Although Mexico has very strict gun laws, cartels are extremely well armed. The most common weapons are AR -15s and AK - 47s which are found at nearly all shootouts. The increased appearances of higher powered weapons such as SCARs and Barretts indicate the wealth of these organizations, which smuggle the weapons into Mexico across borders, or out of police and military arsenals.
On this page we compile images and reports of cartel armaments, in order to better understand their fighting capability.
Seven cartel members were arrested with 11 AR-15s, 1,200 rounds of ammunition, and eight bullet proof vests at a narco camp in Fresnillo, Zacatecas. Two of those arrested were under the age of 18.
January 21, 2021. Fresnillo, Zacatecas.
These two rifles, an AR-15 and an AK-47, were found in an abandoned car in Valparaiso, Zacatecas. The car was found abandoned on the side of the road with the doors open and the keys still in the ignition. Also found were rounds of ammunition and a bag of Marijuana.
January 7, 2021. Valpariaso, Zacatecas.
Photos from El Sol de Zacatecas.
Two men were arrested carrying this AR-15 and Glock 9mm. Also seized were several dozen 9mm and 5.56 rounds, along with a Walkie Talkie.
Mexicalli, Baja California. January 9, 2021.
Photos from the El Imparcial.
50 of these 40 mm inert practice grenades were caught by the Guardia Nacional as they were smuggled on a bus in Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. The media reported them as live grenades, but according to the above diagram, they are likely M781 practice rounds.
Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. September 9, 2020.
Photos from the Guarda Nacional twitter page.
These AR - 15s and hunting rifle were captured in an empty farm in Casimiro Castillo, Jalisco. Also captured were .50 caliber rounds.
September 13, 2020. Casimiro Castillo, Jalisco.
Photos from Guardia Nocturna.
This arsenal was captured in Villagran, Guanajuato. It includes several AK 47s and AR 15s, two M2 Browning 50 Cal machine guns, a box of M67 hand grenades and several hundred rounds of ammunition.
August 19, 2020. Villagran, Guanajuato.
Photos from SEDENA through Notinfomex.
This Tavor SAR 5.56 NATO was captured in Tijuana, Baja California. Also in the owners possession were 20 kilos of fentanyl, worth ~30 million USD.
This firearm is an odd choice for a trafficker to use because of its cost and rarity.
August 6, 2020. Tijuana, Baja California.
Photos from the FGR.
These rifles and ammunition were seized in Aguililla, Michoacán. The top left is an AR 15, the rest are AK 47s. On the tarp are an assortment of 5.56, 7.62, and .50 caliber rounds.
August 2, 2020. Aguililla, Michoacán.
Image from LaVozdeMichoacan.com.
These weapons and ammunition were seized in two abandoned cars in Tepalcatepec, Michoacán. In the top right of the tarp is a the mount for an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun. The gun was not found. The large rounds placed on the tarp are .50 caliber rounds for the missing machine gun.
July 31, 2020. Tepalcatepec, Michoacán.
Images from Debate.com
These two AK - 47s were captured after a shootout in Choix, Sinaloa. A very common weapon for cartels because of their ease to use and low cost.
The bottom photo shows steel cased 7.62 rounds with their magazines. Steel cased rounds are fairly common due to their lower cost compared to brass cased rounds.
July 14, 2020. Choix, Sinaloa.
Photo from LuzNoticias.com
This Barrett M82 was found in a car in Tijuana, Baja California. Also found were 55 Kilos of Methamphetamine and 1000 rounds of various calibers.
July 14, 2020. Tijuana, Baja California.
Photo from ElSolDeTijuana.com.
These fake army uniforms were seized in Tijuana, Baja California. These uniforms are part of a concerning trend where cartel gunmen impersonate the military or police. Near the top of the photo, next to the body armor is an AK variant rifle, likely an AKM.
July 13, 2020. Tijuana, Baja California.
Photo from ABCNoticias.com
The National Guard seized this selection of firearms after 6 cartel gunmen were captured in the countryside near Magdalena de Kino, Sonora. This seizure is a fairly representative look at typical cartel arsenals.
Pictured are 5 AK variants, either AKMs or AK-47s. Below the row of AKs, are 6 AR-15s. The 3rd from the left appears to have a receiver modification allowing it to use box magazines, of which several are pictured. Perhaps an MCR Fightlite Dual Feed upper, which costs around 6,000 USD.
At the top of the screen is a Barret M82 Sniper Rifle. These are becoming increasingly common in cartel gunfights, despite their cost of ~8,000 USD.
July 13, 2020. Magdalena de Kino, Sonora.
Image from BlogDelNarco.com.
The above photos were taken after a failed attack on the Chief of Police of Mexico City by over a dozen CJNG gunmen. The gunmen waited in the back of a truck waiting to ambush the Chief of Police as his convoy drove to meet the mayor of Mexico City for a morning briefing.
Although the government has not released photos of the captured firearms, journalists were able to take these photos.
The top photo displays an AR - 15, likely with a modified receiver to allow it to use belt ammunition rather than standard 30 - round magazines.
The bottom photo shows 2 M82 Barrett rifles, which are extremely powerful .50 caliber precision rifles. Front and center is a SCAR - H, a powerful and expensive assault rifle. The value of the firearms in the second photo are worth over 20,000 USD combined, indicating the wealth of the CJNG who organised the ambush.
June 26, 2020. Mexico City, Mexico.
Photos from the twitter of journalist Joaquin Lopez-Doriga.