ATF Uncovered Counterfeit Colt M16A2 Rifles and M203 Grenade Launchers in Mexico

Counterfeit Colts (courtesy

This report dates back to 2009; approximately the same time our friends at the ATF launched Operation Fast and Furious. But it’s new information to us and top secret too. “LAW ENFORCEMENT SENSITIVE. DO NOT DISSEMINATE OUTSIDE ATF WITHOUT APPROVAL.” Yeah we’re going to assume a web page available to the public is OK for release. Quite what it means – where did these counterfeit Colt M16A2 Rifles and M203 Grenade Launchers come from? – is another story. One which will probably never be told. But it’s not without humor. Specifically, “Analysts noted . . . the word ‘government’ stamped above the magazine well was missing the letter ‘n.’” So that’s why the ATF analysts get the big bucks. Click here to read the document on (while you can) or make the jump for more pics and the best bits . . .

Counterfeit Colt (courtesy

On June 6, 2009, in Acapulco, Guerrero State, the Mexican Army engaged members of the Beltran Leyva Organization in a large scale gun battle, resulting in multiple deaths on both sides, as well as civilian casualties. A substantial amount of firearms and military ordnance were recovered from the scene. The SWB-FIST [Southwest Border Field Intelligence Support Team] and ATF’s Mexico Country Office (MCO) began reviewing the seizure data from this widely publicized incident, to include photographs of many of the seized weapons. An observation was made that two of the recovered Colt M16 rifles with attached 40mm grenade launchers were most likely counterfeit. Analysts noted that these weapons did not contain serial numbers (Colt serializes both the rifle and the launcher), nor did they bear signs of serial number obliteration. Additionally, the word “government” stamped above the magazine well was missing the letter “n,” and Colt trademark symbols appeared to be crudely forged and placed inconsistently on the rifles with known Colt firearms’ stamping. Furthermore, the selector switch appearing on the grenade launchers is not the same switch as that manufactured as part of a Colt M203 40mm grenade launcher . . .

Map showing recovery data for counterfeit Colt rifles (courtesy


It is the opinion of the SWB-FIST that these counterfeit firearms were produced for one or two reasons only. The first is that whoever manufactured the firearms was attempting to maximize profits by cloning a true military grade Colt firearm. Actual military weapons are extremely difficult for the DTOs [Drug Trafficking organizations] to acquire, and they are willing to pay top dollar for them. A second possible reason is that the DTO purposely cloned the weapons as Colt M16A2 rifles because these weapons are issued to the Mexican Armed Forces and some law enforcement units. Seized along with the counterfeit weapons were both real and fraudulent Mexican police and military uniforms as well as other tactical equipment used by these same authorities. This equipment, along with the counterfeit weapons, would allow the paramilitary gunmen of the DTOs to operate under the guise of a real soldier or police officer, without drawing the attention of the Mexican authorities . . .

One final comment should be made about the broader firearms trafficking picture at the current time in Mexico. Detailed analysis of seizure event data and firearms tracing data placed these counterfeit weapons into a definite timeframe between 2007 and 2009. They do not continue to appear at the current time. However, other non-traditionally sourced firearms are being recovered in more recent seizure events. These include firearms made from kits, firearms built onto lower receivers, and converted firearms. This may be an indication that the DTOs are pursuing alternative methods to simply straw purchasing firearms from retail U.S. dealers. The SWB-FIST will continue to monitor these non-traditional sources through ATF tracing and seizure data.

Which stopped being made public at around this same time frame, as the ATF claimed an “iron river” of guns was flowing from U.S. gun stores to Mexican drug cartel members. And began the Fast and Furious program to make sure that happened.


  1. avatar jwm says:

    Kyhber Pass copies?

    1. avatar William Burke says:

      It occurred to me also.

    2. avatar Jus Bill says:


    3. avatar Jeff says:

      why? Mexico is a country full of highly educated engineers. they are much more likely to manufacture such firearms domestically than they are to import them from Pakistan.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        I’m just guessing mind you. But a lot of raw opium from the poppies in Astan are funneled thru Pakistan. If the cartels are having that stuff shipped to mexico and other points south would it be feasible for guns to be included in the shipping?

        I’m really out of my depth when it comes to drugs and cartels.

        1. avatar lolinski says:

          I wouldn’t reconnend getting to know much about them either.

          Guns are simple machines, no wonder they are building them. I would also like to build AKs from scratch and shitshovels.

