There has been a lot of news about the Russian AK-12 rifle to come out this past Winter, and we at TFB have stayed on top of our coverage of the design’s evolution. However, since late January, there are a few things we have learned, so now it’s about time for an update. One of the most informative videos regarding the rifle itself that I have yet seen is this one from December of 2014, which besides showing the monolithic upper rail fifth prototype in action, also comes equipped with both automatic and human translations. I encourage readers to watch it with both comments and subtitles turned “ON”:
First, this video tells us that the chief designer of the AK-12 is one Vladimir Zlobin, who features prominently in the video, demonstrating and talking about the rifle. Wikipedia-based rumors that Mikhail Kalashnikov himself was involved appear not to be true, though apparently before his death Kalashnikov did approve of the design. The video claims the rifle offers greater firepower (apparently through larger capacity magazines, including a 95 round drum) better accuracy through an enhanced stabilizer/brake, and better wear characteristics and unit lifespan. The rifle’s suitability for use at night has been enhanced and optimized – via the redesign of the muzzle brake to accommodate a quick-detach suppressor, and the full-length Picatinny rail (Zlobin confirms this is a 1913 standard rail, and not a Russian copy of proprietary dimensions), allowing night vision devices to be mounted directly to the rifle.
Zlobin tells us that the ergonomics of the rifle have been improved, that the AK-12 is much more friendly to both right and left-handed shooters, but that despite these changes the basic mechanism has stayed the same. While offering all these new enhancements, the rifle weighs 0.2kg (0.44lbs) less than its predecessor the AK-74M, and Zlobin states that there is room for further improvement in this regard. Current AK-12 prototypes weigh in at just over seven pounds (3.2kg) unloaded, which is indeed light for a 21st Century assault rifle design. Interestingly, the buttstock can be folded in either direction, though it is my guess that it can only do this after partial disassembly to configure the butt to fold to either side. However, this is a particularly good feature, as the previous AK-74M suffers from an inability to fold the stock completely when optics are mounted to the side rail. The AK-12 also features improved iron sights that allow easier adjustment for windage and elevation. Zlobin also mentions that the rear sight is no longer fixed to the rifle, but is removable from the 1913 rail, and can be placed anywhere the user chooses.
One improvement that is visible on the fifth generation prototypes is a new magazine kick lever attached to an improved ambidextrous magazine release. This device and the new release are visible clearly in the image below:
The kick-lever allows much faster reloads while retaining existing AK-74 pattern magazines. Older AK pattern rifles do not drop the magazines even if the magazine catch is activated.
Zlobin also mentions the existence of an AKS-74U-type subcarbine model, as well as versions of both subcarbine and the carbine chambered for 7.62×39.
Conflicting reports exist as to the AK-12’s status. The rifle passed state acceptance trials, and some officials reported the rifle was adopted for the Russian Army, however other sources have contradicted them and said the decision is not yet made. TFB recently fielded reader questions to Kalashnikov Concern’s CEO Alexey Krivoruchko, who told us that further trials of the rifle would be conducted in 2015, and that the rifle would be produced by the end of the year.