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11 weapons used by Russia's elite Spetsnaz operators

Spetsnaz Soldiers
Ilya Naymushin / Reuters

The Russian Defense Ministry recently announced that its elite Spetsnaz forces would receive "several dozen" new 2B25 "silent" 82mm mortar systems.

The 2B25's noise level reportedly "does not exceed that of a Kalashnikov AKMB assault rifle fitted with the PBS-1 silencer," while the system itself "produces almost no muzzle flash or smoke."

Spetsnaz special operators have a long history going back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, but little is known about them because of the unit's secretive nature. 

The Spetsnaz are organized differently than US special operations forces in that they have units in multiple military branches, all with their own specialized training. 

Numbering around 15,000-17,000, most Spetsnaz are comparable to US Army Rangers, but about 1,000 of them are on par with the US Army's Delta Force or Navy SEALs, according to the book "Spetsnaz: Russia's Special Forces" by Mark Galeotti.

It also makes sense that Spetsnaz forces received the new mortar system first, given that they usually "get the first pick of new types [of weapons], and also enjoy much greater freedom to customize and "mix and match"" Galeotti wrote.

Below are 11 of the most commonly used Spetsnaz weapons, according to Galeotti. 

The standard Spetsnaz weapon, according to Galeotti, is some version of the 5.45mm AK-74 rifle. Seen here is the AK-74M, which is also the standard issue for much of the Russian Army. It weighs about 8 pounds and has a 30 round magazine capacity.

Russian Defense Ministry

In May, Moscow announced that it would replace the AK-74M with the AK-12 and AK-15. As such, it's possible that Spetsnaz operators have already gotten their hands on the rifles.  

Another AK-74 model that the Spetsnaz use is the short-barreled AKS-74U carbine. Also known as the "Krink", it was originally developed for the Spetsnaz in the mid-1970s and has a nifty side-folding stock, according to The Firearm Blog.

AKS-74U carbine
Russian Defense Ministry

Some Spetsnaz operators sport a slightly different AKM fitted with a GP-25 grenade launcher. The AKM, which is a modernized version of the AK-47, fires 7.62 mm rounds up to 383 yards.

AKM fitted with a GP-25 grenade launcher
Russian Defense Ministry

Spetsnaz snipers play an important role in the elite force, and they carry a variety of weapons. Although it's less commonly used today, some still prefer the SVD Dragunov, which fires 7.62 mm rounds and can hit targets up to 1312 yards out.

SVD Dragunov
Russian Defense Ministry

Another rifle used by Spetsnaz snipers is the SVDS Dragunov, which is an advanced, lighter version of the SVD with a folding-stock. It was originally designed for Russian paratroopers — the VDV.

SVDS Dragunov
Russian Defense Ministry

Seen here is the bolt-action SV-98 sniper rifle, which the Spetsnaz have begun using more frequently. It usually has a scope with a range of about 1,110 yards, according to Galeotti.

Russian Defense Ministry

For stealth missions, Spetsnaz are more likely to carry the VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifle, which the soldier on the front right is holding. It fires a heavy 9x39mm round, according to Galeotti, but is not as accurate at long-range shots. This weapon has become a "trademark" for the Spetsnaz, and has been used a lot in Crimea.

VSS Vintorez
Russian Defense Ministry

THE PKP Pecheneg general purpose machine gun is Spetsnaz' main squad weapon, according to Galeotti. It fires a 7.62x54mm round, according to, and began to be used by the Russian military in 2001. The PKP is similar to the US' M249 machine gun.

PKP Pecheneg
Russian Defense Ministry
The AK-74M assault rifle with GP-34 grenade launcher and 60-round casket magazine. Credit: Srebenicakaka
The AK-74M assault rifles displayed by the Russian Airborne Forces. Credit: Vitaliy Kuzmin
The AK- 74M features a new solid side-folding polymer buttstock. Credit: Виталий Кузьмин.

AK-74M is the main service rifle in use in the Russian Army. It is an improved variant of the AK-74 assault rifle. The 5.45mm rifle is being produced by Izhmash OJSC. Azerbaijan also produces the AK-74M under license from Izhmash.