        2. avatar CA.Ben says:

          Speaking of AKs from shitshovels…

    4. avatar MattG says:

      That’s the first thing that popped into my head too, mostly because Khyber copies are known for crudely attempting to emulate the stampings & roll marks from the master rifles that they reverse engineer. It’s not beyond possibility that it could have come from Pakistan, as it is a major drug trafficking hub.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        Khyber Pass copies of British guns usually have a backwards N in the Enfield spelling. These m16 copies omit the N from government. How random is that?

        1. avatar Norincojay says:

          I 100% agree with you. I’ll take it a step further as I believe the CIA is involved in the opium trade out of Afghanistan just as they did with crack during the Iran Contra stuff to get funds for black ops.

  2. avatar ahil925 says:

    “Actual military weapons are extremely difficult for the DTOs [Drug Trafficking organizations] to acquire…”

    Uuum… wat. Are they ignoring the countless military weapons that walk off base, out of police stations, or crated off boats that show up in nearly every governemnt “pat-on-back” photo op?

    1. avatar MarcusAurelius says:

      That was my reaction when I read this. I seem to recall being told that soldiers were defecting from the mexican military because of the better pay.

      1. avatar Accur81 says:

        Absolutely. Ditto for Mexican cops, although defecting with Mexican military hardware results in a cartel recruit who is much more effectively armed.

    2. avatar Hasdrubal says:

      I hope you’re talking about guns walking away from the Mexican military. Not saying it doesn’t happen here, but it’s pretty rare by comparison. I ran a company arms room for two years on Ft. Lewis, with around a thousand serial numbered pieces of equipment worth over two million dollars, and didn’t lose any of them.

      1. avatar ahil925 says:

        Of course I’m talking about mexican military and police. When the cartels want guns from the US they just find the nearest BATFE agent.

      2. avatar B says:

        Are we forgetting about the park service and those police in NJ (?) losing all those automatic rifles?

    3. avatar Anonymous says:

      I still remember seeing a Federales station right next door to a field of Marijuana in southern mexico about 3 years back. I was in the middle of no where, following a map old fashioned style…. The Gov’t and Cartels are one in the same.

      You will see there is only violence when PAN political party is in power.

  3. avatar DrVino says:


  4. avatar Mark N. says:

    Couple of questions. first, do these rifles and grenade launchers work, even if counterfeit? Two, are these guys saying that straw purchases dried up, so the baddies started manufacturing their own? And three, was F&F a result of shoddy manufacturing or firearms by the gun runners?

    1. avatar Cliff H says:

      I suspect that these weapons must have worked at least reasonably well. Seems to me you would have a very short career/life expectancy if you produced weapons for a criminal cartel and they discovered they did not work.

  5. avatar Jay in Florida says:

    My 1st and only thought as read this was Pakistan too.
    Ive seen what they can make at those corrugated steel huts of homes on other web sites. Mostly revolver copies and some 1911s.
    One time they even showed a home made Glock.
    It was almost as ugly as the real thing!!!

  6. avatar BDub says:

    Sounds like editing the intel to suit the narrative. Same ol’ song…different administration.

    1. avatar Jus Bill says:

      Happens all the time. INTEL without an agenda is just scuttlebutt.

  7. avatar Andrew says:

    “However, other non-traditionally sourced firearms are being recovered in more recent seizure events. These include firearms made from kits, firearms built onto lower receivers, and converted firearms.”

    From a previous post on TTAG:

    One of the rifles appears to be an 80% AR:

    1. avatar DanRRZ says:

      Is it just me or does that HSLD Operator AR with a blingy billet lower seem to be completely devoid of sights?

  8. avatar Jus Bill says:


    I remember a BIG flap about that a few years ago. Seemed like “REL WaPo” almost became a legitimate marking caveat. The one teensy-weensie thing they HADN’T worked out yet was how to approve release once the info became “stale.” Looks like the answer here was just to put it on the web. Typical.

  9. avatar peirsonb says:

    Maybe I’m latching on to the wrong part of the story, but why in the hell does the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have a “Mexico country office?”

    1. avatar jwm says:

      It’s a showroom and sales floor.

      1. avatar Avid Reader says:


  10. avatar Ross says:

    Some one needs to issus a search warrant for Holders crib, bet they would find the blueprints in his basement.

  11. avatar FortWorthColtGuy says:

    I think the anti-gunners will gave issue with this part of the article….

