NATO’s Forgotten First AK: The Madsen LAR

    The Cold War is famous as the squaring off of two superpowers: The United States, and the Soviet Union, and their duel-by-proxy in Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. The standard rifles of each side, as well, became proxies: On the Soviet side, the famous AK-47 (more properly AK and AKM), and on the US side the M14, FAL, and later the M16. As early as the late 1950s, however, the AK’s success led to it being copied by NATO member nations, and perhaps the very first of these was the Madsen LAR.

    The LAR was developed in Denmark, a NATO founding member, but the first variant was developed for Finnish military trials, and was actually chambered for the Soviet 7.62x39mm round. In the video embedded below, Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons takes us through several variants of the LAR, located at the Royal Danish Armory Museum:

    Curiously, the LAR did not use standard AK magazines, despite being based on the Kalashnikov pattern and being chambered for the same round. Instead, it used its own unique magazine pattern which is missing from that variant in the video, but is visible in the image below:

    Image source: Modern Firearms.


    After the Madsen lost to the Valmet in Finnish trials, the company re-designed the rifle for the NATO-standard 7.62x51mm cartridge. However, by that point most countries using the NATO round had already adopted either the Belgian FN FAL, or the German G3, and the LAR found no sales.

    Up close and personal, the Madsen LAR features a lot of slab-sided aluminum surfaces that remind me quite a bit of the Bushmaster rifle made by Gwinn Firearms, which uses a similar bulk aluminum construction.

    Later in the Cold War, other AK-derived rifles would find success within NATO and other allied nations. The AR-70 and FN FNC both are derived from the Kalashnikov in large measure, and the very successful Minimi – also by FN – was an adaptation of that basic design, as well.

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]