AS VAL: The Next Generation of Soviet Suppressed Rifles

by Eric Sof

Russian soldier with AS VAL

The AS VAL, a silenced assault rifle, was engineered in the mid-1980s for Soviet special operations units. Its purpose was to supersede the AK-47 and AKM rifles, which lacked integral suppressors. Today, the AS VAL sees widespread use among Russian special forces.

Introduction

The AS Shaft (Russian: АС «Вал»; Автома́т Специа́льный), also known as the AS VAL, is a series of Soviet-designed rifles featuring an integral suppressor. The design of these rifles was based on the prototype RG-036, which was completed in 1981 by TsNIITochMash. The rifle is chambered for the powerful 9x39mm cartridge, making it a formidable weapon in the right hands.

Design

The AS VAL is a gas-operated, selective-fire weapon with an integral silencer. Four rows of nine holes drilled in the barrel follow the rifling, allowing gas to escape into the expansion chamber surrounding the barrel. The chamber extends about 20 cm forward of the barrel, where three baffles are located. The baffles are stamped out of a single sheet of 1 mm thickness and welded to a removable frame pressed against the front of the suppressor housing by a spring. This effectively reduces muzzle flash and muzzle report to 130 dB. However, no design features reduce the noise of the action.

This rifle uses SP-5 and SP-6 subsonic ammunition. The primary round is the SP-6 armor-piercing round. It is made of hardened steel, able to penetrate a 6 mm steel plate at 200 m and a 2 mm steel plate at 500 m. This round can defeat most military body armor at ranges of 300-400 meters. The SP-5 is a ball round fitted with a heavy bullet. There is also a PAB-9 round, a lower-cost version of the SP-6. However, the actual effective range of the AS VAL is limited to 200-300 meters due to the shaped trajectory of subsonic bullets.

AS Val assault rifle with detached scope on the ground
The image shows an AS Val assault rifle laying on ground. The rifle has a black finish and is shown with the scope detached from the rifle. The scope is visible next to the rifle on the right side (Photo: XY)

The AS VAL silenced assault rifle has a collapsible metal stock that folds to the left. It is fed by detachable box-type magazines that hold 20 rounds. The magazine release button is located behind the magazine. The integral silencer can be easily removed for storage and maintenance.

Manipulation of the AS VAL is similar to many AK-type rifles, with a charging handle on the right side, tangent rear sight, a magazine release button behind the magazine well, and a safety lever above the trigger guard. However, the fire selector is behind the trigger within the trigger guard. The rifle also has an “AK-type” Warsaw Pact rail for various optical sights, such as the PSO-1-1, PSO-1M2-1, and 1-PN-51, calibrated for use with the 9x39mm cartridge. The standard open sights are graduated from 100 to 425 meters in 25-meter increments.

The action of the AS VAL is similar to that of AK-type rifles, with a similar long-stroke gas system and a piston located above the barrel. However, the design features a rotating bolt with six locking lugs and a milled steel receiver. It is worth noting that this weapon is not compatible with a bayonet or under-barrel grenade launcher.

Operational use

The AS Val is a compact rifle that can be easily disassembled and concealed in a standard case, giving it a significant advantage in military trials. It saw widespread use during the Chechen campaigns and was utilized effectively by Russian special operations units in battles against terrorists. The rifle was even used to eliminate a notorious Russian mafia boss. Weighing in at 2.5 kilograms, it is lightweight and comfortable to fire. The use of subsonic 9mm rounds results in minimal recoil.

Variants and derivatives

VSS Vintorez

The VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifle is fitted with a wooden stock and a smaller-capacity magazine. The VSS Vintorez is chambered in 9 mm caliber and is still very popular among Spetsnaz.

SR-3 Vikhr

The SR-3 Vikhr is a compact assault rifle based on the AS VAL design. It lacks a suppressor and has a new stock intended for concealed carry. Some even refer to this weapon as a submachine gun.

SR-3M Vikhr

The SR-3M Vikhr silenced assault rifle was designed to meet an FSB requirement. The Russian FSB state security agency was looking for a weapon that would combine the features of the SR-3 Vikhr compact assault rifle, AS VAL silenced assault rifle, and Vintorez silenced sniper rifle in a single versatile weapon.

Comparison of Soviet-designed rifles, the SR-3M, AS Val, and VSS Vintorez
An image showing the SR-3M compact assault rifle at the top, the AS Val silenced assault rifle in the middle, and the VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifle at the bottom. All three rifles are Soviet-designed and feature unique characteristics, such as integral suppressors and specialized ammunition. The image provides a visual comparison of the different models and allows the viewer to appreciate their similarities and differences (Photo: XY)

The resulting SR-3M can mount a detachable suppressor, can be used with or without it, has a redesigned foregrip with a collapsible vertical grip, Val-style safety, fire mode selector, and charging handle, uses a skeletal side-folding buttstock of the AS VAL and iron sights that have been relocated to the foregrip. There is also a side rail for various optics, and it is fed from larger 30-round magazines, though these are compatible with older 20- and 10-round magazines of the Vikhr, AS VAL, or Vintorez. The SR-3M Vikhr is very similar to the AS VAL in appearance.

9A-91 and VSK-94

The 9A-91 and VSK-94 are cost-efficient redesigns of the two rifles by the KBP Instrument Design Bureau completed in 1992, lacking the integrated suppressor. Production began in 1994.

VSSM and ASM

VSSM and ASM (6P29M/6P30M) are modern versions of the rifle, where the VSSM is equipped with an aluminum buttstock that includes an adjustable cheek and butt pad and a new 30-round magazine intended for use with the ASM. Both rifles are outfitted with Picatinny rails on the top of the dust cover and the sides and bottom of the suppressor, forward of the handguard. The shrouds around the suppressor can be removed. Deliveries began in 2018.

ASM rifle presented during the Russian 4th Tank Division Open Day in 2018
ASM rifle presented during the Russian 4th Tank Division Open Day in 2018 (Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Technical specifications

Country of origin:Russia
Manufacturer:TsNIITochMash
Entered service:late 1980’s
Caliber:9×39 mm
Weight:2,5 kg
Length:875 mm
Length (with folded stock):615 mm
Barrel length:200 mm
Muzzle velocity:290 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire:900 rpm
Practical rate of fire:40 – 100 rpm
Magazine capacity:20 rounds
Sighting range:400 m
Range of effective fire:200-300 m
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