The Krinks that never were, AKSU trial rifles

Following close on the heels of our other articles about the development and use of the AKS74U “Krinkov”, we now bring to TFB an article specifically about the prototypes that were entered into the design competition, that would later turn into the standardized AKS74U. Many of these did not see any sort of service after the competition, but they were extremely interesting and innovative designs that were indicative of forward thinking when it came to small arms technology in the 1970s. To put things in a competing design perspective with the M16, there wasn’t any long lasting successfully standardized extremely short version of the M16A2 from that time period. Of course there prototypes and limited fielding, but none of these came close to the sheer numbers of production and usage that the AKS74U saw in Afghanistan in the 1980s (as a result of the trials in the 1970s). The M4 really didn’t start getting into full issue until the late 1990s, and before that it was the CAR15, a somewhat perfected carbine that really only saw use among American special operations forces and some select few government agencies.

Let me preface this article by mentioning that all the photos, and text are due to the efforts of an overseas TFB reader, Hrachya H. He has painstakingly translated the text from various Russian sources on the internet, in order for me to present here on TFB, for the enjoyment of our readers.

To begin, let us have some simple background knowledge, from my earlier article on the history of the AKSU

The development of the AKS74U almost ran concurrent with development of the AK74service rifle, and the concept for an extremely compact submachine gun firing an intermediate cartridge was actually put into place before the 5.45x39mm round ever came into the picture. A Russian small arms designer by the name of Peter Andreevich Tkachev developed an Uzi like compact assault rifle, based around the round that the 5.45 was based on, the 5.6x39mm cartridge. The compact assault rifle had amagazine as the pistol grip itself, behind the trigger. The folding stock was meant to fold on top of the weapon, while there were wooden handguards wrapped around the barrel. This was in the 1960s and early 70s, wherein the concept was there, but a reliable firearm and cartridge wasn’t. It was called the AO-46, and never moved past the experimental stage. In 1973 when development of the AK74 was really taking off, the project was given new life, under a project that was code named “Modern”, headed by the Ministry of Defence Industry and Main Missile and Artillery Directorate (GRAU). The intention was to create a submachine gun that specialists within the infantry could use to compliment their primary weapon system. RPG gunners, vehicle crews for example. It was also conceived as a special purpose weapon for the Russian Special Forces, the Spetsnaz. One of the stipulations was that the weapon could not protrude outside of the width of a full packed soldier while in the field.

Now, we’ve got some much more in-depth description of the design characteristics that the GRAU was looking for. Similar to how some sneaky back door contract solicitations seem to even be written today(FN M240 Lima contract from the Army, M27 IAR contract USMC, need for an AR like LMG), it was glaringly obviously that this solicitation clearly only allowed one winner. But, a number of designers still put forth their prototypes for the design, and these were the characteristics they had to adhere to-

  1.   The gun had to be select fire
  2.   It had to weigh no more than 2.2kilograms (4.85lbs)
  3.   Height and thickness had to be no more than that of the AK-74
  4.  Overall length had to be no more than 750millimeters (29.5”) and length with folded stock – less than 450mm (17.7”)
  5.   The gun had to have an effective firing range of 500 meters

6) Must be chambered in 5.45x39mm.

Now, for an in-depth look at the trial guns

Yevgeniy Dragunov’s MA design

Correct, the designer of the Dragunov sniper rifle also submitted a prototype to Project Modern. His design utilized a sort of glass reinforced ploymer for receiver material, with the bolt riding on a top mounted rail, thus the bolt carrier group was riding on the top cover of the design. It used a short stroke piston, with a bolt head very similar to standard Kalashnikov bolt head. The safety was a V shaped device that was just in front of the trigger guard. Similar to a Garand or SKS, the safety blocks access to the trigger when engaged. Pushing it up, would put the gun into semiautomatic or fully automatic modes of fire. Standard AK74 magazines are used while disassembly is accomplished by rotating and removing the rear sight, thus allowing access to the top cover to come off. It works as sort of a pop top on a soda can. The design of the hammer spring is also very similar to the Garands or SKS’s set up.

  1. 1)  Weight (w/o ammo) – 2.5kg (5.5lbs)
  2. 2)  Overall length – 735mm (28.9”)
  3. 3)  Length with folded stock – 500mm (19.7”)
  4. 4)  Barrel length – 212mm (8.4”)
  5. 5)  Rate of fire – 800rpm

6 6958782 6958808 1365457878_ma-7 1365457928_ma-2 1365457947_ma-1 1365457961_ma-3 1365457966_ma-5 MA-4 MA-6 MA

Andrey Konstantinov’s AEK-958

Unfortunately, this design is the least known about when it comes to the designs that were entered into Project Modern. From the outside the design looks very Kalashnikov-ish, but similar to the Vz.58, the internals tell a different story. For one, the trigger/fire control group can be completely removed similar to modern day drop in AR triggers, this being apart of disassembly. It appears that the gas piston tube and gas piston are within each other, if that even makes any sense. In addition, the recoil spring is sunk into the receiver like a PKM’s recoil spring is. The design entered trials rather late, in 1976.

