It’s now three weeks since Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine. We have seen the Ukrainian Armed Forces put up an impressive fight while Russia’s forces have stalled since their initial attempts at a lightning advance failed. While images of burnt-out or abandoned Russian armoured vehicles have dominated the news and social media there have been some interesting small arms seen. Everything from the newest Ukrainian AR-15s to Russia-backed separatists with Mosin-Nagants.
One thing to consider with this study is that both Russian and Ukrainian operational security has been relatively good. Russian troops aren’t allowed to take personal smartphones into the field and Ukrainian troops have been careful not to share sensitive information online. However, through some open intelligence sources, we are able to begin to build a picture of what small arms are being used on the ground.
The AK-74 and AK-74M is by far the most ubiquitous weapon. Seen in the hands of both Ukrainian and Russian troops.
Combatants seem to be armed with several 7.62x39mm AKM rifles and at least one 5.45x39mm AK-74 rifle. pic.twitter.com/dDnogQrTPy
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 17, 2022
The group can be seen while painting two AK-74 rifles and an AKS-74U Carbine. pic.twitter.com/YMwHRXlf7J
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 18, 2022
AKS-74Us have also been seen in the hands of Russian aviators, Ukrainian civilians, volunteers and special operations forces. One notable example photo that was widely shared was of Ukrainian politician Kira Rudik posing with an AKS-74U last month.
I learn to use #Kalashnikov and prepare to bear arms. It sounds surreal as just a few days ago it would never come to my mind. Our #women will protect our soil the same way as our #men. Go #Ukraine! 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/UbF4JRGlcy
— Kira Rudik (@kiraincongress) February 25, 2022
🇺🇦Some noteable photos of some weapons owned by "Sheikh Mansur Battalion", a Pro-Ukrainian Chechen group. Several RPG-26 'Aglen' single-use AT weapons, a UK-supplied NLAW ATGM (MBT LAW), RPG-7V2 Launchers, AKS-74 rifle and AKS-74U carbine can be seen. (11/03/2022) pic.twitter.com/FUCPElhf0M
— Special Operators (@Spec_Operators) March 11, 2022
In the photo below, a Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force unit can be seen equipped largely with AK-74 pattern rifles, and one other interesting weapon we’ll look at later.
Combatants appear to be armed with AK-74 rifles, RPK-74 LMGs (with a 45-round Molot magazine) and an interesting UK vz. 59 machine gun. pic.twitter.com/jVrcMuDi5L
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 19, 2022
Some AKM-pattern rifles have also been seen, but not in the numbers of the 5.45x39mm AK-74. So far most notably these have been seen equipping Territorial Defense Force units and a unit of Brazilian volunteers who have posted regularly on social media.
Brazilian mercenaries published a video of the battle near Kiev. It is noteworthy that they are armed with AKM submachine guns, which may indicate a shortage of modern small arms after the mass distribution of AK-74 to the civilian population. #UkraineRussiaWar #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/5DXAkvS2Sh
— ButWhy (@TheFxMojo) March 19, 2022
They seem to be armed with an early PK MG, RPG-7 Launcher, AKM rifles with a 40-round RPK magazine & 40mm GP-25 UBGLs and noteable Yugoslavian Zastava M70AB2 AK rifles. pic.twitter.com/aSpjNwFFOK
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 15, 2022
In terms of pistols, Makarov PMs are ubiquitous and seen in the hands of both sides.
Equipment of the Russian SU-25 pilot shot down today pic.twitter.com/gJn9IeWert
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) March 4, 2022
The Stetchkin APS automatic pistol has also been seen in the hands of Russian troops.
A considerable number of PU-scoped Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 rifles have been seen in the hands of Russian-backed Separatist forces from Donbas. They have been seen at checkpoints and in photos from muster points inside the Separatist republics.
Numerous examples of the rifle have been sighted, nearly always in the hands of less well equipped Separatist troops.
DPR/DNR Forces with Mosin-Nagant M91/30 rifles & and an interesting PU scope in Donetsk, Donbass.
