Review of the Russian APS Underwater Carbine & SPP-1M Underwater Pistol

The Small Arms Defense Journal have published a fascinating review of the mysterious Russian underwater guns. They were able to test fire these guns at a (above water) range.

I was expecting these guns to have far less range than the powerful spear guns used by Tuna fisherman, but I was wrong. The range of large spear guns is about 30 feet.

Interestingly their deployment has only ever once officially been acknowledged …

Surprisingly, these are not new weapons as they were developed and put in Russian service over thirty years ago. They are excellent examples of the secrecy that surrounded the Soviet Union and were unknown, even at classified levels, in the West until Tsniitochmash began offering them publicly in 1993.

The Russian government has publicly acknowledged only one instance of operational deployment. In November 1989 at Malta, President George Bush and Russian Premier Mikail Gorbachev had meetings aboard a ship and the flotilla on which these two heads of state met were protected by a 16-man team of divers armed with the APS underwater assault rifle.

Today with sonar and trained reconnaissance dolphins, I wonder how useful underwater guns are today.

[ Many thanks to Cormac & Steve for emailing us the link. ]

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.


  • Lemming

    I’ve always had a keen interest in these special underwater rifles. The APS is a unique rifle to say the least, but it’s a bit obsolete compared to newer developments such as the ADS, which utilizes a special 5.45 underwater cartridge, allowing you to use normal mags above water, and then switch to the special underwater mags below water, without making any sort of modification to the weapon.

    The Russian airborne and naval infantry are actually considering adopting it as a standard weapon..

    • GarryB

      Actually it is the trained dolphins that these sorts of weapons will be used against the most.

      There are lots of dangerous creatures in the sea that a weapon like the above could be useful against like sharks, giant squid, stingrays, jellyfish etc, but trained dolphins armed with various weapons can be trained to rapidly detect and “attack” enemy divers… especially in port areas. Various blades and other weapons have been developed for the dolphins to use. Now imagine a dolphin coming at you at enormous speeds… a single shot spear gun just isn’t good enough.

      A full auto assault rifle is what you need.

      BTW the coolest feature has not been touched on as far as I have read on this thread… they made two types of ammo for these underwater weapons… standard ball rounds and also …tracer.

  • luckettner

    Interesting like to see how it s work

  • Will

    Can anyone tell me if there is anything else in that second picture beside the woman?

    • Lemming

      I think there might be some sand there or something. .

      • dan citizen

        yeah, but it’s like one of those magic eye pictures.

    • hikerguy

      Royal blue looks good on her.

  • Rangefinder

    I wonder is this primarily an offensive or defensive weapon system. Are we protecting subsurface assets or attacking them (defending the process)? Interesting to say the least. Funny about the girl. She makes great camouflage for the spear gun.

    • dan citizen

      what spear gun?

  • Justin Jones

    Attach them to the recon dolphins. An armed radio controlled dolphin.

    • dan citizen

      I know they’ve mounted weapons on the dolphins before, but I heard the dolphins are pretty lethal by themselves. Like when they kill sharks, they just ram you with their nose and squish up all your internals.

  • bbmg

    As was pointed out in other comments, these designs have now been superseded by the “Dual medium” ADS rifle.

    Another interesting underwater design that doesn’t get much press is the Yugoslav “self suppressing unit” pistol:

    It is only single shot compared to the SPP-1’s four, but has two advantages:

    – thanks to the captive piston design, firing is almost completely silent as the propelling gasses are retained within the cartridge, so muzzle blast is non existent, and the projectile itself is subsonic

    – due to the fact that the projectile has a heavy steel nose and light aluminum tail, it will drag stabilise and hit nose first even when fired out of the water

  • Lance

    Interesting mag for it has to be one of largest or should I say longest anywhere.

  • MrDakka
  • Chortles

    Oddly enough, coming from a video gaming perspective this is very interesting as proof that the ARMA 3 designers were NOT “making things up” when they introduced underwater combat and got called “selling out” by a bunch of the fanbase who couldn’t wrap their minds around underwater weapons like this being a real thing!

  • dan covey

    i would like to buy some or that ammo for my collection how can i do it