Polish Armed Forces upgrade PKMs

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At this years MSPO (Miedzynarodowy Salon Przemyslu Obronnego), a large defense exposition in Poland, an upgraded PKM was unveiled to the public. The UKM 2000P is a 7.62x51mm upgrade that will be replacing the Soviet era 7.62x54R mm PKMs currently in service with the Polish Armed Forces. The article from Jane’s mostly concentrates on the specs and figures, but this is a little background on the machine gun and history. The company producing the weapon system is Zaklady Mechaniczne Tarnow (Mechanical Plant, Tarnow), a Polish company that originally started in the railway business in 1917, being briefly interrupted by World War Two and currently producing mostly air defense, containers and industry level services for the Polish Armed Forces. Small arms seem to be a minor facet of the company, however they do have some odd designs, such as the Alex Tactical Sport Training and Training rifle, for the civilian market. Regardless, the UKM series of machine guns came about as Poland’s program into modernizing the PKM for standardization among NATO. There are a number of variants as put forth by the factory page

It is produced in four versions: infantry version (UKM 2000 P with fixed butt),landing version (for landing troops- UKM 2000 D with folded butt), tank versions: UKM 2000 C –right feeding and UKM 2000 CL –left feeding

Regardless, the current version seems to be really taking the PKM to new heights. It is amazing to see these old operating systems, just still chugging away as they were 50 years ago, with relatively minor changes in the actual design of the machinegun. The addition of rails and a soft ammunition pouch as opposed to a metal one seemed like a much needed change, but the complete redesign of the retractable stock is probably one of the most ergonomic changes, with a rod for the gunner to hold on to, and the cheek pad being personally configurable to the shooter. That, along with rails seem to be indicative of a larger philosophy in small arms that is seeing more often the weapon systems being user configurable, as opposed to fifty years ago where a soldier got what he got, and too bad if he gets smacked in the face with the rear sight of his Garand every time he shoots it.

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The fixed stock Infantry version of the UKM 2000, this one at display at MSPO 2015.

The new version has been created for a PAF requirement to improve the performance and ergonomics of its existing UKM-2000P machine gun: the PAF’s standard support weapon at squad level (three per platoon). The weapon is gradually replacing the Soviet PKM gun, chambered in the Russian 7.62x54R mm round, which was manufactured under licence in Poland until 2000. The UKM-2000P is chambered in the 7.62×51 mm NATO round and fed by a M13 disintegrating link belt in compliance with STANAG 2310. It can operate in temperatures of from -50°C to +55°C.

The latest modification features 26 alterations to the original PKM, and 69% of the weapon is made of new components. In total, 14% of its parts come from the unmodified UKM-2000, while 17% are still exchangeable with the PKM.

The modernised UKM-2000P is more reliable than the original UKM-2000P (test guns fire 37,000 and 53,000 rounds) and can fire all 7.62×51 mm rounds – both NATO and non-standard. It can be loaded by any type of link belt, including German DM60. The steel ammunition box was replaced by a 100- or 150-round soft bag. ZMT introduced a new folding and telescopic stock for both dismounted soldiers and paratroopers; an ergonomic handgrip; a front grip; and a carrying handle.

Poland placed a PLN24.76 million (USD6.53 million) contract for the delivery of 378 modernised UKM-2000Ps (30 in 2015, 138 in 2016, 106 in 2017, and 104 in 2018) back in June, although this only came into force on 28 August after the successful trials of two prototypes.

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Folding stock version as depicted on the company website.



Miles V

Former Infantry Marine, and currently studying at Indiana University. I’ve written for Small Arms Review and Small Arms Defense Journal, and have had a teenie tiny photo that appeared in GQ. Specifically, I’m very interested in small arms history, development, and Military/LE usage within the Middle East, and Central Asia.

If you want to reach out, let me know about an error I’ve made, something I can add to the post, or just talk guns and how much Grunts love naps, hit me up at miles@tfb.tv


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  • iksnilol

    I wonder if going to a rimless cartridge reduced weight? I remember reading about how the Russians made a PKM in a smaller caliber (6×50 or something, a high pressure 6mm round or something) and that they managed to reduce the weight by over a kilogram simply because the cartridge was rimless and thus the gun needed less parts.

    Also, that bolt action, I really want one.Shorten the barrel down to about 47 cm, thread it for a suppressor and you have a handy (albeit heavy) hunting gun. I wonder if most of the weight is in the barrel or in the chassis?

    • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

      6x49mm it was

      • iksnilol

        That it was.

