New Russian 9.6x53mm Lancaster Cartridge and .366 TKM News

The idea of .366 TKM cartridge was accepted really well in the Russian shooting community. What makes it unique for them is that firearms chambered in this caliber have partially rifled barrels which qualify as a shotgun in Russia and don’t require 5 year wait period for the first-time gun owners to obtain a rifled firearm. That rifled portion (about 135mm or so) is considered a built-in rifled choke (a.k.a. Paradox choke). In other words, they can buy these sort of small caliber slug cartridges and guns right off the shelf and still have somewhat rifle grade accuracy and power at moderate ranges (100 to 300 meters). In the video below a camera travels down the .366 TKM barrel (starting from the muzzle). Note how riflings start to disappear at some point and the bore becomes completely smooth.

The above-mentioned benefits of the .366 TKM eventually lead to the development of a new caliber built with the same concept – 9.6x53mm Lancaster. Also, the .366 TKM itself has gained more popularity. There are more and more Molot rifles chambered in this caliber as well as ammunition types and components introduced for reloaders. Let’s talk about each of these subjects separately.

9.6x53mm Lancaster

A couple of weeks ago Russian “Kalashnikov” Gun Magazine showed a sneak peek of the new cartridge called 9.6x53mm Lancaster. It is based on the 7.62x54R case necked up to the 9.6mm caliber.

The rumors around the 9.6x53mm Lancaster cartridge were floating around a long time. At first, people were calling it .411 TKM, which was wrong. Where that name came from is unclear. Probably it is a made up one by people who thought that the bigger brother of the .366 TKM should be a .40 caliber one and called it accordingly. Anyway, in the Q&A video conference arranged by Molot, the company officials addressed that misconception and announced that the new cartridge will be called 9.6x53mm Lancaster.

9.6x53mm Lancaster.    Image courtesy of Mikhail Degtyaryov of “Kalashnikov” Gun Magazine

As described above, firearms chambered in .366 TKM have about 135 millimeters (5.3″ or so) of riflings from the muzzle end. In the case of the 9.6x53mm Lancaster, it is a bit different. The new cartridge is designed to be used in oval bore barrels. It is a rifling type pioneered in the 1850s by an English gentleman named Charles William Lancaster – hence the name of the cartridge: 9.6x53mm Lancaster.

According to Molot officials, the 9.6x53mm Lancaster works at higher pressures compared to the .366 TKM, that’s why having a built-in rifled choke with conventional riflings would generate dangerous pressure increase where the bullet engages the riflings. They say, that the Lancaster oval bore is more suitable to handle the higher pressures of the 9.6x53mm cartridge. In the above image, you can see the comparison of different rifling styles among which is also the Lancaster oval bore. And that oval bore still retains the advantage of being considered as a smoothbore by the Russian law.

Vepr rifle chambered in 9.6x53mm Lancaster

Reportedly there will be Mosin-Nagant rifles rebarreled in this caliber as well as new Vepr rifles. Possibly, newly built bolt action rifles in this caliber will be introduced too. Most of these new firearms, as well as the 9.6x53mm Lancaster cartridge itself, will probably be officially introduced during the Arms & Hunting 2017 expo in Moscow in October 2017.

.366 TKM Developments

As I said, this cartridge gained huge popularity among Russian shooters. And the proof of that is not only the huge amount of discussions of the caliber in Russian online resources but also the introduction of new products concerning this new cartridge.

Molot itself keeps showing new rifles chambered in this caliber. Anong them is an AK-based hunting rifle called Vepr Pioneer VPO-212-01 shown in the image below.

Molot has also recently introduced a new rifle called VPO-213 chambered in .366 TKM. It is based on the RPK receiver and comes with a couple of upgrades. It features a Picatinny rail on the dust cover for close quarter low/no magnification optics mounting. The gun also retains the side optics rail, which is a more robust platform and is suggested for mounting magnified optics for precision shooting. The rifle/shotgun also features a folding stock, safety selector with a thumb lever, chrome lined bore and RPK-style flash hider.

