Kalashnikov manufacturer targets Russian army with new rifle

 

Shaun Walker
Saturday 26 November 2011 01:00
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Mikhail Kalashnikov, now 91, holds the original AK-47 assault rifle
Mikhail Kalashnikov, now 91, holds the original AK-47 assault rifle

The latest model of the legendary Kalashnikov rifle is due to be unveiled in December, with leaked reports in the Russian press suggesting that its key feature will be that all major functions can be performed with one arm.

Other details about the rifle are sketchy. The owners of the factory in the Urals that produces the guns hope the new model will meet approval from the Russian army, which earlier this year said it would stop buying the rifles. But there are already mutterings that the military is not impressed.

The first weapon in the series was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, a Red Army tank commander during the Second World War, and entered mass production in 1949. Mr Kalashnikov is still alive and lives in the city of Izhevsk, where the rifles are still be produced.

A newer version, the AK-74, was introduced in the 1970s, followed by a number of updated versions. More rifles based on Mr Kalashnikov's design have been produced than any other gun in military history and it has been copied by factories around the world.

Earlier this year, the Russian army said it would no longer order Kalashnikov rifles until the plant developed a new model. Nikolai Makarov, Chief of the General Staff, said the army already had too many of the guns stockpiled complained that the technology was out of date.

At the time, members of the designer's family said they were not telling Mr Kalashnikov about the decision for fear of upsetting him. "It might kill him," said one.

There may not be better news to give the weapon's inventor. A source in the Russian General Staff told the newspaper Izvestia the new version is unlikely to impress the military. "From the models we've seen, there is nothing principally new there," he said. He added that the rifle would have the same kickback, which meant it moved from side to side after the first shot, reducing accuracy.

Immediately after the announcement in September, the manufacturer Izhmash announced it was designing a brand-new, "fifth-generation" Kalashnikov, which it hoped to have ready by the end of the year. The rifle will be given to the Russian army for testing in the coming weeks. Izvestia said the new gun will have a unique feature allowing the user to flick the safety catch, pull the trigger, and even change the magazine using one arm, meaning fighters can continue to shoot even if injured.

What the weapon will look like and whether it will feature other upgrades from the AK-74 remains uncertain.

But the newspaper said the weapon would be "recognisable".

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