The original AK is known as AK-47. It is a gas-operated, selective-fire weapon firing the Soviet 7.62 x 39-mm M1943 round and uses a standard 30-round curved box magazine. The AK comes in two versions: one with a fixed wooden stock, and another, the AKS, with a folding metal stock issued primarily to parachutists and armor troops. Except for the differences in the stock and the lack of a tool kit with the AKS, the two versions were identical. The early AKs had no bayonet, but the version with the fixed wooden stock later mounted a detachable knife bayonet. The improved model, known as the AKM, is easier to produce and operate. It weighs about one kilogram less than the AK. The reduced weight results from using thinner, stamped sheet metal parts rather than machined, forged steel; laminated wood rather than solid wood in the handguard, forearm, pistol grip, and buttstock; and new lightweight aluminum and plastic magazines. Other improvements include a straighter stock for better control; an improved gas cylinder; a rate-of-fire control alongside the trigger; a rear sight graduated to 1,000 meters rather than 800 meters; and a greatly improved, detachable bayonet. The AKM also has a folding-stock version, designated AKMS, intended for use by riflemen in armored infantry combat vehicles such as the BMP. Except for its T-shaped, stamped-metal, folding buttstock, the AKMS is identical to the AKM. All 7.62-mm Kalashnikov assault rifles fire in either a semiautomatic or automatic mode and have an effective range of about 300 meters.
The AK-74 is basically an AKM rechambered and rebored to fire a 5.45-mm cartridge.Externally, it has the same general appearance as the AKM, with two notable differences. It has a distinctive, two-port muzzle brake, giving it a slightly greater overall length than the AKM. It also has a smooth plastic magazine which is slightly shorter and is curved to a lesser extent than the grooved metal AKM magazine. It uses the same type of bayonet as the AK-series weapons. Although the AK-74 is somewhat heavier than the AKM when empty, its loaded weight is slightly less than that of the AKM; this is due primarily to the plastic magazine and its smaller-caliber ammunition. Like the AK and AKM, the AK-74 can mount a grenade launcher and a passive image intensifier night sight. There is also a folding-stock version, designated AKS-74, which has a Y-shaped, tubular stock. The stock has an extremely narrow buttplate, as opposed to the T-shaped, stamped-metal buttstock of the AKMS. The AK-74 fires 5.45 x 39-mm ball, ball-tracer, and incendiary-tracer rounds. The 5.45-mm round of the AK-74 has a considerably higher muzzle velocity than the 7.62-mm round of the AKM; this eliminates the range-limiting drawback of its predecessor. Like the AKM, the AK-74 has a maximum sight setting of 1,000 meters, but the effective range is 500 meters (versus 300 meters for the AKM).
The AKSU-74 is a modified version of the AK-74 assault rifle with a much shorter barrel (207 millimeters versus 413 millimeters) and a conical flash suppressor instead of a muzzle brake. Like the AKS-74, it has a folding metal stock. The overall length of the submachine gun is only 492 millimeters with stock folded or 728 millimeters with extended stock. The rear sight is a flip-type U-notch. The front sight is a cylindrical post. The Soviets designed the AKSU-74 as a weapon short enough to be handled easily when the crew enters and exits vehicles. The device at the end of the barrel functions as an expansion chamber to bleed off gases that would otherwise cause a violent recoil. With a loaded weight of 3.106 kilograms, the submachine gun is considerably lighter than the assault rifle AK-74 and has a somewhat higher rate of fire.
The Sniper Rifle Dragunov (SVD) is a gas-operated, semiautomatic weapon. It fires the 7.62 x 54R cartridge and uses a detachable 10 round box magazine. Its overall length is 1,225 millimeters, and its empty weight is 4.3 kilograms. (Its loaded weight with bayonet is 4.78 kilograms.) Its bolt mechanism and gas recovery system are similar to those of the AK and AKM; but, because of the difference in cartridges used, parts are not interchangeable with the assault rifles. The most distinguishing features of the SVD are the open buttstock, which has a cheek pad for ease in sighting, and the telescopic sight mounted over the receiver. It has a combination flash suppressor/compensator. It may mount the standard AKM bayonet. It is normally issued with four magazines, a cleaning kit, and an extra battery and lamp for the telescopic sight. The SVD fires approximately 30 rounds per minute in the semiautomatic mode. It has a maximum effective range of 1,300 meters with the 4-power telescope or 800 meters without it. The PSO-1 optical sight has a 6-degree field of view. It contains an integral, infrared detection aid and an illuminated rangefinder reticle. Thus, the SVD is effective in daylight against point targets or at night against active infrared emitters, such as night driving aids and weapon sights. It can fire light ball, heavy ball, steel core, tracer, and anti-tank incendiary ammunition.
