Statistics on Arms Trade


1. Total world arms trade
2. Top suppliers and buyers of weapons
3. Largest arms producing companies
4. Small arms

1. Total world arms trade

12 billion bullets are produced every year - enough to kill everyone on earth twice. In fact, every minute, one person is killed by armed violence. There are almost 1 billion guns in the world (of which about a quarter billion are in the U.S.). Guns or other light weapons are involved in roughly 60% of all human rights violations. Three quarters of all the weapons in the world – light and heavy – are supplied by the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. In 2011, exports of arms by the U.S. rose to 3 quarters of the total market.

Global transfers of large conventional weapons such as tanks and planes were 24% higher in 2007-2011 than in 2002-2006, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

However, estimates of the volume and financial value of the international arms trade vary a lot depending on how one defines “arms”. Many products have dual use, such as night vision equipment. SIPRI delivers the most cited figures:



And there’s also this estimate, which includes the sale of military services:

arms sales


What is clear from all these estimates, however, is that the downward trend following the end of the Cold War has been reversed during the last decade.

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2. Top suppliers and buyers of weapons

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Three-quarters of all exports in the past five years since 2007 were made by five or six countries: the US, Russia, Germany, the UK, China and France (in decreasing order). The US alone represents a third of global weapons exports.

global arms exports


Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies. Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion in 2011, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals. The American weapons sales total was an extraordinary increase over the $21.4 billion in deals for 2010.

arms sales in 2011


arms trade by country


arms trade


The main buyers of arms are China, India, and the United Arab Emirates.




The large drop for China doesn’t signal a greater love of peace. Rather, the Chinese government has pretty effectively built up a domestic arms manufacturing and research sector. 

top five arms importers

This covers only international transfers. We should also include domestic sales of arms. Many industrialized countries have a domestic arms industry to supply their own military forces, and a domestic trade in weapons for use by their citizens. Dwight D. Eisenhower coined the phrase “military-industrial complex”, where the armed forces, industry and politics become closely linked and encourage each other’s hunger for arms.

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3. Largest arms producing companies

According to SIPRI,

“arms sales by the 100 largest arms-producing companies in the world (excluding China) – the SIPRI Top 100 – amounted to $315 billion in 2006, an increase of 9 per cent in nominal terms and 5 per cent in real terms.”

biggest arms sellers

biggest arms producing companies

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4. Small arms

Over 600 million items of small arms are in circulation. According to Oxfam, around 500.000 individuals die in small arms-conflicts every year, approximately one death per minute. About 60% of human rights violations documented by Amnesty International have involved the use of small arms and light weapons.

small arms exports

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24 thoughts on “Statistics on Arms Trade

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  11. Andrew Bailey . says:

    Thats realy good reading , it makes me want to make it harder for traders in arms that have been proven to be irrespos’ible like France in the past .

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