Methods for Indelible Marking of Weapons and Munitions 

“The Swedish Solution”

Professor Bo Janzon, Ph.D, M.Sc.,

Trace-in-Metal Limited


An abundant supply of military-type weapons, munitions and explosives is, perhaps, the most serious obstacle to restoration or building of a normal, peaceful society in countries severely affected by armed conflict, after active hostilities have ceased. Stolen, embezzled, abandoned or surplus weapons and munitions will always be plentiful, and many will seize, hide and store them for “a rainy day”. Ready access to weapons and munitions will fuel and aggravate any existing or arising conflict between groups, and will lead to a high incidence of armed violence in society, which will, in turn, obstruct or render impossible any social and economic progress. It may also hinder aid efforts from reaching those most in need!  A pre-condition to create a peaceful society is that that society itself will possess the “violence privilege”, through its police and military forces! If armed groups, warlords, terrorists and common criminals have plenty of arms this condition cannot be met!

The United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals include one point, 16.1, specifically aimed at violence in societies: “Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere”  (https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg16)

There is now also an International, UN-based, “Arms Trade Treaty” in force, placing requirements on states to mark and control their weapons and munitions, and their trade. However, existing markings are often easy to remove, and sometimes both weapons and munitions are, at the request of a buyer, supplied without any markings. In addition records are often insufficient, even within important Western states. Additionally, any weapons and munitions used in an International intervention are often left behind, in dumps, or handed over to the host nation. Such weapons often find their way to the illicit markets. 

Methods and materials for indelible marking of weapons and munitions are proposed. They are based on the Trace-in-Metal Limited’s existing solution for anti-theft marking of valuable metals such as copper, bronze and lead, using microdots made of nickel, manufactured through a special proprietary process. The nickel markers will typically be of size ½ mm or less and only a few hundredths of a mm thick, each one comprising an alphanumeric code. There are over 100 billion code varieties possible. Nickel is a high-melting and very inert metal, which can resist temperatures up to 1 450°C. Such markers can be applied to or infused in many locations on a weapon, where they will not interfere with its operation. Dabs of markers can easily be placed in such locations that even hard regular cleaning does not remove them, and in so many places that it will not be feasible to remove all the markings. Marking is quick and easy using a dedicated applicator.

Markings can be overt and/or covert. Overt markings are suspended in a fluorescent lacquer or glue and can easily be detected using a UV lamp; covert markings are mixed in with clear lacquer, ensuring that such markings will be more difficult to find and remove. Normally thousands of markers will be used on one weapon, and only one detected will be enough to ensure conviction of a perpetrator. 

Individual munitions are more difficult to mark, unless done at manufacture. However one way to mark them may be by adding (by dabbing or spraying) the nickel markers on boxes or cassettes, made of wood or sheet metal, in which munitions are delivered and stored! On manufacture, markers could even be added to the propellant, and would then be easily accessible and practically impossible to remove. They should also leave behind traces in weapons which use such munitions, without harming their function.

The dabs can easily be found using a UV lamp. The 0.5 mm microdots can then be read using a simple magnifier or pocket microscope, and an optional hologram on the back will inhibit any attempt to emulate the system.

The markings will be listed in a secure database, yielding a permanent record of the identity and ownership of a weapon, enabling forensic identification of the provenance of any stolen or embezzled weapon, ensuring detection, prosecution and conviction of weapons thieves and illicit traders.

A range of UV lamps are available from Trace-in-Metal Ltd. to easily detect the presence of overt markings.