Russian SF in Palmyra Highlighted

Recent media have highlighted the presence of Russian Special Operations forces in Syria, and particularly around the area of the highly contested battlefield of Palmyra. According to sources, the SF soldiers pictured aren’t the famed Spetsnaz, but instead are of the SSO, another contingent of special operations forces organized very similar to Spetsnaz units. The release of these public materials could serve a strategic purpose as these SF troops are probably a Tier Two or even Tier Three level SF asset. Thus, when looking at these materials we may come to many conclusions about their equipment and small arms, but the issue items of the Tier One guys is still kept very secret. So we might have some idea about what Russian SF troops are using, but instead might also be far off our mark when it comes down to the actual capabilities of Russia’s elite forces. One trend that looks to be evolving is the usage of suppressors on the issue 5.45x39mm Kalashnikov AK74Ms and precision rifles but also on the RPK74 Light Machine Guns also in use. PKMs mounted with optics is increasing as well, I’m sure suppressors will be the next addition. Another trend that is interesting is the dependence on U.S. or European equipment as opposed to Russian designed material. I must caution that just because we see some of this equipment doesn’t mean that it is of the original manufacturer, and may indeed be excellent copies made in Russia. This does bring into question the quality of said equipment. A prime example is of some of the EOTechs in use. Simply because it looks like an EOTech from afar, doesn’t mean it is one, and thus doesn’t mean that it might have IR capabilities or be able to maintain zero/parallax like the currently made EOTechs after their scandal with U.S. SOCOM command.

This soldier is particularly interesting because he has wrapped an attachment that usually goes around a rifle’s buttstock to hold spare ammunition around his left shoulder. Although innovative and I’m sure making the rounds easier to access, I question his ballistic knowledge. It is commonly known within Marine Corps Scout Sniper communities to never expose your ammunition to direct sunlight because this will raise the temperature of the case and the gunpowder inside of it. Raising the temperature will change the trajectory of the rounds when fired. Because the rounds are now much hotter than when you zeroed the rifle. It could change the trajectory enough for a shooter to miss his target completely at long range.

Notice the Steyr Mannlicher rifle and Safariland belt holster for this shooter’s handgun. I’m not familiar with the NVG mounting plate as it must be a Russian design.



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


  • int19h

    Is it a given that these are special forces, and not mercenaries? It’s pretty common knowledge that quite a few of those fighting on separatist side in Donbass were later recruited for Syria; but those guys aren’t “officially” in the military.

    • TDog

      They could be both. If I recall correctly, a lot of Russian military personnel, especially special forces and airborne, were “hired” by the Wagner Group to operate in Ukraine and Syria. So while they’re not officially Russian military, it’s all a matter of paperwork.

      Russia’s “Little Green Men” strategy at work.

      • int19h

        No, I meant genuine mercs. There were still plenty of volunteers in Donbass militias, and some of them haven’t, shall we say, got along well with the rebel governments there, and had to leave on a short notice. Some of those guys ended up on contract in Syria.

        • TDog

          From what I’ve read, the soldiers for hire in the Donbass region are next to useless – they bunch up, exercise little if any fire discipline, and are generally no good at their jobs. They were hired for bulk and presence, but little else.

          I would be surprised if very many of them were transferred to Syria, at least for any meaningful fighting. Putin has plans there and sending a bunch of useless violent drunks would be counterproductive. Maybe they were sent there to provide base security or man checkpoints. Otherwise I would be more inclined to think that the Russian contractors in Syria were unflagged special forces operating under the aegis of a PMC.

  • Stephen Paraski

    They mention keeping them out of Kaliningrad, sure some Germans are still pissed about that.

  • Major Tom

    Speaking of “Polite Green People”, are they sure that camouflage pattern will work in the desert? Woodland green like that kinda sticks out really noticeably.

    Yes I know Syria is a place that has more colors than desert tan.

  • 11b

    Just remember- anyone can wear cool-guy gear and look high speed.

  • Oggy

    I was about to write what Mazlum wrote… one small correction is that spetsnaz means special purpose troops hence the soldiers described as spetsnaz may not even be special forces. An example would be a paratrooper who only has a additional parachute training along with regular GI training and is not in a sense “special forces” operative as seen in the West.

  • micmac80

    Suppresed stuff was/is a thing in SSSR decades before going ‘mainstream’ in the west .Use of suppresed weapons by the Russians is so widespread that western militaries are not even remotely close to it. the evenmake suppresed mortars and grenade launchers.

  • Christopher Wallace

    wouldnt want to go up against those weapons

  • Chris Schmidt

    Jeeez….how many ITAR violations can you fit into one photograph?

  • bsk

    Well trained elite operators, but
    western “copypaste”, speacially USA spec ops .Doctrine,gear,tactics, it seems that they want to be like TIER1 but they are forced to use the AK symbol.

