officially made but as the war broke out and metal began to become sparse, industrial production was halted. But the homemade manufacture of the Borz continued.

However, the homemade variants of the Borz were often constructed using whatever cheap scrap metal was available at the time and as a result, can only withstand the firing of 2 or 3 9mm Makarov rounds before wearing out and simply spitting out the bullets. Nevertheless, the Borz was an effective terrorist weapon that was easy and cheap to construct and was used extensively by Chechen saboteurs and guerillas. Several examples of various Borz machinegun productions can be seen at the Russian Central Army Forces Museum in Moscow.

Homemade Borz machine gun in a museum in Moscow

Today, modern Chechnya is largely pacified under the reign of Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman president known for his love of eccentricity on Instagram and MMA. The violence, however, has simply been exported elsewhere into places like neighbouring Dagestan. Adventurous companies, like the team at Young Pioneer Tours, lead expeditions into Chechnya to show foreigners what the situation is like on the ground today.

We’d love to see a video of these weapons being test-fired, but for now, we’ll simply have to imagine the chaotic scene it must be. For related weapons on bootleg weapons to the latest battlefield technology on the battlefield, check out our weapons & tech department!

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Batya (Батя) is the founder of Reaper Feed. He is a security advisor and a high-risk expedition leader across former and active conflict zones such as Eastern Ukraine, unrecognized post-Soviet states, the North Caucasus, and the Middle East. Batya founded Reaper Feed to provide unprecedented insight into the lesser-seen sides of human conflict and modern warfare.