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  1. Bullpups by Shevchenko. From “Smerch” (“Tornado”) to “Bars” (“Snow leopard”) 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. “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. 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. Although, Bars main zest was not the ability to operate in two environments. 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.” 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. 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.
  2. Petrov, Kalashnikov…. and Garand. The opinion that the main Russian rifle (and later machine gun) cartridge 7.62x54R needs to be improved or even replaced has been around as early as the cartridge was put into service. Having started working on semi automatic weapons, Russian arms designers soon came to a conclusion, that 7.62x54R is by far not the optimal ammo. In particular, V.G.Fedorov, who was working on his automatic rifle project, had done calculations, that proved that the 6.5mm caliber cartridge, which was less powerful than the standard, was more effective. But the shift to new ammo and thus, to a new standard firearm, required too large investments. Fedorov had to make the best our of Japanese 6.5mm ammo, whish Russian Empire was buying during First Word War together with the Arisaka rifles. Arguments regarding the need to change the standard cartridge went on in between the World Wars period and even after the start of the World War Two. For instance, the information concerning the newly developed in the USA “M1 Carbine”, which used a smaller than standard .30-06 cartridge, was of great interest to Russian arms designers. Nevertheless, the crucial argument was the German “machinegun-carbine MkV-42” (that’s what it was named in the Russian intelligence correspondence), captured in battle. It became clear to Main Artillery Department (which was in charge of military firearms) staff, that if USSR wasn’t going to come up with similar rifle, the Wehrmacht infantry would have a significant advantage in battlefield. This is why, the assignment to develop a new cartridge, together with the new heavy assault rifle and semi-and full auto carbine for the cartridge, was given out promptly. The choice of this particular class of firearms was quite revealing. The opinion of Main Artillery Department was: “The emergence of the new automatic 7.92mm carbine in the German army is caused by the absence of a decent hand machinegun and, perhaps, the will to come up with an all-purpose infantry firearm, which is to replace the current machine gun and rifle”. This conclusion was of no accident – by that time the Main Artillery Department had formed the opinion, that the German MG-34 was too heavy and complicated as a squad automatic weapon, at the same time it didn’t provide the length and the intensiveness of the firepower for a heavy machinegun. Wherein the MG-42, that it was replaced with, was more shifted towards the heavy machine gun requirements, whereas the “automatic carbine” would cover the task of the hand machinegun. Interesting, that somewhat similar opinion was expressed by the soldiers, even in after the war interviews. According to them, each division needed two-three assault rifles with new ammo as replacement for machineguns. From this point of view, it was logical to start working on new ammo firearms for other soldiers in division – light semi automatic carbine. Besides all, this solution was an insurance for the assault rifle program in case of failure or delay. One of the designers willing to participate in the contest, announced by Main Artillery Department, was Mihail Kalashnikov. The carbine, in development of which he took part, was referred to as SKKP (Semiautomatic Kalashnikov and Petrov Carbine) in the documents. Though, if we are to stick to matter of priority, some would say that one more name should be added to the carbine – the one of the US designer Garand. «Kalashnikov and Petrov Carbine was developed on the basis of Garand, thus having some parts and mechanisms similar to it. For instance: chamber locking, feed, trigger group and receiver attachment. It should be noted, that at that time there were several other chamber-locking prototypes, just like in Kalashnikov-Petrov carbine, being tested at the Research and development ground for small arms and mortars of Main Artillery Department of Red Army, for instance: A) From June 24th, 1932 until December 31st, 1938 (protocol #74) Kedar assault rifle using 1906-type ammunition was being developed and tested. Chamber locking was carried out by 90-degree bolt turn. December 1932 Tokarev automatic rifle was being tested, in which camber locking was done by 45-degree bolt head turn, moving the bolt head lugs into the slots in receiver. C) In December 1933 classified prototype AB , designed by (INZ-2) staff was tested, in which chamber locking was done similar to 1891/30 rifle. The AB was not tested at the field though, only the constructional specs were recorded. As it is evident from the information above, the short chamber locking action, just like the one seen in