View Full Version : Are the Russians ahead of us in small arms design?

4V50 Gary
April 8, 2000, 09:54 AM
Think about it. Back around 1920 Federov was developing what was to become the first assault rifle based on the smaller 6.5mm Japanese cartridge. They were the first to adapt a semi-automatic rifle (Simonov AVS which preceded the Garand). In 1939, work began on an intermediate cartridge and this led to the now famous 7.62 x 39mm. Postwar when the U.S. struggled with developing the M14 and its successor, the M16, the Russians got it right the first time with the AK-47. Now, while we continue to equip our troops with a modified M16, the Russians concluded that with the AK-74, the design could not be developed any further and superceded it with the indirect impulse operated AN-94. Underwater weaponry? I doubt if we have anything close to what the Russians have.

Now, before anybody gets upset, I prefer the M14 (TRW of course) over the AK, and would not feel uncomfortable with the M16 (or AR). The concern I have is that we shouldn't be too smug with ourselves or dismiss the ingenuity of the Russian designers or their industry.

April 8, 2000, 10:28 AM
The world of small arms is indeed intriguing. I tend to believe that many parallel (and some not so parallel) paths have been taken in developmental paths. Not just in firearms development but in all sorts of fields.
Charlie Cutshaw wrote a great book called The New World of Russian Small Arms & Ammo. A very interesting read. There are firearms and ammunition that will astound you! I bought this book at Knob Creek last fall (he offered to personally autograph it too :cool: ) and Mr Cutshaw said he was working on a second companion volume to update the first as most of the information from the first is a couple of years old.
As I mentioned, this is a very interesting book. I found more on the subjectmatter here than I've found out in a dozen years of reading. Did you know for instance that the Russians developed not one but two different caliber underwater weapons families? I had only heard of one being developed. Also the machine pistols and tactical shotguns that have been developed is amazing.

April 8, 2000, 02:10 PM
Yup. I would like one of their 9mm "Bison" subguns, that can fire 9x18 OR 9x19. Hell, yeah!

April 9, 2000, 10:45 AM
For example look at the Kalashvikov shotguns, especially the 12 ga. short barreled, folding stock version. Thats impressive.

Edmund Rowe
April 9, 2000, 03:53 PM
To me it appears their small arms designers have a more or less free reign to attempt new designs and markets. This is doubly so since they aren't the hard cash capital of the world over there so the more entrepreneurial they get the more bacon they can bring home.

On the other hand, our small arms designers are mostly shackled with squirrely Department of Defense whims or the increasingly restrictive private market. We've got to practically get an act of Congress before we can sell to most foreign countries. So who would bother to be a small arms designer in our environment?

4V50 Gary: I'm sure you already knew this but the Russians redesigned the AK-47 slightly in the 1950s into the AKM (stamped steel receiver), so even they need improvement from time to time. However they ARE doing a lot more than our designers lately.



4V50 Gary
April 10, 2000, 12:17 AM
Sir Edmund,

You're quite right about the AK being reengineered at times. Indeed, there were several variations of the AK-47 alone and the earliest attempt was a sheetmetal fabrication ('48-'51) which was abandoned for milled steel ('51-'54). Even the machined receiver model was modified again ('55-'59) and it was probably this third model which was brought to the attention of U.S. Intelligence. The Russians certainly didn't rest upon their laurels and do not hesitate in using new technology as they perfect it.

Thank you Sir Edmund.

4v50 Gary

(P.S. for those of you who haven't been here for over a year, Edmund Rowe was dubbed "Sir Edmund" at The Firing Line for his wonderful discourse on the AR15. It's well worth digging up.)

