Nikonov’s AN-94 Abakan Rifle

Shooting Illustrated has published a detailed account of the fascinating AN-94 “Abakan” rifle.

In 1993, a mysterious rifle appeared at an arms display at the elite Taman Guards Division outside Moscow. The strange new rifle was labeled “ASN”—a Russian acronym for Avtomat Spetsialnyi Nikonov. The soldiers at the show could give no meaningful information about it beyond the basic information on the placard. Shortly thereafter, data began to emerge indicating it was an advanced combat rifle, but its status remained a mystery. The Russian Ministry of Defense cleared up the mystery in 1995 by announcing that the ASN had passed all its troop trials and that it had been type classified as the “Avtomat Nikonova-94” (AN-94). The number “94” is the year the rifle was officially type classified and adopted for military service to replace the Kalashnikov-designed AK-47/AKM/AK-74-series rifles.

The AN-94 has a canted magazine.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Dave

    I think Shooting Illustrated’s account is an excerpt from Charles Cutshaw’s Book “The New World of Russian Small Arms and Ammo.”

  • KTBabs

    Ah yes, the AN-94. This has to be one of my favorite rifles, not just aesthetically but also functionally. The whole rifle was designed around the idea of a marksman rifle, but with the capability of sending more than one round into the target with minimal to no recoil. Thus, it’s operating system has a 2 round burst firing mode where the cycle actually sneaks a second round into the chamber and fires it almost directly after the first.


    This is one of those guns that I would love to handle at some point in my life. I think it represents innovation of modern firearms quite well – even if it isn’t perfect.

    I also had no clue that the magazine was canted to the side like that! Crazy.

  • Mikee

    As interesting as the AN-94 concept is, anecdotal information trickling out of Russia suggests it is an armourer’s nightmare. Too many failures to operate as intended in field conditions. Too many parts that need constant replacement and maintenance. That may explain why Russia’s military are obtaining new AK derivatives as a back up in the traditional 7.62 x 39mm.

  • Clearly, it has not replaced the AK series rifles, being used only by some special forces units. It is a real surprise that it was ever adopted, considering it is far too complicated for general issue – a complete contrast with the simple, bomb-proof AK.

  • Sian

    Huh. I never realized the AN94 had a canted magazine on top of everything else.

    Fascinating weapon in many aspects. Soooo fiddly though. There’s a reason it only saw limited use.

  • USMC_Fearless

    @KTBabs, also with more then triple the amount of parts then a conventional rifle and with any fouling keeping the weapon from functioning, on paper it could be in my top rifles (but two rounds of small ammunition would be the same as one larger round but I digress) but I wouldn’t trust that rifle in combat for a second

  • Mike N

    The way this thing works is crazy, and includes a cable in the mechanism. I have seen a few drawings that attempt to show the mechanism in action, and I am somewhat baffled still. Here is a great link for more pics and info:

  • Rade

    Here is a link to whats probably the best description of the AN-94 you can find online

  • Dave


    The AN-94 was designed around the same concept as the G11 and AAI ACR, which was to increase the chances that at least one of the rounds from the burst strikes a fleeing target or to compensate for a shooter’s aiming error during combat stress. The Germans and Americans called this concept salvo burst- the simultaneous discharge of multiple projectiles at a high rate in a defined pattern.

    Although, at certain ranges the AN-94 can put both rounds from the burst on target, the major purpose of the 2 round burst from the AN-94 was to increase hit probability (not multiple rounds on the same target) through reduced dispersion (AN-94 has 13 times less dispersion compared to AKM)

  • Issac

    ASN Avtomat Samozaryadnyj(selfloading) Nikonova.
    Not Spetsialnyi(special).
    Intresting rifle.

  • Lance

    The mag goes in sideways? Wow that is weird. While a good gun for SpetzNAZ it isn’t peasant proof with its 500 parts for common solders a technological leap YES the AK replacement and Russia’s new rilfe NO.

  • Hrach

    Dear Admin
    It’s not correct to say Nokonova. The last letter “a” means that rifle belongs to Nikonov , like so: Nikonov’s (a=’s). So you should say Nikonov’s.
    Best regards

  • Mobiuos

    Honestly, I love the AN-94, but it doesn’t seem to have gone much further from it’s prototype stage. The mechanism is far more complicated than traditional Russian weapons, which of course naturally makes it less reliable (though their claims of improved reliability could be true), but what matters more is the doubled training time and cost required for soldiers to effectively use the two round burst setting and be able to properly disassemble and clean the gun. Also, more pointy edges means snagging, the smaller rear sight can get dirty easier, the folded stock doesn’t allow you to fire, and some reviewers complain about the angle of the grip…

  • Dave


    The idea of the 2 round burst isn’t to make the rifle have the same ballistics as a larger round. The burst was to compensate for aiming errors to increase the likelihood that at least one round from the salvo will strike the target and also increases the chances that one of the bullets may strike a fleeing target.