the SKKP, was used in small arms much earlier, that’s why was not something new.” However, fundamentally new mechanism was of not much interest to the researchers at that point. Reliability, accuracy and comfort of the new carbine was by far much more important. The last point, perhaps, was the only one, which was flawless – carbine was acknowledged as easy to shoot form any position. There were several remarks about the size of the front and rear sight. Relative assembly/disassembly difficulty and hard cleaning access . A separate major record was made regarding the empty clip, which was “unexpectedly jumping out” in front of the shooters face. it was said that “it can have negative effect on the fire effectiveness during combat”. Garand, however, had similar empty clip ejection and it was not an obstacle for it to serve as the main infantry weapon of the US army in the Second World War and Korean wars. Unfortunately, Kalashnikov and Petrov were not as lucky in other stages of tests. The main problem by then was the presence of a more experienced rival – by the time of the SKKP tests, Simonov had already developed his prototype. It was not easy at all – to try to compete with highly-experienced designer, who had for many years been into R&D of automatic rifles for the old rifle ammo. Specs SKKP Simonov carbine 1944 carbine Technical requirements Weight (with bayonet) (kg) 4,060 3,660 3,900 Not more than 3,8 Weight of recoiling parts (kg) 0,500 0,450 - Not less than 0,450 Overall length with bayonet combat position (мм) 1412 1250 1327 1350 Same, but stowed (marching) position (мм) 1112 1000 1020 1100 Barrel length (мм) 550 500 515 620 Number of parts when field disassembly 6 8 9 –- Overall number of parts 106 105 –- –- Table above shows that SKKP not only conceded to Simonov carbine, but was not fulfilling the all the tech requirements for the contest. Moreover, construction-wise it was a lot more complicated. Even thought the number of parts used was almost equal, it was stated in the report, that the parts configuration of the Kalashnikov Petrov Carbine required more labour-consuming, than the one of Simonov carbine. This was not the final verdict yet, the construction was important, but it could be optimized if needed. Next step was to determine accuracy. SKKP almost met the requirements for 100 meters distance – 18.3cm groups, while the standard was set at 18cm. However the carbine was much worse at 300 meters – 46,7 cm, whereas the requirement for that range was 36 centimeters. However, lower accuracy could also be ignored, since methods of improving it were well known by then. The fate of Kalashnikov and Petrov rifle was decided by the swamp. After being submerged into swamp waters for 10 minutes, the SKKP failed to fire. This meant the failure of reliability test – the overall number of failures was not to exceed 2%, whereas SKKP had more than 11%. This is how the reasons were stated in the tests report: “Most common failure reason – cartridge ejection problem (9.9%), which is 87.7% of overall failure figure. This was due to incomplete system recoil caused by insufficient energy. The study of the automatics showed, that using thick lubricant, or when experiencing dirty conditions – a significant amount of energy was drained by the bolt form the moment the piston rod pushed the bolt back.” The conclusion was unique – Kalashnikov and Petrov rifle had not met the requirements neither in terms of construction, nor in terms of combat effectiveness. Moreover, the SKKP also lost to the models that had been tested before, the Simonov carbine especially, which was later known as SKS. Rework of the SKKP was acknowledged pointless, as it was obvious, that it basically took designing a completely new piece. Most likely, Mihail Kalashnikov shared this opinion. Young designer learned another lesson – the main point of which was the importance of action reliability. Learning how to solve this issue along the way. The world later found out the level of his success in his in the Vietnamese rice fields. Andrew Ulanov
  3. Kalashnikov submachine gun 1942 (mod 2) By June 22nd, 1941 (the 1st day of World War 2 for Soviet Union, when Nazis began their attempt to invade it) Red Army was equipped with Degtyareva submachine gun (PPD), which was later replaced in production by a more high-tech Shpagina submachine gun (PPSh). The latter was used by the soviet infantry till the end of the World War 2, up to the streets of Berlin with operators’ feedback on the firearm being mostly positive. Nevertheless, apart from infantry, there were many other specialized troops in the army, who didn’t find the heavy submachinegun with fixed wooden stock too handy. Bearing in mind, that with the start of the war soviet soldiers got to know the totally different concept – the German MP-40. Perhaps, the german’s folded stock was mot much of a skull crusher in melee combat, but there were situations, in which compact size was just as important. For instance, one PPSh was assigned to each legendary T-34 tank crew. T-34 deservedly is given high reviews, but not many could call this tank spacious, especially the