Weapons: Russia Tries To Keep Up With Glock


September 28, 2016: Since early 2015 a Russian state owned firm (Kalashnikov, a division of Rostec) has been trying to perfect a modern 9mm pistol design. In mid-2016 they announced an update on that effort, the PL-15. In early 2015 Rostec introduced the PL-14 to show they could provide a quality Russian made pistol to replace more than a million older (1950s and 1970s) designs that are still in wide use by military and police personnel. This is a welcome effort because Russia has never been able to produce a pistol that met military or police needs as well that those created in the West.

The PL-14 is a 9x19mm weapon that weighs .8kg (1.76 pounds) empty, has a 127mm (5 inch) barrel and a 15 round magazine. The manufacturer likes to build modern weapons that can survive a lot of abuse and still function. The AK-47 is the best known example of this attitude. Thus in addition to having many of the innovations pioneered by Western designers, Roctec built a pistol that could better withstand not being cleaned frequently and often using poorly made ammo. That helped sell the AK-47 to export customers and many of these budget minded buyers are still out there looking for ruggedness, reliability and low price. The PL-14 is meant to supply that along with modern touches like a standard accessories rail under the barrel to appeal to upscale users who can afford expensive accessories. This will also get a large order from the Russian military, although many Russian police, military officers and commandos have been buying foreign 9mm pistols since the 1990s.

The PL-14 was designed using suggestions from police and army veterans and special operations troops. Still, it was not ready for mass production and over a year later the PL-15 appeared. This is the PL-14 with modifications made based on feedback from hundreds of PL-14 users. That led to the PL-15 which will be available in lighter (aluminum or polymer) frames, have ambidextrous controls and an adjustable firing mechanism. Many changes were obviously to attract Russian customers who have tried Glocks and other Western models but would buy Russian if the pistol were competitive on looks and performance.

Since the 1950s the most common pistols used by the Russian military have been the Makarov PM followed in 2003 by the MP-443. Neither were competitive with Western designs. The MP-443 itself was meant to replace the Makarov PM, however lack of money in the Defense budget meant few were bought and many Russian troops are still using the 1950's era Makarov PM. The MP-443 used the world standard 9x19 pistol round, including the locally produced, hot loaded 7N21 armor piercing round. MP-443 is 0.59 kg (1.30 pounds) empty, 184mm (7.2 inch) long pistol with a 112mm (4.4 inch) barrel and a 17 round magazine. While it's a relatively modern weapon, it is not as easy to handle as Western 9mm pistols and had a shorter (112mm) barrel than most Western 9mm designs.

In 19501 the Makarov PM was introduced to replace all the 7.62mm pistols used during and before World War II. During that conflict Russian troops captured a lot of German 9mm pistols and preferred them. Unfortunately the Russian government wanted to improve on the German 9mm designs and one aspect of that was using a non-standard 9x18mm round and a small (8 round) magazine. The Makarov PM also had a short (94mm) barrel and while adequate for executing prisoners and other close range situations, was not much better than the World War II pistols. Later models had larger (10 and 12 round) magazines and a few other tweaks but the Makarov PM was always considered second rate.




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