HomeNewsSon Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam’s Unusual Weapons Acquire US

Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq fell 20 years in the past, and over time, many secrets and techniques of his reign had been uncovered. However we nonetheless don’t actually know a lot in regards to the small arms business of Saddam’s period. 

Engineers and managers of Iraq’s navy factories vanished with out a hint, and there was by no means a lot official data accessible. In a earlier article, the Tabuk AK was lined, the primary service rifle of the Iraqi navy. However there was one other, arguably extra well-known rifle in Saddam’s Iraq.

Everybody who remembers the 2003 invasion possible can recall footage of U.S. servicemen with gold-plated AKs — positively an ideal trophy. Precisely the identical rifles had been gifted to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and to today, these golden weapons reside within the Abdeen Palace Museum in Cairo. One other rifle like that was offered to the king of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz bin Fahd Al Saud, by Saddam himself.

However, should you look simply past the bling, even with out the gold, this AK itself is totally distinctive and never a direct copy of some other design.


As an armorer and safety contractor, I’ve seen and repaired dozens of these rifles throughout Iraq, and there was even a time when a type of AKs was saved by the bedside. Phrase on the road is that it was created particularly for Saddam’s Republican Guard, his most elite models led by his son, Qusay Hussein. 

The legend appears believable — even the weapons that weren’t gold-plated typically had a particular recess on the handguard for a small gold coin, one thing you wouldn’t usually anticipate to see on mere general-issue service rifles.

Whereas discipline stripping is identical as some other AK, the son of Tabuk has a number of options distinctive to this mannequin. Notice muzzle gadget and entrance sight/gasoline block.

Many Iraqis had been requested about this gun, however it was by no means found if it had any official designation inside the Iraqi navy. A manufacturing facility brochure simply known as it “quick assault rifle “Tabuk.” However Iraqis have an entire bunch of names for it.

Extra eloquent and educated Iraqi gun lovers name it “The Son of Tabuk,” which is sensible. It’s, basically, a closely modified, shorter model of the Iraqi Tabuk rifle, itself a licensed copy of the Yugoslavian M70 Kalashnikov variant.

Different Iraqis, whenever you ask them in regards to the identify of this rifle, would provide you with a smug smirk and after a number of seconds of hesitation, will reveal the identify — “Osama.” Sure, that Osama: Osama bin Laden. The rationale for that nickname is sort of easy — earlier than Osama joined SpongeBob in his life underneath the ocean in 2011, he was always seen in propaganda movies with a short-barreled Soviet AK variant known as AKS74U, chambered for five.45×39 with a facet folding inventory.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US
Saddam’s AK could be discovered with each a daily AK-pattern entrance trunnion, in addition to the bulged, RPK-type.

Since most individuals aren’t actual Kalashnikov connoisseurs, they ignore trivial particulars like caliber and kind of the folding inventory and easily name all short-barrel AKs “Osama.” Like Kleenex. 

However the “quick Tabuk” isn’t a direct by-product of any Soviet or Yugoslavian AK variant. The options of this rifle come from a number of completely different origins. Some quick Tabuks have normal AK receivers, and a few have bolstered RPK-pattern receivers. 

Brown plastic handguards look Bulgarian, and the flash hider doesn’t actually appear like something. The entrance sight gasoline block combo really strongly resembles the Finnish RK62, which is usually known as “Valmet,” or its descendant, the Israeli Galil.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US
Notice middle rifle’s handguard, lacking its signature gold coin.


Whereas repairing some weapons in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, one of many quick Tabuks was lacking a screw on the facet of the entrance sight that saved it in place. Fixing this entrance sight ended up being an actual ache. A driver was requested to convey me to a building retailer to be able to discover a matching screw, however when the driving force heard that it was a gun half, he determined to do it correctly and go to an precise gun store.

We headed to the Citadel, a 6,000-year-old fortress overlooking the middle of the town. Proper subsequent to it, there’s a complete road stuffed with navy retailers stuffed with tactical equipment of questionable high quality, tons of faux 5.11 clothes in addition to some weapons and ammo.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US
Blinged-out, gold-plated weapons are among the most coveted Center Jap trophies.

With no screws on-hand, each vendor respectfully despatched us to the identical place down the highway. The identify “Bahtiar” was mentioned a number of occasions. Lastly, the inquiries ended within the basement of an previous sandstone constructing, the place a formidable show of weaponry met anybody who wished to see Bahtiar the Nice, essentially the most well-known gunsmith of Erbil.

In the course of the struggle with ISIS, Bahtiar was repairing weapons of the native militia free of charge. He labored on this basement for over 30 years and was interviewed by BBC and different media retailers, together with someday RECOIL contributor, Miles Vining.

