How Do Drug Cartels Get Their Weapons?

How Do Drug Cartels Get Their Weapons? 320 181 Greg Ellifritz
Some facts for the folks who believe the mainstream media narrative that lax American gun laws are the primary way that the Mexican drug cartels get their weapons. The truth is that most of the cartel weapons have been stolen from the police/military, illegally imported from other corrupt Latin American countries, or made by the cartels themselves.


Read the article below.  One of the most dangerous cartels has set up numerous gun manufacturing facilities in Mexico. They are building their own AR-15 rifles and selling them on the street for over $5000 US dollars each.


CJNG, The Only Cartel To Have Had Its Own Arms Factory


I will suggest a slight correction to the title of the article.  The CJNG is the only cartel to have been caught with their own weapons manufacturing facilities.  You can be 100% certain that the other large cartels are doing the same thing.


Don’t Pose with Guns in Foreign Countries

Don’t Pose with Guns in Foreign Countries 640 421 Greg Ellifritz

A friend recently posted a picture on Facebook from a trip she took to Honduras eight years ago.  On the trip, she convinced a local cop to hand her his pistol so she could get a picture posing with it.  See below.  Photo used with permission.



The situation turned out fine for her, but this is universally a bad idea.


First, some third world cops are also gang members, cartel members, or assassins in their off time.  It’s really hard to tell the difference between good and bad cops.  Many play on both sides of the line.  Do you want the authorities to find your fingerprints and DNA on a killer’s recovered pistol?  That may spoil your vacation.


Second, this could be a scam.  It’s likely illegal for you to possess a handgun in that country.  Now the cops have photographic evidence that you committed a serious crime.  They may use the opportunity to shake you down for a hefty bribe to avoid jail.  And after you pay, they’ll also seize your phone as evidence.  It will be sold at the local black market flea market.  What are you going to do?  The answer is “nothing” if you want to avoid being arrested.


Finally, you don’t know what type of maintenance or “third world gunsmithing” has been performed on the gun.  Safety mechanisms could have been neglected or disabled.  You don’t know for sure if the gun will fire without the trigger being pulled.  It would really spoil your vacation if you accidentally shoot someone with an unsafe gun.


It may be tempting and make for a great photo, but you really should avoid handling weapons in other countries.

Weapons and Carry Methods for Foreign Travel

Weapons and Carry Methods for Foreign Travel 620 455 Greg Ellifritz

In last weeks’ article, I talked about the common guns I see carried all around the world.  As a traveler, since you aren’t likely to be able to legally acquire firearms overseas, this continuation of last week’s theme covers some of the weapons you ARE able to carry.


When I’m at home, I carry a gun for protection because it is both legal for me to do so and it is the most effective weapon in my arsenal. Overseas, with very few exceptions, the average traveler will not be able to legally acquire or carry a firearm. Although widely available on the black market in almost every country, the penalties for getting caught with a firearm are so severe that it is in most travelers’ best interests to avoid acquiring one. The increased protection one may receive isn’t worth the cost of doing time in a third world prison in the event you are discovered carrying an illegal pistol by police.


Since guns are not recommended, the most effective weapon for most travelers is a knife. Knives can be legally brought into almost every third world country in checked luggage. Unless the knife is massive in size or the traveler has dozens of them in his luggage, customs officials rarely look twice if they see a knife when searching your bags.


Even though it’s rare that carrying a knife into a country would be questioned, the traveler should still have a believable “justification” for the presence of the knife in the event that customs or law enforcement officers ask you why you are carrying a blade. “Self-defense” is never a good justification to use with corrupt third world officials. Remember, most people in foreign countries don’t have the same “right” to self-protection as they do here in the USA. It’s best to have a more innocuous reason for carrying the knife.


I generally carry a Spyderco “Salt” folder when I travel. The knife is made of a special type of stainless steel that does a phenomenal job resisting salt water. Thus, I have a handy justification for my blade; it’s my “diving knife.” That excuse has worked for me no matter where I have traveled. “Dive knives” are commonplace and cause no additional scrutiny. You could even get by with a larger fixed blade knife so long as it looked like it had marine applications. Other “justifications” could be that you are going “camping in the jungle” or that the knife is your “cooking knife.” No matter what justification you choose, have a ready answer for when the cops ask you about the blade. “Cutting throats” is not generally recommended.