The RPK is a variant of the AKM assault rifle. It has a longer, heavier barrel; a stamped metal bipod; and a heavier type of fixed, wooden buttstock. The modified receiver of the RPK can accommodate its larger-diameter barrel. The RPK normally feeds ammunition from either a 40-round curved box magazine or a 75-round spring-loaded drum magazine. However, it can also use the 30-round curved box magazine of the AKM, if necessary. It has a chrome-plated barrel, chamber, and gas piston. It also has a cyclic rate reducer built into the trigger mechanism. The users usually install luminous night sights on the front and rear sights. Some RPKs can mount an infrared night-sighting device. The RPKS is a folding-stock version used by airborne troops. The RPK has a maximum effective range of 800 meters in either automatic or semiautomatic mode. Almost all of the moving parts of the RPK are interchangeable with those of the AK or AKM assault rifles.
Just as the RPK is the squad machine gun version of the AKM, the RPK-74 is a machine gun version of the AK-74, firing the same ammunition. The RPKS-74 is a folding-stock version of the weapon. Instead of the prominent muzzle brake used on the AK-74, the machine gun has a short flash suppressor. The magazine is longer than that normally used with the AK-74, but the magazines are interchangeable. The RPK-74 has a bipod. The 5.45-mm round of the RPK-74 has a considerably higher muzzle velocity than the 7.62-mm round of the RPK. However, both weapons probably have the same maximum range (2,500 meters) and effective range (800 meters). Unlike the RPK, the RPK-74 is compatible with the front firing ports of the BMP.
The 7.62-mm general-purpose machine gun Pulemyot Kalashnikov (PK) is a gas-operated, belt-fed, sustained-fire weapon. The PKM fires 7.62 x 54R rimmed cartridges using a metal non disintegrating belt. The basic PK model is bipod-mounted. It is fed by a 100-round belt carried in a box fastened to the right side of the receiver. It weighs 9 kilograms and is 1,161 millimeters long. It is constructed partly of stamped metal and partly of forged steel. The PKS is a PK mounted on a lightweight (4.75-kg) tripod. It uses either a 200- or 250-round belt. The belt feeds from a box placed to the right of the weapon. The PKT is the tank-mounted version of the PK. Late-model FSU tanks, turreted APCs and IFVs, and amphibious scout cars mount it as a coaxial machine gun. It has a longer and heavier barrel than the PK. It also lacks the PK's stock, sights, bipod, and trigger mechanism. The PKT has a solenoid at the rear for remote-controlled firing, although it also has an emergency manual trigger. The PKB is a variant of the PKT. It is intended for use as a pintle-mounted gun on APCs and SP guns. It differs from the PKT by having a butterfly trigger rather than a solenoid trigger and by having double space grips and front and rear sights. The PKM is an improved, lighter version (8.4 kilograms) of the PK, using stamped metal components instead of machined metal. Joinable 25-round sections of non-disintegrating metallic belts feed the bipod-mounted PKM. An assault magazine attached to the rails under the receiver can carry 100 cartridges belted in this way. Either 200- or 250-round belt boxes can also feed the PKM. The tripod-mounted PKMS is a lightweight version of the PKS. It has the same characteristics as the PKM, from which it is derived. The effective range of the PK-series machine guns is 1,000 meters. They have a cyclic rate of fire of 650 rounds per minute and a practical rate of fire of 250 rounds per minute. Ammunition types include the following: ball, ball-tracer, armor-piercing incendiary, armor-piercing incendiary-tracer, and incendiary-ranging. It normally fires from its bipod mount but can also fit in vehicle firing ports. The PKS and PKMS are also infantry weapons. Used as heavy machine guns, they provide long-range area fire. Their tripod provides a stable mount for long-range ground fire. The tripod opens quickly to elevate the gun for antiaircraft fire. The machine gun has an effective range of 600 meters against slow-moving aircraft. The PKT serves as a coaxial machine gun on most modern Soviet tanks, IFVs, and APCs. The PKB (PKBM) serves as a pintle-mounted gun on older armored vehicles such as the BRDM, BTR-50, and BTR-60.
The DShK is one of the standard heavy machine guns of the Soviet Army. It is a gas-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled weapon which fires from the open-bolt position. The model 38/46 has a shuttle feed housed in a flat, rectangular cover. It has reversible feed; that is, with a minor adjustment the ammunition belt can feed from either the left or the right side. It also has a quick-change barrel. The FSU use the DShK extensively as an antipersonnel and antiaircraft armament on medium tanks and armored personnel carriers. It is capable of full automatic fire only. The Soviets adopted the original DShK (model 38 or M1938) in 1938 as a ground-mounted, dual-purpose antiaircraft and antitank gun. Largely superseded by the 14.5-mm ZPU-series weapons in the antiaircraft role, the ground-mounted version has become obsolete. In 1946, the Soviets adopted the improved version (model 38/46 or M1938/46, also known as DShKM) with a modified feed mechanism and a quick-change barrel. It is still in use as a vehicle-mounted armament. When used as a tank machine gun, it is known as the DShKT.
