Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, August 7, 2021

‘Weapon Of War’: The U.S. Rifle Feared By Mexican Police — And Loved By Drug Cartels

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

Weapons such as the M82 are part of a “torrent” of illegal arms flowing south that Mexico says shouldn't be in the hands of civilians.

Soldiers stand guard next to weapons seized from alleged drug traffickers at a military zone in Mexico City on September 2, 2016.

The flow of high-caliber arms smuggled across the porous U.S. border has alarmed Mexican officials and few weapons are as powerful as the U.S.-made M82 semi-automatic rifle increasingly favored by the powerful drug cartels.

The M82 can easily penetrate bulletproof vests, concrete walls and even tanks, says its manufacturer Barrett Firearms. It is also one of the weapons of choice for drug cartels, according to the Mexican government, which this week filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts against the company and 10 other gun manufacturers.

Weapons such as the M82 are part of a “torrent” of illegal arms flowing south, Mexico alleges, partly due to the manufacturers’ negligent business practices that had encouraged illegal arms trafficking.

None of the manufacturers, including Barrett, responded to Reuters’ requests for comment.

First manufactured in the 1980s, the M82 rose to prominence during the first Gulf War when it was adopted by the U.S. military. Now it’s used by more than 70 security agencies across the world, according to Barrett.

In Mexico, the weapon has disrupted the balance of power between criminal groups and poorly equipped police forces, according to Romain Le Cour Grandmaison, Program Director at the Mexico and Central America Office of Noria, a think tank.

“If you have a Barrett, it means that any non-special forces such as the local police and the municipal police cannot fight you,” Grandmaison said.

“That leaves the military as the only ones able to battle the cartels.”

The M82 guns, often fitted with a scope to act as sniper’s weapon, can fire 70 rounds per minute with a maximum range of 2,500 meters.

Between 2009 and 2020, authorities seized 358 M82 rifles, according to official figures cited by the Milenio newspaper. In 2019, a record 68 such weapons were captured.

The raw power of the rifle, which weighs about 14 kilograms (31 lb) and is 1.5 meters long, was on show in mid-2020 during a military-style assassination attempt on Mexico City’s police chief that was captured by surveillance cameras.

Gunmen who left behind at least one M82 rifle were seen spraying the armor-plated car of police chief Omar Garcia Harfuch with high-velocity rounds. He was badly wounded, while two bodyguards and an innocent bystander were killed.

In 2016, members of the “Knights Templar” cartel in Michoacan state allegedly downed a helicopter with an M82 rifle, the Mexican lawsuit said.

The Barrett M82 was a “serious problem” for security forces because its armor-piercing bullets can knock out the motors of reconnaissance vehicles and endanger helicopters, said a Mexican official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The gun should not be in the hands of civilians, the official said.

“It’s a weapon of war,” added the official.

For the cartels, the M82 has also become a status symbol.

Criminal gangs that wish to project power often post photos on social media of their members toting M82 guns and latest military gadgets, mimicking the style of special forces units.

“It’s a very symbolic weapon in the narco world and for the narco aesthetic,” Grandmaison said.

“It shows you’re on top of the game.”

NBC News


  1. an act of terrorism on the part of the companies that produce these. it shows how arrogant and uncaring Americans can be: unarmed unsuspecting persons get to face these, get to deal with the consequences

    1. And flooding the USA with fentanyl isn’t terrorism. Yeah it’s the USA fault that Mexicans are slaughtering Mexicans at a genocidal rate! Just like it’s the white mans fault that there is a black on black genocide taking place in every major USA city! U r part of the victim mentality that is infecting the youth. U r pathetic!

    2. That my friend is capitalism.

    3. Not really it's the purchaser, straw hat buyer that sells it to the criminal underworld.

    4. Mexico and the USA is a “match made in heaven” for all this shit going on. It’s two neighbors using each other for $

    5. 3:53 lol I can't stop laughing. Your quote..."an act of terrorism
      on the companies that produce them" So for example Nospan goes to buy 5 guns at $500 each x5=2500.
      He passed the background check and buys them, now he sells them to a Cartel at 1,000 each. Making a hefty profit.
      So on this one would you blame the gun manufacturer or NoSpan?
      I am still laughing.

  2. I would love to read an essay from Buggs, or anyone for that matter, for their well informed insight and take on the whole Gun Flow South issue/possible lawsuit occurring.

    1. I am reminded of the classic Warren Zevon song "Lawyers Guns and Money" and its chorus "...the shit has hit the fan..."

  3. Until some one brakes into your home or comes and pulls you out of your home into a concentration camp ya will be happy don’t come looking for help from some one with guns when shit gets real

  4. So where are they buying armor piercing bullets from? They can’t shoot without ammo.

  5. Sicario 006 has one that's painted camouflage pink with a Hello Kitty sticker


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