Arms Dealer

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
I sell to leftists and rightists. I'd sell to pacifists, but they're not the most regular customers.

"There are over 550 million firearms in worldwide circulation. That's one firearm for every twelve people on the planet. The only question is, how do we arm the other eleven?"

Yuri Orlov, Lord of War

In its basic form, a person who sells weaponry. This results in a large variety of sub-types of these characters:

  • Gangland Gun Runner: The gangland arms dealer, selling stolen, smuggled or officially destroyed (this happens all too often in Eastern Europe) weapons with the serial numbers filed off.
  • Gun Shop Owner: Someone who owns a legitimate gun shop. These will usually refuse to sell to obvious criminals, but otherwise not ask questions. Some will decline to sell to those they see as "shady"... although this can sometimes have Unfortunate Implications.
  • Space Shooter Seller: Characters or companies in sci-fi roleplaying games who will sell you weapons for your vessel.
  • Local Blacksmith: Similar characters in fantasy roleplaying games who will sell you and/or your party weapons and ammunition.
  • Former Reds With Rockets For Sale Former Regime Personnel or other ex-military people with access to automatic weapons and man-portable anti-aircraft systems at least, even going up to weapons of mass destruction. Frequently ex-Soviet soldiers. Will attend an Arms Fair.
  • Corporate Lobbyist who discuss weapon sales with governments and are out to make a large profit for themselves. Attempt to appear more respectable than the other types. Might do some other stuff on the side. Often appear at a legal Arms Fair.
  • Minister For Defence Export: Actual government ministers, who hawk their country's products at a legal Arms Fair.
  • International Arms Merchant: Globe-trotting freelance gunrunner, basically a corporate lobbyist without the corporation and far more unscrupulous. Frequently sell to terrorist groups and large criminal organizations, and tend to pop up as minor villains or information sources in spy movies.

These characters are generally depicted as slimy merchants of death, making money from brutal wars and providing the means to prolong the conflict. They may be inclined to start a War for Fun and Profit, hoping to make money from selling weapons.

Examples of Arms Dealer include:

Anime and Manga

  • Jail Scaglietti of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S. It would be a shame to create all those advances in technology without someone using them after all. His biggest clients are the higher-ups of the Time-Space Administration Bureau themselves.
  • In Gun X Sword, the protagonists encounter and are eventually assisted by an inventor and his ex-girlfriend, now the head of a Lady Land (the two later get back together). A flashback shows them selling equipment to people who ended up being the villains of one of the first episodes and they also previously supplied the Big Bad, the Claw (again, not knowing his full intentions).
  • The protagonists of Jormungand are mercenaries under the employ of H&C Logistics Incorporated, headed by their leader and ruthless arms dealer Koko Hekmatyar. She justifies what she does by claiming that making sure that every side is well-armed actually "promotes world peace".
  • McCoy, the base quartermaster at Area 88, sells weapons (and other goods) at exorbitant markups to the pilots. He occasionally offers deals like 50 Sidewinder missiles for $1000 (ca 1980, mind) to those who don't mind faulty fuses or warheads.
    • Farina, the Italian mafioso in the manga and OVA, also qualifies.
  • Gunsmith Cats: Rally Vincent's official job (When she's not bounty hunting) is selling and customizing guns. Unusually for the Gun Shop Owner version of this trope, not only does she try not to sell to criminals, she has been known to track down people who use her guns for crimes and investigate people she suspects of planning to use her guns to commits crimes.
  • Black Lagoon's "Rip-off Church", a catholic-flavour gun cartel running guns through the local church.
  • Enishi in Rurouni Kenshin.

Comic Books

  • The Elseworlds miniseries JSA: The Liberty Files, featuring Batman and the Justice Society of America, featured the Joker as an arms dealer selling weapons to the Nazis.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark was originally an arms dealer, but eventually decided to downplay his company's role in that market. After that, Justin Hammer and Obidiah Stane appeared as unambiguously villainous versions.


