Larry Vickers Shoots Integrally Suppressed AMB-17 and Some History Behind Russian 9×39 weapons

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy

A few weeks ago, I had a pleasure of working with Larry Vickers on his trip to Russia. He had a unique chance to check out some of the newer Russian weapons, we visited some amazing museums and saw some incredible weapon collections.

I wanted to highlight some weapons we shot for the TFB readers and give a little background about why and how of the development of a few weapons.

First on the list is integrally suppressed AMB-17:

The above video is the first ever footage of AMB-17 being shot, never before viewers had a chance to see this weapon in action.

One of the main features of this weapon is the ammunition – 9×39 rounds developed in the late 80s. Just recently, this round started to come to the US market.

The first two weapons developed for this cartridge are famous VSS “Vintorez” and AS “Val” developed by TsNIITochMash. Those two are quite renowned and featured in countless movies, computer games, and even Japanese anime.

VSS (top) and VAL (bottom) with some aftermarket modifications. Photo courtesy of Karden: https://k-a-r-d-e-n.livejournal.com/

The shortcomings of VSS and Val are not very well known. Both weapons are less reliable than the AK; the life of the weapon is insufficient with only 5000 rounds, and you cannot use it without the silencer (though that might come handy when you need a CQB weapon).

The trajectory of a subsonic bullet is anything but flat, so you have to know your dopes if you want to hit anything beyond 200 meters.

Russian president security sniper team with VSS "Vintorez" near Red Square

Also, a lot of VSS rifles are not appropriately repaired due to non-standard spare parts. I remember we were working with a particular unit in the south of Russia, and the guys had a severe problem with VSS – the wooden buttstock was wobbling. Since getting a new stock was impossible, so after careful consideration, my friend came up with a makeshift solution – he ripped apart his cigarette pack, took the carton and used it as a middle layer between the receiver and the detachable stock to make it fit tighter. It worked very well, there was no wobble anymore, and group sizes got better and more consistent.

There is one more weapon in this family that is lesser known; I am talking about SR-3 “Vikhr” (translated as “Storm”).

SR-3 "Vikhr" with folding stock

It is a very compact assault rifle chambered for the same 9×39 round. Keep in mind, the bullet weight of 9×39 round is 16 grams, more or less identical to .338 Lapua Magnum, which makes it a very effective short range weapon.

We know that there is no such thing as stopping power, but a burst of 9×39 rounds with every bullet weighing over half an ounce usually gets the point across very well.

Unfortunately, original SR-3 did not have a silencer, making it a very specialized weapon. To find the middle ground between VSS, AS and SR-3, a certain counter-terrorist unit put together a QR (quality requirements) for a new rifle in the same caliber.

The new rifle is called SR-3M, it features a detachable suppressor, side folding stock and fancy folding forward grip.

Video from author’s personal archive. The silencer is quite effective. If anyone is shooting a non-suppressed weapon nearby (which is usually the case during a gunfight), you can barely hear SR-3M.

Another family of weapons chambered for 9×39 rounds was developed in Tula, namely VSK-94 and A-91.

VSK-94 (top) and A-91 (bottom) with some aftermarket modifications. Photo courtesy of Karden: https://k-a-r-d-e-n.livejournal.com/

I have less experience with those two, so I won’t get into many details. Both VSS and VSK are pretty much identical from a tactical standpoint. Russian police SWAT units use VSK-94 and A-91, but for unknown reasons the Army never does. At the same time, both the Army and police use VSS and Val.

The VSK-94 had another, particular, tactical niche, in the city of St. Petersburg it was used to shot down the icicles…

So, with everyone else in the 9×39 game, Kalashnikov Concern was the only significant weapon manufacturer in Russia that did not produce a weapon chambered for the 9×39 round.

There was a relatively well-known prototype called AK-9, but it never actually went into production or been used by any special units.

Surprisingly, this is the ONLY footage of AK-9 being shot. If it were not for Larry Vickers, the AK 9 would remain an urban legend only known by hardcore AK collectors.

Back in the day, I had some trigger time with AK-9. It was precisely that – AK in 9×39. Reliable, not sophisticated, reasonably accurate. For me, there was only one problem.

The massive bolt carrier and heavy bullet made for substantial felt recoil. On semi-auto it was okay, but even two-shot burst was a challenge; the second bullet would hit 5 inches high right even at 25 yards.

I am not saying that full auto capability is essential for a weapon like that; there are different opinions on that matter and we’re not going to discuss in this article. It was just very unusual for me to see a weapon that I cannot truly control on full auto.

In comparison to AK-9, AMB-17 is much more controllable because of the lighter bolt carrier. The overall design of AMB-17 is based on MA compact assault rifle prototype designed by Dragunov almost 40 years ago; we will go into more details in the next article.

AMB-17 with a prototype 30 round magazine

A significant problem of most, if not all, Russian silencers is massive back pressure with the gas coming back to the receiver and through the ejection port. AMB-17 is no exception, but hopefully, it will be addressed later in the development process.

For now, it looks like AMB-17 might have some future and find its place in Russian Spetsnaz armory.

What is just as interesting for me is what will be the future of the 9×39 round on the US market. If it catches on, we might see some exciting counterparts to AMB-17 in the future.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vladimir-Onokoy-articles-and-videos-about-guns-and-other-unpopular-stuff-107273143980300/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vladonokoy/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/machaksilver

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  • Tony Tony on May 30, 2018

    Was not aware the VSS has such a short expected lifespan, was that due to parts breakages with the mentioned lack of viable replacement?

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    • Vladimir Onokoy Vladimir Onokoy on Jun 05, 2018

      @EricJ What I am saying is that me might meet in some very unexpected places :)
      "zerov gonjat" - кого, простите?

  • Moto Gfivesplus Moto Gfivesplus on Jun 02, 2018

    Very well written. There are very few English articles about the 9x39 that doesn't contain incorrect information.

    I'm curious how the amb17 (and am17) will handle the trails, as well as even be adopted, since tula started making the modernized vss and val a year or so ago as well as the new ak12 KC is making. Either way, I'll patiently wait for parts kits to make their way into the US lol. (so glad tula is making civi vss's now).

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    • Moto Gfivesplus Moto Gfivesplus on Jun 17, 2018

      @Mazryonh There have been at least 3 companies that I'm aware of that have tried to replicate the vss in the us and all have failed in creating it. Slaaga is the most current one, but there are 3 problems they all face. No blueprints or (better yet a) actual rifle, financial backing, and highly qualified firearm machinists. Replicating a firearm, especially something as unique as the vss is not cheap or easy, and if you don't have a solid baseline, the chance of even getting a working prototype, let alone parts compatibility is slim to none.

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