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Bullpups by Shevchenko. From “Smerch” (“Tornado”) to “Bars” (“Snow leopard”)

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The Soviet arms designers have tried to approach the bullpup layout of small arms quite a while ago. According to data available to the author, this design was first tried in the PTR (anti-tank rifles), which required a long barrel, which in case of classical layout would make the rifle uncomfortable to use. The PTR by Artillery Academy in 1941 is most likely the earliest one. However the birth date of the first Soviet bullpup can be shifted back to 1936-1937.

The question of compactness for infantry small arms was of less interest, as Soviet infantry even in case of motorized infantry, would drive around in trucks and few land-lease or captured APCs had and open top.

However, as early as first contest, which took place after  the end of World War 2, on of the assault rifle prototypes – the TKB-408 by Korobov – was made as bullpup. Notably less information had survived upto present time regarding its ancestor – the 1945 Korovin assault rifle.

Ever since, the bullpup small arms was always participating in Main Artillery Department’s contests and would always lose.

The “Modern” contest, was announced in 1973 for: “compact assault rifle to arm mortar, artillery, APC personel and other kind of soldiers, who require compact rifle with high firepower”. Even though that the bullpup solution was the most obvious one, most participants form the “old school” design bureaus hade submitted classical but shortened designs. As it is known today, that contest was won by M.T.Kalashnikov, who modified his AKS-74 according to new requirements by reducing the barrel length from 415 to 212 mm. Its almost full unification with the mass produced Kalashnikov model was the decisive argument.

Meanwhile, in the process of the contest, another prototype was designed. While fulfilling the contest technical requirements in terms of overall firearm length, the standard 415mm AK barrel was used. This was possible by using bullpup, or as the designer called it “ultra bullpup” scheme. The novel L-shaped chamber locking scheme allowed the receiver to be cut down to 85 mm. The decrease of moving parts travel distance had also allowed for increased full-auto fire rate (up to 1800 rounds per minute). The trigger group allowed single, triple shot bursts and full-auto fire. Due to the center of mass being right on top of the pistol grip, the assault rifle showed great handling and even allowed easy single hand operation. Basically, the projest had many positive sides with only one clear negative one – the designer of the new low-dimensional “Smerch” assault rifle was the your Tula highest artillery engineering academy cadet – A.V.Shevchenko.

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“Smerch” didn’t go any further, than the prototype with the conclusion: “We don’t need your ideas here, we don’t have time to cast existing ones into metal!” As a result, the army and the police got a shortened version of Kalashnikov and it had all settled down for some time then. Shevchenko’s assault rifle (just like the first Kalashnikov submachine gun) was not put into service.

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The Shevchenko bullpup story was not over, however. One of the most interesting prototypes was twin-environment assault rifle ADSH (Bars-1). Its no secret that the currently used by special forces special underwater assault rifle APS is “unparalleled” weapon, its out of the water results are not excellent at all – as in terms of distance, accuracy and barrel resource. Meanwhile, even for the divers special forces, it is much more likely to engage in combat on land, rather to meet their “colleagues’ under water. In reality this lead to the operators being forced to carry two types of weapons – for underwater and land operations.

This is why,  as soon as the “unparalleled” APS gun was made, the USSR designers began to search for a way to bring on land effectiveness up. One of the solutions was to allow APS to use standard 5.45 mm ammo. But later on Tula design bureau staff went further and developed new underwater round – PSP, which had identical dimensions as the standard 5.45x39mm ammo. The small arms-grenade launching complex was also being adapted for this ammo. The result of this job was the new twin-environment assault rifle – ADS.

There is enough info regarding the Tula designers prototype in the internet, but its direct rival almost left no trace in the media.

With the AKM (Avtomat Kalashikova Modernizirovanniy) with 7.62x39 ammo as base, the Rzhev test ground personnel with A.V.Shevchenko in charge reworked its design to make its operation stable under water. In order to decrease dimensions, it was converted into bullpup, trigger group was changed as well. The PBS silencer was adapted for submerged environment also. And, obviously, the new underwater ammo was designed.

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Although, Bars main zest was not the ability to operate in two environments.

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As it is known, the main AK (Kalashnikov) flaw, which forced it to drop out of mi 1940-ies contest, was the full auto fore accuracy from unstable positions. This flaw was not eliminated later either. As it was mentioned in a “National assault rifles” book by Malimon: “The result of tests was: “With a high impulse recoil of 7.62-mm round, there was no real way to decrease hit dispersion with full auto from unstable positions by changing its design.”

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This was not so bad according to some theories – full auto hit dispersion at long ranges could compensate operator’s errors. The military commanders, however, demanded to increase accuracy at full auto. The “peak” of this struggle was the “Abakan” AN-94 Nikonov assault rifle. The gun carriage scheme that was used, allowed for high accuracy with twin round bursts. The down side was the cuckoo-clock design used, which at time of mid 90-ies economical crisis made its production impossible. However, even if the production was to be made possible, the increase of one of the characteristics at the cost of production easiness and at the cost of complicating its operation and maintenance by the troops was under question. The AN-94 was not even participating in the 2013 new standard military assault rifle contest for the “Ratnik” gear set.

