|This article appears to be a dictionary definition. Please rewrite it to present the subject from an encyclopedic point of view. If it cannot be turned into a full encyclopedia article in the near future, consider moving it to Wiktionary.|
Small arms is a term used by armed forces to denote infantry weapons an individual soldier may carry. The description is usually limited to revolvers, pistols, submachine guns, carbines, assault rifles, battle rifles, sniper rifles, squad automatic weapons, light machine guns), and sometimes hand grenades. Shotguns, general-purpose machine guns, medium machine guns, and grenade launchers may be considered small arms or as support weapons, depending on the particular armed forces.
Small arms typically do not include infantry support weapons. In the U.S. military, small arms refer to handguns or other firearms less than 20 mm, and including heavy machine guns (typically .50 caliber or 12.7 mm in U.S. service). The NATO definition extends to "all crew-portable direct fire weapons of a caliber less than 50 mm and will include a secondary capability to defeat light armor and helicopters."
Though there is no civilian definition within the U.S., any firearm utilizing a projectile greater than 1/2 inch (.50 caliber or 12.7 mm) in diameter is legally defined as a "destructive device," while anything .50 caliber or less is normally considered "small arms." The so-called "1/2 inch rule" does not apply to shotguns, sporting cartridge big-bore rifles (such as rifles chambered in .600 Nitro Express) or muzzleloading black-powder firearms, many of which are larger than .50 caliber.
The term which encompasses both, SALW (Small Arms and Light Weapons), is used by some organizations working to limit arms proliferation. For example, much of the United Nations action to tackle illegal arms proliferation is raised in the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms.
See also 
Citations and notes 
- Marchant-Smith & Haslam, p.169.
- Dikshif, p. 189.
- Title 18 US Code 921
- Conventional arms
- UN Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) Conference
- Marchant-Smith, C.J., & Haslam, P.R., Small Arms & Cannons, Brassey's Battlefield Weapons Systems & Technology, Volume V, Brassey's Publishers, London, 1982
- Dikshif, P. Proliferation of Small Arms and Minor Weapons, Strategic Analysis, Vol. 17(2) May 1994
- Gould, C. and Lamb, G., Hide & Seek: Taking Account of Small Arms in Southern Africa, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, 2004