Production of the AK-74M began in 1990 and the rifle was officially adopted by the Russian Army in 1991. Azerbaijan started the licensed production of the AK-74M in July 2011. The rifle is being manufactured for the Azeri armed forces under the designation of Khazri. Azerbaijan manufactured more than 100,000 AK-74M rifles by mid-2019.

The AK-74M is also used by the armed forces of Afghanistan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, North Korea, Philippines, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

In February 2012, Russia unveiled its plans to upgrade the AK-74 assault rifles as a part of a $690bn modernisation programme. The upgraded rifles are equipped with a detachable sight and light.

The country donated 5,000 AK-74M units to the Philippines in October 2017. Russia plans to replace the AK-74M rifle with the new AK-12 and AK-15 rifles.

Design of AK-74M assault rifle

AK-74M is a gas-operated, selective fire weapon. It incorporates a new solid side-folding polymer buttstock, as well as an improved bolt and carrier assembly. The rifle is equipped with an enhanced muzzle device and durable smooth dust cover.

It is also supplied with a folded buttstock. The universal optics mounting rail is provided as a piece of standard equipment for mounting optics on the AK-74M.

The high-strength plastic materials are used for the forearm, magazine, buttstock and pistol grip of the rifle. The metal parts of the AK-74M are applied with protective coatings for resistance against corrosion. The quality of the rifle is assured by all-round test programmes conducted by the manufacturer.

AK-74M has an overall length of 943mm and barrel length of 415mm. The length with a folded buttstock is 705mm. The fully loaded rifle weighs 3.9kg. The weight of the rifle with an empty magazine is 3.6kg.

AK-74M magazines and ammunition

The AK-74M uses 5.45 AK 30, 5.45 AK 45 and 5.45 AK Drum magazines. The 30-round True Black magazine is the current-production magazine for the rifle.

The magazine is made of lightweight strength polymer. It can be quickly reloaded from stripper clips. The empty weight of a 30-round magazine is 0.23kg.

The lightweight 5.45x39mm magazine significantly reduces the load for the soldiers. It allows the carriage of additional rounds for the same weight in comparison with the earlier magazines of the AK family of assault rifles.

Optical sights and accessories for AK-74M

AK-74M can be fitted with collimator and optical sights to ensure fast and precise targeting with improved combat efficiency. The standard optical sight is the 1P29 universal sight with 4-power magnification. It has a field of vision of 80.

The rifle can also be mounted with several models of passive night sights. These sights are fitted to the standard mounting rail on the left side of the receiver.

The assault rifle can be attached with an under-barrel grenade launcher or a knife-bayonet. The rifle fitted with GP-34 single-shot grenade launcher can engage targets within the range of 100m to 400m.

The GP-34 is capable of firing fragmentation grenades, fragmentation bounding grenades and smoke grenades. Other accessories provided with the rifle include a quick-loading device, spare cartridges, stripper clips, maintenance kit, cleaning rod and sling.

Performance of the Russian Army’s main service rifle

AK-74M can fire rounds in semi-automatic and fully-automatic modes. The cyclic rate of fire of the rifle is 650 rounds a minute. The muzzle brake enhances cyclic fire accuracy and cuts down muzzle raise and burst recoil.

The combat rate of fire of the rifle in single-shot fire is 40 rounds a minute. The gun can fire 100 rounds a minute in short burst fire mode. The muzzle velocity of the round fired from the rifle is 900m/s. The rear sight range of the rifle is 1,000m.

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List of modern Russian small arms and light weapons

PG-7VL “Luch”
93mm, 2.6 kg, 1977

Tandem AT
PG-7VR “Rezyume”
105mm, 4.5 kg, 1988

TBG-7V “Tanin”
105mm, 4.5 kg, 1988

OG-7V “Oskolok”
40mm, 2.0 kg, 1998

Outdated (AT)
PG-7V (85/2.2/61)
PG-7VM (70/2.0/69)
PG-7VS (72/2.0/72)

260 mm (V)
300 mm (VM)
400 mm (VS)
500 mm (VL)
750 mm (VR) 1961–present
still used in large numbers
succeeded by
RPG-30 & RPG-32RPG-7D

night vision scope

improved optics

updated optics
for PG-7VR and

universal optics



2 New P320 Grip Modules from SIG Sauer Offer Custom Level Upgrades

The Russian Federation emerged as an independent state in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It inherited most of the Soviet military and industrial potential as well as most of the problems that led to the ultimate failure of the socialist state. Among those problems were serious issues with organized crime, the economy and nationalist movements in various parts of the multi-national country.

