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Russia’s Top 5 Little-Known Assault Rifles



russian arctic army - Russia's Top 5 Little-Known Assault Rifles

Russia’s latest Kalashnikov AK-12 and AK-15 assault rifles have successfully passed muster at live-fire trials and are slated to enter service with the Russian Armed Forces. They will replace the current versions of the tried-and-true AK-47 submachine gun, which has become the world’s most popular of its kind since it was introduced in 1949.

That said, Soviet and Russian arms makers have come up with a flurry of other assault rifles which, though not so mass-produced as the Kalashnikovs, have still proved their efficiency thanks to their unconventional design.


Even though Soviet arms manufacturers have experimented with the bullpup design where action is located behind the trigger group, bullpup assault rifles have seen limited production and are in service with a few select internal Russian units.

A bullpup configuration permits a shorter overall weapon for a given barrel length. It also ensures better accuracy of fire, which is vital in urban combat situations.

556 mm A 91 assault rifle - Russia's Top 5 Little-Known Assault Rifles

5,56 mm A-91 assault rifle

The A-91 assault rifle, developed by the Shipunov Design Bureau, was introduced in 1990. It comes in two variants: a “domestic” one, chambered for Russian-made 5.45×39 mm cartridges, and an “export” one handling NATO’s standard 5.56×45 mm cartridge.  The A-91 is compact, user-friendly, reliable and comes with an integrated 40mm grenade launcher.

However, despite all these upsides, the A-91 weighs a hefty 4.4 kilograms, one kilogram more than the workhorse AK-74, and has seen limited acceptance with the Russian Army and some select police forces.


Developed by the Nikonov Design Bureau in 1994, the AN-94 has been in service with the Russian Armed Forces since 1997. The AN-94 was designed as a potential replacement for the AK-74 series of assault rifles.

The stated great advantage of the AN-94 system is its ability to delay the recoil force until fired rounds have left the barrel. This enables more ‘hits’ on a target under the most adverse combat conditions.

Prototype of AN 94 assault rifle also known as LI 291 - Russia's Top 5 Little-Known Assault Rifles

Prototype of AN-94 assault rifle, also known as LI-291

The AN-94 offers a unique two-shot burst function at a 1,800 rounds per minute rate of fire.

The Nikonov mechanism fires a second shot in burst mode quickly enough to allow it to escape before the recoil of the first shot is felt, thus potentially allowing the two shots to hit extremely close together thus ensuring excellent accuracy.

However, due to its complex design and high production cost, its adoption has been very slow and its use is currently rather limited in service with the Russian Armed Forces.


Developed by the Degtyarev Design Bureau in 1978, the AEK-971 looks much like the AK-74, but at closer inspection, even a layman will find it hard to miss the difference between these two weapons.

Even though the AEK-971 is based on previous AK rifles in internal design and layout, it features a balanced automatic recoil system that reduces the negative effects of recoil resulting in more controllable automatic fire.

Soviet selective fire assault rifle AEK 971 - Russia's Top 5 Little-Known Assault Rifles

Soviet selective fire assault rifle AEK-971

For the AEK-971 automatic firing accuracy is improved by 15-20 percent in comparison with the AK-74M.

The A-545 successor to the AEK-971, that was introduced in December 2014, featured numerous internal and external improvements of the AK-971.

Along with the AK-12, it has passed state Ratnik trials and will be accepted into service with operational unions for evaluation.


The ADS assault was developed by the Shipunov Design Bureau in 2009 as a dual-medium weapon, capable for firing under and above water.

It is scheduled to enter service with the Russian Navy’s Special Ops units next year to replace the current APS underwater assault rifle, introduced back in 1975.

The ADS also features an integral 40 mm grenade launcher with an effective above —water range of 400 meters.

SR-3 “Vikhr”

The SR-3 Vikhr is a one-of-a-kind assault rifle, developed by TsNIITTochMash (the Central Institute for Precision Machine Building) in 1994. Compact and lightweight (2.4 kg) the SR-2 has an effective range of up to 200 meters.

Vikhr compact assault rifle - Russia's Top 5 Little-Known Assault Rifles

Vikhr compact assault rifle

Its powerful SP-6 9×39 mm cartridges are capable of cutting though maximum-security flak jackets 50 meters away, which is something cartridges used by longer-range assault rifles can’t boast of.