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Sergey Simonov’s AG-043

Simonov, of SKS lore, put this creation together and submitted it in 1975. Rumor has it that instead of being successful with the Project Modern program, it went on to be used in very small numbers by the Soviet KGB. Apart from fitting within the parameters of the competition, it came in at a very lightweight package at only 4.63 lbs. An earlier version of the gun, the AG-042 had a fixed stock instead of a sliding metal wire stock. It also appears to have the only trial gun made with a cleaning rod in the traditional AK rod position, underneath the barrel.

Overall Length 680mm (26.8”)

Length with folded stock of 420mm (16.54”)

Weight 2.1kg (4.63lbs)

1365457927_181386_original ag-042 ag-043-2 ag-043 avtomat_konstruktsii_S_G_Simonova_AG-042 avtomat_konstruktsii_Simonova_AG-043_opytnyy_obrazets

Igor Stechkin’s TKB-0116

The TKB entry reminds me very much of the Sig 510 with the straight walled metal magazine, straight pistol grip, and a very thin receiver and those odd halfway handguards. But that isn’t the only feature that set this entry apart. It wasn’t gas operated, but it was short recoil operated with a rotating barrel that locked up during the cycle of operations. To assist with this, the design had to incorporate accelerators, similar to how the Barrett M82 has a massive accelerator apart of its bolt. Ejection was upwards, and it has an ejection port cover as well, something you don’t find on many Soviet small arms. But the problem with the short recoiling barrel was that it seemed to have created more problems than it solved, in that it had to be a muzzle booster as well to compensate for the lack of force pushing the barrel to the rear from the 5.45 recoil. However, this also caused it to be an all in one muzzle brake/flash hider and somewhat of a rudimentary suppressor.

Overall length 743mm (29,3”)

Length with folded stock 458mm (18”)

Weight 2,31kg (5,1lbs)

Rate of Fire of 850 rpm.

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A. Shevchenko’s Smerch

This is the only design that might have only existed in purely prototype form, meaning there might not have even been a firing model created of it. Nonetheless, it was included in the trials and thus deserves to have a mention here. The design of the iron sights appears to be somewhat “SCAR”-ish, but I will give the design credit for incorporating a telescopic sight, something that only the AUG had going for it during the 1970s.

”SMERCH” (means tornado in Russian) was designed in 1977 by A. Shevchenko, who was a student. So this was a project made and financed by a group of students. One of the reasons it didn’t proceed too far was the lack of financing. Some Russian firearms experts claim that there wasn’t even a working prototype of this gun made and the only version which is known of today is a wooden mockup.

This gun was the only bullpup in the trials. The gun was gas operated with long stroke piston. It had a very short bolt carrier group and short bolt stroke distance (only half of the cartridge length) which let it house a full size AK-74 barrel in required dimensions. The receiver was also very short – only 85mm (3.35”). Short travel distance of BCG and lightweight reciprocating parts resulted in a very high rate of fire of 1800rpm (!) … again, it is not clear if it was actually tested or it is a theory based calculation. The way it managed to have such compact BCG is because of

unique locking system with tilting L shaped locking lugs which are forced to lock and unlock the breech by camming surfaces in front trunnion and on bolt carrier.

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 And while we are on the topic of Soviet bullpup designs, this is an excellent Youtube video that will probably turn into a TFB post someday, but in the meantime, enjoy Cold War Soviet Bullpup designs!

I can’t imagine how these designers must have felt like, to have to create a design from scratch for a competition that they all knew they weren’t going to win off the bat. However, looking carefully at some of these designs, and it appears that some of the elements were taken off of them and incorporated into Kalashnikov’s final design. For example, the compensator from the MA, and the stock retaining capsule from the AEK-958, look remarkably similar to their counterparts on the AKSU. But even without these additions, I think we can call it for what it is, competition that was really only about selecting one product.
At the same time all this development and experimentation was happening in the Soviet Union, an eerily similar project was going on at the same time in Czechoslovakia, under the project name “SA-83 Krasa”. Nothing came of it when it comes to service time, but it was made in 5.45x39mm, and is certainly an innovative design worthy of mention.
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Infantry Marine, based in the Midwest. Specifically interested in small arms history, development, and usage within the MENA region and Central Asia. To that end, I run Silah Report, a website dedicated to analyzing small arms history and news out of MENA and Central Asia.

Please feel free to get in touch with me about something I can add to a post, an error I’ve made, or if you just want to talk guns. I can be reached at


  • BattleshipGrey

    The Smerch has always caught my eye since the mag sits so far rearward. It’d be interesting to see a working design on the ejection and next round pick up. Too bad it’s just a wooden mock up.

    • Yeah the Smerch is very interesting, especially since it retains the full barrel length of the AK74. I wonder what the OAL of the rifle was? It looks to be around 20-21″, which puts it closer to the P90 than the AUG in length, while still retaining a full power round.

    • Kivaari

      As the mock up shows, it simply doesn’t have enough room for the bolt or bolt carrier to move. If there is NO room behind the magazine, just how could a bolt extract and feed? It can’t. It is a cute idea that would go over in a TV science fiction show.