hatches through which personnel frequently had to leave the tank in emergency. It is of no surprise, that it was the Main Auto-ArmorTank Department, which kept insisting for the Main Artillery Department (the one in charge of firearms development) to come up with a new, more compact and useful submachine gun “similar to the German MP-40”, as soon as possible. As a result, a contest took place in 1942 and was son by Alexei Sudaev’s model of submachine gun. There were many other samples created by participants of the competition and other enthusiasts, however. Among these, was one designed by unknown to anybody back then – sergeant Mihail Kalashnikov. Now a days, there is not much information about the first model made by the future world-famous arms designer. With the prototype being built in a depot of a train station lost somewhere in Kazakhstan, the Kalashnikov submachinegun (PPK) didn’t become the weapon of victory in World War 2 and didn’t survive to present day. Nevertheless, his first creation helped Mihail Kalashnikov get to the place, where his talent was acknowledged and demanded. Long before the World War 2 Research and development of firearms facility of Red Army was not a regular institution dealing in tests of all sorts of guns and machineguns. It had the production capabilities to incarnate “in metal” various projects, it also had its own designers and engineers on site. In particular – the winner of the 1942 submachine contest Alexei Sudaev was among test facility staff. Long before getting to the test facility mentioned above, Mihail Kalashnikov got the opportunity to produce his second (modified version of the first) submachine gun in Moscow institute of aviation, which was evacuated to Almaty, Kazakhstan during the war. This was the model he was introduced with at the test facility with later on. By the time of his appearance at the test facility, the competition for the new submachine gun was coming to its end. 2 almost constructionally-equivalent submachine guns (PPSh-2 Shpagina and PPS Sudaeva) came to the contest final. Which one of them was to be adopted by the military, was to be decided based on battlefield test of the first production series. The end of the contest didn’t, however, mean the end of submachine guns development at the ground. New prototypes kept arriving to the test facility, among which was the model designed by sergeant Kalashnikov. Characteristically, Mihail Kalashnikov did the final modifications to his submachine gun right in the field, just before the tests, these modifications were later separately stated in the certificate of acceptance. In particular, the barrel was replaced by a modified PPSh barrel, adapted for this model, new charging handle was designed and manufactured promptly, trigger uncoupler, spring and several other parts were redone. Factory tests of the new PPK took place form January 30th to February 3rd 1943. During the tests the PPK was compared to already used in the military – PPSh (Shpagina) and with the winner of the earlier contest – the PPS (Sudaeva). Judging by the data in the table below, originally a tank operator Mihail Kalashnikov designed his firearm specifically for his fellow tank personnel, focusing on light weight and compact size. Kalashnikov submachine gun (PPK) Sudaeva submachine gun (PPS) Shpagina submachine gun (mod 1941) (PPSh) 1. Overall weight without magazine (kg). 2,630 2,800 3,640 2. Overall weight with empty magazine (kg). 2,805 3,040 3,920 3. Overall weight with loaded magazine (kg). 3,075 3,420 4,800 4. Overall length unfolded buttstock (mm) 747 905 850 5. Magazine capacity (rounds) 25 35 35 Unlike its competitors, the Kalashnikov submachine gun was built on delayed blowback bolt mechanics. The design turned out to be quite unique: after the shot, the bolt rolled back, shifting the buffer connected to it by rectangular thread. The buffer moved to thread on to a fixed spiral tube, fixed at the back of the receiver, while compressing the recoil spring. The tension of this process slowed down the bolt, reducing the speed of its blowback. The trigger group of the PPK had independent triggers for semi auto and full auto fire. When shooting semi auto, the trigger pushed the uncoupler up, which after the shot under the pressure of the bolt going back, forced the trigger pull and the sear lever to disconnect . For full auto, the selector was set to forward position, deactivating the uncoupler from the process. 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. The uniqueness of the mechanism of the Kalashnikov submachine gun itself was noted, which was a high reward for a beginner designer. 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. The configuration of PPS parts was such, that they required machine (mostly milling) and locksmithing works. For instance: it took 12 machine working hours by high-qualified staff to make 1 spiral tube for the bolt (7th level of employee qualification), and for finishing it also took to manufacture milling heads and locksmithing tools” 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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