Weapons: AK-74 Dies Of Overproduction


October 3, 2011: Russia has stopped buying new AK-74 rifles. Since they already have ten million AK assault rifles (most of them older AK-47 and AKM models) in stock, and only a million troops on active duty (and about as many in reserve units), buying more assault rifles was deemed wasteful. This will not stop the purchase of special small arms for commando and other specialist combat units. 

The new policy will not stop work on a new standard assault rifle, the AK-200. This weapon was based on the 5.45mm AK-74, which replaced the 7.62mm AK-47/AKM series as the standard infantry weapon towards the end of the Cold War. The AK-74 entered service in the 1970s, and twenty years later a replacement was developed, the AN-94. This rifle used the 5.45mm round first seen in the AK-74, but was able to use larger (45-round and 60-round) magazines. The AN-94 also had burst fire (of two rounds, while Western rifles tend to use three rounds).

The AN-94 was supposed to replace all AK-74s in Russian service, but due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and sharp cuts in the defense budget, this did not happen. There were also concerns about the mechanical complexity and reliability of the AN-94. That's apparently why the AK-200 was not based on the AN-94. One AN-94 feature that was adopted for the AK-200 was a 60 round magazine.

Meanwhile, an improved AK-74M was introduced in 1991, and is still in service. This is a 3.4 kg (7.5 pound), 94.3 cm (37.1 inch) weapon with a 41.5 cm (16.3 inch barrel). It has rails for sights and such, and can use a 30 or 45 round magazine. Rate of fire is 650 RPM on full auto, and max effective range was 600 meters. The AK-74 looked like an AK-47, and used the same technology. Some five million AK-74s were built, most before the Cold War ended in 1991. North Korea manufactures a copy of the AK-74, called the Type 98. The AK-74M was the basis for the AK-200, and the two weapons are very similar, with the new rifle having more flexibility and capacity for accessories. Over fifty million AK-47s and AKMs were made, most of them outside Russia. Production, on a small scale, continues.

Meanwhile, several additional AK-74 variants have been developed and put on the market. The AK-101 fires the 5.56mm NATO round and has a 30-round clip. The AK-103 fires the 7.62x39mm round used in the original AK-47, for those who have concerns about the ability of the 5.45mm round to stop enemy troops. The AK-102, 104, and 105 are compact rifles designed for the export market, and are available in 5.56mm NATO, 7.62x39mm, and 5.45x39mm calibers. All have 30-round clips.

The company (Izhmash) that manufactures the AK-74 still has export sales, which actually kept the firm in business for the last two decades. Orders from the Russian military declined steeply with the end of the Cold War and dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and export sales were pursued aggressively. It was a matter of economic survival for Izhmash, which has been manufacturing weapons since 1807. Izhmash has also tried to shut down all the unlicensed manufacturers of AK-47/74 weapons. This has not been very successful, as during the communist period, things like patents and trademarks were regarded as capitalist degeneracy.






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