The PU scope seems to be made in Plant NKV 357 ("Progress") in Leningrad in 1941 —same year the war between Nazi Germany and the USSR began. pic.twitter.com/RPLvNnjdLi
— julio / Caronte (@jmscaronte) March 4, 2022
But it’s not just Separatists fielding antiques, a number of Soviet DP-27 light machine guns have been seen in hands, below is a member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force:
— Amael Kotlarski (@JakOSpades) March 9, 2022
The likeness of the vintage DP-27s pan magazine to a record hasn’t been lost on Ukrainian troops either with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense even sharing a joke video showing a soldier ‘DJing’ with a DP-27
DJ "Калина" 😎🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/oDC8jt7166
— 🇺🇦Armed Forces (@ArmedForcesUkr) March 21, 2022
Separatist troops have also been seen with a World War Two PTRS-41 anti-tank rifle, perhaps in use as an anti-materiel rifle.
— Historical Firearms | Matthew Moss (@historicfirearm) March 10, 2022
Pro-Russia YouTuber War Gonzo has also shared a clip of a Separatist soldier with a PPS-43, though probably not his primary weapon as his LBE has AK mags stuffed into it.
— Southwood (@Southwood_) March 13, 2022
And of course, Russian-made Maxim PM M1910s (a design pre-dating the First World War) have surfaced in a number of photographs and lately the first video appearing to show one being test fired at a range by Ukrainian servicemen.
No comments pic.twitter.com/hFErjaMIq7
— IgorGirkin (@GirkinGirkin) March 21, 2022
The PM M1910 also featured on perhaps the most spectacular technical ever assembled – on the back of a Z-daubed Loncin 3-wheel flatbed cargo motorcycle.
We have seen Ukrainian Army, National Guard and KORD police special operations forces members carrying a variety of weapons including Malyuk AK bullpups, UKROP UAR-15s and some captured AK-12s. In one video showing Ukrainian’s engaging Russian armoured vehicles with RPG-7s, we also get a close-up look at some UKROP UAR-15s.
Ukrainian special forces have been seen in a number of photographs with Malyuk AK bullpups.
He is carrying a Malyuk/Vulkan-M bullpup rifle, equipped with Aimpoint CompM4 red dot & 3XMag-1 magnifier and Ukrainian IPI silencer.
Also two RKG-3 anti-tank grenades and chocolate! can be seen on the table. pic.twitter.com/L3QTYQgssn
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 6, 2022
#Ukraine: Ukrainian Forces (Likely today) captured a Russian Army BTR-80.
One dead soldier can be seen in the images. Possible judging by the Malyuk that these are Ukrainian SOF. pic.twitter.com/XXpNyRpDZJ
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 2, 2022
#Ukraine: Alleged Russian saboteurs were detained in #Nikopol on the Dnieper river; however given the Malyuk 5.45 and Zbroyar Z-10 rifles, and other equipment, this was either a mistake or Russian SOF managed to perfectly employ captured kit.
The former seems much more likely pic.twitter.com/GULIkK0DV5
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) February 26, 2022
Ukraine’s Other Bullpup
The Ukrainian copy of the IWI Tavor, made under license as the Fort-221 and other models in various calibers have also been seen in small numbers. These are assembled in Ukraine by RPC Fort, with various TAR-21 variants offered.
One was seen in the hands of former Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Oleksandr Turchynov who appeared behind the former president Petro Poroshenko during a recent interview with Sky News.
Some of these rifles have also been seen in Russian footage from a captured depot with dozens shown in crates.
#Ukraine: (Pro Russian) Chechen forces showing off the contents of UA National Guard armoury, including a pile of Fort-221 (Locally made CTAR-21) and rather large quantities of ammo boxes, which appear quite untouched. We can't verify the contents however. pic.twitter.com/aSy7Y49Hzf
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) February 26, 2022
Captured Suppressed Marksman Rifles
During the first week of fighting, two relatively rare Russian small arms were confirmed to be present in Ukraine, the VSS Vintorez and the AS VAL, predominantly seen with Spetsnaz units.
