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Misidentified Weapons

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People often get the names of things wrong in media, especially when it comes to weaponry. This particular trope applies when the misidentified object is a firearm. Can be an honest mistake, Critical Research Failure, or acknowledged Creator's Apathy. Sometimes the scriptwriter did the research, but the weapon concerned wasn't available as a prop and no-one bothered to change the script. If the misidentification is intentional to get around copyright laws, it's A.K.A.-47. If the weapon is cosmetically modified to resemble something else (for example, an American Browning M2 mocked up as a Russian DShK), it's Weapons Understudies.

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A Sub-Trope of Guns Do Not Work That Way. For the equivalent trope for armored vehicles, see Tanks, but No Tanks. For aircraft, see Just Plane Wrong.


Examples:

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    Films 
  • S.W.A.T.'s Big Bad gets sprung from a prisoner-transport bus (and quickly recaptured by the heroes) by a couple of henchmen wearing fake LAPD uniforms armed with suppressed pistols and a single compact SMG. Cut immediately to the captain holding a press conference and announcing that they were "armed with AK-47s." Except that nobody had anything that even looked like an AK. This may be a case of unintentional (or maybe deliberate) Truth in Television, as the LAPD has been accused of (and occasionally caught red-handed) falsely claiming that such weapons were used in one crime or another to support the strict gun laws that the city of Los Angeles has used its considerable political clout to push through the California legislature.
  • In-universe example in Hitman. Russian arms dealer, drug addict, and president's little brother Udre Belikov shows off some of his stock, calling an M16 an M203 (that's the grenade launcher for it) and saying that it's chambered in 7.62 (it's 5.56), calling the 9x18mm Makarov PM a .22, etc. Agent 47 replies, "I don't know if it's the drugs, or if you're usually this inept, but you've been wrong about most of these weapons." Mr. 47 then proceeds to kill everyone in the room, except the innocent strippers.
    • Ironically, as he's calling Belikov out for his glaring mistakes, 47 intentionally makes a small one of his own. While calling him out, he picks up a submachine gun that Belikov had earlier identified as a "Kedr 9mm" and announces that it's actually a Chinese copy. It would have been so easy to instead say that it was a Bulgarian copy, which it actually was (the Chinese, for all the copying they do of every other firearm design ever, don't even make Kedr copies).
  • In A Few Good Men, Lieutenant Colonel Markinson is described as shooting himself with a .45 calibre pistol. However, his suicide is captured onscreen and in the scene in question, he uses a Beretta 92 variant, which is chambered in 9mm. Likely, the writers didn't bother to update the relevant dialogue from the original stage production, which was written when the Marines were still using the M1911 in .45, promptly making it The Artifact when the props department for the movie grabbed the Beretta that most of the Marines had since switched to.
  • In Bruges has Harry Waters call a Steyr TMP "an Uzi" while browsing Yuri's guns. There actually is an Uzi on the table, but it's not the gun Harry focuses on.
  • In the opening sequence of Captain America: Civil War, Cap announces to the Avengers that Crossbone’s mercenaries are using AR-15s... except there’s not a single AR derivative present. Most of the mercenaries are using DSA SA58s, Galil MARs, or SIG 550 rifles.

    Literature 

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of National Geographic's Drugs Inc. famously shows an anonymous drug dealer calling a Hi Point pistol his "Glock Forty" and his "problem solver".
  • An episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent revolved around a teenage boy shooting someone with his grandfather's old GI sidearm from the Vietnam War. The weapon is an M1911A1 .45, but is consistently called an M11. This is a problem on many levels, as the M11 is a variant of the SIG-Sauer P228 in 9mm, it was adopted by the the US Military in 2003 to equip security personnel rather than general issue, it didn't even exist as a concept in the 1960s, and it bears as much resemblance to a 1911 as a Toyota Tercel has to a Dodge Viper.
  • In Money Heist, a Rheinmetall MG3 machine gun is referred to as "the Browning", and G36 rifles are called M16s. While the former case is at least justifiable, since viewers wouldn't normally know the names of machine gun models, the latter is egregious because the G36 doesn't look remotely similar to the M16.
