The Russian Balanced-Action A545 Rifle In Action

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The dark horse of the Russian next-generation individual weapon trials has been the A545, better known as the AEK-971. Where the AK-12 is essentially the well-known and respected Kalashnikov with some new architecture that supports the modern accessory-driven paradigm, the A545 is the incarnation of a more radical concept, dating back to the Abakan trials that produced the AN-94. While the AEK-971 and its derivatives fundamentally do trace their ancestry to the Kalashnikov, they incorporate the “balanced action” principle, where in addition to the mass moving rearwards, a forward-moving mass is coupled to the reciprocating group, which allows not only a great reduction in center-of-gravity shift during firing, but also gives a measure of constant-recoil effect to the firearm as well. Coupled with an effective muzzle brake, this mechanism dramatically reduces disturbances in fully automatic fire. Below is a Russian-language video from November of 2014 discussing the A545:

The maker of the A545 is Degtyarev Kovrov, one of the most important, and paradoxically one of the least celebrated in the West, Russian small arms manufacturing and design firms. Famous Russian weapons like the DP-28 light machine gun, PPSh-41 submachine gun, PTRD anti-tank rifle, PKM machine gun, and Kord heavy machine gun were manufactured and/or designed here. It is also true, though little known, that Kalashnikov perfected the design of his AK-46 and later AK-47 rifles in Kovrov, as well, even though his famous rifle is more closely associated with Izhevsk, where its production engineering was completed and where it was initially manufactured.

The A545 is, as the name suggests, the 5.45x39mm version of the latest-generation balanced action weapons, with the A762 being the 7.62x39mm variant.

The video mentions much of the above information, but also offers glimpses of the A545’s balanced piston system outside the gun. The bolt of the rifle is clearly derived from the AK’s proven rotary system, but the carrier is dramatically revised to allow for a nested forward-moving piston that is synchronized with the bolt carrier via a rack-and-pinion system. Both the forward-moving and rearward-moving pistons are acted upon by the bolt carrier:

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The field-stripped AEK-971. Image source: majkasvihoruzja.com

 

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The operating group of the A545, detail stripped. Visible is the rack and pinion system. Original source of these images is unknown to the author, but thanks goes out to Daniel Watters for passing them along.

 

 

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A close-up of the rack-and-pinion mechanism assembled.

 

The video also repeats that the A545 was adopted by the Russian Army – given that it’s an industry piece, this may refer to an order placed by Russian SF, troop trials orders from the Russian Army, or something else entirely.

The A545 certainly provides a real improvement in full auto and semi-auto fire characteristics, but comes with the disadvantages of additional cost and complexity – though not to the degree that it’s former competitor the AN-94 did – and a mechanism that limits how short the barrel can be (the rifle’s barrel is about as short as it can be at 420mm/16.5″). In an era of reduced budgets for the Russian military, this tilts the balance in favor of the AK-12 for adoption as the next Russian standard issue rifle, but the benefits of the A545 are hard to ignore, and it is a reasonable prediction that it will see increased use with Russian special operations units.

Videos containing further footage of the A545 and AEK-971 are embedded below:



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 can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Plumbiphilious

    I will gladly give many worthy American dollars for one of these rifles in neutered export form so long as I may put my filthy capitalist hands upon and own it.

  • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

    This rifle in 6.8 SPC, with a proper stock(don’t like the retractable stock) would be my dream rifle.

  • Dracon1201

    I would do unspeakable things to own one. Even in Semi. Give me a 5.45/7.62/5.56. Anything. Just as long as it is in my filthy paws.

  • Wolfgar

    A closer look at the rack and pinion piston would have been nice. Larry Vickers was more impressed with the,” I believe was the AK107″ balanced recoil than he was with a very used AN-94 that malfunctioned when he was in Russia. How durable and reliable this method is compared to conventional assault rifles is the next question. The Russians obvious didn’t think it was worth the cost or up grades for adoption . I’m sure there would be a market for the multi gun shooters. Great pictures and information.

    • He shot the earlier model AEK-971, not the 107. 🙂

      • Wolfgar

        Thank you! I couldn’t remember.

        • The Vickers video is embedded in the article body, FYI.

          • Wolfgar

            Didn’t take long for my second mistake of the day, Thank’s I’ll try and get more sleep tonight 🙂

          • ghost

            If sleep prevented mistakes, I should be perfect.

