Monday, February 12, 2007

The Kalashnikov index

The price of a Kalashnikov in Iraq, 2002-present day

Several references to the rising cost of an AK-47 in Iraq have caught my eye, as well as a mention of the so-called Kalashnikov index: the market rate for one of these weapons. However, no-one in the press seems to have put together the data to show the market trend, so I decided to do a little further research into the prices to produce the chart above.

It lacks sophistication: the bars show the range between the highest and lowest prices I could find quoted in any one year. There is enormous variation between the relatively peaceful Kurdish area in the north, and the Arab south, and significant differences between districts in the capital Baghdad. The genuine Russian-made weapon commands the highest prices; copies, either from Eastern Europe or the workshops on the lawless North-West Frontier in Pakistan are the cheapest. The price has varied from as little as $10 (when weapons were dumped on the market by the defeated Iraqi army) to $800 today.

The greatest variation can be seen in 2006, and this reflects the sharp climb in the value of an AK-47 which took place during the year. The attack on the al-Askari Shia shrine in Samarra in February last year is widely attributed to the sudden jump in the price of guns, as well as bullets, which nearly trebled in price to about 50 US cents apiece.

The Kalashnikov index is effectively a futures market for violence. Rising prices reflect rising expectations of violence in the future and attempts by the Iraqis to protect themselves. Succinct commentary on the market trend is provided by one dealer quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle. "This is not the time to sell guns, only to buy guns", he said.

New York Times
Small Arms Survey
San Francisco Chronicle

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