  • Third Watch once took a 9mm Walther P-38/P-1 and called it a ".22 Luger." They only look alike in the sense that they are both German-made automatic pistols, and the pistol commonly known as the Luger was made in 9mm and 7.65 Mauser; there was never any such thing as a ".22 Luger" cartridge. The line might have been intended as a Shout-Out to Neuromancer, whose protagonist acquired a replica Walther chambered in .22LR for self-defense, but if so then whoever thought it up clearly forgot to re-read it to make sure they remembered right.
  • Sherlock: When Sherlock has his confrontation with Moriarty at the end of Season 1, the latter identifies the gun Sherlock is carrying as a British Army Browning L9A1, despite it being a SIG-Sauer P226R. The gun actually belongs to Watson and is possibly his service pistol which he kept illegally, in which case it should be a Browning, but for some reason the right prop wasn't available.
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    Video Games 
  • In Resident Evil 5, every full-auto-capable gun is called a "machine gun." The guns classified as this are a Skorpion, an MP5 (both submachine guns), a SIG 556, an AK-47 (both assault rifles), and a handheld minigun (the only actual machine gun usable in the game). It's notable that every "machine gun" except the Gatling gun (which has infinite ammo) takes the exact same ammo type.
    • This also happens in Resident Evil: Revelations (with the exception of the Glock 18, which is classified as a handgun, but it fires pretty fast if the player holds down the fire button), where the "machine guns" include an MP5, a P90 (either both submachine guns or a submachine gun and a PDW respectively; however, neither are machine guns) and an AUG, a G36, and a gold-plated AK-74 called the "High Roller" (all three are assault rifles), the only actual machine guns in the game being miniguns mounted on boats and helicopters.
    • The S&W Model 500 from Resident Evil 6 appears in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 as one of the weapons Barry can use in the campaign, but instead of referring to it by its actual name or going A.K.A.-47 and calling it the "Elephant Killer" like in 6, it's called the "Magnum Python," referring to (and possibly trying to imply it is) the Colt Python Barry used in Resident Evil and Resident Evil 5's Raid Mode. What's weird is that an actual Colt Python, a modified one called the "Pale Rider," appears in the same game.
    • In Resident Evil 4, Krauser has an MP9 that the game calls a TMP; however, since the MP9 was based on the TMP, it's something of a downplayed example.
  • Call of Duty
    • The original game averted this in painstaking detail; even the names that weren't quite correct still had a good basis in reality, such as the StG44 going by its earlier in-development name of "MP44".
    • Later games in the series, not so much - the very next game after the original, for instance, featured the M1 carbine but called it the M1A1. The M1A1 was a specialized variant of the M1 with a pistol grip and lightweight folding wire stock. Really irritating when you remember that the original featured a correctly-modeled M1A1, with the player character unfolding the stock when drawing the weapon; they apparently went to the effort of creating an entirely new model with new animations for the new engine, including giving it period-accurate sights,note  but then were too lazy to simply delete two characters from the name. The full-stock Carbine would continue to be misidentified as the folding-stock version until the Zombies maps in Call of Duty: Black Ops.
    • There's also the issue (at least in singleplayer) of a scoped Gewehr 43 being referred to as the bolt-action, American Springfield rifle.
    • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 features the "G18", meant to be the infamous select-fire Glock 18 as judging by the name, but which, like in most movies, is actually a converted Glock 17note .
    • There's also the first two MW games' M9 pistol, which is actually the older, noticeably different and extremely rare 92SB rather than the 92FS - and in 2, it even has its own version of the Glock issue, as the "M93 Raffica" is actually just the 92SB model with a foregrip and skeleton stock bolted on.
    • A few guns in later games also have the same issue as the M1 Carbine in the classic games, either one gun identified as a similar but different model (the "Type 95" in Modern Warfare 3 actually being a QBZ-97, or the Mk 14 EBR in 2 being called the "M21 EBR" in multiplayer to remind players of the M21 from CoD4) or changing the name of an otherwise-unmodified returning weapon, despite their refusal to do so when it actually made sense for the Carbine (the original-model M16 from Call of Duty: Black Ops is reused for the flashback levels of the sequel, referred to as the newer M16A1 but otherwise identical in every way to the original version, despite the fact the M16A2 should have been used in that particular instance).
