The VKS: Russia’s other 12.7x55mm Rifle

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I recently wrote about the ASh-12, the new 12.7x55mm assault rifle developed at TsKIB SOO (KBP). Its older brother, or maybe third-cousin-twice-remove would be more accurate, is the KBP VKS Sniper Rifle.

KBP VKS Sniper Rifle equipped with night vision and suppressor.

The KBP VKS is technically chambered for the same 12.7x55mm cartridge cases as the ASh-12, but loaded rounds are considerably different. The Ash-12 is 12.7x55mm cartridges are loaded with (relatively) light bullets, much like the .50 Beowulf and the ancient .50-70 Government. The VKS is loaded with very long and very heavy bullets, so much longer that I doubt they would function in an ASh-12. The bullets weigh up to 1170 grain!

12.7x55mm Sniper Family: Standard Round (Left), Solid Bronze (Middle), Armor Piercing (Right)

The VHS is designed to be a suppressed sniper rifle and would normally be used with a suppressor. To achieve maximum noise reduction in the vicinity of the target, a bullet fired must be travelling subsonically. Kinetic energy is a function of velocity and mass. The only way to increase the kinetic energy of a bullet is to either increase its velocity or its mass. If a round’s velocity can’t be higher than 1126 feet/second (speed of sound), then to increase its energy you must increase its mass. This is why the 12.7x55mm is loaded with such heavy bullets.

The concept of a heavy subsonic .50 caliber round was pioneered by SSK Industries who developed the .500 Whisper. The recoil form the .500 Whisper and similar cartridges is reputed to be brutal.

According to guns.ru, the rifle weighs 14 lbs (unloaded, but including scope and suppressor) and the magazine holds five rounds. Despite its semi-automatic appearance, it is actually a straight-pull bolt action.

[ Many thanks to Lionel for the photos. ]

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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.


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  • Buster charlie

    Wow, that is a slick looking gun. I like it’s smooth lines and business like appearance without looking like a lego project or an italian designed sex toy.

    No idea if it’s worth a damn, I would like to see the guts of it.

  • Tommy big balls

    It’s Sony guts.

  • Vitor

    1170 grains? I wonder if it has any “stopping power”.

  • Bryan S.

    Got my attention….

  • Ian

    I love grip angle made for humans on the pistol grip. Glad the Russians understand ergonomics.

  • pro.0s

    The bottom picture makes it look reminiscent of the british cadet GP rifle.(safety slightly higher up though.)

    • ExCWO

      LMAO, if we had suppressors and optics on the L98 I would NEVER have left the range!!

  • Huntman

    Question: Is this .50 caliber a long range round, like our .50 BMG and will Johnny Ivan be picking people off at a mile? Or, as I suspect (but don’t know for sure) is it more of a short-range door crusher, bunker buster, small-truck-make-go-awayer? Thanks for any responses.

    • bbmg

      A subsonic round by definition is shorter ranged than the standard “50 cal”, and indeed the Russians have their own 12.7mm equivalent of the BMG, and plenty of rifles chambered of it like the OSV-96 and KSVK.

      By using a projectile with an optimised ballistic shape and high density, effective range can be extended but ultimately you’re limited to a couple of hundred yards before trajectory becomes more akin to a mortar and the effects of wind become too large to effectively compensate for.

      This looks more ideal for special operations where concealment is important yet an anti-materiel or armor capability beyond what lower calibre subsonics are capable of achieving is required.

      Worth remembering that the Russians also have a serious “sniper” rifle chambered for 22LR so they certainly believe in having the right tool for the job.

      • noob

        the BC on that AP round is probably terrible. Why didn’t they put a thin copper jacket on it?

      • bbmg

        The exposed core tip is indeed quite an odd feature, something which the 9x39mm AP bullets have in common: http://content.foto.mail.ru/mail/photoshooter/1643/s-2446.jpg

        It’s also a feature of the steel cored SP-10 9mm pistol ammunition: http://www.quarry.nildram.co.uk/sp-10_9x19E.jpg

        One possible reason is to give the bullet a “dual purpose” function – if it strikes a soft target, it will penetrate as a whole round and leave a wide wound channel, while if it encounters armour, the jacket will easily be shed allowing the hard core to penetrate the target with ease.

      • Lance

        There both 9×19 and 9×18 ammo in Russia with steel cores. But this has serious knock down power and would be better for a entry weapon then a 9mm SMG.

    • Wosiu

      From manufacturer`s brochure:

      “The rifle is intended for engaging wide variety of targets (including those protected by heavy body armour) at ranges up to 600 m.”

  • Lance

    Another Spetzaz Weapon no new toys for infantry. :(

  • Bill

    looks like a kel tec rifle, no?

  • matty

    Some dubious info here. The VKS is not designed to be used with a suppressor. It is an integrally suppressed rifle. Also recoil on these types of rifle is unremarkable, the silencertalk discussion is referring to firing the .510 Whisper from a Encore pistol (and that does kick).