If you want to avoid the hassle completely, you can purchase a knife when you arrive in country. Hardware stores or outdoor/camping stores will have the largest selection. You may also be able to acquire a knife at a local market as well. If you buy a knife locally, keep the receipt. If you do get caught carrying it, you can tell the officer that you just bought it as a souvenir to take home with you. Playing the role of the clueless tourist with this excuse might keep you out of jail.


All of these knives were purchased at third world markets as “souvenirs.”

All of these knives were purchased at third world markets as “souvenirs.”


If you can’t find a hardware or outdoor store, don’t forget that you can buy cooking knives at almost any grocery store. A small paring knife won’t cost more than a couple dollars. Use a discarded piece of cardboard (from the inside of a roll of toilet paper) and some duct tape to create a makeshift sheath for safe carry.


If all else fails, stealing a steak knife from a restaurant table is a valid option as well. That may be the best option for cruise ship passengers who have to go through a metal detector every time they get back on the ship. Take a sharp knife from the dinner table and carry it around with you on your land excursion. Dispose of the blade on land before your re-board the ship. Grab another knife at dinner to repeat this process for the following day.


In addition to carrying my Spyderco Salt folder, I also carry a Talonz brand ceramic fixed blade knife. I carry this one because it contains absolutely no metal. While not quite as sharp or durable as a metal blade, the ceramic knife isn’t detected by metal detectors.


Even though it makes it through metal detectors; x-ray or pat-down physical searches will find the blade. If you try to smuggle it into the passenger cabin of a commercial airplane, there is a very good chance you will get caught and go to jail. Spending time in a Federal Penitentiary will ruin your vacation.


I honestly don’t know the laws regarding knife carry for most of the countries I visit…and I really don’t care. I recognize that I may be breaking local laws by carrying a blade, but my personal protection is very important to me. I’ll risk an arrest or fine in exchange for being able to save my own life if I am attacked. You’ll have to make a decision for yourself with regard to what you are willing to risk. It’s “Big Boy Rules.” If you can’t do the time, don’t commit the crime.


With that said, the chance of getting caught and/or arrested when carrying a knife in a third world country is next to zero. If you are smart about carrying the blade, you won’t get caught. If you do get caught, you’ll usually be able to pay off the cop who catches you to avoid going to jail. I’ve only been caught with a knife one time in all of my travels when I had to go through a metal detector unexpectedly in Peru. I gave the knife to the cop. He pocketed it and that was the end of the issue.


To avoid being caught, you have to be smart. Don’t carry your blade clipped to your pocket like you may in the USA. No one carries knives like this in other countries. It’s a huge red flag that cops and security guards will notice very quickly. If you have a folding knife with a clip, carry it down in your pocket or clip it inside your waistband with an untucked shirt. It will be harder to access this way, but you won’t get shaken down by the cops.


Be careful of metal detectors. In third world countries, you will encounter metal detectors in places where you might not expect them to be. Depending on the country and the area, you are likely to find metal detectors in hotel lobbies, train stations, bus stations, government buildings, and museums. If you are sightseeing in those locations, carry the ceramic blade.


I carry my ceramic blade in what’s called a “slip sheath.” I attach the cord on the sheath to my belt or belt loop and then position the blade in my waistband. When I draw the knife, the sheath falls off as soon as it reaches the end of the cord. If I need to have a lower profile, I will shove the knife completely down the front of my pants. The only thing visible is the cord attached to the belt. If you use paracord that is the same color as your belt or your pants, the cord will be barely noticeable. Even if you do get searched by the police, there’s a good chance that they will miss the knife. Male cops don’t tend to check other men’s genital region in a thorough manner.


Talonz Ceramic Knife in “slip sheath” stuck in waistband

Talonz Ceramic Knife in “slip sheath” stuck in waistband


When I pull up on the knife, the cord attached to the belt reaches the end of its range of motion and the knife clears the sheath.

