January 03, 2008

Positive ID On Bhutto Assassination Gun

Abid Jan of has posted a link to another image of the firearm used in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the comments of this earlier post that identified the weapon as a Steyr M.

Here is the new photo.


This is a much better photo the the grainy picture originally released by the Associated Press, and because of this, the sidearm's distinctive characteristics a a definitive match for the Steyr M-A1 variant, proving the earlier supposition by "karlJ" beyond a reasonable doubt.

Her is a Steyr M-A1 as pulled from the Steyr web site, with three distinguishing characteristics highlighted.


Here is a rotated and magnified version of the picture submitted by Abid Jan, with those same distinguishing characteristics highlighted.

bhutto assassination gun

Why would the assassin use a a Steyr M-A1?

Availability is typically a prime concern, as an assassin will use the weapon he has access to, but online research suggests that there is little indication that the M-A1 is normally exported to Pakistan in any numbers, suggesting that this was a purpose-specific acquisition.

The M-A1 is touted by Steyr for its relatively unique trapezoid sighting system, which the company touts as "a new and innovative stepping stone towards quicker target acquisition." The 111-degree grip angle is also said to put the shooter's hand more in-line with the bore of the pistol, reducing upward muzzle movement and enabling faster follow-up shots, and the guns relatively light weight (27oz. empty) theoretically enhances control, allowing faster follow-up shots.

Sadly, at the bottom of the Steyr site in red text are the words NO AUSTRIAN WEAPONS FOUND WITH TERRORISTS!, and a link to a story from last year, where an irresponsible British journalist claimed Steyr HS 50 sniper rifles purchased by Iran were being supplied to terrorists in Iraq, a claim I also debunked.

This time, through no obvious fault of the company, they cannot make that claim.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 3, 2008 09:25 AM

Does the M-A1 fire laser beams? ;)

Posted by: C-C-G at January 3, 2008 09:43 AM

Only on the DU. And Kos, Huff Post, etc :)

Posted by: William Teach at January 3, 2008 12:03 PM

Looks like a pretty solid match, but in the first photo it seems to have a more rounded trigger guard. Perhaps an earlier model?

Posted by: Uncle Pinky at January 3, 2008 01:38 PM

I think from the trigger guard's shape it looks like the original M rather than the M-A1, a much newer model. Scroll down a bit to see the picture from the earlier post.

Even the newer model, however, shoots 9mm Parabellum, not laser beams.

Posted by: karlJ at January 3, 2008 06:20 PM

I don't agree that the pistol's origin necessarily points to a purpose specific acquisition. It would be available to anyone willing to buy black market arms. Whether it was opium derived Taliban money, or came out of the ISI's budget is unknown, but she was wanted dead by lots of people with the means to get this sort of thing.

Last time I was in that general area, a quality pistol sold for about $1300. This is well within the budgets of any number of bad actors. With AK-47's going for about $150 in much of that part of the world (can't say for Pakistan specifically), pistols are a major status symbol, and European weapons doubly so.

The marketing talk about the sights is just that. I've used them, and while usable they are hardly a leap forward. Most serious users replace them with standard post and notch style.

Posted by: karlJ at January 3, 2008 06:37 PM