      • BattleshipGrey

        Usually you see this in sci-fi video game guns. I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, which is why I want to see the diagram of what they were planning (if they even really had one). I think it would be a real innovation if that type of mechanism could be accomplished.

      • Avery

        The TKB-022 did it with an u-shaped extractor/pusher rod and trap-door style breech-lock. The rounds would be grabbed by the extractor and pushed over the bolt carrier, then the bolt group would angle up and lock. Then, when fired the gas return would open the breech-lock and force the extractor back, where the it would meet an inclined wedge located over the magazine that would cammed the spent casing up the extractor face into a chute to be ejected forward of the rifle and repeat the whole process over again.

        Now, the translation said Smerch’s bolt carrier was half the cartridge length, meaning that it was about an inch in length. Despite it’s short size, there’s definitely not enough room for that on the mockup, making me think the mockup might have been built incorrectly. There’s a space forward of the magazine that looks like part of the magwell, which makes me think someone glued the mockup wrong and it should be shunted forward just a bit, which would give it enough room to likely house a bolt carrier.

      • Avery

        BTW, Alexander Shevchenko, who likely made this gun, is responsible for two other guns that at least reached the physical prototype phase. The PSh-4 pistol, with it’s striker release masquerading as another trigger and weird futuristic ribbed aluminium slide, and the Sartich 308, a plastic-fantastic bullpup rifle that also elicited of “where’s the bolt carrier”.

  • Tritro29

    Excellent Job Miles. 10/10. Everyone wanted the Dragunov, and we ended up with the 74U. Typical CCCP.

    • iksnilol


  • Martin Grønsdal

    they all seem to follow the same aesthetic style. They may dramatically differ inside, but outside… was there a master Yoda in the Soviet Union that laid down the rules for them?

    • ostiariusalpha

      Other than the 5.45×39 magazine, the Dragunov design is as much its own thing as any conventional layout rifle could be expected to appear. As for the others, they all give at least a passing aesthetic nod to the AKM/AK-74, with a few back compatibilities thrown in for common parts, like grips and handguards.

      • Tritro29

        The Dragunov is one of those things that life shows to you, but that you’re not able to grasp in due time so you miss them. That would have probably revolutionized the manual of arms in the USSR. But in the Land of Average, you can’t have excellence.

  • SP mclaughlin

    That TKB looks like an awesome baby SIG/StG 57

  • Anonymoose

    Sergei Simonov was still designing guns in the 1970s? Wow.

  • Riot

    Keeping the standard barrel was a good idea, ambitious to try and make such a design.

  • Kovacs Jeno

    Fantastic article!!!

  • Bob

    Wait, Dragunov tried to make a polymer gun before polymer was cool? Glock should take a gander at his design, just saying…

  • plingr2

    That last weapon is prototype CZ MOR. It is quite modern rifle with telecsopic receiver/barrel, so it is really compact. i have some materials about this rifle. I can translate some info from Czech to English if you want.

    • Avery

      Didn’t this eventually become the BREN SA-803? I recall reading on the history of that project and I remember seeing those photos appear in it’s embryonic stage.

      Also, I know the very last photo is not related to them, but was a project CZ was developing that they attached the Skorpion name to. It had a spring-loaded barrel assembly that would extend to allow the magazine to be loaded into the gun. Really James Bond stuff.

  • borekfk

    “competition that was really only about selecting one product.”

    Kinda reminds me of the M-14 trials.

  • iksnilol

    That Smerch looks awesome.

  • guest

    How about not using the name “krink/krinkov” that has absolutely zero historical basis?

    • Jonathan Ferguson

      You obviously haven’t read Miles’ previous articles.

  • Shocked_and_Amazed✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Wow, the Smerch looks interesting

  • noob

    I love that the Smerch incorporates the firing pin thru hole in the locking mechanism – if the L-shaped locking lug is out of battery the firing pin hole is not aligned with the primer and out of battery discharge is impossible. the HK416 needs a bunch of springs and levers on the tail of the bcg to get the same assurance in firing pin safety.

  • Southpaw89

    Really like that Siminov -042 for some reason, just looks like fun I guess. Any idea of it used the same tilting bolt as the SKS, or was it a rotating bolt?

  • Matt F.

    I would buy all of these. Sergey’s design even has a California legal version, so I bet that would sell very well.

    Anyone else want to start a renaissance AK Design manufacturing company?

  • Kivaari

    Pretty crude and awkward looking. Making combat arms overly small diminishes the ability to deliver effective fire onto the enemy. Small are “fun” to use and carry. I used a Mini Uzi for quite awhile. It was easy to carry and I could easily hit at 100m. It just doesn’t get there with much power. If such guns are for support troops or a self defense gun while packing a sniper rifle or missile launcher they have a place. BUT, going smaller and less effective than the M4 carbine simply has limited value.

  • Kivaari

    A fascinating article. Another good job on subjects we just never see elsewhere.

  • Some of these things look like the inspiration for Warhammer 40k weapons.