    • The series constantly misidentifies the AKS-74u as a submachine gun. Yes, it does fill the role of an SMG, but it fires assault rifle ammunition, not pistol rounds, so it can't be an SMG. Interestingly, MW1 dialed the Krinkov's aiming zoom and movement speed to match an AR's.
      • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019)'s Gunsmith options added another oddity, in that rather than having more than one AK variant the game allows you to simply take the basic AK and modify it into several other weapons based on it, but then retain the "AK-47" name. One example so egregious that it was changed after the beta was that it did change the name of the AK if you gave it 5.45mm magazines - but it did so to "AKS-74u", regardless of whether you attached any of the other parts that would have actually made it a 74u. Another that was kept for the released game is that the "AK-12" used in the campaign is also the basic AK given a few parts to make it superficially resemble the actual AK-12, the only correct one being the pistol grip.
    • The Commando in Call of Duty: Black Ops was given the correct name, but a major error in its attachments caused confusion among players. Seemingly based on the GAU-5A/A, also commonly known as the Colt Commando, the in game weapon is made heavily anachronistic by removing the built in carry handle, replacing it with a flat top optics rail, then mounting to it a flip up iron sight made by a company that didn't even exist until forty-three years after the game takes place, backwards. Many players unfamiliar with firearms history assumed the Commando was an M4 Carbine, despite the fact the M4 wasn't even developed until roughly thirty years after the game takes place.
      • 2020’s Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War sees the return of the Commando from the first game... this time known as the XM4 carbine. It still features its Vietnam era features like the original M16 pistol grip, 11.5 inch barrel, full auto fire control group, and lack of a forward assist that makes it similar to a GAU-5A/A, with none of the features that would actually make it a correct representation of an XM4, such as the M16A2 upper receiver (still uses the anachronistic flat top optics rail, in fact), A2 pistol grip, or 14.5 inch barrel. Fortunately, the game's M16 (actually modeled after the M16A2 this time) can be customized in the Gunsmith suite with a 16.3 inch barrel and collapsible stock, making it resemble the real XM4.
  • Fallout 2 misidentifies the Belgian Fabrique Nationale P90 as being made by H&K (Heckler and Koch), a German arms firm famous for the MP5 and the UMP. Justified that Fallout takes place in an Alternate History (note also that the gun starts loaded with 9mm ammo when acquired, then due to a bug loads 10mm ammo afterwards, rather than the 5.7x28mm rounds the real thing uses).
  • Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4 have the same sort of issue as Call of Duty. While they do actually model the correct weapon used as the US military's M9, their "93R" is simply the M9 model with a larger magazine and foregrip. The former game also features an RPKM (a version of the original RPK with the synthetic furniture of the AK-74M) misnamed as (and given damage and a capacity mirroring) the smaller-caliber RPK-74M.
  • A relatively minor but nonetheless common one is when a game's "AK" model is a Chinese Norinco Type 56. The Type 56 rifle (not to be confused with the Type 56 carbine, which is China's SKS) is the unlicensed Chinese clone of the AK/AKM, having features of both models, but zero parts interchangeability with either. They look mostly similar (the fully-hooded front sight is the biggest giveaway), feed the same 7.62x39 round from the same stamped magazine, and have the same Manual of Arms, but are still not (quite) the same weapon. Similar issues exist with the AK-103, a modern version in the original 7.62mm round; everything from Freedom Fighters (2003) to Far Cry 3 will feature the weapon but call it an AK-47 anyway.note 
  • This issue plagues the zombie apocalypse FPS game Chasing Dead. The only weapons in the game which aren't either generically named or outright fictional are the M4, MP5 and AK-47. However the "MP5" is blatantly an M4 rifle(!) with a PEQ laser sight and the "AK-47" is quite obviously another M4 with a holographic sight. And despite using an M4 model for the other two, the actual "M4" has the model of its much older progenitor, the M16. Finally, for bonus incongruity, the PEQ box on the "MP5" is fitted up at the scope of the gun instead of being mounted on the handguard and the laser pointer isn't used at all, so they not only badly misidentified the weapons they were using, but they misidentified the attachments on those weapons as well.