VPO-213

Another new Molot rifle with quick change barrel feature that I wrote about earlier (see the image below) will also have a barrel option chambered in the .366 TKM caliber. The shooting community also waits for the earlier shown VSS Vintorez in .366 TKM to hit the shelves of the stores.

The popularity of the cartridge lead some gunsmiths in Russia to make and sell reloading hand tools for the .366 TKM. I think one of the US reloading equipment manufacturers should start making .366 TKM dies. That would sell like hotcakes in the Russian market and would also boost the reloading presses and other equipment sales.

People even develop DIY methods for necking up the 7.62x39mm cartridge cases to make .366 TKM ones. In the video below, a man basically places a 5.45x39mm case into the 7.62x39mm case and necks up the latter by hitting the former with a hammer.

The only manufacturer of this cartridge (Techcrim), also recently introduced reloading components for this caliber – bullets, cases, primers and powder. Earlier, when this cartridge was new, they also showed a weird looking bullet made of a sort of glued together birdshot pellets. That was supposed to work as a shot load. Recently, Techcrim introduced .366 caliber shot projectiles which are made in a more “traditional” way with birdshot pellets captured in a polymer bullet-shaped sabot/container.

I don’t think these shot loads will become popular though. First, the whole idea behind this cartridge is to have something as close to a rifle as possible. Second, the small amount of the shot will barely be useful for any application. Third, the rifled portion of the barrel will spread the shot all over the place resulting in an extremely poor accuracy and donut shaped shot patterns.

Techcrim has published some shot spread images (see the above image) which seem to be good at first glance. However, the company says that these were shot from a smooth bore test barrel. That being said, I don’t understand why they show the smoothbore pattern to the customers whose firearms have the built-in rifled choke.

Historical Background of the Concept

Russian firearms designer Vladimir Fedorov in his book called “The Gunsmithing on the Verge of the Two Eras” (“Оружейное Дело на Грани Двух Эпох”) talks about his experiments with a similar concept (Volume 1, Chapter 10, Page 140). In the first quarter of 20th century, he was experimenting with increasing the mid-bore pressure in an attempt of gaining more muzzle velocity within the limits of existing powders. He offered to make half-rifled barrels with only one full twist length being rifled from the muzzle (9.45″ for the 7.62x54R). Interestingly, 4.45″ of that rifled portion was the leade – the portion where the rifling starts to appear until it gradually gets into its full depth. That is something extremely long for a leade. It was made so to have the already accelerated bullet to engage the riflings as gently as possible. Otherwise, it would generate extremely high pressures resulting in barrel failures. So the actual full-depth rifled section was the remaining 5″ long portion.

Image by bisonballistics.com

Sestroretsk Arsenal (the manufacturer of Mosin-Nagant rifles) made several such half-rifled Mosin Nagant barrels for Fedorov’s tests. By test firing these barrels, Fedorov managed to get 25-30 m/s (about 80 to 100 fps) of muzzle velocity increase. The accuracy tests with round nose bullets even proved to be comparable to the conventional fully rifled barrels. However, Spitzer bullets showed extremely poor accuracy with these half rifled barrels. That made Fedorov abandon the idea and halt the further tests of the concept.

Although Fedorov’s experiments and the .366 TKM pursue different goals, from the mechanical standpoint they were executed pretty similarly.


That’s all the news concerning these unusual ammunition/firearm systems. We’ll keep our readers informed concerning further development of this concept. Please let us know about your thoughts in the comments section below.





Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at TFBHrachyaH@gmail.com


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  • A.WChuck

    Hrachya, you always bring us interesting things to read.

    • Hrachya H

      Glad to hear you like my articles!

      • Major Tom

        It’s true, like Ronaldo you bring things that are beyond just interesting or worth making simple snarky comments about.

        Unlike the obsession with AR’s and Glocks demonstrated by folks who know who they are but shall remain unnamed.

  • PK

    While I’m glad there’s still plenty of research and development into
    things like this, I’d love to have commercial options inside the USA. It makes me sad that every avenue I’ve tried for bringing in commercial 9-9.6x54mmR ammo has failed, badly.

