A study conducted by The University of Manchester and RAND Europe has found that up to 60 percent of the weapons on sale on dark web marketplaces are from the United States. The data collected for the study covered 12 cryptomarkets, where firearms, weapons and explosives were on sale. Also listed were banned digital products that provided detailed instructions on how to make weapons and explosives at home.
Giacomo Persi Paoli, the lead author of the study, says "The dark web is both an enabler for the trade of illegal weapons already on the black market and a potential source of diversion for weapons legally owned. Recent high-profile cases have shown that the threat posed by individuals or small groups obtaining weapons illegally from the dark web is real. The ability for criminals and terrorists, as well as vulnerable or fixated individuals, to make virtually anonymous purchases is perhaps the most dangerous aspect."
The finding indicates that that the listings on the dark web marketplaces are not likely to fuel large scale armed conflicts or terrorist organisations. However, the marketplaces can be used to procure weapons by lone-wolf terrorists working on their own, and small gangs. The 18 year old who went on a pre meditated shooting spree in Munich, in July 2016, is believed to be one of these lone-wolf terrorist, who had purchased the weapon used in the shooting from the dark web.
The dark web marketplaces typically have a number of anonymising features that allow the buyers and sellers to mask their identities. As some of the geological barriers are broken down, the cryptomarkets facilitate global sales in illegal firearms. The study suggests that the weapons available on the dark web are more recent and better performing than similar weapons available in the black market or on the streets.