Iconic guns of the Soviet era
The Cold War for a fascinating time. The fierce competition between the Soviet Union and the United States generated some of the greatest technological advances of all time. Advances were made in numerous military tactics, equipment, and even espionage.
Small arms advancement was something that did not slow down, both militaries coming out of World War 2 were drastically changing the weaponry they used to fit the tactics of modern warfare. The Soviet Union and especially Soviet Russia had some fascinating small arms that have left their mark on the world.
Of course no list on Soviet weaponry could even be started without mentioning not only the legendary AK 47, but the family of weapons it spawned. The AK 47 proved to be a very easy to build weapon that was well suited for mass production. The rifle was chambered in an intermediate cartridge, featured light recoil, and were lightweight and short in length. These newly born assault rifles became the standard for modern combat.
The AK 47 evolved into the AKM, a simpler to manufacture weapon, and then into the AKS, which featured a side folding stock. Along the way the AK was stretched out into a light machine gun known as the RPK, the RPK featured a longer barrel, heavier barrel, a thicker receiver, a carry handle, and an attached bipod. The weapon was commonly fed from 40 round magazines, but can accept any standard AK magazine.
In the 1974, shortly after America adopted a lighter, faster cartridge the Soviet followed suit by turning the 7.62 x 39 into the 5.45 x 39. This new round was lighter and easier to carry, and featured less recoil, making full auto fire easier to control. This evolved into the RPK 74 to follow suit. A superbly shortened version with a folding stock for Special Forces and tank crews known as the AKSU 74 was born and saw action in Afghanistan. The AK family is still used by many Eastern European countries, as well as the Middle East, and Asia. What’s kept the AK 47 around for so long is it’s legacy of reliability and ease of use.
The Dragunov sniper rifle resembles an AK 47 that has been stretched out by a farm tractor. The Dragunov sniper rifle is a Soviet designed rifle, semi automatic in nature and utilizes a full powered cartridge. The Dragunov utilizes a ten round box magazine, and has evolved into numerous different models with different optics and furniture but the overall design has remained the same for decades.
It’s resemblance to the AK and nearly the exact same controls made training easier and cheaper for troops already used to Kalashnikov’s spawn. The Soviet’s chose a less accurate but faster shooting sniper rifle when compared to the bolt action sniper rifles most of the world used. This was because the tactics they employed were based around shorter range engagements in a rapidly moving conflict, something the semi auto Dragunov excelled at. Soviet Snipers were known for their fearsome reputation and merciless nature in Afghanistan when armed with the Dragunov.
The PKM was the Soviet Union’s general purpose medium machine gun. This belt fed, gas operated, air cooled machine gun was mounted on tanks, vehicles, guard posts and carried by infantry. The PKM was the go to weapon when Soviets needed to fire a whole bunch of bullets at one time. The PKM was chambered in a full powered cartridge and capable really reaching out and touching enemy squads. The PKM rained pain down on anything from ten to 1500 meters.
The PKM is a an exceptional machine gun that is capable of suppressing squads of enemy troops to allow riflemen and armor to close in and destroy. The PKM features a very distinct sound that anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to be on the business will recognize instantly.
The Makarov, or the Mak, was for a long time the Soviet pistol of choice. This small pistol was based partly on Walther pistols and chambered for the proprietary 9x18mm Makarov. The Mak was a small pistol designed for both the Soviet police and military. The simple blowback design is perfect for mass production. The weapon was small and cheap, and easy to use and easier to build in low tech factories.
The pistol’s small size and known reliability has made it a favorite across the world, including American collectors. The Makarov demonstrates the stark contrasts between American handguns and Soviet handguns. In American a duty weapon is often large and chambered for a powerful round, and has a higher capacity. In the Soviet Union the pistol was regulated to a last ditch weapon when the rifle fails, so power, capacity and size was not a concern.
The Oddballs of the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union was an odd group of countries and they produced some of the most imaginative weapons ever seen. These few examples are some of the most famed Soviet Union weapons. There are dozens if not hundreds of Soviet weapons designed by different countries in their massive empire. The ones listed are the most common to find in the Soviet military, but they also had a variety of different, specialized, unique and just plain odd weapons. Let’s take a look at some of those.
Those pesky sharks got you down? Then the APS Underwater rifle is for you. The APS fired an odd ball 5.66 steel bolt. The APS is a rather bulky weapon, but when you're trying to shoot underwater you don’t have a lot of options. The APS was designed in a time of rampant paranoia of enemy frogmen infiltrating naval ports. The APS fired extremely long projectiles and features a complicated feeding mechanism due to the long projectiles. The APS was the perfect anti-frogman weapon and saw quite a bit of use with the Soviet navies.
Kiss of Death
If you wanted something straight out of a spy movie the kiss of death would be it. This is not the weapon’s official name, since the United States only found one, and it is now housed in the Spy Museum in Washington D.C. The Kiss of Death was a lipstick holder converted to fire a single round o 4.5 ammunition. The weapon is believed to had been used by Soviet KGB agents for their secret network.
This Soviet Derringer is unique mainly because of it’s ammunition design and purpose. The MSP Groza is a silenced pistol that features no external silencer, and actually uses a form of silenced ammunition. The pistol was incredibly silent with the sound of the firing pin striking the primer being the only audible noise. The pistol could only be used at close range and featured a 200 meters per second velocity. The ammunition was designed to resemble standard AK ammunition, and when a round was removed from a body one had to assume it was from an AK 47. This allowed the Spetsnaz and KGB to cause confusion and delay investigations after an assassination.
Nikonov Light Machine Gun
Leave it to the Soviets to find a way to shoot even more bullets at one time. The Nikonov never made it too far past the prototype stage as far as we know. The design was unsolicited and extremely unique. Instead of a bolt the barrels actually alternated moving back and forth to chamber rounds from a magazine. The main advantage of this system would be a high fire rate with little need to worry about barrel heat. The drawbacks? Proprietary magazines, cumbersome and heavy design, and really no need for it. Still anything with twin barreled and machine gun in the title isn’t a total bust.
The final gun on our list and one of the most interesting. This triple barrelled pistol is odd for many reasons, for example it has three barrels, it’s stock it actually a machete with a sheath on it, and it can fire traditional metallic cartridges, shotgun shells and falirs, and and it’s meant for cosmonauts, as in space. The TP 82 wasn’t designed to fend off Marvin the Martian or those damned capitalists in space, but as a survival weapon in case of a crash in remote areas upon re entry. While the TP 82 hasn’t been taken to space in decades, it is still an official piece of cosmonaut equipment, and the only weapon to ever claim the title of Space Gun.