    • Wosiu

      “The VKS is not designed to be used with a suppressor. It is an integrally suppressed rifle.”

      Oh, really? :-)

  • http://deojesrandomstuff.blogspot.com Frank Wilson

    I would love to see a video of that in action. Steve, want to go to Russia and make a video?

  • Wosiu

    “14 lbs (unloaded, but including scope and suppressor)”

    Nope. According to manufacturer`s (TSKIB SOO Tula) materials it is exactly 6,5 kg with magazine and silencer, w/o cartridges and scope.
    Dimensions: 622(1120 with silencer)x105x186 mm.

    • John
      • Wosiu

        And?

        The point is not 14 lbs = 6,5 kg but here:

        “unloaded, but including scope and suppressor”
        and
        “with magazine and silencer, w/o cartridges and scope”

        Understand now?

      • Riceball

        @Wosiu What does it matter if it’s 6.8kg or 14lbs when it works out to be the same thing? I’m assuming that the writer of this blog is American as are most of the readers here so 14lbs makes much more sense to us than 6.8kg; reading 14lbs we immediately know how heavy the rifle is, saying it’s 6.8kg we really don’t know if that’s heavy or light until we do the match.

      • GarryB

        I think what Wosiu is trying to say is quite clear.

        The article says:

        the rifle weighs 14 lbs (unloaded, but including scope and suppressor)

        and Wosiu is pointing out that

        According to manufacturer`s (TSKIB SOO Tula) materials it is exactly 6,5 kg with magazine and silencer, w/o cartridges and scope.

        In other words the article above says the rifle weighs 14 lbs with an empty magazine, a scope and a suppressor fitted.

        Wosiu is pointing out that the manufacturer gives its weight as slightly over 14 lbs with an empty magazine and a suppressor but no scope.

        Besides get with the 21st Century… this is a 12.7 x 55mm calibre 6.5kg weapon… you Americans can work out how many inches in a mile multiplying a weight in kgs by 2.2 shouldn’t be that hard for you. even just as an approximation. :)

  • http://ak-unlimited.proboards.com/ Rob

    14 lbs is a pretty hefty rifle! I can’t wait to see videos of this rifle in action and the impact it has on targets. I wonder when a civilian variant of this will be available…

  • mosinman

    the stopping power of this round must be fantastic!

    • Partizan1942

      Makes a big hole but it goes through. It does not stop and transmit the full force otherwise it would be useless against any west

      • noob

        hmmm. if only it could be used on unarmoured non-geneva combatants, then you could load it with good hollowpoints…..

        or heck, bring it to the civillian markets as a hog gun (apparently it is around 26″ long and fully functional without the suppressor)

      • http://www.facebook.com/thebigyeash James Nathaniel Yeatman

        A .50 will put someone down almost regardless.
        .30 rounds have this reputation more often than not whether they leave the body or not.

  • dpaqu

    subsonic bullets should no be pointed, they should be round like a 747 nose for optimal balistics. Why am I the only one that sees this???

    • Reverend Clint

      ever heard of a Concorde?

      • mosinman

        concords are supersonic. these bullets are not

    • GarryB

      The aerodynamic requirements of a bullets shape are different for different flight speeds.

      A pointed bullet nose shape is a necessity for a supersonic projectile, but anything designed to penetrate armour also needs a pointed nose.

      For supersonic things a pointed nose is critical, but for a subsonic projectile the shape of the nose is not important… a Concorde lands and takes off at subsonic speeds with its pointy nose.

      For subsonic bullets the important feature is its rear end as was shown with 308 calibre bullets at the start of the 20th century.

      A pointed bullet with a flat base was common, but to greatly increase flight range making the tail of the bullet narrower greatly reduced tail drag and increased the flight range of the bullet by 1/3rd.

      The narrowing of the rear of the projectile is sometimes called a boat tail bullet design and reduces the drag surface which means the bullet maintains a higher average speed, which increases flight range.

      Most subsonic bullets have round noses to deliver a blunt impact with the target to allow more energy transfer.

      This also would reduce penetration against targets wearing body armour, so this new round needs a pointed bullet to penetrate light body armour.

      Note a javelin (sports equipment) is very elongated and low drag yet is totally subsonic too.

      The purposes behind pointed noses are either penetration or low drag at high speed or both.

    • Partizan1942

      It needs to go through a west or a steel plate or a car door. If it had a round nose it would have a nicer trajectory but a crappy penetration against these things.

    • bbmg

      Yeah, it’s practically spherical.

      http://www.reliance-travel.co.uk/graphics/boeing-747-nose-200.jpg

      If a round nose worked better, they wouldn’t make the bullets that way. What do you think research and development is?

      • Crimelister

        Just because of international convention of 1906 year, which bans round nose, hollow point and soft point bullets from warfare.