Kalashnikov Concern’s newest weapon releases have received quite a lot of attention since they were first shown off at the ARMY 2016 military and technology forum in Moscow, and as the conference winds down, I want to take a more thorough pass through four of these new products from the company. Since we published announcements for three of these new weapons, Maxim Popenker, gun expert and TFB contributor, has published more detailed descriptions of the RPK-16, MA, and SVK rifles on his website, Modern Firearms. Let’s take a look at what he has to teach us about these new weapons:
The RPK-16 is being designed as a potential replacement for the RPK-74 squad support weapon, and represents a much more radical departure from previous Soviet and Russian support weapons. Instead of a long, heavy 590mm (23.2″) barrel, the RPK-16 uses a much shorter 370mm (14.6″) barrel, which is changeable – not fixed – with a 500mm (19.7″) unit. This new rifle shaves 0.7 kg (1.5 lbs) off the previous model, and augments the firepower of the rifle squad with not only the same 30 and 45 round stick magazines as the previous 74 series, but a new 96 round drum as well.
Like its cousin the AK-12(400), the RPK-16 sports a folding and collapsing buttstock, as well as integrated top and bottom Picatinny rails for optics, foregrips, and bipods, as well as removable side mounted rail segments.
From the LiveJournal blog Chief Popiaritsya, a shooting video of the RPK-16:
If the RPK-16 and AK-12(400) are modernized orthodoxy, then the MA is one of the forgotten “might-have-beens” of the firearms world revenant. The MA is heavily influenced by a previous weapon of the same name, the Dragunov MA of 1975, which was an ambitious competitor to the now iconic AKS-74U “Krinkov”. This new incarnation of the original MA sports the same Dragunov-style 3-lug bolt, П-shaped low-profile upper receiver, and short-stroke gas operated mechanism as the original, but mates it to a thoroughly modern-looking polymer housing. The original MA’s extensive use of polymer and composite materials was somewhat ambitious for the manufacturing capabilities of the Soviet Union in the late 1970s, but today Kalashnikov Concern is fully embracing the advantages of the design with this new, slick-looking compact assault rifle. The new MA sports a low profile folding and collapsing buttstock, recessed ambidextrous selector levers, side-swappable charging handle, and integrated top and bottom – and removable side mounted – Picatinny-type rails. The MA is come again to take back the compact assault rifle throne from the AKS-74U, and also targets direct action, VIP protection, and close quarters roles with its substantially improved versatility compared to the Krinkov.
In physical dimensions, folded, the MA is less than 20″ long, and weighs just over 5.5 pounds (2.5 kg) unloaded!
In the United States, the Dragunov family of rifles can unfortunately no longer be imported, which makes the SVD – a fairly common sight in other parts of the world – an almost unattainable unicorn and the object of much coveting here in America. As if to rub salt in our wounds (how could they!), Kalashnikov Concern has announced an equally unattainable successor to the venerable SVD, called the SVK. Interestingly, the SVK is reportedly unrelated to a similar-looking development announced earlier this year, called “SK-16”, which has been cancelled. In fact, previously we reported a rifle that now appears to be an early SVK prototype as an earlier model of the SK-16, so similar are the two rifles in appearance!
However, there are definite differences between them. The SK-16’s receiver was longer and bulkier than the SVK’s, and looked harder to manufacture. Its handguard showed no obvious operating rod system, and the rifle was reported to be – of all things – a gas trap design! The SVK in contrast is very Dragunov – a three-lug rotating bolt coupled to a short-stroke gas piston, housed in an MA-style “backbone” upper receiver. Two versions – one in 7.62x54mmR, and the other in 7.62x51mm – were shown off, which reportedly have very high parts commonality with one another.
The SVK to me looks like a very promising design. Although the aluminum receiver prototypes showed off at the forum came with a weight tag of a fairly porky (by modern standards) 4.2 kg (9.3 lbs) unloaded, sources report that polymer receivers for the rifle are in development, which should substantially reduce that figure.
Many of Kalashnikov’s newest products are in a relatively early stage of development, and it should also be remembered that these are internal corporate developments from KC, not government programs as we’d expect from Russian development in the past. Therefore, the future of these new weapons is still uncertain, although Kalashnikov Concern surely has high hopes for each of them.