Weapons we haven’t seen too frequently include SVDs, RPKs and PK machine guns. However, we have seen some AS VALs and VSS Vintorez suppressed rifles.
Numerous group photos from Ukrainian units shown armed with RPKs
Members appear to be armed with AK-74 rifles, 9K38 Igla (SA-18) MANPADS, RPK-74 LMG, SVDM DMR, RPG-7s with PG-7VM rounds, PKM/T MGs and AKM rifle with GP-25 UBGL. pic.twitter.com/JdUrIiD6rp
— War Noir (@war_noir) March 1, 2022
These units range from national guard units to foreign volunteers to the recently formed Territorial Defense Force battalions.
This photograph of captured equipment from Hostomel Airport shows several AK-12s, an SVD marksman’s rifle, a PKP GPMG and several AK-74Ms. The AK-12s are rarely seen with optics of any kind. The use of optics appears to be largely confined to Russian special operations forces.
We can see: 2x RPG-7V, 3x AK-12, an AK-74M, SVDS DMR, and PKP "Pecheneg" machine gun. pic.twitter.com/ubClEWU2J1
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 3, 2022
Numerous other examples of the Russian Army’s newest rifle, the AK-12, have been seen in Ukrainian hands.
Below Ukrainian Special Forces pose atop a captured T-80BVM. One operator has a Malyuk bullpup while another has a captured AK-12.
One of the few captured AK-12s to also have an optic mounted was seen with a PK-120 sight, noticeably mounted backwards.
— Historical Firearms | Matthew Moss (@historicfirearm) March 22, 2022
PK Machine Guns
The Territorial Defense Forces are also adapting PKT (vehicle-mounted guns which are solenoid-fired) into infantry weapons by making a rear extension to attach a stock and pistol grip to the captured weapons. See the video below:
— Cᴀʟɪʙʀᴇ Oʙsᴄᴜʀᴀ (@CalibreObscura) March 9, 2022
A more refined version has been developed and appeared in a France 24 new report earlier this week.
In terms of heavier weapons, there have been some interesting appearances including a very unusual ‘technical’ – a convertible BMW with an NSV 12.7×108mm heavy machine gun and some custom patriotic decals.
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 14, 2022
This isn’t the only technical we’ve seen, with another more conventional technical – a white pickup, seen being tested, but it is definitely the most interesting.
The ubiquitous DShK has also been seen mounted on vehicles.
— #Ukraine #Russia War (@Ukraine_war1) March 19, 2022
Western Small Arms
We know that as part of the $350 million immediate military aid package and the packages that proceeded it in 2021 the US has transferred M240 machine guns, Mossberg M500 shotguns and M134 Miniguns for helicopter mounting. We have so far seen the M240s in use with Ukrainian forces.
#Ukraine: Recent video appearing to show a Ukrainian SOF ambush against a Russian convoy with one vehicle destroyed. The location is unclear but note the M240B, supplied by the US. pic.twitter.com/vSp9L0nuIY
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 5, 2022
The commander of the Belarusian volunteers fighting for Ukraine has also been seen with an M240.
Another interesting weapon to appear is at least one SIG Sauer MCX.
Other nations including Australia, the Czech Republic and Belgium promised various small arms. The first of these seen have been the Belgian FNC.
#Ukraine: The first proof of Belgian FN FNC 5.56x45mm assault rifles to be delivered to Ukraine – these weapons are already being operated by volunteers of the International Legion.
As reported previously, Belgium planned to donate at least 3000 assault rifles of this type. pic.twitter.com/ZEGFfyh41R
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 7, 2022
One of the most interesting weapons to surface is the Czech Cold War-vintage Vz.59 general purpose machine gun, seen in the hands of a Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force unit. The Vz.59 is interesting in that the pistol grip acts as the charging handle.
— EvstPalaiologos (@EvstPalaiologos) March 19, 2022
This brief look at the plethora of small arms seen in use during the war in Ukraine doesn’t scratch the surface and we’ll likely see more as the conflict continues. Don’t forget to check out our earlier article on anti-tank weapons being used in Ukraine.
Our sister site, Overt Defense is running daily updates on the war, check those out here.