At that time, the newly established Russian army and various law enforcement organizations were using weapons of the Soviet era. The most widespread soviet pistol was the Makarov PM, which was a standard-issue handgun of the military, police and state security forces. Others included the Stechkin APS (in very limited use, mostly by Spetsnaz) and the PSM.

The Search Begins

Post-Soviet Pistols for military

Recognizing the deficiencies of the existing guns, the Russian army initiated a research and development program for a new service pistol, codenamed “Grach” (rook). Trials started in the early 1990s and included:

• A modular pistol designed in Izhevsk by Zarochintsev. This 9x18mm pistol, known as the Grach-1, used a blowback-operated action.

• A locked-breech pistol designed by Yarygin in Izhevsk, known as the Grach-2 for the trials.

• A modified Makarov PM pistol, also designed in Izhevsk by Shigapov. This pistol, known as the Grach-3, used a high-capacity magazine and fired improved 9x18mm PMM ammunition.

• A multi-caliber, blowback-operated TKB-0220 pistol designed in Tula by Stechkin and Avraamov.

• Two polymer-framed pistols, designed in Kovrov by Serdjukov: one with a locked breech and chambered for the powerful 9x21mm RG-052 armor-piercing (AP) ammunition and another with a delayed-blowback action chambered for the 7.62x25mm or 9x19mm.

As you can see, the military wanted a handgun designed to use a cartridge more powerful than the existing 9x18mm PM. But the souped-up 9×18 PM Modified (PMM) round was soon abandoned because of the inherent dangers of using +P+ rounds in old and often worn-out pistols designed for standard-pressure 9x18mm ammunition. However, a modified version of the PM, known as the PMM-12, was manufactured for quite a while to make use of existing stocks of 9x18mm ammo. PMM-12 pistols were issued mostly to law enforcement units.

Post-Soviet Pistols comparison

That left two indigenous rounds—the ubiquitous 9x19mm and the slightly more powerful 9x21mm. Both rounds were supposed to be issued primarily with AP bullets featuring hardened steel-core penetrators at the tip of each projectile. The army and police preferred the 9x19mm, and the Federal Security Service (FSB), for some reason, decided to sponsor development of the new 9x21mm round. As a result, in the early 2000s, the Russian Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Internal Affairs officially adopted the new 9x19mm Yarygin PYa pistol as a replacement to the venerable Makarov PM. A little later, the FSB adopted the 9×21 SR-1 pistol, which later found its way into the armories of some MVD (police) units across Russia.

In 1996, another player decided to try the service pistol arena: the KBP design bureau from Tula, which specializes in high-tech armaments such as automatic cannons, guided missiles and other expensive and destructive gadgets. What started as a private concern resulted in the development of one of the most promising and modern service pistols in Russia, known as the GSh-18. After a long development period, it was finally adopted by the MVD and is now issued in limited numbers to some SWAT-type units. The pistol is interesting because it was designed to fire proprietary ++P++ rounds—extremely high-pressure 9×19 ammunition with light, fast AP bullets. Therefore, it features an exceptionally strong locking system and can handle almost any 9x19mm load.

Because of large stocks of remaining 9x18mm pistols in police use, a new type of 9x18mm ammunition was recently introduced into service with the MVD. Designated as the 9x18mm PPO, it features low-ricochet, lead-core FMJ bullets, as opposed to standard 9x18mm, which use bullets with lead and steel cores.