    ” The first is that whoever manufactured the firearms was attempting to maximize profits by cloning a true military grade Colt firearm.”

    According to the definitions of Obama, Feinstein, Bloomberg and Cuomo that “military grade” firearms are pretty much anything that is semi-auto. This story seems to confirm what we all know to ge true. That is, real military grade firearms are not just any gun that is semi, or even full auto for that matter. So when the anti gunners start calling any black rifle a “military grade” firearm, we can call them out on it.

    1. avatar lolinski says:

      Millitary grade is anything that can fire more than one shot without blowing up.


  12. avatar Dustin says:

    Just looked at the report, is it just me or does the “Government only” stamp look photoshopped as [email protected]#$?

  13. avatar PeterK says:

    I am reminded of an australian jeweler for some reason. Can’t figger why… ;p

  14. avatar Ralph says:

    Given the misspelling of the word “gover(n)ment” and quality of its public education, that rifle was made in New York City.

  15. avatar Ike says:

    Makes you wonder about all the counterfeit guns that passed as real……

    How many counterfeit guns were reported as USA sourced through ATF’s eTrace system? The computer won’t know they’re fake, and ATF won’t care as long as it helps their “statistics”..

  16. avatar H.R. says:

    One point this information makes very clear: You cannot stop anyone from getting guns.
    If you cut off supply, those with enough power and money are able to manufacture their own.
    And unlike the guns we own now, there is NO control over something that goes from start to finish on the black market… no serial number for the ATF or law enforcement agencies to track, no FFL bound books to check, no manufacturer keeping track of when it was made or what dealer it was sold to… nothing.

  17. avatar B says:

    ATF should be a convenience store and SWB-FIST should be on the menu.

  18. avatar ED says:

    Those are NOT M-16A2s. they receivers may have been once made for a A2 but those are M-4s and those are NOT a M-203 look like a 37mm flare launcher converted into a M203. Seems either ATF is arming the drug cartels with US Military weapons and cheap accessories or they are now making there own weapons copies. They have machine shops converting semi auto AKs in to true AKM-47s select fire. Not surprised they reversed engineered M-4s and M-16s from captured Mexican government weapons.

    1. avatar Southern Cross says:

      The attached device is a Cobray flare launcher. They are often seen in Hollywood movies as a stand-in for the M203. But most people wouldn’t know the difference. Look it up on

  19. OMG. I just asked my wife, who is from Mexico, to spell Government. She spelled it “Goverment”….. I think we just found our country and person of origin. Don’t let her 5’4” stature and infectious all loving personality fool you! 😉

  20. avatar Frank says:

    Can’t believe no one has said the obvious yet. It’s chinese. What country’s arms manufacturer was the successful target of a sting operation for selling automatic weapons and RPGs to people they believed to be gang members? What country is known for putting out clones of western products? What country has a large arms industry and already makes something similar? It’s pretty obvious.

    1. avatar Fug says:

      I was gonna say the exact same thing man. The Chinese and the Iranians both make domestic copies of the AR and likely the M203 as well. It would make sense for either country to misspell the word government on their black market firearms. The end user doesn’t speak English either so they won’t notice.

  21. avatar Excedrine says:

    China, I’m lookin’ at you.

  22. avatar Southern Cross says:

    China already makes, or did make, a copy of the AR-15 rifle called the CQ. They look like an A1 model with a pistol grip taken off a revolver.

    As I said earlier, the supposed grenade launcher is actually a Cobray flare launcher and is often used by Hollywood as a standin for the genuine M203. If you have only seen these in Predator and many other action films, you won’t know the difference.

    Look it up on

  23. avatar JD says:

    so, we don’t know what country manufactured them, then it’s “whoever manufactured them” and finally in the part 2 it’s “The DTO purposefully cloned the weapons”

    another ATF operation to feed their domestic story lines, can’t trust any of them….complete with the “DO NOT DISSEMINATE”…everything is released eventually and with FOIA.

    the cobray 37mm FL has no rifling = worthless, I’d like to see if the 40mm clone does: an inaccurate GL is a worthless GL.

    “The first is that whoever manufact
    ured the firearms was attempting to maximize
    profits by cloning a true military grade Colt firearm. Actual military weapons are extremely
    difficult for the DTOs to acquire, and they are
    willing to pay top dollar for them. A second
    possible reason is that the DT
    O purposely cloned the weapons
    as Colt M16A2 rifles because
    these weapons are issued to the Mexican Armed Fo
    rces and some law enforcement units.

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