  • Yuri Orlov, Villain Protagonist of Lord of War as well as a few others shown in the film. Yuri is the nephew of one of the "Former Reds With Rockets For Sale", who helped get him into the arms business. He also has a rival/nemesis in Simeon Weisz, a corporate lobyist version who also has some political motivations (specifically support for America and Israel). Despite falling into some Eagle Land and "evil Zionist" stereotypes, Simeon still comes across as better than Yuri.
  • An Israeli one features in Charlie Wilsons War, played by Scot Ken Stott.
  • Tony Stark is one of these in Iron Man, before he sees US forces get attacked with his own weapons and has a change of heart. Even after that, his weapons keep turning up in enemy hands. Turns out Obie had been going around behind his back.
  • Owen Davian, the amoral, passive-aggressive, monotonic arms dealer villain of |Mission Impossible 3. His day job is hooking up terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, and his night job is exuding sociopathic menace. Even when captured, bound, and faced with death, he remains preternaturally calm and merely rattles off all the ways he will torture the hero's loved ones if when he gets free. The only time he shows a hint of fondness is when he aloofly recalls cruelly murdering one of the hero's partners ("That was nothing, that was... fun. That was fun."). His chilling detachment is enhanced by the fact that he has no backstory or any humanizing moments whatsoever.
  • Jeebs in Men in Black. He's definitely the slimy sort, handing illegal weapons to alien criminals.
  • Brad Whitaker from The Living Daylights, played by Joe Don Baker. He used to provide weapons to the Soviets until General Pushkin came down to Tangiers and cut him off. Whitaker subsequently asked Koskov to kill Pushkin to provide coverage for his opium smuggling operations. This arms dealer is seen for a very short portion of the movie, instead acting as an armchair general who likes to play with toy soldiers.
  • In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle buys a number of guns from the suitcase of a skeevy street dealer. After making several purchases, the man runs down a laundry list of other illegal wares, to Bickle's disgust.
  • In City of God, a group of gun runners sell some weapons to young gangsters. They point to a Star of David engraved on an Uzi and note that the gun is "Jewish" as a selling point.
  • In The Boondock Saints, the brothers buy guns and other supplies from a basement arms dealer with clear IRA ties.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, the Kid works a day job as the town's gunsmith.
  • In the Serbian film Underground, Marko and Blacky supposedly act as gun runners for the resistance against the Nazis during World War 2. In reality, they drink and gamble most of the money away. Much later, Marko and Natalija become arms dealers during the Yugoslav wars. Blacky has them executed as "war profiteers" before realizing who they are.
  • Both Valentin Zukovsky and the Janus syndicate in GoldenEye are said to be involved in the arms trade, among various other criminal enterprises.
  • Bully Hayes is dealing firearms to the native islanders in the opening of Nate and Hayes.
  • The film Strapped features the delivery boy Diquan Mitchell getting heavily involved in arms trafficking in the ghetto in a plot to get his pregnant girlfriend out of prison.
  • Ordell Robbie from Jackie Brown.
  • Chevy Chase and Gregory Hines in Deal Of The Century.
  • There's a slightly unusual gun rurnner in The Salton Sea.
  • In Casablanca, Rick Blaine was this in Ethiopia and during the Spanish Civil War, according to his Backstory. Apparently he did it for the cause, although he was unwilling to admit it and certainly had no problem pocketing the pay he got out of it. He was told, "The winning side would have paid much better" and replied ambiguously. Actually, the winning side would not have paid him at all because they would have been purchasing from reliable arms cartels, not smugglers; while the Ethiopians at least would have needed unconventional sources because they were strapped for cash.

Fan Works

  • In the aftermath of the 3rd Harbinger battle in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion there were a lot of munitions that didn't explode or were abandoned in the chaos, which the local ghouls scavenge and sell to interested parties like the Eldritch Society.

