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Russia Has A New Family Of Assault Rifles

August 29, 2018

Pictured are the 200-series Kalashnikov rifles. Via Kalashnikov Group.

The recent ARMY 2018 “International Military-Technical Forum” provided a badly needed lift to a sector marred by fresh US sanctions. With Russian companies still enjoying huge global demand a variety of new products for export were shown off throughout the fair, which lasted from August 21 until 26. One of the highlights within the Patriot Congress and Exhibition Center was the Kalashnikov Group‘s exhibit.

The company responsible for distributing and marketing Russia’s iconic small arms had its 200-series assault rifle family on display to visitors. After almost two decades of robust sales for its 100-series assault rifles, the new Kalashnikovs were a sure sign these proven firearms are being tailored for customers everywhere.

During ARMY 2018 the AK-200-series together with the Russian military’s next standard issue rifles were shown to the public. The AK-200 is a 5.45x39mm assault rifle that’s complemented by the AK-205, which is a shortened carbine chambered for the same ammunition. The AK-201 and 202 subscribe to the rifle/carbine arrangement but are chambered for 5.56x45mm ammunition. Then the AK-203 and 204 are meant for the ubiquitous 7.62x39mm M43 ammunition.

The difference between the 100 and 200-series rifles are the latter’s external improvements. The 200-series replaced the 100-series’ side folding stock with an all black finish in favor of a collapsible or telescopic one that resembles those used on AR-pattern rifles. Each entry in the 200-series has better ergonomics, with a contoured pistol grip used on every rifle as well as a redesigned fire selector. The upper receivers on the 200-series rifles were altered to support a rail mount for optics.

The 200-series are unique for their polymer magazines that have small transparent ports along their edge so the shooter can check how many rounds are left. The indispensable handguard has top and bottom rails for whatever accessories the shooter needs. Another distinctive feature of the 200-series rifles are their muzzle brakes. Gone are the familiar Soviet style cylinders for newly designed pieces with horizontal vents to dissipate flash. For the reader’s convenience, here’s a listing of all next-generation Kalashnikov assault rifles and their calibers:

  • AK-12      –   5.45x39mm
  • AK-15      –   7.62x39mm
  • AK-200    –   5.45x39mm
  • AK-201    –   5.56x45mm
  • AK-202    –   5.56x45mm
  • AK-203   –   7.62x39mm
  • AK-204   –   7.62x39mm
  • AK-205   –   5.45x39mm
  • AK-308   –   7.62x51mm

Apart from the 200-series are a different set of assault rifles Kalashnikov Group claim are now standardized with the Russian military. These are the AK-12 serving as a replacement for the AK-74/M and the AK-15 that’s meant for 7.62x39mm bullets. Their numerical designations refer to the years they were introduced. Both assault rifles have longer barrel assemblies extending beyond the front sights that connect to the gas cylinders. It’s a bit uncanny how the appearance of these new AK’s suggests their designers have embraced the same layout as Finland’s Valmet rifles. Contrary to the manufacturer’s marketing, both rifles don’t seem to be in widespread use with the Russian armed forces.

An outlier in the Kalashnikov portfolio is a model called the AK-308. It’s being promoted as a replacement for old NATO battle rifles that use 7.62x51mm ammunition, hence its designation of “308.” This assault rifle is fed with a 20-round box magazine and can be mistaken for the Galil ACE 52/53. It’s assumed Kalashnikov Group are competing with several foreign companies to supply the Indian Army’s next battle rifle. This shows how competitive Russia’s best known gun maker is at a time when NATO rifles are seizing new markets.

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