The U.S. Military’s Crazy New Assault Rifle Could Tear Through Body Armor



us army soldier - The U.S. Military's Crazy New Assault Rifle Could Tear Through Body Armor

“We’re not going to replace all 80,000 SAWs right away — but the intent is to get this AR variant out to infantry squads as soon as possible.”

Author: Jared Keller, Task and Purpose

The Army claims its new assault rifle will unleash a hailstorm of specially-designed shells with as much chamber pressure as a battle tank to tear through even the most advanced body armor — and if all goes according to plan, the soldiers will get them to play with sooner than they thought.

The service plans on fielding a Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle (NGSAR) — the first version in the Army’s Next-Generation Weapons System that chambers a round between 6.5mm and 6.8mm —  as a potential replacement for its 80,000 M249 SAWs starting in fiscal 2022 rather than the original target date of fiscal 2025, Col. Geoffrey A. Norman, force development division chief at Army HQ, told Task & Purpose, with two per nine-man infantry squad.

While the service still hasn’t set official requirements for the system, the NGSAR will weigh less, shoot farther, and pack more punch than the service’s existing infantry weapons, Norman told Task & Purpose. And more importantly, the platform will incorporate a chamber pressure superior to the current system in soldiers’ arsenals to ensure that the rounds can still blast through enhanced enemy body armor at up to 600 meters.

The goal, as Norman put it, is to equip infantry soldiers with an automatic rifle “that fires a small bullet at the pressure equivalent to what a tank would fire.”

“The chamber pressure for the standard assault rifle is around 45 KSI [kilopound per square inch], but we’re looking for between 60 and 80 KSI … the chamber pressure when an M1 Abrams tank fires is on that order,” Gordon told Task & Purpose. “We’re looking to reach out around 600 meters and have lethal effects even if the target is protected by body armor.”

The NGSW program currently consists of the NGSAR, a Next Generation Squad Carbine (NGSC), and a squad designated marksman rifle, along with specialized ammunition and fire control system. But while the Army had previously focused on fielding an improved carbine with a range and accuracy superior to the standard M4 that would also chamber a round between 6.5mm and 6.8mm, the service recently changed gears to prioritize the muscular automatic NGSAR.

The reason, according to Gordon, is the Pentagon’s current shift from the close quarters of urban warfare in Iraq and Syria to the mountains and open terrain of Afghanistan. While the carbine may be well-suited for a knock-down, drag-out brawl while moving house to house in cities like Mosul and Raqqa, it lacks the range to take out Taliban and ISIS fighters in open stretches

“For the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve been really focused on the requirement of lethal effects against unprotected targets,” Gordon said. “Now we’re looking at near-peer threats like Russia and others. We need to have lethal effects against protected targets and we need to have requirements for long-range lethality in places like Afghanistan, where you’re fighting from mountaintop to mountaintop over extended ranges.”

The service is certainly working overtime to get the muscular system turning militants into pink mist downrange. Gordon told Task & Purpose that the NGSW systems currently undergoing testing and evaluation by the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team at Fort Benning, Georgia will initially head downrange with the 7.62mm XM11158 Advanced Armor Piercing (ADVAP) round while the service hacks away at a specialized round built to achieve the proper balance between range and lethality.

“The challenge of the 5.56mm is that it doesn’t have enough mass [to defeat enemy body armor],” Norman said, referring to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley’s April 2017 testimony before lawmakers on the Army’s growing ammo problem downrange. “But the challenge with 7.62mm ammo is that it has too much mass and not enough propellant. The right solution is somewhere between the two, where you have enough mass to penetrate but you’re still moving fast enough.”

But the real heart of the NGSW program is the fire control system, developed independently from the receiver and chamber. While the Army has spent years evaluating off-the-shelf options for soldiers’ next assault rifle — see the Interim Combat Service Rifle program aborted in November due to weight concerns rather than budget jousting —   Gordon characterized the proprietary fire-control system as a miniaturized version of the systems utilized by ground vehicles and aviation platforms.“We’re exploring several options to ensure that what the gun aims at, it actually hits,” Gordon told Task & Purpose. “The system will adjust and potentially only fire when the muzzle will line up with its target. It will take into account atmospheric conditions, even automatically center the weapon using an internal system. We’re looking to get these capabilities ready as soon as possible.”

