The idea of the reduced caliber ammunition for military shoulder arms was played with for a very long time. Each time the technology leaped forward, the standard calibers were reduced - from the 0.45 - 0.50 inch (11.4 - 12.7mm) of the mid-1800 to the .30 of the mid-1900s. The idea of further reduction of the caliber down to 6.5 - 5.6 mm (.240 - .220 inch) was also considered in many countries since the beginning of the XX century, but it was not until the 1960s when the idea of the low impulse, small-caliber, high velocity round came up to something real. When US Army adopted the M16 rifle in the mid-1960s, everybody else eyed Americans with interest. And as soon as the idea of small caliber rifle was found worthwhile, the total rearming began.
Soviet army started the development of its own small-caliber ammunition in the late 1960s. After some years of development, a new round was created. This round featured a bottlenecked, tapered case, slim bullet with nominal caliber of 5.45mm (actual bullet diameter is 5.62 mm). The bullet featured a combined steel and lead core with the hollow nose, muzzle velocity from the 415mm barrel was about 900 m/s. As soon as the new ammunition was available and accepted by the Soviet Military, it was decided to develop a new family of small arms around this cartridge. The fastest way to do so was to simply adapt the existing 7.62mm AKM assault rifle and the RPK light machine gun for new ammunition. This "new" arms would serve as an intermediate, temporary solution until the new, more effective and modern arms would be developed. The task of adaptation of the AKM/RPK family for the new round was relatively simple, since the new round was designed with this conversion in mind (case length and the overall length of both 7.62mm and 5.45mm cartridges are almost the same).
Basically, the small-caliber Kalashnikov assault rifle, officially adopted by the Soviet Army in 1974 as the "5.45mm Avtomat Kalashnikova, obraztsa 1974 goda (AK-74)", was no more than the older AKM, re-chambered for a new round, with very minor modifications. The most visible modification is the large and effective muzzle brake, which further reduces already moderate recoil of the new round, and improves the controllability of the rifle in the full automatic mode. Rear sight, while being of the same old design, was accordingly recalibrated for the new cartridge with much flatter trajectory. The wooden buttstock was slightly lightened by two oval cuts on both sides. The pistol grip was made from plastic, and the forend initially was made from wood. The stamped steel magazines were replaced by the plastic magazines of the very distinctive red-brown color. The airborne version of the new rifle, AKS-74, also introduced a new pattern of the folding butt. This was made from stamped steel, and folded to the left side of the receiver instead of being folded down on the 7.62mm AKMS, and was of more comfortable and robust construction. Otherwise the AK-74 retained all features and construction of the AKM/AKMS, and, surprisingly, the key deficiencies of the AKM were not cured in this improved version. For example, AK-74 retained the same less than ideal safety - selector lever, and the same crude sights. Like the AKM, the AK-74 can be fitted with special silencer (requires subsonic ammunition) or the 40mm underbarrel grenade launcher GP-25 or GP-30 (improved and lightened model).
During the production AK-74 was slightly improved. The mixed wooden and plastic furniture were replaced with the black plastic furniture, and the red-brown magazines were supplemented with the black plastic ones. The "Night" version AK-74N had been developed with the night IR scope rail added to the left side of the receiver. The latest variation of the AK-74 breed, that was introduced circa 1991 and consequently replaced in production both AK-74 and AKS-74, is the AK-74M. The AK-74M externally differs from the AK-74 of late 1980s production by the side-folding, solid black plastic buttstock and by the scope rail, mounted on the left receiver as as a standard. Some minor improvements also were made in the production process and external finish of the new rifle. AK-74M retained almost all advantages and disadvantages of the earlier Kalashnikov designs, including reliability, simplicity of operations and maintenance, and less than ideal "human engineering" and ergonomics. At the present time the AK-74M, along with earlier AK-74/AKS-74 is the standard shoulder arm of the Russian Army. The plans of replacing it with the widely advertised Nikonov AN-94 assault rifle were not carried out to any significant extent - the AN-94 is (and most probably will be) issued only to most elite units of the Russian Army, police and the Internal Affairs Ministry troops. The AK-74 type, 5.45mm assault rifles also were manufactured in the East German, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania. Most of these designs after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact were converted to the 5.56mm NATO ammunition.
Gas operated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs
(Loaded/Unloaded) 3.6/3.3 kg
Rate of fire: