AK-12, All Dressed Up For The Dance

Konstantin Lazarev has some excellent photos on his Facebook page of an AK-12 undergoing testing. The rifle has been painted in earth tones, and has clearly already seen fairly heavy use, judging by all the wear. These photos also offer a look inside the receiver of the gun, which reveals a weapon that, while its designers were clearly cribbing notes from Western rifle development, is still uniquely Russian in design.

The trunnion of the AK-12 appears almost unchanged from the AK-74, despite the new pattern of receiver and bolt carrier. Its engineers solved the problem of mounting optics to the AK-style receiver by creating a monolithic rail – entirely separate from the receiver – that dovetails and locks into either the handguard or a vestigial sight block, which is different than the hinging AKS-74U-type cover of earlier AK-12 prototypes. This entire assembly, receiver cover attached, is removed from the rifle for cleaning, which allows a virtually unprecedented level of receiver access at the field-stripping level. The charging handle remains in the same location as earlier AK-type rifles, but is now non-reciprocating, and switchable from right to left. The AK-12 adopts a very slim profile M4-style collapsing buttstock, which folds, but also has a very interesting looking approximately 320-degree “ring” type sling mount that surrounds the wrist of the stock, something I don’t think I’ve seen before in the West. The separate safety and selector arrangement of the prototype AK-12s has been replaced with a unified, not-quite Western looking selector and safety lever. An extended, ambidextrous magazine release, which is capable of being activated either in the conventional Kalashnikov manner or with the trigger finger (very reminiscent of the H&K XM8) supplants the decades old AK-style lever. A new muzzle brake and front sight block round out the rifle.

1397774_964472663567477_6069102759147107353_o 1556332_964472970234113_8948908946818248908_o 10273315_964472930234117_2397115536008810174_o 10295034_964472986900778_1872860478721333756_o 10511557_964472813567462_7033451301821894213_o 10712576_964472886900788_7690725234933416594_o 10749950_964472850234125_2682482274205844641_o 10750114_964472943567449_3047088149997168850_o

It’s difficult to imagine a rifle that more exemplifies the small arms of the early 21st century: At its core, a near 70-year-old design, conceived to meet the needs and rise to the technology of the post-WWII world, tempered and evolved through decades of experience fighting “down and dirty” wars against paramilitary forces in unstable regions everywhere from Afghanistan to Georgia.

H/T, Remiguisz Wilk, of Broń i Amunicja

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • Giolli Joker

    OK, I want it.
    Nice to see that it has been painted while on Safety and then permanently used in Full Auto. 🙂

  • Green Hell

    Funny thing, a year ago army said they dont need an AK-12. But after closing a western civilian markets for Izhmekh (Kalashnikov Concern), ZOG practicly gave russian government no other choice but to fund making and developing new military rifles, to keep their strategic factories afloat and full of work. This way the sanctions, created to weaken Russia are gonna leave it with even stronger modern military in the end. Maybe they’l even open up their own domestic civilian market, allowing to buy a rifle for a simple hunting license.

    • Joshua

      Depends on if they can afford to get rid of all their AK-74s. This will be a huge undertaking money wise for them and its all to keep their gun manuf. Afloat.

      • noguncontrol

        they can sell their surplus into the world market, flood the world with cheap ak-74Ms.

        the liberals and the eu tards are so stupid, God Bless Russia.

        • Esh325

          Russia probably has stricter gun control than some EU countries.

          • Yes, but only *IN*RUSSIA*. Russia frankly doesn’t give a hoot for the gun control laws of other nations. If other nations want to buy Russian surplus arms, and Russia thinks it’s in their best interests to do so, then Russia will be happy to say, “Cash on the table?. . . Do you want us to wrap that in paper, plastic, or CONEX boxes?”

    • dp

      KK has apparently other fill including civilian. My bet is that ’74’ will soldier on until…….. something entirely different pops up. Very much like AR in States.

    • John Sjöström

      Allmost like the USA that don’t buy a new gun so they can keep Colt up and running

      • Joshua

        No idea where you,got that since FNH is making all M16s and M4/M4A1s.

        • John Sjöström

          Colts owns the design so they still get their share of the deal. Cancelling of varius replacement programs eso.

          • Actually, it was the incredible screwup in 1967 that occurred when the Army bought an open-ended license to the M16 TDP from Colt but not the TDP itself that has been a primary driver in the Army looking at OTHER rifles over the years.