  • The Uncharted series generally goes for A.K.A.-47 for its guns, though one instance falls into this trope instead: the Galil ARM 7.62 present in the multiplayer of Uncharted 4: A Thief's End and its stand-alone expansion Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is misnamed as the "INSAS", an entirely different weapon that only vaguely bears a resemblance to the Galil.
  • Killing Floor 2 features a Colt 9mm SMG as the starting weapon for the Commando perk, but refers to it as an "AR-15 Varmint Rifle", and despite its obvious chambering in a pistol cartridge treats it as an assault rifle for all intents and purposes, including damage identical to the later L85 in 5.56mm. The only acknowledgement of this is in its description at the TRADER Pod... which simply specifies that it's "for hunting zeds, not 'varmints'".
  • Grim Dawn, being made in the mold of Diablo, puts the names of the weapons above historical accuracy and accurate naming: one-handed swords are either broadswords (if straight) or cutlasses (if curved), two-handed firearms range the gamut from rifles to carabines to shotguns despite all being used in the same manner. The Weapon of Choice of the Korvaak's Sentinels is referred to as an halberd In-Universe despite looking more like an oversized yari or a swordstaff.
  • Dark Souls:
    • Across all games there's the Scythe weapon... which is actually a bardiche, look-wise.
    • "Hammer" is often used as a weapon category for all the blunt weapons... most of which are clubs, cudgels and maces rather than proper warhammers.
    • The Longsword is actually a more slender, longer arming sword, while the Broadsword is slightly shorter and with a broader blade.
    • In Dark Souls III, the weapon of choice of the Nameless King is referred to as a "Swordspear". The actual term is "Swordstaff".

    Theatre 
  • In The Pirates of Penzance, the Major General's song contains the line "When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin."
    • In the original version the line referred to the Chassepot rifle, an early single-shot bolt-action rifle quite popular in the 1860s and 1870s which, despite being a French design, was a hit in England. Gilbert changed the lyrics when the magazine-equipped Mauser rifles were widely adopted around the world.

    Real Life 
  • The rifle so commonly known as the "AK-47" is the most common example of this trope, as "AK-47" was never an official Soviet/Russian designation for Mikhail Kalashnikov's automatic rifle. It was officially designated simply the AK for Avtomat Kalashnikova, or "Kalashnikov's Automatic," with no model or year number attached. Contrary to popular belief, the original AK was actually expensive to produce and not as reliable as was hoped, so Kalashnikov came up with the improved and simplified AKM (modernizírovanny Avtomat Kalashnikova, essentially "Kalashnikov's Modernized Automatic") in the early 1950s. Original AKs are relatively rare, but AKMs are truly ubiquitous and are generally what people are talking about (whether they realize it or not) when they say "AK-47". No Kalashnikov rifle had any model number in its nomenclature until the AK-74 was adopted to replace the AKM as the standard-issue rifle of the Red Army.
    • The mistake was understandable, since the Russians often used a model/year number as part of the official designations of their weapons (examples: Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifle, SVT-40 rifle, PPSh-41 and PPS-43 SMGs, DP-27 light machine gun, even the later AK-74 as above). This practice was very inconsistent (such as the DP-27 being upgraded into the DPM rather than a DP-27M, but then being converted to belt-feeding as the RP-46 instead of simply the RP) and did not include the original AK.
    • Confusingly, the year is included in the designation of Kalashnikov's previous prototype design, the little known AK-46. What's really interesting is that this rifle had failed the trials it was submitted for (and thus shouldn't have had an army designation at all), but it was seen as promising enough to be left in the race for the next round of trials. By the next year Kalashnikov and his team radically reworked the design, and the rest was history.
  • A very common problem is when people refer to any fully automatic weapon as a machine gun without proper context. Machine guns constitute a specific type of weapon by military standards. Just because a gun can fire full auto does not instantly make it a machine gun in the armed forces. Automatic/select-fire rifles, machine pistols, and submachine guns (commonly called SMGs) are not machine guns according to any professional soldier. However, in US civilian law, "machine gun" is a legal term that defines any firearm capable of discharging more than one bullet out of the same barrel per function of the trigger. Essentially, any fully automatic weapons are legally defined as machine guns by cyclical function.
