Organized crime is often conceptualized as a business enterprise formed by actors motivated by profits. The Balkans represents an ideal case for testing the extent to which assumptions about the image of actors involved in illegal arms trading can be extrapolated to the macro-level of analysis. Focusing mainly on public discourse, this paper points to several thematic categories of illicit arms trafficking: i) profit-oriented arms trafficking involving organized crime groups ii) trafficking of arms for the purpose of arming criminal-terrorist formations and iii) state-sponsored illegal arms trafficking. Although economic incentives appear strong in many cases, other cultural, social and political issues also frame the illicit arms market in the region. We argue that both understanding and policing organized crime should also embrace the non-economic nature of this type of criminal behavior.