    • Tassiebush

      I find myself wondering about if there is a possibility of a new generation smoothbore based on centrefire long actions
      Points i ponder include:
      -at the very least shot loads should duplicate a .410 in performance but with the ability to handle higher pressure perhaps smaller sized shot travelling at higher velocity could deliver similar power to a larger heavier cartridge. (this would need to be pretty hard shot)
      -what could be achieved bringing fletchettes into the world of sporting arms?
      -Would a single fletchette in a sabot be capable of rifle level accuracy?
      -Would a bunch of little fletchettes hold a useful pattern for a longer distance?
      -it seems from the discussion around .223timbs that sabots enable cast (wheel weight) projectiles to travel at very high speeds while still being accurate so unlike a lot of previous military fletchette research, dedicated hunting fletchettes could probably be made quite cheaply.

      • Dougscamo

        That is what I call think outside the box! Especially the saboted .223 cast out of wheelweights….

        • Tassiebush

          Yeah Ostariusalpha posted a link to cast boolits on the. 223timbs thread where a poster talked about it. It was really interesting! 1moa from a cast .224 50grain projectile in a sabot from a 3006 at 4000fps! I know $20 gets me enough wheel weights so cause me sciatica lifting it and the sabots cost very little each so it would be very cheap per projectile. Seems full of potential to replace centrefire .22 roles. Yet another one gun to do the role of them all to go with all my other ones…

  • Sean

    Geez that’s an ingenious way to get around draconian firearms laws. As Jeff Goldbloom famously said, “Uh, uh, Life will…. Uh…. find a way.” 🤣

    • Cal S.

      Sir, there are entirely too few ‘Uhs’. Please amend directly, forthwith, and post haste.

      -Cal S.
      Personal Representative, Jeff Goldbloom, blessed be his name

    • RazorHawk

      Yes, it may be useless in the USA, but developments like this could help gun owners in other countries with “shotgun only” rules.

      • int19h

        There are still many states that ban everything but shotguns (and sometimes pistol-caliber levers) for hunting, right here in US. I do wonder how this thing would work there, legally speaking. I mean, they don’t ban rifled chokes, so…

        • Anon. E Maus

          There’s been development on that in the US.

          Savage makes their Model 220, it’s a 20-Gauge bolt-action shotgun with a rifled bore, for using specialized spitzer slugs. Since it’s in a shotgun shell chambering, it’s not legally a rifle, and is thus legal to hunt with in places like Delaware. In effect, it’s like a bolt-action rifled musket with how it chucks out a really heavy and large bore bullet, would absolutely be fine for deer and hog.

          They also make it in 12-Gauge, the Model 212.

          • Anon. E Maus

            Speaking of which, Remington I think made a variant of their 700 which was a bolt-action musket in the very literal sense.

            It’s loaded from the muzzle like you would a musket, you could even use smokeless powder, and then you pull back the ‘bolt’, and insert a rifle primer which would connect to the chamber, in effect doing what a percussion cap does on a caplock musket. It comes with a loading rod fitting under the barrel and everything, I believe it was .50 caliber

  • noob

    Interesting. So, why the rimmed case for a magazine fed, uh, weapon? Do all “shotguns” need to have rimmed case ammo?

    • Tassiebush

      My understanding is it is mostly for converting existing surplus service rifle platforms so these rounds have these cartridges as their parent round. I would be interested in this in a rimless case.

    • Samuel Millwright

      It’s a blown out 7.62x54r case basically and since molot vepr etc have been making and selling x54r “ak’s” to americans for years…

      It’s already in their repertoire, AND VEPR got added to the sanctioned companies list and thus prohibited from selling their wares to the US in any way. This means that they now have excess production capacity and need revenue to replace at least SOME of what their Us sales used to bring in.

      • jay

        Vepr is Ukrainian company. Why is it it be sanctioned?