      • Giolli Joker

        Got curious and found it (of course) on Popenker’s website… I wonder how long the barrel would have lasted with such a hot round in full auto. Quite cool, though.

    • Dracon1201

      The chassis is beautiful, I would guess every part of that is heavy. It weighs 5,3 kg, or ~11.6 lbs. The barrel is huge, the chassis looks to be solid aluminum or steel. I like where you are going, but I wish they did this with more of an MDS LSS stock built as a bullpup.

      Also, I want one of the 7.62×51 PKMs so bad.

      • iksnilol

        Everyone wants a 7.62×51 PKM… including me.

        Regarding the bolt action: The weight is manageable for me, though I wish it was a kg lighter, mainly because of stuff like scopes and suppressors. My preferred silencer weighs about 400g add a scope and you are about 1kg there. I am sure you could shave some weight off the chassis and by going with a medium profile fluted barrel.

        My interest is piqued. I wonder how much it costs?

        • Chris22lr

          The Alex sniper rifle? A lot. As much as Sako TRG. Which is a coffin nail to civilian Alex variants, but You’ve got to remember that ZM Tarnow (like FB Radom) is pretty much MoD dependent. So civilian production are mostly one-off, expensive guns.

          Now, if You’d like to contract them to make thousand of these rifles, You could probably get some “normal” price…

          • iksnilol

            Aw shucks… I was hoping for a cheaper bullpup alternative to the Sako. I wonder what kind of groupings it gets.

    • Giolli Joker

      “Rimmed, for the extractor’s pleasure.”

      • iksnilol

        Oh, come on! We’re all adults here.

        *snicker*

        It was funny though.

        • Giolli Joker

          CarniK Con, Dugan Ashley.

          • iksnilol

            Pfft, I like Dugan but he’s a bit of a whimp. “Shooting 50 bmg in a slamfire pipe shotgun, that’s a bit unsafe” We need somebody who isn’t afraid to maim themselves for dat Youtube money.

            NOTE: Dugan, we miss ya buddy.

  • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

    This plus the PKP Pecheneg’s forced cooling is what I would want in a GPMG (Way lighter than the HK121, M60E6 or M240L).

    • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

      And reliable as heck.

    • Uniform223

      The M60E6 and before that the M60E4/Mk.43 is still pretty light for a .30cal general purpose MG. Both are lighter than your M240B and G variants and is still 2-3lbs lighter than the L. How they got it (PKM) so light still baffles me.

      You also can’t go wrong with the Negev NG7.

      • 11b

        Stamped metal maybe? The 240 is almost all milled.

        • iksnilol

          I believe the PKM receiver is stamped.

          • jcitizen

            The reinforcing in the receiver does make it pretty robust though. They were making partially machined replacements for semi-auto kits in the US, but I can’t attest to their quality. I’ve only had post ’86 samples to shoot, and they look just like brand new Russian originals to me.

            I have to admit it is possibly the finest LMG I’ve fired to date. I like the MG3, but the rate of fire is just too high. Thank God the Russian rimmed ammo is so cheap! I like MG34s too, but they are a tad heavy.

          • iksnilol

            Never said it was bad. I like the PKM, they could reduce the weight further if they chambered it in a rimless cartridge like 308.

            the M53 (Yugo MG42) is pretty popular in the Balkans, both legally and illegally. Or as popular as an MG can be. I agree, too high ROF. Better suited on vehicles than on people IMO. It is still a cool gun I wouldn’t mind having but it is too expensive to shoot.

          • jcitizen

            I love the PKM, but I love the price of the ammo even better! HA! Most vets coming back from the GWOT claim they wanted it as their first choice!

        • jcitizen

          The side plates maybe, but I’d guess the other parts are forged or cast like the M2 .50 cal. It is all put together with rivets.

      • jcitizen

        I know when I was an armorer in the Army, you didn’t dare step on an M60 or it would require a rebuild by the MATES center. They were just too flimsy to be a serious weapon. I suppose the US Army considered them disposable though. We also had big trouble with the metallurgy of the operating rods. The bolt cam could not take normal operations without getting a burr on it, and failing to fire. I was just glad we had a Ma Deuce assigned to my squad.

  • TheRealKivaari

    The ZMT plant produces a bit more small arms than described here. Besides the UKM-2000 family, there is the Alex (aka Bor, Alex ST is a little different) 7.62×51 sniper rifle, which is slowly becoming army standard issue, also the Tor .50 cal sniper rifle (also used by the army), both of which are bolt action bullpups. Of the other interesting stuff there is the RGP-40 revolver grenade launcher, which is kinda like Milkor M32 and the WLKM .50 cal minigun

    • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

      Are there any news on the poles adopting a semi automatic marksman rifle? Seems almost like a trend amongs the former east-block countries to adopt 7.62x51mm bolt action rifles, but no semi -auto’s.