The Army’s hard target of a 2022 fielding may seem ambitious, especially given the maddeningly batshit nature of defense acquisition. But the service isn’t the only one putting the NGSW in the crosshairs: According to Gordon, the Corps is also interested in adopting the NGSAR alongside the M27 and M1101 CSASS sniper rifle the Army has eyed in recent years. And with the campaign against ISIS in close-quarters environs like Iraq and Syria winding down, soldiers and infantry Marines could use the range and the punch of the system sooner rather than later.

“We’ve got support from Congress and the Secretary of Defense as part of our close combat strategic portfolio review,” Gordon told Task & Purpose. “We’re not going to replace all 80,000 SAWs right away — but the intent is to get this AR variant out to infantry squads as soon as possible.”

Jared Keller is a senior editor at Task & Purpose and contributing editor at Pacific Standard. Follow Jared Keller on Twitter @JaredBKeller.

This article originally appeared at Task & Purpose. Follow Task & Purpose on Twitter.

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Russia’s New Assault Rifle Can Beat a Bulletproof Vest



ShAK 12 - Russia's New Assault Rifle Can Beat a Bulletproof Vest

The assault rifle, unveiled in 2017 and displayed at Russia’s “Army 2018” defense expo, will be limited to close-quarters FSB use and is expected to see action in future Russian counter-terrorist operations. Russian Special Forces are getting the latest variant of the ASh-12,7×55 mm heavy assault rifle.

Author: Mark Episkopos

The weapon, ShAK-12, was commissioned by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and is being manufactured by a branch of the KBP Instrument Design Bureau. On this year’s “Gunsmith Day,” a Russian holiday honoring arms manufacturers, KBP won an award for the “design, manufacture, testing, and serial production of the 12,7 mm heavy assault automatic system ShAK-12.”

Whereas Kalashnikov’s AK flagships like the recent AK-12 are general purpose military assault rifles that have to balance penetration, handling, weight, accuracy and shot distance, the ShAK-12 is designed for a specific use-case where weight and shot distance are largely irrelevant.  Drawing on the experience of the Beslan school siege and Moscow theater hostage crisis in the early 2000’s, the FSB saw the need for a more efficient close-quarters combat weapon in hostage situations.

Adrenaline and certain substances can suppress the immediate impact of gunshot wounds, potentially giving the target a short-term window of action before going down. In urban conflict scenarios, these minutes or even seconds can make a difference of several dead hostages.

The ShAK-12’s 12,7х55 mm rounds are meant to solve this problem by instantly neutralizing targets upon contact, thereby avoiding prolonged gunfights. These 33-gram rounds can reportedly neutralize targets even with grazing shots and through walls. The ShAK-12 has an effective range of up to 100 meters, quite low for conventional military use but sufficient for close-quarters combat. Given ShAK-12’s intended operating scenario, a low effective range can be seen as a design feature in that it further minimizes collateral damage against civilians.

ShAK-12’s three bullet types further highlight the manufacturer’s focus on tactical versatility: armor-piercing rounds with extreme stopping power to penetrate bullet proof vests and cover; subsonic velocity rounds for effective silencer fire; and light aluminium rounds that maximize stopping power while negating ricochet effects.

To accommodate three 12,7х55 variants of different kinetic energy and pressure levels, the manufacturer opted for a short-barrel bullpup design. While a relatively rare form factor for assault rifles, it may offer better handling in close-quarters environments.

The manufacturers attempted to compensate for the prodigious weight of ShAK-12’s 12,7х55 mm rounds by designing parts of the gun—like the magazine—with plastic and hybrid aluminium. As with many Bullpup variants, it uses a polymer stock. The ShAK-12 still weighs 5.2 kg (for comparison, the AK-12 is 3.3 kg), which makes it too heavy to issue for prolonged deployments in mobile operational theaters.

The assault rifle, unveiled in 2017 and displayed at Russia’s “Army 2018” defense expo, will be limited to close-quarters FSB use and is expected to see action in future Russian counter-terrorist operations. Russia does, however, have a different set of plans for the ShAK-12 beyond its borders: ShaK-12 was shown at Defexpo 2018 in India and China and is being aggressively marketed as an export product.

Specific export plans have not yet been announced, but KPB’s parent company Rostec is optimistic:

Russian shooting weapons have long established themselves at the international level as reliable, simple-to-use weapons meeting modern requirements for combat operations. ShAK-12 is a perfect weapon for counter-terrorist and other military operations in populated areas, inside buildings and structures where the maximum safety of civilian population is the top priority. As expected, foreign special forces will be greatly interested in this new product.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a Ph.D. student in History at American University.

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