Weapons dealer bites bullet in arms recession: Christopher Bellamy meets the man with the Commonwealth's largest private stock of weapons

THE THRILLER writer John Le Carre and Mikhail Kalashnikov, designer of the best-selling range of automatic rifles, have both been in touch with a Manchester firm recently. Mr Kalashnikov, 73, has offered samples of his two latest designs.

In spite of such impeccable contacts, business is not booming for the company with the largest private stock of weapons in the Commonwealth, including 40,000 of Mr Kalashnikov's rifles. And Mr Kalashnikov confessed that times are hard for him, too.

Both have been speaking to Sam Cummings, president of Interarms (UK), a firm that is heir to old rifle company names like Whitworth and Colt.

Mr Cummings, 65 - born in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love - founded Interarms in the early 1950s. It has traditionally done much of its business with the British and US defence ministries.

Interarms stopped buying rifles some months ago. Violence and horror abound, in Bosnia and elsewhere, but there is no shortage of weapons and prices are rock-bottom. Mr Cummings said the Serbs had made sure they inherited most of the former Yugoslavia's arms industry.

Mr Cummings said: 'The primary production points for all weapons - all lethal weapons - remain in Serbia in a physical sense. They make them at Kragojuvac, south of Belgrade. We're now banned from dealing.'

Croatia got 20,000 or 30,000 Kalashnikovs from Hungary, he said, but that was the only licensed deal to get through.

The business goes two ways. Until the United Nations embargo on imports and exports, Interarms imported hunting rifles from Serbia. Mr Cummings's warehouse is adorned with Soviet paintings, including a gift from the Tbilisi national museum. 'They kept the deliveries up right to the week when the embargo was imposed,' he said.

With the embargo on arms exports to crisis areas, eastern economies in dire straits and sharp contraction in armed forces, Mr Cummings said business had been flat. 'There's an avalanche of surplus from the whole eastern world, including China. We're afraid that next week it will be cheaper.'

The basic AK-47 Kalashnikov now sells for dollars 150 (pounds 79.78) a copy. The most advanced weapon in Mr Cummings' inventory, the Austrian AUG Steyr, sells for dollars 700 (pounds 372).

Mr Cummings said Mr Le Carre had been to Interarms several times. 'He said he wanted to sit around for about a week to get the atmosphere. One of the characters in his next book is an arms dealer operating from England. I said he was welcome to sit around but I could give him some work to do, too.'

Mr Cummings has been to the Kalashnikov home in Rzhevsk in Russia. 'Even he is complaining,' Mr Cummings said. He saw the two latest Kalashnikov designs last month. 'One resembles the Uzi (Israeli) - it's very compact, can be fired with one hand. The other is more foldable than the classic folding stock AK-74.'

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst – 2 year fixed term contract – Kent – Circa £55k

£45000 - £55000 Per Annum 31 days holiday, pension, healthcare, annual bonus: ...

**SEN Primary Teacher Serf Unit **

£110 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Preston: We are looking for an experie...

Experienced Foundation Teacher

£100 - £222 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recruiting f...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: SEN TA's apply now! West Midlands

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week