  • Russians for their part call battle and assault rifles first- and second-generation automatic rifles respectively (including the pre-WWII full-sized automatic rifles like the AVS under the first class, which some definitions of battle rifles don't include), though some of their experts note that due to their compact size and the use of smaller intermediate cartridges the 2nd-gen automatic/assault rifles, such as the AK and AR-15 series, would be better characterized as automatic carbines.
  • Some people/organizations also refer to compact carbine variants of assault rifles as "submachine guns", since the compact assault rifles are intended to fulfill the same role of submachine guns. This is technically incorrect, since the carbines are still chambered in the same intermediate caliber as the assault rifles they are based on.
  • For shoulder-fired weapons, many people confuse "rocket launchers" with "recoilless rifles", and vice versa. While both weapons may look similar and may be used for similar roles, there is an important difference in their projectiles:
    • Recoilless rifles fire modified artillery shells, which use an explosive propellant charge (like a gun) to launch themselves out the barrel (though some recoilless rifles can fire rocket-assisted projectiles). Essentially, they are like giant guns (or small artillery guns) firing giant bullets.note 
    • A rocket launcher fires a rocket, a projectile with a rocket engine that can propel itself. Rocket launchers can be recoilless, but the important distinction is that their projectiles can propel themselves after leaving the barrel.
  • It seems to be a common failing for guns used in violent crimes to be incorrectly identified by news media until proven otherwise... At which point they'll keep calling it by the wrong name anyway. Here's a slightly exaggerated parody of the phenomenon.
  • American politicians in both major parties (Democrat and Republican) can take this trope to absurd extremes, misidentifying guns, ammunition, gun accessories, gun parts, and everything else even peripherally related. For example, many claim that a pistol grip on a rifle (which does nothing except make the weapon more comfortable for some shooters) somehow makes the gun "more deadly."
    • Most famously, Senator Carolyn McCarthy's infamous "shoulder thing that goes up" comment, which confused gun owners turned into a meme revolving around the Predator's shoulder cannon.
    • Any use of the term "AR-15 assault rifle", as is miserably common in journalism. Aside from the fact that the AR-15 isn't an assault rifle as it does not have a selector switch to allow fully automatic fire, most weapons referred to as "AR-15"s are not actually the original Colt AR-15 rifle, but rather other weapons based on the AR-15.
    • After the Las Vegas concert massacre, when a gunman wielding a massive number of rifles with 100-round magazines with bump stocks attached to them to emulate fully automatic fire opened fire on concertgoers at a country music festival, some news outlets gave truly insane responses. CBS claimed that the shooter used "automatic rounds", and CNN, to demonstrate a bump stock, showed a rifle with a suppressor and a grenade launcher (illegal for general civilian consumption), rather than a rifle with a bump stock installed. It got worse when people assumed that a bump stock somehow magically turned any rifle into a machine gun. Bump stocks function through active user input (namely, the user's off-hand shoving the entire firearm forward so as to reengage the trigger just after a shot is fired), therefore any self-loading rifle given a bump stock is not a machine gun by legal and technical definition.
      • CNN managed to outdo this one with their special featuring Mark Hertling, a retired Army general, with the producers emphasizing Hertling's military background as proof of his credibility as an expert. Hertling proceeded to describe the AR-15 as a "full-semiautomatic" weapon, prompting a flurry of comments from veterans questioning how long it had been since Hertling actually qualified with a rifle.
      • While introducing a new gun control bill in Congress in September 2019, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee provoked facepalming across the country when she declared, "I held an AR-15 in my hand, I wish I hadn’t. It is as heavy as 10 boxes that you might be moving. And the bullet that is utilized, a .50 caliber..." While the "boxes" measurement is pretty vague, most AR variants weigh between eight and eleven pounds loaded, prompting all kinds of ridicule directed at Lee. Even more ridicule from extreme right-wing commentators addressed her claim that the AR-15 shoots .50 BMG, which it does not and cannot.