Live Action TV

  • Airwolf features several of these characters.
    • Of particular note is the one played by Walter Gogol in "Fight Like a Dove", a Nazi war criminal who claims to have influenced the outcome of the Falklands War by not selling the Argentines more than half a dozen Exocets. For the record, of the six Exocets that were fired by Argentina (five from aircraft, one from a truck)- one sunk HMS Sheffield, two sunk Atlantic Conveyor, the truck-launched one damaged HMS Glamorgan and the others missed.
  • They have also featured in Alias.
  • Rene Benoit in NCIS.
  • Wiseguy. Mel Profitt operated on an international scale, selling weapons as part of his Malthusian belief that it was needed to balance the birth/death rates.
  • Star Trek:
    • A majority of the Ferengi race fit this trope. They are willing to sell anything to anyone all in the name of profit,
    • In the Deep Space Nine episode "Business as Usual" Quark dabbles in the arms trade until his nightmares are haunted by the images of the people killed by his weapons.
  • In Smallville, Lex Luthor becomes one, turning LuthorCorp from an agricultural business to a weapons manufactor, around Season 5, when he fully enbraces his Face Heel Turn.
  • They show up in Burn Notice in all their varying alignments; good...ish (Fiona), neutral (Seymour), and villainous (Brennan).
  • Alexi Volkoff from Chuck among other illegal activities.
  • The Big Bad of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, Agent Abrella, and his Power Rangers SPD counterpart, Broodwing.


  • Desiree Goth, the beautiful French Love Interest of Dan Track, hero of the action adventure novels by Jerry Ahern.
  • In The Day of the Jackal, the Jackal buys his weapons from an arms dealer, known as the Armorer, who was formerly a war hero in Belgium, but later turned to crime, including his arms sales, but still maintains a highly respectable and trustworthy persona.
  • The Dogs of War makes a plot point out of the various types of dealers available to the coup-planning mercenary team of the title: they're able to obtain their ammunition from a legitimate dealer through forged licences, but have to buy their guns on the black market and smuggle them aboard their ship since having both the ammo and guns on the manifest would make it blatantly obvious the 'freighter' is actually carrying an amphibious strike force.
  • In Neuromancer, Case realizes that someone (Molly) is following him, so he calls his gun dealer contact, who agrees to meet him in a few hours with a gun. In the meantime, Case buys a cool whip, which he unfortunately trashes as soon as he gets his gun.
  • Gerald Kersh's short story, Comrade Death, is about an arms dealer, Hector Sarek, who eventually controls the industry and specializes in horrifying chemical weapons. Sarek is also another fictional protrayal of Basil Zaharoff, see below in Real Life.


  • Savatage has the song "Doesn't Matter Anyway" off their album Dead Winter Dead. A Rock Opera set during the Bosnian War, the song is about the arms dealers setting up shop in Sarajevo and selling indiscriminately to whoever is willing to pay. The final verse of the song is a warning to their customers: Buy now or be sorry, even if the weapons don't get used today there will always be another civil war tomorrow
  • Fall Out Boy has a metaphorical example in the song "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Arms Race." While they're actually talking about MC's/bands competing for the audience's adoration, the metaphorical verses fit this trope perfectly: "I am an arms dealer/Fitting you with weapons in the form of words/Yeah, don't really care which side wins/Long as the room keeps singing, that's just the business I'm in, yeah."

Tabletop Games

  • The White Wolf collectible card game Vampire: The Eternal Struggle featured an ally card called Arms Dealer. While in play, the Arms Dealer can take an action to allow the player to search his deck and place a weapon into his hand. Thus, while the player still has to pay for weapons, he can readily have an arsenal available to him.
  • Very common in Shadowrun. Arms dealers are known as 'Fixers' (as in "I can fix you up with something"). Fixers not only deal in arms, but in body armor, black market cyberdecks and programs, and even cybernetic modifications. The Crime Mall is perhaps the most brazen example, actually operating open-to-the-public storefronts out of an abandoned shopping mall in the Puyallup Barrens.
  • Several factions function like this at one time or another in BattleTech. The Free Worlds League and the Lyran Commonwealth/Alliance are both known for it, but the one who really takes the cake is probably Clan Diamond Shark, which despite being part of Battletech's Proud Warrior Race would much rather sell guns to you than fight you.
  • Fairly common in Inquisitor and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay game lines. Dark Heresy also has a system of Contacts, whose possible abilities include significant discount and/or improved Availability (vs. open market values) for a category of goods — it's one of the most obvious uses. Sure, one Contact (who sits in one place, while your Acolytes may have to travel anywhere across entire Sector) with access to military equipment + 30% discount on ammo and nothing else is worth more XP than good relations with a whole Imperial organization, but given how expensive ammunition for bolters and exotic weapons is...
  • In Rifts you not only have the Black Market (your standard shady arms dealers) and independent gun shops, but a number of companies such as Wilk's and Northern Gun also sell their wares directly.


