In 2010, $607 million dollars worth of small and light arms left the United States, headed to buyers around the world. Israel got $44 million worth, Afghanistan $39 million, Thailand $32 million, Colombia $63 million, and Canada $85 million, among others. On the flip side, the US brought in just under a billion dollars of weapons and ammo in that same year, with Italy, Brazil, Austria, and Russia leading the pack.
Small arms, are generally considered anything that can be easily operated by a single person, such as: light machine guns, pistols, and assault rifles. Light weapons are those that can be run by a small crew, including: grenade launchers, heavy machine guns, or anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile launchers, among others.
Partnering with the Igarape Institute, a Brazilian think tank, Google pooled information from border control and customs records to chart the flow of military and civilian small arms and ammunition around the world. The interactive infographic lets you see where people in a country bought their weapons from, who they sold them to, and how those exchanges changed between 1992 and 2010.
The designers pulled their information from Peace Research Institute Oslo’s small arms transfer database. They caution that the numbers aren’t as good as they could be, saying that the “visualization tool provides an incomplete assessment of overall flows of small arms, light weapons and ammunition. For example, countries such as China, North Korea, and the Republic of Iran along with most of Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are extremely weak in reporting.”
The Norwegian Inititative on Small Arms Transfers’ searchable database, though much less pretty and decidedly clunkier, gives a more detailed breakdown of how those substantial dollar figures break down.
More from Smithsonian.com: