LEAKED: Kalashnikov Concern’s New RPK-400 Dual-Feed 5.45mm SAW

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An image of a mysterious new Russian machine gun was leaked to the public recently, during a visit to the Kalashnikov factory by Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov. The weapon is an intriguing dual-feed magazine/belt loading gun that features distinctly un-AK-like underbarrel gas tube, as well as integral top and bottom Picatinny-type rails. Little is known about the weapon besides its name which is reportedly “RPK-400” (Ручной пулемёт Калашникова -400, or “Handheld Kalashnikov Machine Gun 400”) EDIT: That is apparently the name of the modernized RPK-74 that is on the far left in the image

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The new machine gun, reportedly named “RPK-400”, is shown second from the left in this lineup. Note the belt-in-box resting beside it, sporting a mounting bracket clearly designed to fit inside an AK-spec magazine well.

 

It is evident, however, that the weapon is designed to conform to the Russian Army’s MVD’s (thanks Tritro) “Tokar-2” dual-feed 5.45x39mm squad automatic weapon program to replace the RPK-74. Whereas the Americans seem inclined to move away from dual-feed weapons like the Minimi, or at least towards more magazine fed support weapons, the Russians appear to be embracing the concept in earnest.

If the Kalashnikov RPK-400 enters the Tokar-2 competition, it can be expected to face off against Degtyarev’s “Kord-5.45” weapon made to the same requirements. Regardless, both weapons will accompany the Kalashnikov AK-12 as part of the new Russian Federation’s “Ratnik” infantry system EDIT: so far as I know the MVD is not involved in “Ratnik”.

 

Thanks to Retiv and Max for their help identifying this rifle!



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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  • Richard

    It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

  • Garrett

    I wouldn’t say that Russia is embracing the dual feed system while we are moving away from it, more that they realized they need more firepower than a mag fed rifle with a longer barrel, and the US realized that carrying an M249 is the tiring.

    Russia, I believe, picked up the RPK series because it was cheap and easy to carry. US wanted an MG chambered in the same ammo as the issued rifle, much following the traditon of the M1919/M1 Garand and M60/M14. So it is still a different design philosophy, while trying to end up with the same goal.

    • I don’t know, in my experience an RPK-74 isn’t really less tiring than an M249. The RPK is lighter, but it’s way longer which tends to mean more wrist strain.

      Having said that, the RPK-74 would be close to the top of my list of “if I could only own one machine gun…”

      • Major Tom

        As much respect as I have for AK derivative weaponry, the RPK and RPK-74 are NOT anywhere near the top of my list for “if I could only own one machine gun”. They’re basically oversized AK”s with bipods instead of anything that would be useful in the machine gun role.

        I’d be more leaning towards a Pecheneg or M240L or M60E6 or maybe the LSAT light machine gun if that’s still going anywhere.

        • Dracon1201

          “Anything useful for the LMG role,” you mean like the M27 IAR the US is moving into, which is basically the same idea? It’s literally the exact same concept, and it works.

          • Major Tom

            And it never replaced the 249. (They said they would but didn’t.) The M27 is headed down the exact same route as the British L86 LSW. A poor automatic weapon then pressed into the DMR role. It has no magazine depth with only 30 rounds per reload. It lacks a quick change barrel or improved heat resistance and cooling improvements. The rate of fire (850 rpm) is so darned fast that you’ll spend more time reloading than shooting. And despite its impressive accuracy, it’s being pushed into a role that doesn’t require sniper grade accuracy. A SAW is built around the concept of putting a lot of bullets downrange for a long time if necessary. The M27 doesn’t meet that criteria, it’s better off being the general issue rifle of the Marines, not its attempt at a SAW.

          • buzzman1

            Thank you. I’ve been telling people that for a very long time. I couldnt believe it when that Marine General said that the 249 was not accurate enough to be used in combat (paraphrased). MG’s have always been used in area suppression roles. AND also a 200 rd belt is far better than seven 30 round mags when the bullets start flying.

