21st Century Asian Arms Race spotted an image shared on the website of the Office of the Azeri President that is showing a rifle of Belarusian origins in a unit armory locker of the Azeri Armed Forces. The rifle in question was previously reported on by TFB in February of this year. Appearing in a display put on by the state-owned Military-Industrial Committee of Belarus was an AR15 chambered in 7.62x39mm, configured to take AKM-patterned magazines (as opposed to STANAG configured ones, also popular for 7.62x39mm AR15 derivatives). Where the rifle is made or imported from is difficult to discern. Originally the design is actually a U.S. one, introduced at SHOT 2017 by a startup called Arsenal Firearms, with the nomenclature as the “Switch”, also offered in 5.45x45mm. The website appears to be down and it doesn’t look like it saw much success in the United States. However at the display of the rifle in Belarus, there was a BSVT flag and placard right next to it. BSVT is an abbreviation for BELSPETSVNESHTECHNIKA, a subsidiary of the aforementioned Military-Industrial Committee of Belarus. The company produces defense items from small arms to missiles.
Whether the rifles are being license produced in Belarus or are being imported into the country and then resold to Azerbaijan, we don’t know as of yet. Tooling up to make AR15s isn’t the hardest task in the world but it does require dedication and expertise to get it right. The fact that BSVT doesn’t have a history of producing AR15s leads me to believe that the country might be purchasing them, or at least the parts and then assembling them domestically.
In Azerbaijan, the rifles in the photograph with the Azeri President are identical with the polymer stock and pistol grip, left side charging handle, FAB Defense flip up BUIS sights, and the longer 16-inch barrel. But what really sets them apart are the two horizontal round indicators cut into a Kalashnikov-patterned magazine. There also appears to be a translucent counter on the front portion of the magazine but it isn’t clear enough to tell.
Also on display were these other 7.62x39mm AR15-patterned derivatives with STANAG magazine wells. The rifles appear to be 16-inch barrels with full length 15-inch Keymod rails mounted to them, along with Magpul components and Meprolight reflex sights. The handguard is very similar to one put out by Anderson Manufacturing, but is still somewhat different.