  • In the George Bernard Shaw play Major Barbara, the title character (which is a meaningful name- St. Barbara is the Patron Saint of munitions) is the daughter of an arms manufacturer, Andrew Undershaft (loosely based on Zaharoff), and she's not happy about it.

Video Games

  • Raptor: Call of the Shadows.
  • Elite.
  • Privateer.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
    • Drebin is actually a twist on the concept. In addition to fitting none of the above sub-types (he's probably best described as a combo of the Gun Shop owner and the international arms dealer), he describes himself not as an arms dealer, but a gun launderer, someone who offers a way around an ID lock system integrated into the military and industrial-military infrastructure on a global level.
      • Though in some ways he (and his bretheren) fall under the heading of Minister for Defense Export, as they are taking their marching orders direct from The Patriots; in general, their activities let weaker forces keep fighting by allowing them to reuse battlefield salvaged guns, which in turn stretches conflicts and helps fuel the War Economy.
      • Coincidentally, the same voice actor also played Smuggler in Deus Ex who guessed it: an arms dealer!
    • Additionally, Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops had "Arms Dealer" as a skill for recruitable characters. They allow you to find more weapons and ammo in levels, and it's extremely useful for the Expansion Pack, where Infinity Mode drops you into levels where you don't start with any gear.
  • Resident Evil 4: "Welcome, strayn-jah! Got somethin' that might interest you...."
    • He doesn't clearly fit into any of the above classification, and not because he doesn't sell ammo.
  • Ratchet and Clank: Megacorp, Gadgetron, Grummelnet, and those are the "legal" ones. The illegal variety are Slim Cognito and The Smuggler. You go to the first three for basic firearms, and the last two for illegal upgrades, and weapons that are banned in five galaxies.
  • Hammer in Castlevania: Chronicles of Sorrow. Though he sells stuff besides weapons, most of his inventory is weapons and he's generally seen in front of a crate with various weapons sticking out.
  • Army of Two features four NPCs who sell the characters their armory. Of those four, only Cha Minh Soo has any relevance to the plot; the rest are nothing more than portraits. They could have been rolled into Cha Minh Soo's character and nothing would have changed.
  • Kuja in Final Fantasy IX sells factory-built black mages to Alexandria for use as shock troops and walking artillery pieces. His motivation isn't necessarily profit though.
  • Starting in Grand Theft Auto III, a chain of stores called 'AmmuNation' acts as this. In 3, it tends to sell things that one would expect at a gun shop. Starting in Grand Theft Auto Vice City, they sell more, and in San Andreas, the only things they don't sell are outright heavy weapons.
    • In 3 and Vice City, a different guy sells heavy weapons, just in case you really need that RPG-7.
    • In Grand Theft Auto IV, thanks to tight gun control laws by the mayor of Liberty City, AmmuNation has been replaced with a more traditional, underground black market gun dealer.
      • There's also Little Jacob, who will sell you anything from the back of his car except for the really big guns.
    • Although in Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars, they come back with a mail order delivery service. This helps them get around the gun control laws.
  • In Command & Conquer: Generals the GLA terrorist faction acquires their vehicles from a Arms Dealer building.
  • EarthBound has a black market weapons dealer that tends to hang around in alleys near or behind the drugstores where ordinary items are sold; mostly his wares are junk and bottle rockets, but later in the game he also sells bombs.
  • Front Mission: They don't sell guns, they sell Wanzers and Wanzer Accessories.
    • Justified in 1, it's a place for the wanzer gladiators shopping for 'arms'.
      • AND during a massive war, talk about Profit!
    • What about the ones in the 3? they sold these legally in the middle of the city.
    • And finally, ordering them from the Internet, although that last one is implied to be illegal...
  • Wild ARMs XF has Weishiet, who provides the deadly weapons for the Council and is known as the Death Merchant.
  • Far Cry 2 is full of arms dealers. In addition to the Jackal and the player's armorer, there's quite a few other arms dealers who are the targets of various missions. Even some of the playable mercenaries are stated to have histories in gunrunning.
  • How could we miss Nasri and Leland from Alpha Protocol?
    • While they are certainly the most prominent, almost everyone involved in "Clearinghouse" is an arms dealer. Including Mike Thorton, if he so chooses.
  • The Merchant of Menace from Mercenaries. The owner is a Gangland Gun Runner/International Arms Merchant/Russian Mafia boss who sells everything from pistols to cruise missile strikes and fuel air bombs.
    • The sequel has a mix of Defence Export Ministers (The Allies, China), International Arms Dealers/Corporate Lobbyists (UP), Former Reds With Rockets For Sale (the Guerrillas) and Gangland Gun Runners (the Pirates).
  • You in Tropico, turn the iron into weapons. However the US and Russia don't like third party arms dealers.
  • Terraria allows you to build a town and recruit NPCs, two of which are the arms dealer who sells guns and ammo and the demolitionist who sells bombs.
  • Los Angeles weapons dealers in Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines are situated in a more legitimate front—pawn shop, convenience store, antique shop—but will present their guns, knives and swords if they hear the right words. But one sells out of the back of his van, just a few feet away from a corner where patrols a police officer who somehow never seems to turn to face the van.
  • The Sikholon in I Miss the Sunrise are a mix of type 2 (they're the only known arms dealer in the galaxy) and type 3.
  • Deus Ex: Smuggler.
    • 2027: Evgeny and Boris, along with an unseen dealer who sells only over the phone.
    • The Nameless Mod: Raving Nutter and Andreus.
  • In Deus Ex Human Revolution you can buy guns from shady dealers who work from places like an abandoned gas station or back room of a brothel. For some reason despite of your status as chief of security to one of the most influential companies in the world you can't just have your employer commission the appropriate armaments for a mission. Amusingly, the aforementioned gas station dealer will keep on selling even when there's a riot going on a block away and there are police snipers stationed up on his roof.
  • Recette, Player Character of Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale and owner of the eponymous shop, basically becomes one of these for local adventurers.
  • The Gun Runners company, appearing in Fallout and Fallout: New Vegas, live in a post-apocalyptic world where laws do not exist; hence, they are automatically legitimate gun factory/shop owners. They are notable in that they are the only (mentioned) source of factory fresh weapons available to buyers in the universe; the rest of the weapons you can buy is supposed to be salvaged from pre-war depots or tinkered together from rusty parts. The Enclave and the Brotherhood also manufacture weapons, but they aren't commercial organisations and keep their factory output to themselves.
  • The Saints Row series has Friendly Fire, serving much the same purpose as AmmuNation in GTA. There's also Phillipe Loren, head of The Syndicate in Saints Row the Third; arms dealing is his legitimate business.