          • brainy37

            The IAR works? Really? We’re experiencing all of the same issues that the RPK has but worse. Reloads are straight down rather than rocking a mag in making it more difficult from the prone position. Full auto is very limited and they’re using the rifles accuracy to suppress rather than automatic fire. Something that the squad can already do with M4/M16a4’s at close and medium ranges. The rate of fire is low thanks to no barrel changes. Even the barrel is shorter than their old M16a4’s. There’s a reason they’re shoehorning it into the DMR role which is following the same path as the British L86 down to the letter.

          • Yup, the IAR was a dumb idea from the beginning. They basically wanted M4A1s for what is almost the Thompson “trench broom” role, but didn’t want to give up their 20″ barrelled rifles with burst limiters for the riflemen. But they didn’t dar just equip, say, fire team and squad leaders with M4A1s (which would make a lot of sense, actually, even if they wanted to keep the M16s as PVT Snuffy’s standard), because there would be a push to dump the M16s for M4s across the board. And the Corps had too much face riding on the line to admit that fixed stock (with a stock designed for offhand target shooting without battle rattle), burst limited rifles are *now* a provably inferior choice to carbines for the average Joe.

            Thus the absurdity of an overbuilt CARBINE being shoehorned into a supposedly LMG role to support RIFLES.

        • Tritro29

          So you would use GPMG’s in a LMG’s/SAW role?
          Original…

          • Major Tom

            It’s done today, it was done 50 years ago. It’ll be done tomorrow. There’s no Law and Custom of War that dictates you must use a common rifleman caliber weapon for the SAW role.

            If it ain’t broke…

          • Tritro29

            Mhh making do with one tool because you don’t have another more performant is exactly what prompted Tokar-2, the RPD/RPK programs.
            Basically as the Japanese say, life is all nails when all you have is a hammer.

        • Jucifer

          They are AK’s with bulged trunnions, a thicker receiver, and a thicker barrel. Not useful in a machine gun role? Sorry but that’s a ridiculous statement, several wars where it’s been used very effectively over a span of decades would say otherwise, namely the Vietnam invasion.

          • Major Tom

            And the RPK has fallen out of favor in Russian service in favor of GPMG’s used in the SAW role. How many RPK-74s did we see in Crimea again? Maybe three? How many Pechenegs and PKM’s did we see again? Practically every pic had at least one.

            The combat record of the RPK series in Afghanistan and Chechnya is abysmal. Unlike say a 249 or PKM or the new requirements for the Tokar-2, the RPK simply cannot hold up to a high intensity firefight. The mag is too shallow, the barrel heats up too fast and can’t be swapped out (and unlike the Pecheneg has no provision for improved heat resistance and cooling) and under most circumstances you can achieve the same performance in accuracy, range and rate of fire using a regular old AK that’s much lighter.

        • Um, I said that because I think they’re fun to shoot, hahah!

          • Major Tom

            Even for funsies, I’d think of a belt fed as much better. At least with a belt-fed you can do your best Rambo imitation for quite a while before running out of ammo.

    • Tritro29

      The RPK was picked because of the fact it was a scaled “up” Kalashnikov system with further range but with less weight to carry than the relatively complex RPD.

      At the time the RPK was introduced we didn’t have another mean to abridge the gap between the heavy SG machine guns and then PK machine gun and the rest of the soldiers firing the M43 cartdrige.

      So basically the rifles were covered by the RPK, which in turn was covered by the PK. You have 3 Kalashnikov systems for the infantry. It’s not only cheaper, its also easier to train your people and have a simple production line.

      This off course wasn’t all that optimal, but it was better than nothing, until the SVD would come.

      • Garrett

        Actually, I’m pretty sure the RPD came first (1945), so the Russians already had a “stop gap” until Kalashnikov created the RPK in 1961.

        Stream lining production makes sense, especially if you use a single source for your products.

        The SVD was created as a DMR type rifle in order to bring range back to troops who were issued AKs and RPKs. Muzzle velocity of the RPK is only 30 some m/s higher than the standard AK, so the idea of the longer barrel on the RPK was for sustained accuracy as the temperature climbs with subsequent rounds.