The NSV is a gas-operated, belt-fed, air-cooled automatic weapon with a horizontal sliding wedge breechblock and a quick-change barrel. It has a long, smooth, unfinned barrel with a conical flash suppressor. It features a rectangular stamped-and-riveted receiver. Ammunition loaded in non-disintegrating belts feeds into the weapon from a 50-round-capacity metal container. A tripod-mounted version of the NSV is available for infantry use in a ground role. However, the NSV appears more commonly mounted on the turrets of T-64, T-72, and T-80 tanks as an anti-aircraft machine gun. On a vehicular mount, the NSV can engage both aerial and ground targets. The weapon fires from an open-bolt position. It fires the same 12.7 x 108-mm cartridges as the older DShK model 38/46. Although the NSV is approximately 11 kilograms lighter than the DShK, the ruggedness of the gas regulator and cylinder suggest that barrel vibrations would be dampened, resulting in accuracy comparable to that of the DShK.
The 14.5-mm heavy machine gun Vladimirov (KPV) is used in both ground and anti-aircraft roles. In its antiaircraft role, the KPV is the basic machine gun mounted on the ZPU series of antiaircraft gun mounts. It also serves as the main turret armament of the BRDM-2 amphibious scout car and the BTR-60PB, BTR-70, and BTR-80 APCs. In this armored vehicle role, the weapon is known as KPVT. The KPV is a recoil-operated, fully automatic weapon which fires from the open-bolt position. Metallic non-disintegrating link belts, coupled together in 10-round sections, can feed it either from the left or the right of the receiver. The quick-change barrel is removable with the barrel jacket as a unit. The bore is chromium-plated to increase barrel life. The weapon fires the FSU 14.5 x 114-mm cartridge. The KPV has a maximum effective range of 1400 meters against air targets, and 2000 meters against ground targets. The gun is simple in design and rugged in construction. It is considered to be reliable.
The AGS-17 is a blowback-operated 30-mm automatic grenade launcher that can be mounted on a tripod or vehicle. A prominent drum magazine mounted on the right side holds 29 belted grenade rounds. The non-disintegrating metallic link belt exits from the left side. The short barrel with disc-shaped cooling fins protrudes from a large rectangular receiver. For ground transport, the system breaks down into four parts. The launcher itself weighs 17.86 kilograms and may be enclosed in a canvas carrying case. The sight weighs 0.99 kilograms; the folding tripod weighs 11.86 kilograms; and the magazine weighs 14.34 kilograms fully loaded, or 2.87 kilograms empty. The AGS-17 crew consists of a gunner and two riflemen-assistant gunners. For training, there may be only one assistant. When they dismount, the gunner carries the sight and launcher, the first assistant carries the tripod and a magazine, and the second assistant carries two additional magazines. The Soviets designed the AGS-17 to provide their infantry with an area-type suppressive-fire capability. They intend to use it primarily against personnel targets. It probably has some capability to engage soft-skinned and lightly armored vehicles. It is very accurate in the semiautomatic mode; it is also quite effective in area coverage in the automatic mode. One of the most important characteristics of the AGS-17 is its ability to provide indirect fire from protected positions against enemy troops in trenches, on reverse slopes of hills, or behind wooded areas. The gunner can engage targets by high-angle indirect fire at ranges from 1,000 to 1,730 meters; he can also use direct fire or high-angle direct fire at ranges from 50 to 1,730 meters. The sight reticle can serve as a direct-fire sight for point targets at ranges of up to 700 meters. The range table allows the gunner to adjust his fire rapidly for various ranges without computing elevations for the sight.
The BG-15 grenade launcher consists of two parts: the barrel and the trigger mechanism. The barrel segment includes the barrel itself, the sight, and the mounting bracket. The barrel is 120 millimeters long. The sight attaches to the left side of the mounting bracket. It consists of a front post and a rear open U-notched sight graduated for ranges out to 400 meters. An additional sight setting is available for high-angle fire at ranges of 200 and 300 meters. The trigger mechanism attaches to the barrel by means of an interrupted thread coupler. The rifleman can activate it only when the complete weapon is attached to the assault rifle. The BG-15 can attach under the barrel of the AK-74 and AKS-74 assault rifles. It uses an integral button-released notch that connects to the bayonet lug. The grenade launcher is muzzle-loaded. A pre-engraved band on the projectile body positions the grenade. Two types of 40-mm grenades are known to be used: the 7P17 and the rebounding VOG-25. The VOG-25L has a small charge in the nose which detonates to propel the warhead to explode and scatter its fragments from 1.5 to 2 meters above the ground. The grenade has a maximum range of 400 meters, and can scatter its fragments over a radius of 200 meters. The launcher is percussion-primed.