        • Green Hell

          It’s not Ukrainian, it’s Russian, from Molot factory in Vyatskie Polyani, they were making RPK’s for decades.
          The only Ukranian “Vepr” i know is some odd AK-74 bullpup convertion featured in CoD Ghosts.

    • Green Hell

      It’s just for easy rechambering of existing 7,62×54 R weapons, like Veprs, Mosins and (hopefuly, fingers crossed) SVD.

  • Dougscamo

    ” hitting the former with a hammer”….Patrick should love this!

  • James Ivy

    30-30 for the wrong reason!? Shows that with Draconian bullshit there is always a way. Enough said

  • RazorHawk

    Could this be the start of a golden age of gun ownership in Russia?

    I hope so. And i hope other countries that are “shotgun only” for civilians will follow suit.

    • Green Hell

      .336 TKM guns (like converted AKM’s and SKS) definetly sparked a lot of interest in Russian gun community and attracted a lot of people who didn’t need a shotgun but couldn’t buy a rifle before.

      • Anon. E Maus

        I love it when people just skirt around silly laws like that.

    • int19h

      FWIW, Russia is not “shotgun only” for civilians. But you have to get a shotgun-only license first, and then after several years you can get one for rifles. There is also a limited number of guns of different categories that you can own, so this also helps with that.

  • Denny

    If I understand this right, it is an attempt to start up with lower pressure and maintain it at steadier (with lesser continuous drop) level as bullet proceeds thru the bore and meets resistance in form of rifling; with resulting effect close to conventional rifle shot. Legally, it certainly makes sense, if technically I am not sure.

  • Legge

    Any word on bullet weight/ velocity for the 9.6 Lancaster?

    • Kirill_Z

      14,8 grams (about 228 grains). Advertized muzzle velocity 750 m/s (about 2460 fps).

  • Михаил Митрофанов

    I’m sorry, it’s a machine translation
    Since the advent of the VPO-209 plant Molot started a very interesting weapon changes.
    For manufactured weapons, they began to raise an combat of trigger mechanism instead of a civil one. The only difference is that there is no possibility to automatically fire. But all the details of combat trigger mechanism that is on the rifles (АК74М) and machine guns (РПК74М)

    • Mehul Kamdar

      Thank you, Gospodin Mitrofanov! I’m just thinking that the round in a double rifle (sorry, oval bore shotgun) would be absolutely superb to hunt game with! Considerably shorter in overall length than a self-loader, less complex, and it would balance beautifully…

  • I would like to make a note regarding the “Lancaster” designation. It’s kind of important, because of potential confusion.

    There is a company named “MOLOT ARMS”, which is entirely un-affiliated with the large MOLOT factory and R&D complex – meaning Vyatskie Polyany Factory, the OG RPK manufacturer. Maybe they were affiliated at some distant point in the past, I don’t know. MOLOT ARMS is a small firm that creates custom guns and has a tradition of riffing on MOLOT new offers.

    When the actual MOLOT factory launched their .366 TKM shotguns with Paradox rifling, MOLOT ARMS developed another line of shotguns (military surplus conversions) with Lancaster oval rifling, as competing designs. These included AKs in a rare paratrooper variant, which was an advantage for MOLOT ARMS – MOLOT only offers standard AKM-type .366 gun. MOLOT factory rarely comments on MOLOT ARMS offerings in media even if prompted, which adds to the confusion.

    So if you see guns in Lancaster rifling chambered for .366TKM, it is very likely that these are MOLOT ARMS offerings. I can’t say anything about the quality of their conversions. What I know is there is a lot of drama around this confusion, and a lot of accusations flying aimed at MOLOT ARMS founder.

  • Update from a Russian shooting range. The instructor told me .366 is very popular with people who go to the range, which is understandable: there are few good ranges even in Moscow and .366 Veprs are first recreational range guns or “transitional” guns for people who dream of rifles. Brass buckets at the range were literally filled to the brim with casings that looked like 7.62×39, and I think much of them were .366TKM.