    • An American gun magazine parodied this trope by listing several examples of news media mistakes, then writing stories around them. For instance, a weapon incorrectly identified as a ".44 Luger" was apparently a custom model developed for a World War I-era German soldier famous for his tactic of sneaking up on an enemy trench, then standing up and shouting, "Mach schon, versüß mir den Tag!" The ".22 gauge shotgun" was developed to hunt a rare species of pygmy ducks, and the AK-16 rifle made the writer give up in disgust over how the media can't tell the difference between the M16 and the weapon used by those Dirty Communists.
    • One of the biggest failures in weapons-identification happened when a murderer used a semiautomatic kit gun, which was then misidentified by police as a 3d-printed gun. The weapon in question clearly showed manufacturer markings and had a steel barrel, so the police later corrected the report just to assure the population that 3d printers were not being confiscated.
  • You will probably never have to think about vocabulary ever again after high school, but anyone calling a small arm an "assault gun" has made a really stupid mistake. The phrase "assault gun", translated directly from the German word Sturmgeschütz, refers to an armored vehicle that carries a huge artillery piece intended for infantry support when the infantrymen are on the attack against a fortified position. No, an assault gun is not a firearm or a tank, it is a self-propelled artillery piece.
  • In the summer of 2017, a monument to the late Mikhail Kalashnikov was unveiled in Moscow... featuring a large bust of a German StG-44. That went over about as well as you’d expect.
  • In a melee example, in many media people misnames arming swords as longswords: actual longswords are two-handed swords (while "greatswords" properly refers to even larger swords. In a similar vein, the term "broadsword" is often applied to name large, broad-blades swords while the term technically refers to late arming swords with basket hilts.
    • Rapiers and smallswords are not the same. While both classes are civilian-grade weapons, the former were for servicemen during peacetime while the latter were badges of rank for nobles (and used exclusively for dueling).
  • In certain translations, the Japanese polearm Naginata is called a "halberd", even though "glaive" is a more proper translation.
    • Not every Japanese sword is a katana, as historians will note - there are different terms for different types of swords depending on length (longer swords are called daito, shorter are wakizashi or tanto, etc.) and even period of construction (swords of about the same length as a katana built before c. the 14th century were called tachi); that said, in Japan the word "katana" is sometimes used as a generic term for any single-edged sword, regardless of origin, with "uchigatana" as the official term for the type of sword Westerners would call a katana. Furthermore, any mass-produced Japanese sword dating from between the start of the Showa Era to mid-1945 is deemed a "Showato," and will be confiscated by the modern Japanese government as contraband.
    • Sometimes, the weapons Bisento and Zanmato/Zanbato are talked about as if they are real, ancient Japanese weapons. There actually weren't, they're just the Japanese translation of two Chinese weapons (the former, ironically, based on the naginata, while the latter is a two-handed single-edged sword). While there are Japanese martial schools using a Bisento (referred to as Japanese Bisento), those tend to be Newer Than They Think.
  • The Beretta ARX160 and the Heckler & Koch PSG1, which are commonly hyphenated in many media even though their names are engraved without any hyphen on their receivers. This is also common with any M-number weapon system used by the United States, most commonly the M16 and M4 since they're by far the most well-known. Basically, any weapon with letters followed by numbers falls prey to this trope, since the media may choose to add or remove a hyphen however they please.
  • The Accuracy International Arctic Warfare series (L118A1, L115A1 and A3) is usually confused with its predecessor the Precision Marksman (L96A1), even though the former has distinct features like a fluted barrel, grooved handguard and a more contoured stock.
    • We can also thank CS:GO for making people mistake every Arctic Warfare rifle for an AWP.
  • Many submachine guns with a metallic receiver and the magazine inserted in the pistol grip are lumped as the "Uzi", such as the MAC-10 - it doesn't help that some, such as the SOCIMI Type 821 and the Minebea PM-9, are based on Mr. Gal's design.
    • Speaking of, the MAC-10 was never actually its official name. The designer Gordon Ingram simply referred to it as the Ingram submachine gun, while the manufacturer, Military Armament Corporation, officially called it the Model 10.
  • This tends to happen a lot with Chinese weapons due to the lack of English information on them. For example, the Norinco QJB-95 light support weapon is often misreported as the "QBB-95". The JS 9mm submachine gun is actually officially known as the CS/LS2, with JS 9mm being its unofficial name during development.

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