When I pull up on the knife, the cord attached to the belt reaches the end of its range of motion and the knife clears the sheath.


But when the cops are around, you can push the entire blade down into your pants and only the cord shows

But when the cops are around, you can push the entire blade down into your pants and only the cord shows


If you are carrying a metal blade and stumble into a location with searches or metal detectors, you may still be able to get through the security checkpoint without being arrested. Often, police and security guards use metal detecting wands instead of using walk-through metal detectors. The cops get lazy and grow tired of bending over. They regularly won’t sweep body parts that are low to the ground with their metal detector wands. Sticking a knife in your sock or shoe will often allow it to make it through security undetected.


If the shoe isn’t an option, clip the knife to the front of your underwear right behind your pants zipper. That area won’t likely be searched well. If the metal detector does go off, you can blame it on your metal zipper, belt buckle, or pants button.


One other technique that is regularly used by criminals here at home is to allow their female companions to carry the weapons. Women aren’t viewed as being “suspicious” enough to warrant a search in lots of situations. If they are searched, male security guards and cops will avoid searching the breast area or genitals of females. These practices are even more evident in foreign countries than they are here. Clip your knife to the front of your wife or girlfriend’s panties or to her bra strap and she will probably get the blade past security.


In addition to the two blades I mentioned above, I also carry the knife that I designed, the Ka-Bar Last Ditch Knife.  I designed it specifically to be a last ditch weapon or escape tool that could be hidden anywhere on your body and would likely be missed by a cursory pat down search.  I made the blade smaller than a credit card so that it can be hidden in a wallet.  The sheath has multiple attachment points so that it can be taped or safety pinned anywhere inside your clothing.  You can even lace the knife up in your shoelaces.



My LDK knife design


When I travel to countries where kidnapping is a probability, I safety pin the knife inside my pants below the belt line in the small of my back.  In that position, it isn’t likely to be found on a search.  Again, most men don’t want to spend time feeling another dude’s ass.  That position also makes the knife easily accessible if my hands are tied or taped behind my back.  The knife is just the right size to cut my way out of a lot of problems.  I’ve seen some folks tape it to the inside of their belts, carry it on a cord around their necks, or pin it under a lapel.  It’s truly a versatile knife that you can carry anywhere.


Those three blades have traveled around the world with me for many years.  No one ever gives them a second glance, but in a pinch, they’ll work well as defensive weapons.  I carry other weapons as well, but this article is already over 2000 words and I don’t want to bore you.  If you are interested in the pepper sprays, hidden impact weapons, and improvised weapons I carry with me on my foreign travels, check out my upcoming third world travel safety book.   In the book I describe all the weapons I carry and how I avoid getting arrested for carrying them.  It’s worth a read for any of you who travel in “non permissive environments” whether those places are in third world countries or right here in the USA.






Preparing for Foreign Travel- Guns

Preparing for Foreign Travel- Guns 620 465 Greg Ellifritz

I’m currently on a short trip to the Dominican Republic.  My trip prompted some friends to ask me how I planned on protecting myself in a third world country where it is illegal for me to carry a firearm.  I’ve spent an average of at least six weeks a year for the last 10 years traveling outside of the country.  My usual vacation spots are the kinds of places that most experts will advise you to stay away from.  Despite that fact, I’ve managed to survive pretty successfully without a gun, spending a grand total of more than an entire year traveling through nearly 40 foreign countries.


If you think that you absolutely need a gun to survive, you are seriously misguided and are missing out on some awesome life experiences by limiting yourself to only those places that allow your concealed pistol.  Here’s the crux of what I have learned in my travels: If you don’t act like an asshole, people generally won’t try to kill you. 


I’ve traveled through some of the most dangerous countries on the planet without a gun.  I try to make friends with the locals.  I don’t act like the “Ugly American.”  I don’t pick fights.  I try to smile a lot.  I don’t display indicators of my wealth or throw large sums of money around.  I buy my local friends a round of beer on occasion.  I learn some of the local language.   That’s it.  That’s my grand self defense strategy.  It’s kept me quite safe throughout the last decade of my life.  If you are honest with yourself, doing these same things and not acting like an asshole will keep you safe here at home as well.


