When they should be shooting at the enemy, they shoot souvenir photos and videos on cellphones and point-and-shoot pocket cameras. Many of them commute to the front, driving their dusty cars back home to rest and freshen up…

Most of the fighters know nothing of guns because the weapons were banned under Kadafi. Getting caught with a gun meant prison or, in some cases, death.

Illicit but alluring, guns are objects of mystery and fascination for the men and boys of eastern Libya. Now that they at last own firearms — looted from government garrisons overrun by protesters in February — the would-be soldiers fire them randomly and wildly. They have wasted thousands of rounds, prompting commanders to begin charging one Libyan dinar (about 80 cents) per bullet.

“For so long, we wanted guns but could never touch one,” said Ibrahim Ahmad, a 20-year-old who said his mother urged him to find a gun and fight. “Now we want to shoot them all day because it feels so good.”