RIP, AK-74: Russia’s Military Set to Receive a New Rifle

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August 25, 2021 Topic: military Region: Eurasia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaRiflesWeaponsMilitaryTraining

RIP, AK-74: Russia’s Military Set to Receive a New Rifle

Defense manufacturer Kalashnikov has announced that it will be providing the Russians with an assault rifle that uses an enhanced gas-operated piston system.

Defense manufacturer Kalashnikov, a subsidiary of industrial giant Rostec, told reporters at Russia’s ARMY 2021 defense exhibition that the AK-12 assault rifle will become the new basic weapon for Russian troops. “The AK-12 has served as a replacement for the AK-74 since 2018 and will become the basic gun of the Russian Armed Forces in the next few years,” Kalashnikov’s press office announced. The company noted that the AK-12’s current and final design is based on feedback from field tests conducted in the lead-up to ARMY 2020. “The AK-12’s final design, shaped following its operational evaluation by troops, was featured at the Army 2020 forum,” according to the press office. “Now the Kalashnikov is producing this AK model already taking into account all improvements.” 

The AK-12 is an assault rifle chambered in 5.45×39 millimeters, utilizing a revised and enhanced gas-operated piston system. The weapon features a standard magazine capacity of thirty rounds, weighs 3.5 kilograms while unloaded, and boasts a maximum sighting range of 800m. The AK-12’s final production version headlines all the features standard to modern rifles in its class, including an ergonomically shaped pistol grip, picatinny rail to accommodate a wide range of optics choices including sights and mounted lights, and a folding/adjustable buttstock for added handling benefits in vehicles, buildings, and other enclosed spaces.

“The AK-12 provides for its 24/7 employment and is distinguished by good ergonomics and accuracy,” Kalashnikov’s press office added. “Its design has been fully tested and the customer confirms this. The assault rifle is set to become the basic weapon of the Russian soldier for decades to come. The experience of its operation in the troops confirms that the assigned task has been accomplished in full.”

Conceived in its earliest form in 2011, the AK-12 emerged from a tumultuous research and development cycle. The rifle’s early prototype versions reportedly suffered from numerous defects, the full extent of which was effectively concealed from public view by the manufacturer. Russia’s top military brass was reluctant to accept this version of the AK-12, which was based on the AK-200. In 2016, Kalashnikov introduced a wholly redesigned AK-12. Derived from the reliable AK-400 platform, this newer variant fared significantly better in tests while being cheaper to produce than the previous prototype. No less importantly, the new AK-12 was found to be markedly lighter and more accurate than its AK-74 counterpart. Boasting a slew of thoughtful and well-implemented modern features, the AK-12 took the venerable AK platform to new levels of performance, versatility, and handling.

The Russian military adopted the AK-12, alongside its 7.62×39 millimeter AK-15 counterpart, into service in 2018. The revision presented at ARMY 2020 added minor quality-of-life improvements, including a redesigned polymer stock and new rear sight, but did not make any core design alterations.  

Earlier today at ARMY 2021, Kalashnikov unveiled a new AK-12 variant, the AK-12SP. Designed for special operations use, the AK-12SP has a different stock and fore grip, new top rails, and a night operations kit that includes a flashlight, laser, and silencer.  

Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest. 

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