    In other words, the purpose of the burst is to increase the hit probability by firing at a high rate with reduced dispersion (13 times less than AKM on full auto).

  • Lance

    Actually Mikee

    the Russian army is commited in 5.45x39mm but for export perposes due to that most asian and african countries use older AKM mags and ammo make AK-103s and 104s and 200 series. Some Police and Special units use AKMs in Russia but very few and limetited. AK-74M is the Russian standerd.

  • subase

    What the Russians consider as expensive, unreliable, delicate and complicated is different from what the U.S thinks. The Russians make the most simple and reliable weapons in the world. So Russian complaints should be taken with a grain of salt. They would consider the M16 to be complicated, unreliable and not robust. The rifle has already been approved for military use and that should be good enough for everyone who considers an AR good enough to be a military rifle.

    I’m impressed with the entire weapon platform. The lower recoil and doubling of hit probability, the marksmen type accuracy as well as the new usable 60 round magazines. So impressive.. And how cool is that they mounted a double bladed bayonet horizontally, horizontal slashing makes perfect sense.

  • the 2-round burst facilitates enhanced penetration of barriers and light armor. this happens because they are fired so rapidly they are very close together, practically on top of each other at less than 100 yards. “fleeing targets” get hit all the same, so that was not the intended purpose. it helps aiming error at hundreds of yards, increasing hit probability, but not gross error. “hit probability” at long range is an accurate statement.

    whatever the other issues, it was never meant to replace the AK series issued to regular troops. it costs 5 times as much to manufacture and more training time.

    there are rumors it is now also manufactured in 7.62×39 caliber. this is probably due to penetration issues with 5.45×39. although the 5.45 was chosen in the first place for controllability in full auto fire, the specops that use the an-94 so much more in urban settings and short range probably decided they want the 7.62 due to its performance after penetrating a barrier, controllability be damned.

    the stock folding on the right doesn’t allow you to fire, but does allow you to not have to take the optics off whenever you want to fold the stock.

    the grip and its angle are the same as the AK series, which is not so ergonomic. on the AN-94 users don’t like the shape of the trigger, being almost straight, instead of curved to hug the finger. however, you may notice specops (who it was intended for) using the trigger differently. their finger would not curl around the trigger, but instead point down, along the length of the straight trigger with the fingertip on the end, for rapid short bursts with good control and less finger fatigue. this would be awkward with the curved trigger of an AK. this technique actually does work better with the relatively straight grip angle than, say, on an M16/M4 if the trigger were replaced with one such as this. see the forum for updated pictures.

  • Dave


    I know that at certain ranges, the 2 rounds do have a very close grouping and would hit the same target (probably at 100 yards as you mentioned).

    Your comment that the intended purpose of the AN-94 was to increase hit probability at longer ranges is a correct statement and I think that is the major purpose behind the AN-94 since the high pH over longer ranges over other assault rifles is what makes the AN-94 a vast improvement over current assault rifles.

  • Dave

    The requirements for Project Abakan were to have a significant increase in hit probability over the AK74 (1.5-1.7 times higher hit probability or 5-10 times less dispersion compared to AK-74).

    I totally agree that the AN-94 would have better penetration at certain ranges where the 2 rounds have tight grouping and hit the same target but I don’t think that was the major reason for Project Abakan.

  • buschmaster

    you’re probably right. if the whole point was to increase hit probability, the 2-shot burst is a nice feature but doesn’t contribute to that during the rest of its full auto fire. using 5.54×39 does, being a low impulse cartridge, but they already did that with the AK-74 series. the new muzzle brake/suppressor must not be what does it either, because they would have just put it on an AK74 and save themselves some headache. we must conclude that the “independent firing unit” (floating barrel) is what increases hit probability so much. whereupon they had the opportunity to add the 2-shot burst feature to the engineering.

  • @ buschmaster,

    “we must conclude that the “independent firing unit” (floating barrel) is what increases hit probability so much. whereupon they had the opportunity to add the 2-shot burst feature to the engineering.”

    It’s the other way round – the designers wanted to increase the hit probability in aimed fire (as opposed to full-auto, where even a 5.45mm auto sprays the bullets around in the hands of most users). They decided that the best way to achieve this was by a very fast two-round burst, and the complication of the floating barrel was introduced to minimise any disturbance in the aim between shots.