Backpack Mounted, Beltfed-Bullpup PKMs of Syria, Yemen, and Libya

    The craft-modified bullpup PKM design that has popped up in different iterations (albeit sparingly) throughout Syria, Yemen and Libya takes its roots in the Russian 7.62x54mmR Pecheneg PKP GPMG that became popular within the Russian Ministry of Interior due to the need for a beltfed weapon system that could be compact as possible. Originally the Pecheneg wasn’t a bullpup, but simply a shortened PKM with integrated carrying handle. Later, bullpup versions became available but at this point, it doesn’t appear that they are seeing a tremendous amount of use within Russia. The bullpup variant appeared on the scene at least in public around 2016. It didn’t take long for craft-modified variants to appear in hotspots in the MENA region, first in Libya in early 2017, then in Syria possibly around late 2017, and most recently in Yemen this summer (May, June 2018). Dates are very approximate with these timelines due to images making their rounds on social media from their respective communities until they get picked up by Western sources and analysts. So we can’t pin down exactly when these designs were developed or even entered service, but we do know none seemed to exist before the Pecheneg bullpup in late 2016. For more information about that original design, Russian presenter Sergey Badyuk got his hands on a variant in one of his episodes on Youtube.

    Image from Wikipedia

    The Libyan variant is the first craft-modified version that appears to exist and certainly deviates the most when it comes to alterations and changes. The user mounts a backpack where a belt of ammunition passes through a padded section and into the feed tray from the righthand side.  In the photograph below, note the extensive use of M1913 Picatinny rails along the gas tube. Interestingly enough, the PK, PKM, and PKP don’t have any handguards surrounding or protecting the gas tube. It didn’t appear to be a necessary operational requirement of the weapon system.

    An important note about these bullpup designs is that unlike some other GPMG designs, the PKM ejects spent casings out of the lefthand side of the receiver. This requires that some sort of shield or deflector be installed on a bullpup version so the shooter isn’t getting a constant stream of hot casings down their chest!

    The image below depicts the Libyan model with what would appear to be an Over-Barrel suppressor that extends to the gas tube of the machine gun. Whether or not the design is effective we don’t know, as it certainly doesn’t appear to have an opening at the crown/muzzle!

    A Chechen fighter in Syria with what has appeared to be a Syrian rebel craft modified PKM. This one is the closest to resembling the PKP bullpup, with the angled 100 round ammunition can jutting out from just in front of the trigger guard. Note the Elcan optic. This image was shared in August of 2017 by the Twitter analyst Rufus McDonald.

    And our most recent contestant, an image appearing on a Yemeni social media account depicting a user in Yemen. This one resembles the Libyan design, especially with the DCU backpack, Picatinny rail placement, and the design of the buttstock being two rods jutting out from the receiver. In fact, it might actually be taken in Libya and the image made its way onto Yemeni social media channels.

    Miles

    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 [email protected]


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