      • Esh325

        The two are different firearms, but I believe they work on pretty much the same principles.

        • Wolfgar

          Nope totally different recoil systems.

          • Esh325

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckZmxd6mouY Seems similar, but I could be wrong.

          • The balanced action mechanism is the same.

          • Wolfgar

            I need to put on my reading glasses, I thought he posted AN-94 not AEK-971, my mistake. Wasn’t my first and probably wont be my last mistake!

          • SP mclaughlin

            He has videos on both.

    • iksnilol

      AN-94 and balanced recoil are unrelated as far as I know.

      • Wolfgar

        Yup,totally different recoil systems.

    • Darren Hruska

      I think Larry may have been using a prototype AN-94. That gun went through nine or so prototypes before the final product was decided upon.

  • Esh325

    It’s said that AEK beat the AK-12 in tests and other reports say that the AK-12 was chosen over the AEK already, but I honestly wouldn’t believe any of it. I have a book and it mentions that the AEK actually beat the AN-94 in full auto accuracy tests.

  • Andrew

    Do want.

  • Uniform223

    That muzzle device and counter balancing system makes the weapon look very steady.

  • Steve Martinovich

    Would buy. Now.

    • kregano

      I’d buy an A545, AK-107, or AK-12 if given the chance.

  • Esh325

    One thing I’ve noticed about special recoil reducing rifles the Russians tested like the AEK-AK-107, and AN-94 is that I’ve never once seen a shorter barreled version of them mocked up which would lead me to believe that they don’t function very well with shorter barrels.

    • The balanced action guns cannot have a shorter barrel due to their forward-moving piston.

      • Esh325

        In that case, the AK-12 would still have a purpose even if the AEK was deemed better because of the ability to have a shorter barrel.

        • tazman66gt

          “oh sheet, da Boss has a gun again!”

    • Jon

      You can make a bullpup A545 if you need it shorter.

  • lowell houser

    Honestly, it looks like you could retrofit an existing AK with this system.

  • Lance

    The A545 and AK-12 where adopted for Russian Special Forces use. AK-74M and AK-103/AKM for use with Russian infantry.

  • jcl

    The newest model seems to use milled receiver with separate polymer trigger group and pistol grip like in MP5

    • Esh325

      The receiver looks more like polymer if anything.

      • jcl

        The front magwell area looks like micro galil’s receiver but the pistol grip and trigger assembly seem to be separate polymer unit like in mp5.

  • jcl

    Is the rifle’s mechanism protected under patent? If not what’s stopping China and Western countries from copying it, at least for experimental purpose?

    • hydepark

      Tooling. Money = tooling.

  • William C

    Not that I’ll ever get a chance to fire one of these but he thing but the stock looks a bit flimsy to my eye. Hopefully it’s sturdier than it looks.

    I’ve got to wonder why Izhmash didn’t take the AK-107 and further develop that into their new assault rifle versus the actual AK-12 which is much closer to the AK-74. Were they just betting on the notion that Russia would opt for a the cheaper option to eventually replace the AK-74M?

    Izhevsk

    • kev

      According to Kalashnikov the AK 12 was easier to manufacture and they are hoping for the mass production side of things. They have however focused on their Saiga mk107 which they call a “weaponn of the future” perhaps in the future they will make a military version and corner the military market.

  • Azril @ Alex Vostox

    The truth is Kalashnikov and Degtyarev hates each other. Heck, even Kalashnikov threaten to return his own medal in the eyes of media when he knows that AN-94 defeated AK-74M during Akbakan project.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    Much German!

    • Phil Hsueh

      It does look like an H&K and an AK had a baby.

  • Wosiu

    Good, but seems to be not better than SAR-21, not to mention Ultimax-100, with J.Sullivan “constant recoil principle”.

    • kenk

      Didn’t like the SAR-21 but loved my Ultimax. I couldn’t pass judgment on this unless I tried it out.

  • BearSlayer338

    Looks like an H&K MP5 and an AK got together and made something awesome.

    • Jon

      This has nothing to see with MP5, only a slight cosmetic similarity.
      By the way, it will between H&K wet dreams to produce such a inovative, simple and functional weapon.

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    Now we need a US copy. Come on Ruger, make this your 1st AK!

  • P Ok

    20 inch barrel version would be great