Attention now!

 

On land short burst from standing position 100 m distance accuracy results

Prototype name

groups shots quantity

Accuracy results

см

см²

R100

r50

Standard vertical deviation

Standard horizontal deviation

Deviation area

АКМ

3 х20

350

230

425

280

119000

АК102

3 х20

445

288

505

435

219675

АКS74U

3 х20

410

260

530

290

153700

М16А1

3 х20

305

180

248

148

98000

М16А2

3 х20

196

128

248

148

36704

АК-74М

3 х20

200

105

205

185

37925

Bars-1 (with compensator)

3 х20

150

85

70

180

12600

 

As it is seen in this table, Bars clearly stands out form the guns, currently in service in terms of accuracy form standing position (it would be more interesting to use a more modern foreign guns as comparison, however). The increase accuracy of Bars-1 was reached by using damper automatics and muzzle break-compensator with gas stream compression.

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Time will show, whether Bars-1 will be able to squeeze out the Tula Ads put into service in 2013. But in any case, being able to choose form 2 good guns is better that having just one option. Bearing in mind, that recently many military guns get certified as civilian.

 

Andrey Ulanov.

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      Number of parts when field disassembly
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      Sudaeva submachine gun (PPS)
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      3. Overall weight with loaded magazine (kg).
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      4,800
      4. Overall length unfolded buttstock (mm)
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      5. Magazine capacity (rounds)
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      35
       
       
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      Kalashnikov submachine gun showed outstanding accuracy when in semi-auto. However the results were completely different, when switching to full-auto short bursts: the grouping was twice as bad as of PPS and PPSh for the distance of 100 meters. According to the report, this was due to 2 factors: 1) the scheme of independent hammer, which struck the primer slightly after the bolt hit the front  of the receiver, locking into place after previous shot; 2) relatively fast rate of fire (though slower than the one of the PPSh, but faster than the PPS), combined with low weight of the gun and low effectiveness of the compensator. Likewise, more experienced designer Shpagin had to previously put a lot of effort to tackle similar problem with his PPSh.
       
       
      The reliability of the automatics was tested by a large number of rounds from two different supplies of ammo. After 730 shot a crack was formed at the back of the receiver. This defect was easily eliminated by the lab at the facility by welding a 4 millimeter steel plate on to the back of the receiver, with the firearm returned for testing after.
       
       
      The main problem encountered during the shooting tests was misfire, cause by what the personnel on ground thought, early release of the hammer (12 times per 2280 shots). However, having examined the reports and having heard the designer’s opinion, the specialists at the Main Artillery Department came to a conclusion, that the real reason for misfire was miscalculation of the resistance caused by parts welded onto the spiral tube. The automatics lacked suficiend energy to overcome this extra resistance. This lesson was well learned by the young designer, paying special attention to the reliability of the automatics in future.
       
       
      Overall, the result was not too bad – the maximum percentage of misfire didn’t exceed 3.1%, average of 1.5%. Mass production PPS (Shpagina) of several factories showed much worse results during quarterly repeating tests without any particular “difficult conditions” of production compared to the PPK. Moreover the acceptance commission itself acknowledged that the accuracy and reliability issues of the Kalashnikov could be easily overcome by minor improvements.
       
       
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      However, there was one more very important issue, that normally doesn’t get into the spec sheets and acceptance reports. It was one that Mihail Kalashnikov didn’t give much thought to, while designing his “best” submachine gun, with which it would be quite easy to engage into combat for the tank personnel.
       
       
      “By its constructive design and the technology of manufacture the PPK gave way to the PPS (Sudaeva) and didn’t have advantages over the PP-41.
       
       
       
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      As a comparison – according to Main Artillery Department standard at that time, it took 7.3 machine work hours to produce 1 PPSh, with only 2.73 hours for the PPS. With most parts of the PPS being able to be produced at any factory having sufficient stamping machine capability.
      A somewhat similar story happened at almost the same time in the United States. The main service submachine gun of the US military by the start of World War 2 – the Thompson submachine gun (which also had delayed blowback bolt mechanics and had some exterior similarities with the Kalashnikov submachine gun) was a great firearm, highly demanded by the military. However, even the worlds richest and industrially-developed country, which didn’t have to surrender a significant part of its territory to the enemy and evacuate its factories over thousands of kilometers away from the frontline and set up new production facilities, was initially forced to focus on simplifying and lowering cocsts of production ot the Tommy Gun, and then eventually set up production of simple and cheap M3 “Greaseguns”
       

      By winter 1943, after 2 heaviest years of war, USSR simply could not afford to set up production of a better in some ways, but resource-demanding firearm. This is why the Kalashnikov submachine gun was destined to stay a prototype. The experience gained during its manufacture, field tests and modification eventually was of great benefit to Kalashnikov with his production of other models, some of which later to become mass produced and even legendary.
       
       
      But this “thousand “ifs” long” journey started in the depo workshop of Matai station and winter test facility next to Shyurovo in Moscow outskirts.
      Andrei Ulanov.
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
       
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