Kalashnikov Group—and, with it, Russia’s National Guard—is betting big on modular handguns in its ongoing quest to finally replace the iconic Makarov pistol.
Kalashnikov’s new Lebedev modular pistol has passed state trials and is on the verge of entering service. “In February 2021, the Lebedev modular pistol successfully completed state trials. The pistol was being created under a technical assignment from the National Guard as part of the ‘Rys’ experimental design work, ‘Developing an Advanced Pistol Chambered for the 9x19 mm Cartridge with Expanded Tactical Capabilities,’’ reported Russian outlet TASS, citing a press statement provided by Kalashnikov Group earlier this week.
The National Guard press office offered a similarly upbeat assessment: “The work on the Lebedev modular pistol began in 2017 under a tactical-technical assignment from the National Guard. This work was accomplished in full and the trials were completed with a positive result,” Commander-in-Chief of the National Guard Troops Alexei Bezzubikov said in a parallel statement.
As with its prior PL-14 variant, this latest iteration of the Lebedev pistol is chambered in 9 x19 mm; by contrast, the original Makarov service pistol is chambered in 9 x18 Makarov. The weapon weighs 800 grams and is 220 mm long, with a barrel length of 112 mm. The standard magazine capacity is sixteen rounds. Kalashnikov’s latest handgun features all the outward design features of a modern service pistol, including a front/side-textured grip, low profile recessed controls, and slide serrations—it is, in short, a massive ergonomic leap over the Makarov. In keeping with its core focus on “modularity,” the pistol offers compatibility with numerous addons and modifications; these include expanded-capacity magazines and an automatic fire conversion mod.
The gun comes in two variants—standard and “special.” The special version offers several bonus features, including silencer compatibility and an additional, longer barrel. The full extent of the pistol’s “modular” capabilities, and its differences with other Lebedev models, remains unclear as of the time of writing. Kalashnikov Concern CEO Dmitry Tarasov previously told reporters that the Lebedev handgun will become as popular as the Makarov pistol it seeks to replace. The original Makarov entered service as a 1950s Soviet side arm and, due to a complex blend of technical and logistical reasons previously outlined in a National Interest article written by Charlie Gao, has proven remarkably difficult to fully replace.
The Lebedev pistol entered development in 2017, followed by an extensive trial period that has now been completed with positive results. Provided its continued success in the National Guard, Kalashnikov is charting long-term plans to deliver the Lebedev pistol to other Russian law enforcement agencies and service branches: “Although the pistol was developed under a tactical and technical assignment from the National Guard and is primarily geared to its requirements, we hope that potentially this pistol may be of interest for other agencies,” reads a Kalashnikov press statement. As of the time of writing, it remains unknown if Kalashnikov intends to sell the Lebedev pistol to foreign militaries and law enforcement agencies.
Mark Episkopos is the new national security reporter for the National Interest. Image: Reuters.