            In other words, the DoD sticks with the M16/M4 family because it *works*, and the cost of transitioning over to another platform simply cannot be justified by the miniscule (if any) improvements possible versus the *enormous* infrastructure costs in changing over.

  • Mr.T

    ”The trunnion of the AK-12 appears almost unchanged from the AK-74 ”
    This is like saying every 7 lug bolt is ‘almost unchanged from Ar15’

    • John

      I would imagine it is different. Wasn’t it marketed as a do-everything chassis? The Ak-12 was billed as an assault weapon, SMG, shotgun, and light support weapon all in one similar to the stoner. I’d like to see how the pinged and welded barrel evolved to a quick change barrel in this design.

      • Esh325

        My understanding is that a quick change barrel AK-12 is/was in the works and is separate from the regular AK-12.

  • northafrican

    still no bolt hold open

    • mechamaster

      True, it would be perfect if it has bolt-release button like VEPR 12.

  • n0truscotsman

    Now that is sexy. I like.

    • J

      Unless they design a new magazine, that isn’t a possibility.
      They have massive stockpiles of 74 mags, they wont change anytime soon.

      • Esh325

        I think they would have to put a raised portion in the followers like the Yugo magazines, it wouldn’t be a real BHO though like an AR15. I guess if they make a 5.56×45 version that takes STANAG mags you can have it then.

  • Anonymoose

    It’s got a 2-shot burst setting? What’s the ROF again?

    • Joshua

      No it is not AN-94 fast, the basic AK operating system doesn’t allow for 1,800RPM 2 shot operation.

      • Sam Schifo

        In my opinion a 2 round burst is more usable than a three round burst anyway, it basically allows for a double tap without having to think about it.

      • Anonymoose


  • dg13

    The safety/selector markings seem confusing…looks like 4 positions (safe, single, 2 round, full) but it looks like the lever only has 2 positions….anyone know what is going on there?

    • J

      It probably has 4 positions in that short travel, knowing how a normal AK selector works, and how far that travels at the axis point.
      safe, auto, burst, semi, in that order
      currently on semi, I’m guessing.

      • John

        That sounds like a terrible design and apt to cause error/overtravel

        • J

          I’ve got that backwards, it’s currently on safe
          I wouldn’t want to deal with that under stress

    • dp

      In pictures I have seen previously, there were 2 levers in the roster. This may not be full-fledged military version.

      • dg13

        2 levers makes more sense…

      • dg13
        • dp

          Exactly, that’s what I meant.

      • Mr Mxyzptlk

        Those two levers are not both safeties, the bottom lever is the safety/selector, and the top one is a lock that secures the top cover. Due to the typical AK top cover design it was not secure enough to take a rail (hence why most solutions involve either the side mounting or a rail that reaches backwards from a handguard) so the solution was a latch that would fix it more securely rather than just using that little button thing attached to the rear of the guide rod.

        I initially though that this part was just missing from this gun, but based on the fact that there is no recess stamped for it and the fact that the hole is empty when it is disassembled, I guess it is a cross pin which secures the top cover in some way. I have no idea though whether this is a new design, whether this is a pre-production gun and the lever is the current design, or if this is a difference that is on civilian or export guns, or something else entirely.

  • ColonelColt

    It should be noted that this actually seems to be a new variant of the AK-12 that, as far as I’m aware, we haven’t seen before. The big difference is the dust cover/top rail in the back coupled with the handguard that seems to extend back on the left side to act as a shield for the opening in the dust cover. The charging handle on the right looks like it dog legs up under the handguard to the same point on the earlier models where the reversible charging handle stuck straight out. It also seems to ride over the side of the rear cover now. I wonder if they did this to clear certain optic mounts, or simply to make it more like the position on a traditional AK. Even if the rifle retains the ability to switch the charging handle from side to side I think we’ll still see many Russian operators using it on the right due to training.

    The magazine catch is also quite different and no longer appears to have a push button for magazine release or bolt hold open (we’re not sure which). This one is extended back for trigger finger operation and has a larger surface for striking with the next magazine. The piece protruding from the front of the magazine catch, contacting the back of the magazine, I can only surmise is some sort of “kicker” lever to help get the empty out of the gun.

    Other minor things are that the gas block lost its rail section and the buttstock is different.

    • I believe I did note this in the article.