Web Comics

  • And Shine Heaven Now infers that Oliver Warbucks amassed his fortune doing this, and his adopted daughter Annie Warbucks took over upon his death. Integra, Seras, and Pip go to get new weapons from her.

Web Original

  • When it comes to high-tech armaments, the supervillains of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe turn to either the appropriately named Weaponsmith or the former Nazi Mad Scientist Baron Malthus. The Weaponsmith's weapons are more powerful, but are much more expensive. Baron Mathus produces less advanced weapons, but they are a bargain comparatively.

Western Animation

  • In most continuities of Transformers, there will be a character named Swindle who is nominally a Decepticon but will happily sell anything to anyone provided they've got the scratch.
    • And he's almost always an Intergalactic Arms Dealer only in buisness for himself.
  • Although Lexcorp in Superman the Animated Series nominally dealt in many industries, the side most often shown was its weapon development, making Lex Luthor the "corporate lobbyist" version of this trope.
  • Minor Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003 recurring character Ruffington is both the "corporate lobbyist" and "gangland gun runner", being a legitimate government contractor, and selling modified alien weaponry to street gangs such as the Purple Dragons.
  • Jack Hench and Hench Co. in Kim Possible are a relatively kid-friendly depiction of this trope. Hench fits the "corporate lobbyist" type and treats the sale of hired muscle and gadgets to supervillains as "just business".
  • Destro in nearly all incarnations of G.I. Joe.