Besides these major players—which still have not replaced Makarov PM pistols across the vast Russian Federation—there were other, less successful ones. These included a pocket-sized P-96S in 9x17mm (.380 ACP) and 9x18mm; the OTs-23 Drotik (dart), a spectacular burst-firing machine pistol firing tiny 5.45x18mm ammunition, and its larger-caliber cousins, the OTs-27 (9x18mm and 9x19mm) and select-fire OTs-33 (9x18mm); and several commercial pistols, only one of which has survived: the 9x19mm Viking, a polymer-framed version of the Yarygin PYa pistol. Finally, I should mention the privately developed Strizh/Strike One pistol, a joint Russian and Italian development that faced political complexities in Russia and is now produced in Italy. But scroll through the gallery above to get a closer look at some of these post-soviet pistols.

This article was originally published in ‘AK-47 & Soviet Weapons’ 2017. For information on how to subscribe, visit

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Modern Russian Army Guns (2021)

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Despite the setbacks of the post-Cold War period, the modern Russian Army has managed to keep pace with the West.

There are a total of [ 56 ] Modern Russian Army Guns (2021) entries in the Military Factory. Entries are listed below in alphanumeric order (1-to-Z). Flag images indicative of country of origin and not necessarily the primary operator. Return to the Modern Infantry Arms Index.


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Yarygin pistol: 9mm for the Russian army - MP-446C Viking [Big Guns]

MOSCOW, July 13. /TASS/. Russia’s latest Lebedev handgun developed by the Kalashnikov Group firearms manufacturer can fire any 9x19 mm caliber ammo, Kalashnikov Deputy CEO and Chief Designer Sergey Urzhumtsev said on Tuesday.

"All the modifications of the Lebedev pistol are universal for the handgun’s munitions. It can fire both standard 9x19 mm Luger rounds and 7H21 armor-piercing cartridges," the chief designer said.

The Lebedev pistol also differs from its foreign rivals thanks to its improved ergonomics, he added. "The Lebedev pistol is in the same category with similar versions by its weight and dimensional characteristics but I would like to shine the spotlight again on the ergonomics of this handgun and, as a result, its better handling, increased combat effectiveness and practicable rate of fire," Urzhumtsev stressed.

Specialists are currently studying the possibility of mounting a collimator sight on the Lebedev pistol, he added.

"Now, work is underway to choose a special small-size collimator sight," the chief designer said.

The Lebedev pistol is the latest combat small arms gun developed by the Kalashnikov Group, the creator of the world-renowned AK-47 assault rifle.

Kalashnikov gunmaker to introduce super-compact Lebedev pistol

The Kalashnikov Group will develop a super-compact modification of the latest Lebedev pistol, the chief designer said.

"As for the super-compact modification, this version will, indeed, be present in the family of Lebedev pistols. It is hard to give any exact timeframe now because it will be determined by the needs of agencies that will place orders for it. In any case, it will appear on the market somewhat later than the existing versions, such as the MPL, the MPL-1 and the PLK," Urzhumtsev informed.

The super-compact Lebedev pistol is needed to cultivate the market niche of this handgun, he explained. "Actually, all the world’s pistol brands, for example, the Glock family, have such pistol versions. The sales of baseline items are not large, but such a version is needed to cover the whole spectrum of the potential market," he said.

Kalashnikov to create whole family of latest Lebedev pistols

The Kalashnikov Group will create a whole family of small arms based on the latest Lebedev pistol, the chief designer said.

"Indeed, this range will be expanded, first of all, by creating civilian versions of this pistol and eventually a super-compact version," Urzhumtsev revealed.

Several versions of the Lebedev pistol already exist today, he added.

"Currently, the Lebedev handgun is represented by three versions," Urzhumtsev said.

The family of Lebedev pistols currently comprises the Lebedev MPL and Lebedev MPL-1 modular handguns and the Lebedev PLK compact version.


You will also be interested:

Click here to read the full article.

Key Point: Moscow uses a wide variety of pistols and rifles for its forces. These include foreign-made weapons too.

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The Russian military and security services field quite a variety of firearms, Western and domestic.