      • ColonelColt

        Sorry, I was so excited about the pictures that I unintentionally skimmed the text. Did you find information somewhere saying it was non-reciprocating? I would think that would be a turnoff to many buyers, myself included. I want to be able to rack the bolt back and forth by hand in case of malfunctions and not rely on spring pressure.

        • It appears to be, based on the picture with the stripped receiver.

  • dansquad

    Non-reciprocating charging handle? How can the bolt be pushed forward in case of a halfway seated cartridge on a dirty chamber?

    • If they have any sense, it can’t be.

    • guest

      Don’t assume every gun in the word actually had a built in feature to deal with a built-in potential malfunction.

      • dansquad

        I´d appreciate if you tell me about another modern assault rifle that would suffer from this same “rare” potential malfunction and doesn´t have a built-in feature (apart from the obvious reciprocating charging handle)

      • dansquad

        a simple notch on the bolt carrier (m3-grease-gun style) would be enough

  • M

    So… the Ak-12 is still considered a concept rifle right? It doesn’t seem like there’s any buyers other than the Russian military, and that’s still only for testing

    • Looks like it’s fairly far down the development pipe to me.

  • dp

    In all due respect it looks to me kind of ‘sweated out’. That top removable assembly does not seem to enter trunion but front-top part of foreguard. This is begging for added movement in time. Besides, that slim rail will get bend in no time.
    This idea of whole length access to receiver space is good one, however with penalty attaché. This is reduced torsional strength of receiver; same issue which plagued all AK weapons and which prevents them in measuring up in accuracy to ARs.
    The lesson taken on sight base speaks of ELCAN sight base.
    My sense is that Russians will not jump into making this patched up AK en masse very quick. After all, there is another promising design on their hands.

  • Lance

    The AK is still a premiere weapon that needs no replacement its design is superior to the computer made plastic rifles the writers drools about. Face it I still think rifle design is still at its current top with the AK and the Stoner systems.

    As for the AK-12 its not going to happen the hype of this weapon was killed last year when Russian army said they will not replace the AK-74. Don’t see the financial system in Russia improving enough now to get a new test in little lone adoption. Nothing wrong with the AK-74 to begin with.

    • I dunno, I think the AK-12 makes a few meaningful improvements. Whether that will be enough to see it into service is another question.

    • n0truscotsman

      The same argument was made about their three chassis for armored vehicles, stealth Sukhoi, new surface to air missiles, and anything else in between, and look what happened.

  • adadsa

    nearly 70 year old design? I hope you aren’t one of those who believe it’s a clone of sturmgewehr. it’s like calling an m60 a 72 year old design becouse it was heavily influenced by FG-42 and MG-42.

    • Well, that Kalashnikov design goes back to 1946 for certain, adopted in 1947 (thus “AK47” 😉 ). That makes 2014 – 1946 = 68 years. 67, if you insist on the actual adoption date.

      67 – 68 years is very much “nearly 70 years old” by ANY measure. . .

  • patrickiv

    I like the sling loop. I wonder how well that detachable rail returns to zero.

  • toms

    Love the blacked out elcan serial numbers, wonder where that was smuggled, err I mean imported from? Now I know where the prismatic Russian site Wolf is selling came from. The AK12 looks like a heavy 74 with a few enhancements. I predict a very limited number will be issued to frontline troops. This will be highly publicized for propoganda value and will make the adoption look much more widespread than it actually is. I wonder if the burst feature ruins the trigger like it does on the m16a2.

    • Timothy G. Yan

      It’s not an ELCAN sight.

      • Yeah, I’m not sure what it is, but it’s not an ELCAN.

        • Timothy G. Yan

          It’s an Russian ELCAN clone but using better battery and QD levers. Plus it’s lighter by a bit.

  • Nicholas Mew

    I prefer a reciprocating charging handle.

  • noguncontrol

    no quick change barrel? how can it be an smg and then a rifle then an lmg without a quick change barrel system?

  • Esh325

    How can you tell if the bolt handle is non reciprocating? I’m really impressed with the AK-12 so far it’s quite refreshing to see a rifle that isn’t a M4 or plastic SCAR type rifle. The AK-12 isn’t just an AK-74 with rails like people think. The internals have been modified for less recoil for better performance on burst and full auto. The AK-12 is going up against a modernized AEK but what I’ve heard is that the AEK has out performed the AK-12 in some early pre-testing.

  • I wonder how well it holds zero with repeated removals & reattachments of the rail?