In March 2017, the journal Terrorism and Political Violence published “Choose Your Weapon: The Impact of Strategic Considerations and Resource Constraints on Terrorist Group Weapon Selection”, an article co-authored by CTC alum Gabriel Koehler-Derrick and CTC’s Director of Research Dr. Daniel Milton.
Click here to learn more about the article, or peruse the following abstract below.
Historians of terrorism note that modern terrorists rely almost exclusively on two weapon types: the gun and the bomb. However, the comparative use of these weapons differs from one terrorist group to the next. We exploit this variation to examine how the tactical decisions of terrorists respond to both strategic aspirations and resource constraints. We argue that a group’s goals (a strategic consideration) and size (a resource constraint) provide a parsimonious explanation for weapon selection. Because firearms inherently expose the shooter to higher risk, are more precise, and must be used if a group aspires to maintain social order, they are unlikely to be used by groups with limited recruits in a campaign of violence. We test this theory using data on over 350 terrorist organizations. Our analysis shows that strategic considerations and resource constraints both impact tactical choices, although groups with the most expansive goals, those which transcend national borders, as well as militias, are two interesting exceptions to our theory. Our research has implications for the use of disaggregated tactical data and in furthering our understanding of the rationality of terrorism.