AK-103 self-loading rifle in Nigeria

The ARES Team

Update 29/6/16: The image appears to be lightly distorted, however the steel magazine second from left in the top row, appears to be a Chinese 5.56 x 45 mm magazine. This may further support the possibility the weapon is an AK-101 (adopted in limited numbers elsewhere in Africa), however an AK-103 remains the most likely identification.

A Nigerian Army operation targeting armed bandits suspected of cattle rustling killed 18 individuals near Dansadau in Nigeria’s northwestern state of Zamfara, on 4 May 2016. Amongst the weapons recovered were 11 AK type self-loading rifles, 1 G3 type self-loading rifle, and a craft-produced break-action, single shot pistol. One of the AK type rifles appears to be an AK-103, a relatively modern rifle produced by IZHMASH (now Kalashnikov Concern) in Russia.

The AK-103 is a comparatively modern variant of the AK family, based primarily on the Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy (AKM), an updated AK series rifle introduced in 1959. It shares features with other rifles in the so-called ‘AK-100 series’, including black synthetic furniture and magazines, a black phosphate finish on metal parts, distinctive AK-74 type muzzle brake, side-folding solid polymer stock, and an optical sight rail on the left-hand side of the receiver.

Whilst the rifle pictured could in fact be an AK-101 (chambered for 5.56 x 45 mm) or an AK-74M (chambered for 5.45 x 39 mm), the presence of only 7.62 x 39 mm magazines amongst those AK magazines pictured, and the apparent absence of 5.56 x 45 or 5.45 x 39 mm ammunition from the loose cartridges pictured, as well as the nature of the other weapons present suggests that the weapon is most likely an AK-103.


Whilst the exact source of this weapon cannot be ascertained from this image alone, the most likely proximate source is Libya. In late 2003 or early 2004, The Gaddafi government in Libya began negotiations with Russia for the purchase of a range of arms and munitions, including a sizeable but ultimately unknown quantity of AK-103-2 self-loading rifles. ARES has previously conducted an extensive assessment of shipping documents, packaging, and AK-103 rifles documented in Libya and elsewhere within the MENA region. AK-103 rifles have further proliferated from Libya, and have been identified in Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Tunisia. None of these states – nor Nigeria – are known to have imported AK-103 rifles.

Special thanks to Alex Wambugu.


Remember, all arms and munitions are dangerous. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded, and all munitions as if they are live, until you have personally confirmed otherwise. If you do not have specialist knowledge, never assume that arms or munitions are safe to handle until they have been inspected by a subject matter specialist. You should not approach, handle, move, operate, or modify arms and munitions unless explicitly trained to do so. If you encounter any unexploded ordnance (UXO) or explosive remnants of war (ERW), always remember the ‘ARMS’ acronym:

AVOID the area
RECORD all relevant information
MARK the area to warn others
SEEK assistance from the relevant authorities