The definition of small arms and light weapons (SALW) elaborated by the United Nations Group of Experts in 1997 includes, alongside firearms with a calibre of less than 100mm, ammunition for these weapons, as well as explosives. Within the framework of an instrument for marking, registering the transfer of, and tracing SALW, these two product categories require a specific approach, different from the one advocated for arms. This is mainly because the measures envisaged for marking firearms cannot be directly transposed in the case of ammunition and explosives on account of specificities concerning their use and technical characteristics.
Contrary to firearms, ammunition and explosives are completely destroyed once used. This significantly complicates any efforts to recuperate information or carry out tracing operations a posteriori, even when marking elements are added to the goods upon manufacture. Marking techniques for explosives currently in use involve adding substances that can be decoded through chemical analysis, even after an explosion has taken place.
As far as ammunition is concerned, several marking methods can be envisaged: in addition to the possibility of engraving information on cartridges using the same techniques as for weapons (e.g. laser inscription, cold-stamping or engraving the case), it is also possible to mark powder by adding chemical tracers, as is the case for explosives.
It should be noted that from a regulatory point of view, ammunition and explosives are categorised as dangerous goods and are already subject to certain international control measures, notably concerning their transport and stockpiling. ...