      • TheRealKivaari

        FB Radom is now developing a 7.62×51 version of the MSBS rifle and the most obvious reason is replacement of the worn down SVD rifles purchased in the late 1960s, SVD is still the standard DMR. On the international deployments Polish Army uses mostly SAKO TRG 21 and 22 on squad level and there is a lot of talk about the drawbacks of such a choice. And where do you see that trend? Recently Lithuania had chosen FN SCAR-PR as a standard DMR.

        • Gjert Klakeg Mulen

          Maybe not a trend… was just an observation.

  • Chris22lr

    Top and bottom pictures are showing an early prototype of this modernisation – so called UKM-2013 (TFB covered this in 2012). Only middle one shows the most recent variant (so called UKM-2000M) which will be acquired by Polish Armed Forces.

    Also article implies that there are only 7.62x54r PKMs in Polish Army. This is not true, because previous versions of UKM-2000P (official designation is the same for both old and new guns) was fielded first in 2005. While externally it uses an old-style PKM furniture, internally it’s a bit different, with feeding mechanism being influenced by FN MAG.

    What could be called a simple PKM-to-NATO conversion, was designed back in 90’s by HCP (famous Cegielski’s) – PKM-N (or PKM-NATO). It was using 7.62×51 ammo but… in old (“Soviet”) belt links. This somehow doomed the project and only after HCP decided to focus on civilian production in 1999, and sold it’s PKM machinery to ZMT, efforts to make a NATOised PK could be started again.

    • Riot

      I think the article is a bit of a jumbled mess, it’s an upgrade to the pkm’s replacement, not an upgrade to the pkm.

      • Chris22lr

        Well, ZMT actually said that some parts from this modernisation pack (stock, grip, rails) can be used on both UKM and PKM. 😉

        But yeah, article is somewhat messy.

        BTW: what may be interesting, MoD won’t upgrade UKMs already in their inventory to this standard. At least for now.

      • Art out West

        I’d say that 7.62X51 is actually a DOWNGRADE from 7.62X54R at least ballistically speaking. The 54R is a slightly more capable round.

        This is really just about standardization with NATO, and modernization or updating their machine gun. Updating doesn’t mean upgrading.

        • Riot

          I would agree, for a machinegun I’d rather have the 54R.

        • brainy37

          Not really. With full length barrels the 54R round has about 100fps more speed. But the NATO round is higher pressure and has less variation and performance loss with shorter barrels. If you chop down a milspec PKP/PKM barrel down to 21in. like the UMP and you’ll see significant speed loss. The original system needs the full length barrel and modders have waxed on about how the pressure system can get finicky when you cut down the barrels.

          Also, with only 17% parts commonality that’s not an upgrade but a completely new system.

  • myndbender

    I’ve always felt that the PKM was a better GPMG than the M60 or M240/FN MAG. More reliable than the former, & lighter than the latter. The only drawbacks were the Soviet ammo, belt, & steel box, & even then they were only drawbacks if PAF wanted/needed to break free from the Soviet sphere. But it appears that the PAF have addressed these minor issues, & so as long as the reliability is on par with legacy PKMs, change seems the way to go in this situation.

    • CommonSense23

      Biggest issue with the PKM is its absolutely horrible to shoot while standing or kneeling. Amazing while mounted or prone.

      • myndbender

        Horrible or not, I’d just like to shoot any one of them, I based my comment merely on what I’ve read & gleaned from others experiences. Bottom line, I wouldn’t kick any of those MGs outta bed!lol

      • iksnilol

        What’s so bad about them? Sure, not having a foregrip sucks but you can grab the box mag. Or you can grab the carry handle above.

        • CommonSense23

          The box is to close and loose while the carrying handle is in a absolute horrible place to hold and also loose. So for practical purposes you can’t hold a burst on target while standing or kneeling. Something like a MK43/46/48 that is meant to be run by one man, allows you to get a proper grip and fire and hit while standing. I frequently took off the bipod on my 46/48 just cause you almost never use them.

          • iksnilol

            Hey, that’s another one, what about the bipod? Can’t you grab onto that?

          • CommonSense23

            Same issue. Bad shooting form and just to loose. When you are shooting a belt fed standing, even something as light and controllable as PKM, you need a good front grip thats meant to be a front grip.