But from all of these guns, which could be considered the best? Here is a few to consider:

1. AK-74M:

The AK-74M is ubiquitous in the Russian Armed Forces. In 2018, it is even replacing the shorter AKS-74U as the armament for support crew. The rifle is light, reliable, has low recoil and compact with the standard issue folding plastic buttstock.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

While by some Western standards it may be considered outdated ergonomically, the AK-74M is one of the best AKs out there, with Russian special operations forces continuing to use the rifle in combat abroad and domestically.

In the Syrian Civil War, AK-74Ms are popular among all sides as a reliable and accurate weapon, with the rifle beating out the Iranian KH2002 during 2008 trials.

2. Glock 17:

The Glock is no stranger to military service, having been originally designed for the Austrian Bundesheer in the 1980s. It’s currently one of the most popular military and police sidearms worldwide, including with U.S. Army special forces and elite units in the Russian security services.

The Russian arms industry produced many guns that copied the Glock’s features, such as the GSh-18, a polymer framed, striker-fired gun with a trigger safety.

But the original may still be the best. The Glock appears to be preferred by the most elite units, including the FSB’s Alpha Antiterror group.

Glock 17s in Russian service bear distinctive slide markings that indicate that they are property of the security services.

3. PKM / PKP Pecheneg:

While Kalashnikov’s machine gun is less famous than his rifle, in many ways it is a better design. Lighter than most Western 7.62 machine guns, it is still accurate and controllable. The PKM has proven popular with almost every country that’s used it.

The PKP Pecheneg is the more modern version with a different bipod and barrel. The PKP is primarily issued to special forces and more modernized units, while the PKM is still seen in the largest numbers in the army. The PKM replaced the RPK-74M and RPK-74 as the standard issue squad automatic weapon recently.

The PKM and PKP are constantly being modernized with new stock kits and optics mounts being produced by Russian industry. Bullpup versions and even a version that can feed ammunition from a backpack exist.

One of the most common criticisms of the PKM in the West is the non-disintegrating belts, which require a gunner to manage an empty ammunition belt on the left side of the gun. However, this is not considered a disadvantage in Russian service, as the belts can be reused.

A Ukrainian firm has developed plastic ammunition links that act as a disintegrating belt, but similar innovations have not yet been adopted by the Russian military or security services.

4. H&K MP5:

The MP5 is ubiquitous around the world in the hands of special police units, and Russia is no exception. MP5s have been used by FSB units, often fitted with red dot sights and rails to accept foregrips and other accessories.

Recently the MP5 may have been replaced by the PP-19-01 Vityaz-SN 9x19mm submachine gun in Russian service, probably due to the lower cost and similar manual of arms to the regular AK rifle. Despite this, the MP5 is definitely a better gun with regards to shootability.

The roller-delayed mechanism in the MP5 reduces recoil more than a straight blowback system, making it easier to stay on target. For this reason, the older MP5 continues to outsell the newer H&K UMP9, a straight blowback gun.

A friendly shooting competition between units of the Belorussian KGB “Alpha” unit, using the H&K MP5 and the Russian FSB “Alpha” unit using the PP-19-01 Vityaz-SN demonstrates this readily.

5. SAKO TRG 42:

Finnish firearms have a well-deserved reputation for accuracy and durability. Due to the Finnish military’s emphasis on accuracy, the Finnish arms industry has always produced accurate guns. As such, their rifles are very popular around the world.

One line of Finnish rifles that’s achieved considerable success is the Sako TRG line, which are a favorite among a multitude of special units.

Even regular contract Russian Army snipers in reconnaissance teams have been spotted with the Sako TRG (Austrian Steyr SSG 08 rifles have also been seen with these teams), although it is more with TsSN FSB antiterror units.

A Russian article from 2013 suggests that Sako TRG rifles are the most popular with Russian elite snipers, beating out the domestic SV-98 and Orsis rifles. The article places emphasis on bolt problems with Orsis rifles, which appear to still be an issue four years later in the Orsis T-5000.

In addition to their superior characteristics, the TRG rifles were also cheaper than domestic equivalents, though this may have changed in 2018 given the wide adoption of the SV-98 by Russian Airborne Forces.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

This first appeared in 2018 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters.

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