Screen grab from a video showing FSA members in Homs testing a homemade rocket.
One of the major challenges facing Syria’s rebel force, the Free Syrian Army (FSA), is that it lacks the fire power to take on the well-equipped regular army. With Syria’s borders more or less closed, the FSA is struggling to obtain the necessary weapons. As a result, the FSA is using its limited means to try and manufacture its own weapons.
Rocket launchers with the rebels’ colours, as well as missiles and other munitions can be found in the FSA’s makeshift arsenal. While members of the rebel group admit that their homemade arms are rudimentary, they are also adamant that they work. Videos of the weapons being made can be found online – a signal to the international community that the FSA is poorly equipped.
Over the course of the 17 month-long conflict in Syria, the FSA has procured weapons in any way they could: soldiers defecting from the regular army have snuck weapons out, others have been seized during battle, some arms have been bought from “chabbihas” (paid militias) or even members of the regular army. There are also some weapons that have made it across the border via Lebanon and Turkey. But, despite the FSA’s resourcefulness, they still lack the firepower to take on the government’s forces.
Members of an FSA militia based out of the capital Damascus demonstrate how to make and test a rocket launcher.

“They’re even building mortars”

Rami H. is a member of the revolutionary council in Homs, and has close ties to the FSA.
In Syria, before the start of the war, weapons were not readily available, and only very few people had the right to bear arms. The FSA’s shortage of weapons and munitions is its main weakness against the regular army. The FSA’s needs have grown due to the increasing number of deserters or volunteers who are joining its ranks — which explains the initiative to manufacture its own weapons.
The idea caught on last April when, due to a munitions shortage, soldiers used marbles instead of bullets in their guns. Members of the FSA began to make Molotov cocktails and explosives from chemical products. It’s not hard to do, since instructions are available online, as are YouTube tutorials.
The FSA then began trying to manufacture more complicated weapons. They started with handguns and rifles. Now, they are making bombs with fuses, rocket launchers, sniper rifles, mortars and even missiles with a 1km [around 3,281 feet] range.
Simple artisans, blacksmiths, and carpenters have transformed their workshops into weapons factories, with the help of deserting soldiers. It’s easy to find manufacturing materials in the streets of our ravaged cities. These days, it takes on average about one month to make mortar, and a gun can be made in about three days.
The quantity or quality of these weapons should not be exaggerated. They are only used in extreme circumstances, either by new recruits who have no weapons, or during defensive manoeuvers. The FSA would never be able to launch a real attack against the regular army with homemade weapons alone. The shortage of weapons is still the number one problem here.
An attack on a regular army outpost with missiles made by the FSA.
An “armoured” truck.