          • iksnilol

            I would argue I wouldn’t really shoot an MG standing. But you do have a point, it is loose. Unless you tuck the gun in “Rambo”-style and use the carry handle. That is obviously not good for precision.

            I remember reading about the bullpup PKM and how one advantage was the foregrip.

          • CommonSense23

            Getting prone is a luxury that is pretty rare actually, at least from what I have seen. Jungle you can’t see a thing, urban your moving to much and shooting over obstacles and around corners, Afghanistan same thing, typically from behind cover and popping out. Shooting from the shoulder is pretty normal activity with a belt fed.

          • iksnilol

            I always thought people hit the dirt or ran to cover while shooting?

          • jcitizen

            Every time I watch those news shorts, they are doing just what CommonSense23 says. Most of my buds were in mech units firing from vehicles, if they dismounted, they fired prone or standing next to, or over a wall.

          • jcitizen

            That’s what I used – yeah it was loose, but I got used to it. This weapon was in like new condition though. In the field they might be close to junk condition as an enemy pickup.

            I didn’t have any problem hitting targets from 300 to 600 meters. I like three round bursts, or there about.

      • jcitizen

        I’ve never had a misfire while standing or kneeling; but I didn’t use the box, I just let the ammo hang!

        • CommonSense23

          Never said anything about malfunctions, just shooting standing and kneeling is extremely difficult with it compared to a 43/46/48.

  • Ben

    Waste of time for stupid NATO. 7.62x54R has slightly better ballistics wasting there time on NATO standardization.

    • Anonymoose

      How many nuggets do you own, nuggetman?

    • Uniform223

      Hmmmmm….
      Why would Poland, a NATO member want to use NATO standard ammo?

    • iksnilol

      Not really a waste of time considering all their allies use it. And that they have other rifles that use it as well.

      I like 7.62x54mmR, but I am not fooling myself. It is hard to find outside Eastern Europe.

      • jcitizen

        I like the 7.62x54R for two reasons – cheap ammo in the US, and non disintegrating belts. I must admit, if I were a partisan, I’d want that feature. It is way easier for me to keep track of the used belts, and quickly reload them. The belt loaders are a dream compared to disintegrating link loaders.

    • mosinman

      although i am a big fan of 7.62x54R there’s no point for them to have MGs chambered for it when they’re a part of NATO

  • lowell houser

    The greatest challenge in weapons design in the 21rst century is that the industry head-on collided with the wall of diminishing returns in the late 20th century. Poland is a great example, where instead of adopting a new design like the ACR-knockoff MSBS, the government instead went straight for a “modernization” program for the Beryl-AKs, because the cost to build has been amortized and the rifle does the job just fine – the MSBS just plain loses in a cost-benefit analysis. The eternal love-fest for the direct impingement AR here in America and the continued issuing of the .308 instead of looking to new cartridges all fall into exactly the same category. The Browning M2HB and the .50BMG? Same. The PKM in this article. Ditto.

    Expect to see this worldwide as country after country simply updates old guns and finds out they still remain competitive.

    • Chris22lr

      You’re actually wrong. MSBS is still undergoing army tests, and from brass point of view it’s not finished yet. That’s why they are buying more Beryls, because they really need to replace worn out AKMs, and Beryl is the only rifle that have MoD’s “thumbs up”. Naturally, they could start a contest for new rifle (with contestants like SCAR, Bushmaster or Croatian VHS), but it’s idiotic when there’s MSBS behind corner.

      Note that MSBS is actually a MoD’s project – designed first in MoD’s Institute of Technology, and from MoD’s money. FB Radom, while actively redesigning first projects, is more of a subcontractor (that’s why they can’t sell civilian variant, even when it’s already finished).

    • TheRealKivaari

      For the last time, the MSBS system is by no means an ACR knock-off!! It is a complete system with classic and bullpup rifle that in the first stage of design was bulky and rectangular and in the later stages was redesigned on the outside by a team of the industrial designers to make it all ergonomic and pretty looking, taking input from newest foreign rifle designs like SCAR, ACR and CZ805. Nonetheless it is an indigenous polish and patented design, if you don’t believe me then google is your friend.

  • Hokum

    Isn’t $6.53 million a bit too much for 378 units? It’s $17.275 per 1 unit…

    • Dracon1201

      Nope, sounds right.

  • Jay

    They took an awesome gun and made it perfect.

  • walter12

    Who in the heck are the Poles going to ever fight? Come on, this is silly.

    • Well, they’ve been doing it for many centuries. For some time they owned everyone while doing it. You could also ask the Swiss who are they going to fight – I think they will just shrug and keep practicing.