While Kalashnikov’s machine gun is less famous than his rifle, in many ways it is a better design. Lighter than most Western 7.62 machine guns, it is still accurate and controllable. The PKM has proven popular with almost every country that’s used it.
The PKP Pecheneg is the more modern version with a different bipod and barrel. The PKP is primarily issued to special forces and more modernized units, while the PKM is still seen in the largest numbers in the army. The PKM replaced the RPK-74M and RPK-74 as the standard issue squad automatic weapon recently.
The PKM and PKP are constantly being modernized with new stock kits and optics mounts being produced by Russian industry. Bullpup versions and even a version that can feed ammunition from a backpack exist.
One of the most common criticisms of the PKM in the West is the non-disintegrating belts, which require a gunner to manage an empty ammunition belt on the left side of the gun. However, this is not considered a disadvantage in Russian service, as the belts can be reused.
A Ukrainian firm has developed plastic ammunition links that act as a disintegrating belt, but similar innovations have not yet been adopted by the Russian military or security services.