What, no more Kalashnikovs?

This overheated Russian report says that the Russian forces have stopped buying Kalashnikov rifles — and are even considering foreign weapons. The report’s from last September, but every once in a while someone in the Anglosphere discovers it, and next thing you know we’re hearing that Ivan’s 70-year love affait with this stubby, dependable bullet hose is ovet.

Say whaaat? The AK has been synonymous with Russia’s armies since a wounded Red Army vet prototyped a single weapon that could replace the war-winning pair of Mosin Nagant rifle and PPSh submachine gun — and whose progeny have gone on to replace everything from the general purpose MG on down. There’s almost nothing in the Russian inventory, nothing that one man launches a bullet from, anyway, that doesn’t owe homage to Kalashnikov. The AK outlasted the “eternal” Soviet Union. It survived Stalin, Kruschchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, and it’s giving bald old Putin a run for his money.

Russia’s basic rifle, squad automatic weapon, special purpose carbine, general purpose machine gun, tank coaxial machine gun all are Kalashnikov design bureau designs. Russian sniper rifles were designed by different teams, but use an action that borrows from Kalashnikov the conceptual design of both the bolt and the trigger mechanism.

Of course, the AK trigger group does owe a lot to the Garand. So does the M16. If you look at the shapes of triggers, hammers, and disconnectors, there’s either shared DNA or a supernatural level of convergent evolution there. And the bolt borrows a little from Mauser. But the AK is clearly Patient Zero of the whole Comblock gun epidemic. Are they really giving it up?

The article petulantly recounts some well-established knocks on the “‘Kalash,’ as it’s commonly referred to in Russia,” as if they’re no big deal.

The weapon has always been criticized for its precision fire inefficiency. As for other flaws, specialists indicated difficulties in mounting state-of-the-art optical systems. The list continues with excessive weight of the rifle and the absence of modularity – the possibility to use quick change barrels – and several other “little things.”

In 2010 some of those beefs are a big deal, although the AK could be engineered (and has been, in the US at least) to solve many of them. “Precision fire inefficiency,” or the stock AK’s minute-of-grid-square accuracy, is tied into other Soviet era requirements: bedrock reliability and massed auto fire on the move. (First click off save on an AK is full auto. That’s how Ivan learns to run it in combat, mostly). Of course, “modularity” is the current M4/AR-15’s home turf. Every SF guy toay has 14.5″ and 10.5″ CQB uppers for his M4A1 for example, as well as a rich variety of optics to choose from. Well, everybody else seems to be jumping on the AR-15 bandwagon. Even H&K, which hates you, has copied the Armalite. Could Ivan be next?

Not so fast. Reading the article closely seems to indicate that Russian politicians are not too thrilled with the value-for-ruble they’re getting from their military-industrial complex, and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Nikolai Makarov has taken a year off gun-buying to, as the politicians say, Send A Message. While the link line for the Pravda story says the Russian army is considering American and French rifles, Makarov isn’t directly quoted saying any such thing. (The article does say the Russians are considering importing sniper rifles, something they’d have to do to adopt Western-style sniper tactics — Russian snipers are trained to the leval the US Army would call “designated marksman,” and the SVD they now use is adequate for that).

But bottom line: even if the Russians adopted a new rifle today, scores of millions of AKs aren’t going away. And We’ll believe they changed when we see them marching up Red Square on May Day. Uh, they don’t do that any more. V-E Day, then. Well, the Russian version: May 9th.

The original po-Russkiy version of the article is here. Same overheated nonsense, different language.

The illustration: Wikimedia Commons

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