The RPG-7V is a recoilless, shoulder-fired, muzzle-loaded, reloadable, antitank grenade launcher. It fires an 85-mm (PG-7) or 70-mm (PG-7M) rocket-assisted HEAT grenade from a 40-mm smoothbore launcher tube. The launcher has two hand grips; a large optical sight; a thick, wooden heat guard around the middle; and a large, flared blast shield at the rear of the tube. The RPG-7V is light enough to be carried and fired by one person. However, an assistant grenadier normally deploys to the left of the gunner to protect him with small arms fire. The grenadier normally carries two rounds of ammunition, and the assistant grenadier carries three rounds. The internal rocket motor of the PG-7/7M grenade ignites after traveling approximately 11 meters; this gives the projectile higher velocity (sustained out to 500 meters), flatter trajectory, and better accuracy. Further enhancing accuracy are four large, knife-like fins at the rear of the projectile which unfold when the round leaves the tube, and smaller, offset fins at the very rear which produce a slow rotation. The maximum effective range is 500 meters for stationary targets and 300 meters for moving targets. Maximum range is 920 meters, at which point the projectile self-destructs approximately 4.5 seconds after launching. The PG-7/-7M grenade, with a shaped-charge warhead, has armor penetration of 330 millimeters. The current RPG-7V model can mount a telescope and both infrared and passive night sights. All RPG-7 models have optical sights which can be illuminated for night sighting. They have open sights for emergency use.
The RPG-16D is a reloadable antitank weapon. It is shoulder-fired, either with or without the support of a bipod mounted at the muzzle end. It has an optical sight above the tube, a single hand grip below the tube, and a conical blast shield at the rear. The 58.3-mm rocket-assisted HEAT projectile PG-16 has an increased range of 500 to 800 meters and a greater armor penetration capability of up to 375 millimeters, compared to the PG-7/-7M projectile of the RPG-7. As with the RPG-7, the RPG-16D grenadier probably carries two rounds of ammunition. The assistant grenadier carries three rounds and protects the grenadier with his assault rifle.
The RPG-18 is a short-range, tube-launched, disposable infantry antitank rocket launcher. It is somewhat similar to the US LAW system. The lightweight tube presumably consists of fiberglass-reinforced plastic. The operator carries the launcher in a collapsed position and extends the inner tube to make the weapon ready to fire. It fires a 64-mm rocket (PG-18) with an effective range of 200 meters and a HEAT warhead capable of penetrating up to 375 millimeters of armor. The fuse of the HEAT grenade activates 2 to 15 meters after leaving the tube and self-destructs after a flight time of 4 to 6 seconds. The trigger, safety catch, and rear peep sight are roughly in the middle of the extended tube, or at the rear end of the collapsed tube. The folding sight at the forward end of the tube is calibrated for ranges of 50, 100, 150, and 200 meters.
The RPG-22 is a short-range, tube-launched, disposable, infantry antitank rocket launcher, similar to the US LAW system. The lightweight, collapsible launch tube consists of two parts: the outer tube made of fiberglass and a sliding inner tube made of aluminum. The inner tube extends 10 centimeters to the front of the outer tube in firing position. It fires a 73-mm fin-stabilized rocket with an effective range of 250 meters and a HEAT warhead capable of penetrating approximately 390 millimeters of armor. The trigger and the pop-up rear peep sight are in the middle of the extended tube. The pop-up front sight is at the forward end of the outer tube. The front sight is calibrated for ranges of 50, 150, and 250 meters.
The RPO flame-thrower is a shoulder fired weapon. It fires a rocket-propelled napalm round. The RPO is reusable and can be fired at a rate of one shot per minute. It weighs 3.5 kilograms and is 1.44 meters long. The RPO-A is 0.92 meters long and contains only one half as much incendiary mixture as the RPO. This improved version is a disposable weapon. It can be fired by one operator at an estimated two shots per minute. The RPO is capable of firing 4 liters of incendiary mixture to a maximum effective range of 180 to 200 meters. The range and accuracy of the RPO-A are two to three times higher than that of the RPO. Both flame-throwers are effective as antitank weapons, "bunker-busters," and against troop formations. Both models may be present in some former Soviet airborne and first-line ground forces units.