Ukraine's Plastic Machine Gun Belts

Matthew Moss
by Matthew Moss
‘Plastic machine gun tape’ (Rarog)

A Ukrainian company, the Kharkiv Plant of Individual Means of Protection (HZISZ), which operates under a number of trade names including RAROG, have developed disintegrating plastic machine gun links for various Soviet/Russian-pattern 7.62x54mmR chambered belt-fed machine guns. The ‘KS-122 Machine Gun Tape’ can be used in PK, PKM, and PKT pattern guns as well as the older Goryunov-pattern machine guns, the SG-43 and SGM.

'Plastic machine gun tape' - black and grey polymer links (HZISZ/RAROG)

TFB first reported on the Ukrainian polymer links back in 2017, but it seems that since then HZISZ did not go into large-scale production of the links. At the time they released a video showcasing the polymer links (see below) which stated that over 200 types of plastic had been tested with 26 design changes made. According to RAROG, the links are made by injection moulding with a material based on polycarbonate.

While the links seen in the videos and some of the photographs have been translucent, RAROG have confirmed that the final colour will be black.

Here’s a short video on the links put together by HZISZ/RAROG in 2017:

In February 2021, the company shared a new video showing a demonstration of the links at a wintery outdoor range to showcase their cold-weather performance. Over the last couple of weeks, they have begun posting about the links on their social media again, sharing new videos of them being tested at the range and announcing that sample bags of the links have been sent to Ukrainian troops.

TFB spoke to Kharkiv Plant of Individual Means of Protection/RAROG who confirmed that the links had been placed on the back burner for a time while the company focused on other projects. They noted that the company has “supplied the armed forces and the National Guard of Ukraine, as well as NATO special forces, for example, the special operations forces of Bulgaria.”

A month ago the company announced that they had shipped pre-production sample batches with some of their PK belt box pouches to allow troops in the field to provide feedback, noting that “serial production without performance statistics cannot be started.” According to Maksym Plekhov, the company’s deputy director, the links were originally developed following feedback received during RAROG’s development of their ‘Predator’ PK Machine gun ammunition backpack system.

'Plastic machine gun tape' being tested, seen here are translucent links (HZISZ/RAROG)

Unlike the classic metal 7.62×54mmR belts, the new polymer belts are disintegrating – meaning once the round held in the belt link is fired and the next round is loaded it falls out of the gun just as with NATO standard disintegrating belts. While this means the links are difficult to collect and reuse when in the field, it has the benefit of not having the empty portion of the belt dangling from the gun.

While the links are marketed as disposable, the company claims that in trials they have been reused as many as 10 times without issues. The links are shipped in packs of 1000. RAROG list the links at 4,900 Ukrainian Hryvnia or $165.

RAROG’s website states that the “Plastic machine gun tape is already on sale” and has been “tested in battle” with the product listing stating that: “Since 2017, a large batch of tape has undergone battle tests to identify possible problems during its use in difficult exploitation conditions. Recently, the Kharkiv plant of personal protective equipment has resumed the issue of the improved tape.”

'Plastic machine gun tape' demonstrated from a container of dry ice (HZISZ/RAROG)
HZISZ/RAROG state the plastic link belts to be three times lighter than metal link belts stating that a 250-round belt with their polymer links weighs 0.5kg instead of 1.5 kg. The polymer links are disintegrating and will not corrode. RAROG’s product listing for the polymer links also notes that they are ‘significantly cheaper in production’. As demonstrated in the videos featuring dry ice, the links are said to be resistant in temperatures ranging from -70°C up to +120°C – details on the exact polymer used aren’t shared.
RAROG confirmed that a large batch is currently in production and their site states that there will be a pre-order for the links for Ukrainian purchases on 1 July.
Matthew Moss
Matthew Moss

Managing Editor: TheFirearmBlog.com & Overt Defense.com. Matt is a British historian specialising in small arms development and military history. He has written several books and for a variety of publications in both the US and UK. Matt is also runs The Armourer's Bench, a video series on historically significant small arms. Here on TFB he covers product and current military small arms news. Reach Matt at: matt@thefirearmblog.com

More by Matthew Moss

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 63 comments
  • TFB TFB on Jul 01, 2022

    Ya no Sh@t, at least the kids could pick up the metal ones for a bit of scrap money, and the rest would rust away, we can stare at these forever

  • Gunsandrockets Gunsandrockets on Jul 01, 2022

    How much lighter were the push-through links of the M60 GPMG belts than the old disintegrating-belt links of the .30 Browning LMG?

    This new plastic link looks like an excellent improvement to the PKM GPMG. Cheaper, lighter, quieter, corrosion resistant, that's nice. I suspect likely to degrade under prolonged UV exposure, but that's a problem easy to deal with.

    The biggest issue I could see with such a plastic link is temperature sensitivity, softening and breaking when hot or cracking and breaking when frozen. If the manufacturer has solved that problem while keeping the link cheap to make, that's notable.

    Interesting trivia: I believe I saw that the invention of the disintegrating-belt link happened during WWI, as a solution to the belt problem when using Maxim guns for aircraft armament. Can't afford to have a long cloth belt flapping around in the air!

Next