Real Life

  • Basil Zaharoff, one-time Chairman of Vickers, who has appeared as an actual character or a No Celebrities Were Harmed version in several works. Corporate Lobbyist type.
  • The United States of America has been described as the world's biggest arms dealer. Russia takes second place (its exports are hugely down from the days of the USSR). The rest are the UK, France and mainland China. They all have permanent seats on the UN Security Council, with the ability to veto resolutions on arms trafficking.
    • "The rest" meaning these countries unsurprisingly account for over 95% of all military equipment sold anywhere.
    • You forgot the third largest arms exporter: Germany. Yes, that Germany. Although it's probably better than the time they decided to keep them for themselves (the weapons, not the ammo; that, they shared freely).
      • German arms exporting is mostly by private industry not the German government.
  • Arms exporting countries have dedicated junior ministers for this sort of thing. In the UK, Lord Drayson is the Minister of Defence Equipment and Support.
  • The now famous Charlie Wilson was a U.S. congressman who used his own power - he was a member of the appropiations committee (money lenders) for black ops, as well as working with a number of CIA and Special Forces agents - to secure arms for Afghan Guerillas during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
    • Even more amazing is the CIA agent he worked with, Gust Avrokatos, and the guys Gust worked with. Gust once remarked of the immense balls of the Deputy Arms Minister of Egypt. Apparently, during a meeting with Gust for weapons to be sold to Israel with money from the U.S. and Saudi Arabia with the intention of Israel handing the weapons to Pakistan who would move them into Afghanistan (yeah), the Deputy Minister was also darting in and out of two other rooms that each smelled strongly of tobacco and hashish. Apparently the minister was making arms deals with the Iranians in the room on the left, Americans in the center room, and Iraqis on the right. This despite the fact that Iran and Iraq were at war, and Egypt's attitude towards America at the time was "we'll write insulting things with our right hands while you pass cash and guns to our left."
      • In both the cases of Charlie and Gust that depends on how you define the term. They were underground quartermasters, to be sure, but they were covered by the US government (and whatever other government was involved) and did not need to make a profit to pump their budget. They were dealing in arms so they were "arms-dealers" if you want to make a point but they were purchasers and smugglers not producers and not sellers.
      • One of the problems in that operation was that for a long time the CIA was unwilling to introduce American ordinance because they wished to maintain the pretense that America was not supplying the Afghans. That meant that while fungible cash could be gotten out of Congress, it had to be converted into hardware and transported by all sorts of convoluted and rather colorful means.
  • Viktor Bout, a former Red (retired Russian GRU major) with a lot of military stuff for sale. He was supplying weapons to nearly everyone (except for people linked to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, or so he claims) for fifteen years, until he was arrested in Thailand last year. Nicknamed "The Merchant of Death". Also, the main character of Lord of War, Yuri Orlov, was based on him.
  • Norway allegedly has the world's largest export of weapons per capita. Notable because this is also the country with the Nobel Peace Price and a number of people trying to create peace in both the Middle East and South East Asia.
    • Whatever happens, Norway wins.
    • Remember, Alfred Nobel (who, in fairness, was Swedish [1] was originally an arms dealer of the first rank. He invented dynamite, the first effective smokeless powder, and owned a major arms company. When his brother Ludvig died, somebody mistakenly thought it was him; Alfred saw a premature obituary in a French newspaper that read Le marchand de mort est mort ("The Merchant Of Death Is Dead"). Not wishing to be remembered as the Merchant Of Death, he set up the Prizes.
      • However, it should be noted that while Nobel sought peace, he did not believe in disarmament treaties would be useful in achieving that goal. He was all for things like the League of Nations though.
  • The Iran–Contra affair involved the highest levels of the U.S. government illegally trading arms for hostages. All Americans indicted or convicted were pardoned by George H. W. Bush.
  • In recent history the ATF itself with Project Gun Runner and Operation Fast and Furious.
  • The United State of America prior to its entry in the two World Wars used its neutrality and industrial capacity to make and sell arms for the wars in Europe. In both cases this was part of the motive for attacking the US and forcing their actual entry into the war.
  1. He gave the peace part of his price to Norway, who was, at the time, a part of in a union with Sweden, because he didn't trust the Swedes with such an important task.)