Do Soldiers Pick Up Enemy Weapons?

In the past, it was common to find soldiers picking up enemy items to use during combat and even keeping them as souvenirs. Such items include small weaponry, flags, or other important personal belongings. We aim to find out whether this practice still happens to date.

So, do soldiers pick up enemy weapons? Most soldiers avoid picking up enemy weapons even when they are out of ammo. It is risky since they can never know whether it is the enemy's attack strategy. Similarly, there may be no point picking up an enemy weapon that a soldier has no training in. Therefore, to keep their troops safe, the army discourages its service personnel from considering the use of enemy weapons for safety reasons.

In this article, we delve into warfare practices to determine whether war trophies are a thing of the past. Are soldiers allowed to pick up enemy weapons during combat? What are the rules, and can they keep them as souvenirs? Read on as we help you find answers to these and more questions.

Can Soldiers Pick Up Enemy Weapons?

There are certain circumstances where a soldier's last resort may be to pick up an enemy weapon. Other times, the situation is so dire that the last concern is the type of ammo the soldier uses, like guerrilla warfare.

The rules surrounding this situation vary depending on how conventional the army is and its combat rules. One of the rules about this is that the soldier may take any necessary action unless it compromises their fellow troop. However, the Special Forces and the concerned fighting units are the ones who determine these rules.

Generally, it is not a good idea for a soldier to use the enemy's weapons during war, and some strict troops do not dare consider it, even when they run out of ammo. Some even consider it a sign of weakness to leave around a usable weapon for their enemy to find and use against them. Similarly, when weapons are customized to operate only in the right hands, what is the point of picking them up!

Let's find out why picking a rival's weapon is not a good idea.

Level of Training

All soldiers go through specific training before combat, and this training is precise to the type of weapon they will use. Therefore, it is pointless to pick up a weapon which they have zero training on.

If they otherwise use it, it may have serious consequences on them or their fellow soldiers. These weapons have killed many soldiers since they don't know how to use them; hence it is best to avoid enemy weapons.

Moreover, some weapons are self-disabled when a foreigner tries to use them. For instance, a soldier may remove the bolt, expose the pin, place it in the hole, then snap it off to render the gun utterly useless to the next user.

Sabotage Tactics

The battlefield is quite a tricky situation since you never know the rival's tactic to have you cornered. First, the other side may take their weapons and sabotage or rig them; this means that the weapon may be faulty or explode when it comes to firing it.

This sabotaged ammunition may also jam other nearby weapons, effectively disarming your army. Leaving around tampered weapons is one way to infiltrate the enemy's camp. Thus, most soldiers would rather use their own artillery.

Friendly Fire

You may notice that some guns have the same sound when you fire. For instance, the M-4 and the AK-47 sound almost the same. Therefore, if the two sides use these weapons, a soldier should stick to their own weapon. If not, they may be setting themselves up as a target for both sides, a self compromising move.


Safety is crucial before deciding to pick up an enemy's weapon. Every soldier knows that there are certain factors to consider before they declare a gun safe for use. They need to inspect, clean, and be able to assemble and reassemble it. Doing so will ensure that the gun will be safe, and there will be no rigging or booby-trapping.

Besides, considering that the soldier is down, their gun is also likely to be caught up in the crossfire. Thus, if it is also hit, then it may be destroyed or barrel bent, interfering with the shot's accuracy. Such a gun is also likely to explode, especially due to backpressure, making it dangerous to anyone using it.

Can Soldiers Keep Captured Weapons?

Depending on the country the soldier is fighting for, dictates whether they can keep captured weapons. Countries like the US have strict rules forbidding soldiers keeping captured weapons and requires their soldiers to return any captured weapons back to their unit.

Keeping items collected from slain soldiers is an old warfare tradition; it includes weapons and possessions. This practice was significant to the winning side or for the war hero. It was a sign of bravery and a clear indication of the side that had won the war.

Even recently, the soldiers may find this very important to them; this way, they may wish to keep enemy weapons as souvenirs. But does the law allow it?

Generally, various countries and war troupes have their laws in matters of keeping captured enemy items. In some countries, whenever a team seizes a weapon, they treat it as a war trophy.

The relevant authorities take them and display them after labeling them. Each firearm gets a label according to how they captured it. This practice applies to heavy artillery such as vehicles, ships, and aircraft. However, for small ammo like guns and pistols, they take them and display them in various institutions.

However, the US protocol is that whenever soldier's find an enemy weapon, they need to return it to their unit. The concerned parties will dispose of it accordingly; they will either destroy or disable it. With small ammo like guns and pistols, they take out the bolt and destroy the receiver, which renders the weapon completely useless.

If the weapons are large, they destroy them in explosions or airstrikes. Their main concern is that the enemy may re-access them and use the weapons against them. If destroyed, there's no way the enemy can reclaim them.

The law on prohibiting soldiers from seizing and keeping enemy firearms, either to use or as a souvenir are quite stringent. The best way to go is to declare that it is in your possession then hand it over to the relevant parties for disposal.

The notion is that the soldier serves to protect their country; therefore, whatever he gains or captures from the war is the nation's property. This applies to the weapons, prisoners, or land; the unit's leaders will decide the next cause of action.

In case a soldier still goes ahead and keeps enemy weapons, it would be an illegal move tantamount to punishment. The only way they can keep such a weapon is to keep it illegally, which is highly discouraged.


The best call would be to avoid picking or using enemy weapons altogether; however, some soldiers consider it a necessary move in combat. In the old wars, such as the world wars, many veterans admit to having taken up enemy ammo during altercations. In fact, they state that it was a wise move that may have contributed to their success in the wars.

Seizing these arms was necessary given that they were in limited supply, which served to add to their ammo supply. However, if the army is well-supplied and coordinated, then their own artillery will be enough. When it comes to keeping enemy items, the US law is against keeping enemy weapons. Thus, it is best to avoid it; otherwise, soldier's will be doing so illegally.


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