That day, Bahtiar was out, so his son was on obligation, repairing somebody’s RPG-7 grenade launcher. I requested my translator to say that I want a screw to restore an AK and confirmed him the pattern. The younger man put down RPG-7 and answered, graciously hiding his full disappointment in my [lack of] gunsmithing expertise: “You’re mistaken, Kalashnikov rifles don’t use screws like that.”

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US

When the younger man was proven an image of the quick Tabuk, he had a direct change of coronary heart. He retrieved a big field with spare components from underneath his workbench, and mentioned: “Take something you need, my buddy, it’s free for you. That screw on the entrance sight is certainly a ache within the ass.”


However the largest downside with quick Tabuks wasn’t proprietary components. It was an general diminishing high quality of arms that adopted the fixed decline of the Saddam regime.

As soon as, when working within the Maysan province of Iraq, there was an particularly rusty quick Tabuk. It was deserted on the backside of a damaged and crooked steel field, and I actually felt dangerous for this gun. It was lined with rust, in all probability uncared for for many years. After eradicating all of the rust and placing all of it again collectively, it was found the bolt provider wouldn’t even transfer until the charging deal with was pushed up whereas being pulled again on the similar time.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US
Valmet-ish entrance sight with its problematic screw.

All the things was inspected — bolt, locking lugs, gasoline tube — till the bolt provider. The manufacturing facility employees merely forgot to take away a piece of steel from the underside/proper of the bolt provider. So, until you tilted the provider left whereas charging, it wouldn’t transfer.

The gun couldn’t even operate correctly proper from the manufacturing facility, however nonetheless managed to cross high quality management and was really issued to some unlucky soldier. It took 40 minutes of grinding to shine the bolt provider into spec, and the rifle lastly began working correctly — for the primary time in 30 years.

One other time, in Kirkuk, an excellent higher instance of Saddam-era Iraqi craftsmanship was discovered. After eradicating the muzzle gadget from this unlucky quick Tabuk, one thing I’d by no means seen earlier than was found — a second gasoline port proper on the muzzle thread itself. The employee on the manufacturing facility drilled the gasoline port within the barrel and doubtless quickly realized he was off by virtually 2 inches.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US

With out a lot hesitation, as an alternative of scrapping the barrel, this employee drilled a second gap, this time in the precise place, and despatched it down the meeting line. The rifle with two gasoline ports handed all the standard assurance and made it to the arsenal of elite Iraqi forces.

The final instance of fantastic high quality was, maybe, essentially the most uncommon Iraqi rifle I’ve stumbled upon in my life, a late manufacturing quick Tabuk with a set of options by no means seen anyplace else. As an alternative of a brown handguard, it had a yellow one. And the muzzle gadget didn’t appear like something regular both. It was manufactured in 2002, only one yr earlier than Saddam’s regime totally collapsed. 

It was in good situation, however you possibly can take away the barrel pin (which usually requires a press) with the push of a pencil. In consequence, the barrel moved within the entrance trunnion and the headspace was fully off. Whenever you fired it, the case would rupture and break aside, and the damaged shell would keep within the chamber, stopping new rounds from feeding.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US
Everybody wants a spare gasoline port of their life.

The worst factor about that is you can’t actually see it until you attempt to load a spherical within the chamber, and at this level, it’s often too late to do something. Additionally, you possibly can’t extract the damaged shell with out specialised instruments. This gun was retired from service, and there’s nonetheless hope that sometime it’ll find yourself within the museum.


Each time you go to a museum, you see weapons — swords, spears, bows, arrows, or maybe some flintlock pistols. Weapons can inform you numerous in regards to the society they got here from. Political affiliations with different international locations, degree of know-how, and manufacturing capabilities — weapons can reply these questions should you’re able to search for the solutions.

Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US
The worst of the bunch. The finger-tight barrel pin resulted in extreme headspace and a deadlined rifle.

The quick Tabuk is simply one other artifact of contemporary Iraqi historical past. Below Saddam’s rule, the technological capabilities of a once-great nation had been declining, particularly after the failed invasion of Kuwait in 1991. Manufacturing unit workers, lots of whom labored within the protection sector to legally keep away from navy service, didn’t care about their jobs. Sanctions and worldwide isolation didn’t assist both.

However there’s additionally a optimistic takeaway from the story of “Son of Tabuk.” Dictators all the time fall; it doesn’t matter how large they suppose they’re, and the weapons of their elite guard will inevitably find yourself within the hand of the peasants they as soon as oppressed. 

About The Creator

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject material professional and firearms teacher. Through the years, he labored in 16 completely different international locations as a safety contractor, armorer, teacher, firearms business gross sales consultant, product supervisor, and marketing consultant.

His articles had been revealed in RECOIL, The Firearm Weblog, Small Arms Evaluate, Small Arms Protection Journal, and Silah Report, and contributed to the Vickers Information: Kalashnikov, Volumes 1 and a pair of. To contact him, e mail: [email protected].

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Son Of Tabuk: Exploring Saddam's Unusual Weapons Acquire US Obtain US

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