        As far as the balance of weight, yea I could see it getting tiring since the barrel is further forward of the support hand, but an LMG is (in theory) to be shot from a supported position. Can you shoot it standing? Sure, but I believe you advance a machine gun between positions to provide support for infantry, so you aren’t muscling the weight around as much.

        Just presenting my thoughts is all, I have not served, so my doctrine and principle of use knowledge is probably not 100% accurate.

        • Tritro29

          “The RPK was picked because of the fact it was a scaled “up” Kalashnikov
          system with further range but with less weight to carry than the
          relatively complex RPD.”

          Where do I state that the RPD came after the RPK? There was a program for a light machine gun within the Motorized Rifle Unit. This was supposed to be interoperable and light. The RPD (1943 actually) was a great gun for WW2, but abysmal for the Mass Motorized infantry.

          The RPD was a great light machine gun and was replacing a machine gun that had far more punch (DP 27/28/46). Unfortunately at almost 8 kg empty it wasn’t exactly light and the range was an issue as well.

          Other designs were considered in lieu of RPD (to the point it only began mass introduction by 1949/50) like the Garanin in 7.62×39 and upscaled in 7.62×54.

          The RPD was past its prime and although it proved very good in Vietnam, the beltfed principle for 7.62×39 was an heresy for the top brass.

        • Because the RPD didn’t have a quick change barrel and was expensive to make (it’s simply a scaled down RP46, which was just a belt fed DP, which was an old design that was a milled gun), the RPM was an improvement, as it was cheaper to make, had high parts commonality (pretty much all the replaceable critical parts are AK compatible), was more reliable than the RPD, *and* it was magazine compatible with the AKs, the RPK was a lot better for the Soviets than the RPD.

          It was not, however, ideal. They did look at the idea of a more modern, purpose designed LMG at the time, but decided the technical, schedule, cost, and logistics risks exceeded the benefit , especially given their tactical doctrine for infantry (which was “heavily* biased towards short, intense, assaults by motorized troops, where heat issues wouldn’t be as critical.

    • Jucifer

      This is experimental. The RPK is just fine for a light machine gun and it is guaranteed to be the Russian’s light machine gun for several decades to come.

  • Tritro29

    … Also, it’s a slap in the face to Dragunov, when you know that the RPK-16/400 normal feeding is a Dragunov “inspired” rifle (short stroke action and all).

    As for the Gas tube, it’s virtually identical to the PK/M setting. Very AK.

    • How is something similar to the PK but not the AK, similar to the AK? I am confused.

      • Tritro29

        I thought Kalashnikov, but wrote AK.

        Both are Kalashnikov designs, “blended” here to allow for a system
        that’s very puzzling. I mean “we” were there back in the day, it wasn’t
        interesting.

        And now “we” are back.

        • It was an odd comment to read, because I chose to write “un-AK-like” as opposed to “un-Kalashnikov-like” specifically to avoid those sorts of quibbles.

          Oh, right. Tokar-2 is an MVD program, isn’t it? Those internal distinctions are very opaque to a foreigner like myself, sorry.

          • micmac80

            Thing is Army is not really that much into 5.45 LMG , but MVD would like it for urban and close combat use on their Raids where 7.62 LMG is sometimes just to large.

          • MVD is Ministry of Interior = all of police + Internal Troops. The latter also take part in counter-terrorist military operations, when they happen on domestic soil (which covers most of them for the last 20 years).

            Very recently Internal Troops and various types of “SWAT teams” were separated from Ministry of Interior to form a separate National Guard. But it is, of course, unclear how far along this separation is, and how it would affect internal weapon procurements initiated by MVD for its military branches (obviously in this case, being a machine gun). For the moment I think it’s logical to assume this procurement is meant for the Internal Troops, MVD special operations personnel and “SWAT”. Not Army.

  • Sasquatch

    I’ll take two please.

  • 11b

    I don’t think you know the meaning of the word leaked. Teased, perhaps?

    • Kalashnikov did not deliberately release information on the weapon, and the weapon is probably slated for a formal announcement at Eurosatory coming up, so “leaked” is entirely appropriate.