    • bsk

      Didnt mention varius ELCAN optics.

    • Stuki Moi

      Perhaps, at least part of, the reason they are in Syria to begin with? 🙂

      No substitute for actual action fore refining systems and tactics, after all. And US units have had lots of that recently, compared to most Russian and European peers.

      • Mazlum

        Russia has been involved in constant war and conflict since the break up of the Soviet union (and the Soviet Union in turn had been in involved in other wars for decades).
        The first and second chechen war, the war in Dagestan and in Ingusthia, and the ongoing insurgency in north caucasus just to mention a few.

        It is true Russia itself calls this “police operations”, but thats simply semantics as they will not admit to an actual civil war within the borders of the federation (but to call fx. the events in Chechnya anything other than war is a real stretch…).

        We get very little news coverge about these things in the west, but it does exist and its very much living conflicts (fx. the Russian side lost around 2500 soldiers/police in the north caucasian uprisning between 2009-2015).

        And except for these “internal conflicts” theres of course the war with Moldova 1992, with Georgia in 92-93, and again in 2008, the invasion of Ukraina 2014 and so on, and so on,
        Russia has no lack of experience in waging war (especially within the federations borders, and many of the SSO operatives came from the FSB, veterans of the insurgencys in the caucasus).

        • Stuki Moi


          To respond to bsk, are you aware of any area where their choice of “doctrine, gear, tactics” differ meaningfully from those of US equivalents? It’s possible that the similarities he noted, are simply due to both cultures arriving semi independently at the same conclusions about what works. But with that much independent experience, at least some in environments different from where “we” have been, you’d think there were some areas where “us” and “them” just agree to disagree.

    • iksnilol

      Well, did ya consider that stuff that worked for the Americans also worked for the Russians?


    • FWIW

      I would be shocked if anyone could point me to a single source from anywhere in the Russian military where they bemoan having to use the AK platform, particularly the modernized AK-74, as their standard infantry rifle. Yes there is a certain amount of national pride wrapped up in it, but everything I’ve ever read on the topic indicates the Russians have always been quite pleased with their AKs, prefer them them greatly to other options, and not without a significant amount of justification quite aside from its function as a symbol of national pride.

    • n0truscotsman

      It is well known, even by Russian military circles, that western gear such as boots, clothing, LCE, helmets, holsters, etc are *lightyears* ahead of what is domestically produced. Especially compared to what such units used in Afghanistan in the 80s and Chechnya in the 90s, gear that was utterly primeval (Adidas shoes were to Soviet spetsnaz back then like what Crye is to modern USSOCOM).

      Some of the body armor is more akin to a medieval torture devise than something that could be worn to protect your hide. PASGT bad? ha! that system might as well be a new eagle plate carrier compared to Soviet-era body armor.

      However, as Ratnik demonstrates, theyre changing considerably. It was inevitable.


    How’d you guys miss that it’s a PKP

  • BrandonAKsALot

    Thank you. I came to post a couple of these exact points. This is why I generally skip over anything written by him, because it’s riddled full of misinformation and poor guesses generally.

  • ProLiberty82

    So high speed that cheek weld and parallax don’t apply to them.

    • iksnilol

      Cheek weld is primarily a western obsession. If you spend two seconds thinking you’d realize a bunch of crap in your face (visors, masks and helmets) get in the way.

      Thus, it’s an overblown issue by people with nothing better to do.

      • ProLiberty82

        Oh it’s a very real issue, I suggest you read about parallax. If the Russians don’t care about greater consistency than 5 MOA at best or completely missing targets beyond 150 meters then good for them I suppose but it’s far from optimal. I can see the issue with visors and some tragically designed gas masks but those are exceptions and not the norm, so it doesn’t explain some of those truly Bubba-tastic setups in that footage.

        And yes, I’ve shot rifles, while wearing a helmet, gas mask, Peltors, NVG, 40kg back pack in all positions except upside down with skis on my feet in a blizzard, if a lowly conscript like me can pull that off with out having to put his face half a meter off his gun I’m sure these SF guys can do it too. But then again, maybe they are “So high speed that cheek weld and parallax don’t apply to them”

        • Tritro29

          You should check your privilege. And also check the default Ak stock. You’d learn so much. For free. Ian from INRange did a small explanation about the “infamous” cheek weld and why Americans don’t have a clue about the way we do it in Soviet Russia. It’s the Obzor+Ak74M segment. You should really check it out.

          • ProLiberty82

            I should check my privilege? Um okay? Actually I was considering a Obzor but waited and got the PK01-VS in stead specifically because of it being better in consideration of cheek weld, parallax and height over bore. I just don’t get why they don’t use the PK01-VS or BelOMO PO 4×17 etc when they’re cheaper than the Aimpoint Comp’s, Eotech’s and Elcan’s (or Obzor for that matter) and would be more optimal for their guns, to be honest it kind of strikes me as more of a “me too” thing trying too look like the western SF guys in fear of looking outdated.

