Is That an Anti-Aircraft Gun in Your Pocket?

Last week, in Mexico's Sonora province, authorities claimed to have captured two "anti-aircraft machine guns," potentially signaling a significant escalation in drug cartel violence.

Anti-aircraft machine guns are crew-served weapons either mounted to vehicles or in fixed placements. They have the ability to fire long bursts in the hopes of shooting down low-flying aircraft. Such weapons would be capable of destroying unarmored police vehicles and other civilian vehicles in seconds. They would also pose a significant risk to small observation aircraft and helicopters.

The problem with the claim, however, is that Mexican authorities -- already exposed for using the Obama administration's debunked claim that 90% of cartel weapons come from the United States -- once again seem to be exposed as serial exaggerators.

On April 14, Mexican federal police proudly displayed firearms seized from a cache thought to belong to the Beltran Leyva drug cartel. One of the weapons labeled by Mexican authorities as an anti-aircraft gun was featured in a Daily Mail article, while the other, mounted behind a crude armored shield, was the subject of another series of images.

The problem with the narrative presented by the Mexican federal police is that while these guns are indeed capable of  causing great destruction, these weren't the weapons presented to the world's media, which unfortunately lacks the editorial talent or experience to know it is  being duped.

Let's return to the Daily Mail article, which is typical of the reporting of the weapons cache seizure. The article related the Mexican police claim that:

The anti-aircraft gun, capable of penetrating armor from more than 5,000ft away and found attached to the top of a SUV, was the first of its type to be seized by Mexican police.

The firearm shown, however, was not an anti-aircraft gun and was not capable of "penetrating armor from more than 5,000 feet away." It also wasn't attached to an SUV. It was, instead, what appears to be a 1919A4, a .30-'06 caliber World War II-era medium machine gun typically fitted on a low tripod for infantry use against ground targets. While still a serious threat to Mexican police and military units, the .30-'06 weapon is simply not capable of being used to hit moving aircraft at above treetop level. That's because the tripod is too low to the ground to allow the rear of the gun to be depressed and the front of the gun to be raised to engage airborne targets.