    Moreover, the reloading scene for .366 TKM took off quite well, with dozens of small individual manufacturers making dies, bullets, and other paraphernalia (again, it’s a shotgun license “real rifle” you can absolutely reload legally, unlike a rifle caliber, which is _technically_ illegal to reload in Russia).

    Speaking for myself, my 1966 Tula AKM with a .366TKM barrel (Molot VPO-209) performed really nice. After an hour with a Dremel, which is sadly required to get the magazines to work (even the one it shipped with!), it worked and fed well. (In the teething period, there was a lot of reports of malfunctions.) I’m a novice shooter by all measures, but I managed to get the 50 meter group (sitting, offhand) down to 6 inches; without fliers, ammo seems to be capable of 3 inches or maybe even less.

    As an aside, I also like the fact that Molot refurbished SKS and AKMs in .366 have minimal intrusions. Even the trigger group is mostly intact, I think with a small cut on the rate reducer that makes it semi-auto. Auto-sear, rate reducer and all that stuff are present. Furniture and parts seem original AKM (actually the wood on mine was so worn and then sanded down that it almost lost the bumps on the handguard).

    • Also, according to the forums where Molot has a strong presence, the stream of “civilian” AKMs and other military surplus weapons coming from Molot may very well dry soon. The proof is in forums posts where representatives ask what would byuers like to see in a commemorative limited editions of such refurbished surplus, and tell plainly that these will be the last of their stores.

      The reason is they only received a limited (though large) batch of surplus weapons from the DoD in early 2010s… gratis! In order to support Molot and other factories that had financial troubles during the period when Russia only started to ramp up the defensive contracts. (You can figure out the lucrativeness of such a refurbishment, made from free “kits”.)

      The rest is still in storage – and some people even say that the stores of these previous generation surplus weapons like AKM, SVD etc. are dwindling as well, because most of it remained in separated Soviet republics nearer to the borders.

      This doesn’t mean that Russian military is underequipped with small arms, because it was rearmed with the next generation almost half a century ago, but it means that the stock of cheap Mosins, SVDs, AKMs, SKSs and other older weapons may run out soon – simply because DoD has no plans on giving away more surplus firearms to civilian factories for free. The success of refurbished old guns is also a thorn in the side for IzhMash, an influential player who produces new AK-type guns.

    • Tassiebush

      I really enjoyed reading your insights on this! I hope you get a lot of enjoyment out of your .366TKM! I’d be really interested to hear whether the shot loads are of any use? It certainly sounds like it can perform like a rifle. For testing groups without a fancy benchrest I use old trouser legs tied off as sand bags. You may find that handy.

      • Never seen shot loads, I think they’ve never been released and I don’t know if they will be. I’m not positive, but it feels to me like shooting a tiny shot load from a 9.5mm with a paradox (which is non-replaceable and is the main reason the gun was bought) is somewhat perverse. Besides, my indoor range prohibits shot and buck.

        I’m an amateur and I don’t think I’d benefit much from a super-stable platform (at least until I have a proper rifle and a 300m range). My aim is the opposite, do as much offhand shooting as possible. They have rests and stands on the range, but I don’t like to use them.

        • Tassiebush

          Yeah actually those shot loads are tiny! I don’t know why but I had imagined them to be like a pseudo .410 but now you point it out they must be significantly smaller and it’s irrelevant anyway if they are not available.
          Shooting offhand is certainly an important skill to master and a fun way to shoot. I still find it very worthwhile using a rest to make sure it’s sighted in properly because without knowing the limitations of the group size you don’t really know how well you are shooting. It answers the question of did you miss it or was it outside of the range it will reliably hit something? You only have to check that occasionally though.
          Personally I lean towards lots of supported shots but I’m hunting so I have a small wallaby brain for my target area or if I don’t have a rest then I go for the heart lung area which is still pretty small.

  • Mehul Kamdar

    Interesting! I worked in Russia a long time ago, and remember they had a 9x53R rifle called the Medved, which was claimed to be based on the Dragunov rifle. I’m wondering how different that cartridge was from the 9.6? Also, were any other calibers made on the 54R case? Thanks in advance for all responses!