          • Tritro29

            Ow, well you just didn’t get the point. The mounts on most Russian firearms sit too high for American taste. One of the complaints against the G36 and the SCAR has been the fact sights would sit too high. While the Scar has a cheek raiser. The G36 has not, nor does the average AK. However a chin weld works as well. And helps with the Mauser sights and typical Soviet mounts. As for collimators, Sso picks their own poison for their needs. This being a photo op it doesn’t mean much. Meanwhile the other Russian SF being there that don’t have the luck to be paraded like this don’t get two f about looking “delta” as we saw in the past with US pictures of slain serviceman and his rifle and sights. But sure you tell us about guns.

          • Tritro29

            Also PK01-VS is utter garbage compared to the Obzor. And I’m no Obzor fan.

          • SPQR9

            Down arrow for “check your priviledge” cliche.

          • Tritro29

            Why, criticizing other professionals while not getting their point is exactly that.

          • 2805662

            Maybe he meant “cheek your privilege?” Was talking about cheek weld, after all.

        • Tritro29

          search their channel with this caption: Review: Russian 1P63/PK1 Obzor combat optic

      • n0truscotsman

        Cheek weld is a *marksmanship* thing, thus, very american

        But for the conditions you described above, wearing full battle rattle, it really becomes a luxury more than anything.

    • Wow!

      Always remember to Cheeki before you breeki some STALKER for his tourist delight.

  • iksnilol

    And what do you think happens to rounds stored on the buttstock?

  • Psychofan Vev game’a

    May I ask you for the place where I can get some knowledge on types of protective equipment used in Russia ? Like those Fort’s, what are those and who uses them

  • Don Ward

    I see Miles is getting a good and proper pranging over this. I’ll just add his use of the terms Tier 2 and Tier 3 operator – and doing so unironically – is almost as embarrassing as his affectation of mispronouncing Iraq and Afghanistan on purpose.

    • CommonSense23

      I really wish people would stop using the Tier system. It never meant what people thought it was.

    • John Eden


  • Don Ward

    Clearly RUSSKIE operators use Arshins as their unit of measure, making them Tier .7112 level operators.

  • Ark

    That last screenshot is something out of a freakin’ video game.

    Am I the only one getting seriously unnerved by the prospect of more US ground forces moving into Syria, in addition to the ongoing air campaign, knowing that Russian SOF is on the ground and engaged in combat? I know Syria is a big place, and the Russians are more concerned with propping up Assad than fighting ISIS in the eastern part of the country, but I don’t like the idea of sharing a warzone with them.

  • int19h

    Why do they cover up their shoulder patches?

  • Tritro29

    All these are purely for Show. These are the same way US used to stage shots in the 90’s for agitprop. They’re all decked in multicam, taking improbable firing positions and doing stuff they wouldn’t do just to look “pro” for the masses. As a Russian, I have no sympathy for such stuff, it’s useless and we just don’t need Hollywood badly scripted pokazuha. But alas, we’re supposed to look “pro” and the Number 1 “pro’s” are the Americans. So you have this crap.

  • John Eden

    Geez. Would it hurt for the author to do a little bit of research?

  • FulMetlJakit

    Bipod Kord FTW

  • n0truscotsman

    OMG Russian agent!!%^&!((*!!!

  • Flounder

    TFB should make a comment of the day award just because of this comment.

  • Uniform223

    I like the ATACS

  • James Young

    I think they could post your comment as an article. Interesting video too, I mean it started as a Russian version of Survivor: Syria, or the Russian version of Top Shot (or maybe a rehearsal for Deadliest Warrior?), but it did have a lot of gear and weapons Russian operators are using, so that was cool. A little long though

  • Medet Rayimzhan

    Mazlum is right, but however, Usually when people in post soviet countries say just Spetznaz – we mean SOF of the GRU of the MOD (General staff). They are the Tier 1 troops of the MOD, that act in fields, steppes, mountains and so on. Main purpose – sabotage, diversion abroad. So this guys on video – are spetznaz.
    The FSB/KGB alpha and vimpel are more for urban warfare. They are also Tier 1, but have different tasks around the country (domestic) GRU spetznaz do not act in cities.
    Also there are spetznaz of natinal guard, police, infantry, navy and etc. Each have different purposes.

    Regarding the influx of the NATO firearms and accessories – yes, why not? Why would they invent a wheel again? The amounts are small, and it is easier to buy than start production on their own.

  • Dickson Ly

    The SSG 08 has the optional NVG rail, it’s an accessory from Steyr but they don’t list this part on their commercial products catalog.