With all this said, it doesn’t mean that I don’t prepare for violence before I travel to other countries. Before traveling to any foreign countries, I research crime trends and common scams in the areas where I’ll be visiting. I pack and carry both less lethal and lethal weapons (other than firearms) and will be writing about those options next week.


One additional preparation I make is that I prepare to use any “battlefield pickup” weapons I may be able to acquire overseas in an emergency. I look at the weapons that local cops/soldiers/security guards carry and make sure I can use them proficiently. The chance of me needing some local cop’s gun is extremely low, but so is being caught in a hurricane or trapped in a volcanic eruption. I’ve experienced both of those events while traveling and want to be prepared on weapons side of things as well.


Since I most recently traveled to the Dominican Republic, I’ll give you my pre-trip range training practice session details as an example of what I do for most of the countries I visit. In the Dominican, you generally see a lot of .38 revolvers. You also see pistol gripped pump shotguns (usually Winchesters).   In a crisis, if I had to arm myself, I would either offer to buy one of those guns for an exorbitant sum of money or I’d choke out an unsuspecting security guard (sorry dude) and “acquire” his weapon.  I need to make sure I am very proficient with both weapon types.


Would you know how to use this gun (seen being carried by an Ecuadorian security guard) in an emergency?

Would you know how to use this gun (seen being carried by an Ecuadorian security guard) in an emergency?


I broke my Winchester pump out of the gun safe and did a little dry firing. The big difference between the Winchester and other brands of shotgun is the location of the safety. I spent a few minutes dryfiring and working the safety until I was completely comfortable with it.


I also took a 4″ Model 10 .38 revolver out of my safe and took it to the range. Because the security guards who carry these revolvers rarely carry spare ammunition (and the ammunition they do carry is 158 grain lead roundnose), I knew I had to focus on extreme accuracy and making fast head shots. One round of round nose .38 to the chest isn’t a likely stopper and I wouldn’t have extra bullets to spare, so I planned on using more head shots than I normally would. The combination of faster stops and less ammunition used is exactly the solution I needed. Reloads weren’t likely to be possible, let alone a realistic option, so I didn’t waste any time working on them.


Since accuracy is paramount, I started out with a modified version of the Humbler drill shot at 50 feet to ensure I had good trigger control with the revolver.  After shooting the Humbler, I put a full sized silhouette target up at 20 feet.  I ran two cylinders of ammunition through the revolver on each stage.  I shot each stage from the ready position because I was unlikely to be using a holster for a gun I had to steal from an unsuspecting security guard.


– Six fast body shots

-Three body shots right hand only

– Three body shots left hand only

– Two to the body and one to the head

– One to the body and one to the head

– Single head shots as fast as I could make my hits


With a little over 100 rounds fired, I felt pretty good about my abilities to use a .38 revolver if necessary.


You will find different weapons carried in different countries.  In Latin America and the Caribbean, the .38 revolver/ pistol grip pump shotgun combo is exceedingly popular.  Those are two guns you should definitely understand how to work.  In all my other travels in third world countries, I see the following other guns most commonly carried on a regular basis by the local cops/soldiers/security guards:

– Glock pistol

– Beretta 92 (or Taurus Copy)

– M-16/AR-15 variant

– Ruger Mini-14

– FN/FAL Rifle

– AK 47 and AK 74 (full auto- Know the safety differences between these and their semi auto cousins)


To be a well rounded and prepared traveler, you should understand basic operating functions of all of those weapons.  They are the ones you will most likely see.  If you have time, use Google Images and search “xxxx country police weapons.” Look at the guns you see the cops carrying and make sure you are at least proficient on those weapon systems.


I’m hoping that the only danger I face in the Dominican Republic is sun burn and alcohol poisoning.  But it’s still nice knowing I can take care of myself should the need arise.


Check in next week for my article on the weapons I carry when I travel in foreign countries.