I recently had the chance to try out one of the newest small arms made in Ukraine – the UAR-15 rifle which was developed for the Ukrainian military. TLDR: These are really well-built AR-style rifles, and it’s a shame they are not likely to go on the civilian market anytime soon since all the production is now military-oriented.
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Having friends in the Ukrainian National Guard certainly doesn’t hurt and on this occasion, they let me
into one of their non-military target practice facilities, designed for CQB and short-range (up to 200m) shooting. I had a fun time traveling there on the back of a Kraz military truck thinking about how much I will spend on spine therapy.
The shooting range wasn’t special in any way – like most other civilian ranges in South Ukraine, it was an old limestone quarry. Most of the soldiers there were from non-combat units – sappers, dog handlers, and drivers. These went straight to the 200m range, while we went to the CQB range.
The training scenario consisted of the exercises typical for any John Wick-style competition. While I am personally not a great fan of these, it is certainly something cool to do once in a while.
The UAR-15 rifle is relatively new to the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It is produced by the Zbroyar company. This is a Ukraine-based small arms manufacturer, primarily focused on producing high-precision 7.62×51 AR-10-based bolt-action rifles (Z-008) and self-loading Z-10 rifles. These were purchased and used by the armed forces since the first Russian invasion in 2014. Since then, the domestic civilian market for the AR-15 started to grow, leading to Zbroyar starting to produce and sell 5.56x45mm Z-15 semi-auto rifles in big numbers.
Having main parts, such as the barrel and sometimes the receiver produced by Daniel Defence, these proved to be pretty good rifles. However, their full potential was only revealed when the armed forces became interested in purchasing them.
The major government buyer was the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They issued rifles to the National Guard and Border Guards. At the time I was able to get my hands on these rifles, they were in very limited supply and only issued to some special units. As of late 2022, they are more widely used alongside regular M4A1 rifles donated by the US Army and a bunch of other purchased AR platform weapons.
After putting a good number of rounds through the rifle and cleaning it afterwards, there are a couple of things I can say about it. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and the rifle left a favorable impression. Unlike civilian AR-15 type rifles, which are well-presented on the Ukrainian market, this one does feel very much like a military-grade weapon, even compared to the civilian Z-15. As far as I understand, while Zbroyar started to produce its own barrels at some point, the military-grade rifles were always assembled using DD uppers. This certainly adds to the life span of an average UAR-15.
The trigger on the rifle is much heavier than on similar civilian versions. But then again, it certainly makes sense for the military-grade system. And given how much ammunition the National Guard gets for target practice, they can certainly get used to a stiffer trigger. In terms of reliability, it is hard to say anything definitive without proper tests, etc., but we did quite a lot of full-auto shooting and there were no stoppages.
However, even excellent weapon systems have certain problems associated with them. And it’s not necessary to have just the weapon itself, but the accessories associated with it too. As I found out, rifles are issued as they are, without any gear on them. National Guard soldiers and officers are supposed to purchase accessories themselves. The only issue is the Aimpoint sight, which is often changed to a different, privately purchased optic. Most often, this will be the DMR scope, as with such a scope, the rifle can be used to hit targets effectively at ranges that exceed 400 meters in the actual firefight.
But the major problem seems to be the lack of an ability to attach a grenade launcher to the rifle. As of October 2022, Ukraine’s main and pretty much only underbarrel grenade launcher is still a regular Soviet GP-25. No attachments were developed for them, and no M203s were purchased. Before the break out of the big war on 24 February, it seemed fine to have one grenadier per section who was equipped with an AK fitted with a GP-25, but this war has shown that having more hand-held grenade launchers is essential, especially for urban combat. So, while the Ukrainian Armed Forces are getting new AR-15 rifles, they should work quickly to solve the problem with grenade launchers.
Thank you to Vlad Besedovskyy for this guest article. Vlad is the author of Uniforms and History of the Soviet Airborne – the 345th Regiment in Afghanistan and Admin of Reaperfeed