To-date, the proliferation and unrestricted transfers of small arms and light weapons (SALW) pose a threat to peace and security, particularly in conflict torn regions and countries. As part of collective responses to this problem, the Security Council intensified Chapter VII arms embargoes in the aftermath of the Cold War. These bans are arguably seen by many as the only legal restrictions on the trade in SALW under international law. However, due to a lack of appropriate monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, the bans are often violated by states and non-state actors. In response to this the Council has taken a range of steps, including establishing and empowering sanctions' committees, monitoring panels and groups of experts, to oversee compliance and conduct investigations on alleged violations. This article inquires into three areas of interest: first, the link between the small arms challenge and international peace and security and the powers and responsibilities of the Security Council to respond to this challenge; secondly, the nature, scope and major problems of the embargoes; and finally, the features of recent developments in the application of the bans. It is submitted that whilst the inherent problems of these bans, most crucially the lack of political commitment of states to comply with the measures and respond to violations remain to be persistent contemporary challenges, the newly introduced monitoring mechanisms are positive attributes to the effectiveness of the embargoes.