  • forrest1985

    Second from left okay, but can someone tell me what the weapon on the immediate left is please? Those dont look like standard iron sights to me???

    • Modernized RPK-74.

      • Tritro29

        Not a modernized RPK, but the SAW version of the AK-400. Needless to say, it’s rather and RPD, than and RPK…yes those are aperture sights because the system is less violent than the AK-system. The bolt has a buffer/swamp point. The Dust cover is sturdier and fixed with a serrating lever (like RK 95/SVD) allowing for an integral rail and can retain zero.

        Basically its a Dragunov action in a Kalashnikov skin.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    Damn the NFA and Gun Control Act of 68! Man these would be fun!

  • So the issue with the RPD is that it did not have a quick change barrel and over heated quickly yet the Russians did not seem to learn any thing from it and have decided to have another beltfed gun w/o a QCB?

    • Dracon1201

      Just like their PKM replacement…

    • Tritro29

      RPD didn’t need QCB (DP didn’t have QCB either because of slow ROF) it wasn’t supposed to fire like hell. The only GPMG the RP46 had QCB, but was a Rotniy Pulemet (Company Machine gun). The RP46 was also a kind of dual fed weapon as it could feed from both “Gramafon” and belts.

      • My post was to illicit discussion on the point of the RPD and QCB issue because these days who carries a spare barrel for a Mg used in the SAW role? I find it funny that the RPD was ridiculed due to the lack of QCB and over heating yet the gun that effectively replaced it, the RPK, does not have one either and yet it is deemed acceptable. The pro RPK people will point out that its magazine fed but so was the Bren/ZB series and numerous other machine guns with QCB systems. Even the Marines with their recent adoption of a new support weapon does not have a QCB. So will the critics of the RPD come out and tell us how it needs a QCB or it is no good?

        • Tritro29

          Well the RPK is still regarded as failure in some circles. But it isn’t at all to be employed as a PK/PKM. The Pro-RPK people (and I am up to some point one) will also point that the RPK is half the weight of the RPD loaded. Can be used with mags. Bren loaded is heavier than the RPD loaded.

          Soviet big wigs have never criticized the RPD for its lack of CQB, but for a lot of other things.

          • Of course, a Bren is chambered for a full size rifle cartridge and *designed* for use in a “GPMG” role (in fact, Spain did a belt fed variant of the Bren).

            Aside from the feed system, the Bren/Vz26 family is a fine GPMG, and probably the finest “full power” LMGs ever made. And it is accurate enough for the DMR role when on single shot and equipped with an optic (MkI Brens had a scope rail, and the No32 family of telescopes used by British snipers for fifty ears was originally designed and intended for use on the Bren).

            It is, however, heavier and ridiculously expensive to manufacture, compared to more modern designs, because it is a milled receiver with a lot of individual internal machining steps to make it what it is. And that phenomenal accuracy can actually be a shortcoming – if the gunner (or the tripod) doesn’t let the gun “dance” a little, it’s actually *too* accurate for most MG work. LOL

          • Tritro29

            I would love to see how the Spaniards solved the sight issue and structural stiffness issue with the BREN to make it belt-fed without making it a pig and half. The British varians were all above 13kg. And the Czechs had to redesign the zb 30 into the vz 52.

          • Likely they did the same kinds of changes as the Czechs or the Brits (who used a heavily modified Bren to create the .280 Taden MG after WWII, which be switched between an LMG layout with buttstroke nad pistol grip, and a LMG layout on a tripod with spade grips. Worked well, but couldn’t be reworked for 7.62x51mm NATO without having to start from scratch).

            The Taden, I know, had a pretty conventional hinged top cover and centerline sites, like any other belt fed.

  • I spoke with him about that before this article went live. I think you’re right!

  • OK, so my sources say that RPK-400 is the name of the modernized RPK-74 on the far left. We don’t know what the name of Kalashnikov’s Tokar-2 entry is yet.

  • Tritro29

    Hum First image is at ZID….A545 in tow.