Thursday, January 26, 2012

New Russian Service Rifle?

Russian Marine with an AK-74M
It is being reported that the Russian military will be adopting the new AK-12 rifle to replace the AK-74M service rifle.  The Russian military has been saying for some time now they wanted to move away from the AK-74M and adopt a more modern design. With the AK-12 it would appear they've found their replacement.

I haven't read any concrete reports that the Russian military has officially adopted the AK-12, so far only reports in the blogoshpere have surfaced.  If the reports are true, hopefully the western mainstream media will pick the story up and include more details.

Let's take a look at the features of the AK-12.

AK-12 Spec Sheet
  • The new rifle sports an ambidextrous forward charging handle.  This would seem to imply the operator can move the charging handle to either the left or right side of the rifle.  This is a feature found on modern western designs such as the Bushmaster/Remington ACR and FNH SCAR.
  • A smaller ejection port is being used.  I'm not clear on what the benefit is with this modification, I hope to learn more regarding this tweak to the design in the future.
  • A new ambidextrous selector switch allows the operator to select between safe, semi-auto, 3 round burst and full-auto firing modes while maintaining a firing grip on the rifle.
  • The rifle employs a hinged top cover which has become a popular aftermarket modification to AK rifles here in the US.  The Russians first employed this system with their AKS-74U rifle.
New AK-12 Rifle
  • The rifle has a monolithic rail that runs the full length of the receiver.  Rails are also present on the side and bottom of the hand guards.  It appears another rail, that isn't at the same height as the monolithic rail, is present on the top of the gas block just behind the front sight.
  • A new stock is used that is adjustable for length of pull and folds to the side for storage.  The pictures I've seen seem to indicate the stock will fold to the right side of the rifle, just under the ejection port leaving enough room for the operator to engage the trigger while it is folded.
  • A new pistol grip that appears to be larger than the AK-74M's "paint brush" grip is mounted to the rifle.  The contour of the grip reminds me of a Hogue grip.
  • A new muzzle brake is used.  It seems a bit long so it's not clear to me what additional functionality might be intended with this new device aside from being a brake.
  • The literature also indicates an "improved barrel rifling" is used. Again, it's not clear to mean what exactly this means.  I hope to learn more in the future.
It's being reported online that the new rifle will be available in 5.45x39, 5.56x45 (NATO) and a "heavy" caliber such as 7.62x51 (NATO).  If true, I find it interesting that the Russians would chamber their new service rifle in NATO calibers such as the 7.62x51 and 5.56x45mm while maintaining the 5.45x39 as their primary cartridge.

The new rifle leaves much to be desired in the aesthetics department, but functionality over form is the primary goal of any military arm.  The new rifle looks like an afterthought, as though the Russian designers were clinging to the basic AK design while trying to lump on as many modern features as they could.  This is the same path I fear the US government might take in choosing a new service rifle for the US Army.

I hope to have more information about this new rifle in the future.

UPDATE:  3/20/2012
I have it on good authority that the AK-12 will likely not be the next official Russian military service rifle.  The rifle is only a prototype and may not see full production and there has been little interest by the Russian military in adopting it.  At best the rifle may be sold as an export item assuming it ever goes into production.