April 10, 2000, 10:03 AM
Just received my latest issue of SARand in an article on folding subguns there are some very interesting concepts done by the French in the 1950s and 1960s. The first was made by Hotchkiss and called the Universal. To make it even more compact than just folding, its barrel can be 'telescoped' into its receiver. when folded and telescoped, the Universal is only 6.5 inches longer than its barrel.
The most unusual was the M.G.D., more commonly known as the P.M.9. The breech is a spring-loaded, oscillating flywheel. It rotates on a center axis. A short bolt, inside of the flywheel, does reciporcate far enough to extract the fired round. As it retracts, the bolt imparts a spin to the flywheel and the extracted cartridge is ejected from the top of the P.M. 9's receiver.The P.M. 9's innovative (and expensive to manufacture) breech allows its length to be less than 14.5 inches when folded. With an easy modification, the P.M. 9 could be even shorter. When folded, its barrel extends past the folded magazine. If the P.M. 9's barrel were shortened to the length of its folded magazine, its overal folded length would be 12.5 inches.
Above from SAR Vol.3 No.7 ppg 36-7

Danger Dave
April 11, 2000, 12:52 PM
They also have some interesting features on their tanks. The T-80U and T-90 can fire both 125mm tank rounds and guided missiles through the main barrel. And they have a system to defend against missiles that attack down on the tank - pretty neat, basically a ring of claymores to destroy the missile, triggered by a radar sensor.

BTW, I believe Mexico was the first country to adopt a semi-auto rifle - the Mondragon. However, IIRC, the Russian Federov rifle preceded our BAR (similar concept).

I don't think they're technically ahead of the US, they just design their weapons for different needs. Where we believe in surgical strikes and minimal losses, they simply throw enough troops and artillery at a problem to make it go away, whatever the cost. Where we have a relatively highly-educated and technically adept military, their military has historically consisted of umpteenth-generation peasant farmers (no insult intended) with little to no formal education. We also have a ratio of about 10 support troops for every combat soldier - something unheard of in Soviet/Russian military; they just don't have the depots, armorers, etc. maintain complicated/fragile weapons. Soviet/Russian equipment has to be practically industructible, or it's worthless. Their rifles are designed to function when frozen, dropped in mud, used for a prybar, hammer, etc. and their jet fighters are made to be serviced by guys who just polished off a bottle of vodka in 30 below weather. All that being said, the Russians are exceptionally good at "making do" with what they've got, and their designers are no exception. I think it's something we've lost a bit of as our society, and therefore our military, has become more urban and less self-reliant in the last 50-60 years.

One of my favorite quotes about Soviet equipment was written by a Western observer about the T-90 tank - he said it was "Designed by geniuses to be used by morons." That about sums up the Russian weapon design philosophy.

Art Eatman
April 12, 2000, 10:01 PM
Note that prior to the GCA of 1934, any back-yard tinkerer could try to build a better mousetrap of a machine gun. And most innovation in this country has come from folks who are inherently back-yard tinkerers.

So, when you legislate the best and brightest out of the world of research, guess what? You wind up with the M-16 and the M-60...

:), Art

April 13, 2000, 06:40 AM
can someone post a link to any info pages about any of the "new" russian smg's..
i'm really interested in reading up on some of the new weaponry, especially the 9x35mm (i think that was the round it used; probably wrong though :)) silenced/bulpup config...
any good pages you could point me to would be appreciated..

btw: i think i read that the smg was used for sniping(?!?!)
does this seem a bit odd to anyone but me, or is there something vital i've missed about this round???

[This message has been edited by Harlequin (edited April 13, 2000).]

Daniel Watters
April 13, 2000, 07:06 AM
Harlequin: You are thinking of the 9x39 SP5 and SP6 cartridges. It is roughly a 7.62x39mm case necked up to accept 9mm projectiles. The issue ammo tosses a 250gr spitzer at subsonic velocities, putting it in the same class as J.D. Jones' Whisper series of cartridges. There are a variety of weapons chambered for the 9x39mm, ranging from bullpups, compact assault rifles, and suppressed sniper rifles.

You can find some of the 9x39mm weapons at the Tula homepage (http://ia.vpk.ru/vpkrus/homes/h109/eng/products.htm).

4V50 Gary
April 13, 2000, 09:09 AM
Not only guns, check out this knife:

4V50 Gary
April 13, 2000, 07:18 PM
Also check out Valery Shilin's Gun Club at:

April 15, 2000, 03:38 PM
I've heard the Russians have finally grown tired of playing with the inadequate 5.45x39 cartridge and are developing a new 6mm {6x39 maybe?} round to replace it. It will supposedly be used in the AN-94 series, anybody heard anything on this?

[This message has been edited by Rosco (edited April 15, 2000).]