11 Weird Russian Guns — Beyond the Kalashnikov

I started trying to do an article on weird military guns from around the world and kept finding myself looking at firearms developed by Russia. So much so that I quickly found that I could cut out the rest of the world and do an entire article on weird Russian guns.

There may be some salutary geopolitical lesson in there.

The World of Weird Russian Guns

Even deciding on Russki firearms proved to be too wide of a field. I had to establish rules because the Russians developed dozens of guns that never made it to the production table. I needed to dial it in.

Thus, my rules for weird Russian firearms meant they had to be..

A. a production firearm and 

B. a weapon issued to some element of their military, police, or other “security” forces.

With that in mind, I set out to find ten. But I still ended up with eleven weird Russian firearms.

1. Stechkin Automatic Pistol

God, I love machine pistols. Why are they so stinking cool? I don’t know, but I adore them. The Soviets wanted a PDW for non-infantry troops, and the Stechkin would fill that gap. Mortar crews, truck drivers, tankers, and the like could be armed with a Stechkin over an AK and have a lighter overall weapon that’s fitted with a stock and capable of automatic fire.

Russian guns Stechkin APS
Who doesn’t love a Machine Pistol?(Courtesy Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The Stechkin is a straight blowback, select-fire, box-fed pistol that fires the classic 9x18mm Makarov cartridge. It feeds from a twenty-round magazine, and that magazine would empty in seconds with the pistols 750 rounds per minute rate of fire.

As far as weird Russian firearms go, this has proven to be one of the more successful models and has been issued since 1951 to various troops, including special ops.

2. AS VAL

Say what you want about the Soviets and the filth of communism, but their small arms were ahead of the time. I feel like America arrives at the same conclusion as the Russians twenty years later. For example, we turned to the 300 Blackout to provide an effective, suppressed, short-barreled rifle. The Russian made the AS VAL more than two decades prior to the 300 Blackout to serve the same purpose.

Russian Guns AS VAL
It’s like 300 Blackout…made decades earlier (Courtesy Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

This series of subsonic, hard-hitting, suppressed Russian firearms fire the 9x39mm cartridge. This heavy-hitting round provides a suppressed weapon option for low visibility operations. The little rifle features an integral suppressor for a suppressed platform, a hair longer than an M4 and weighing only 5.5 pounds.

It could even be broken down into a specialized case for discreet operations.

3. Shak 12

Those pesky Russians invented their own version of the 50 Beowulf in 2011 with the 12.7 x 55mm round. This powerhouse of a cartridge fits into the Shak 12. The Shak 12 utilizes a bullpup layout for a very short overall length.

The mysterious FSB uses the Shak 12 for urban combat operations where they want to maximize short-range killing power.

Russian Guns - Shak 12 bullpup
This big bullpup has a bite.

The Shak 12 not only kills enemies dead but has a limited range compared to a traditional rifle round, reportedly to minimize potential civilian casualties.

The hefty rifle utilizes a short recoil operation and a massive 20 round magazine for close-quarters fights. This is an example of modern Russian firearms that we rarely see in use. It’s an unusual weapon even by unusual weapon standards, rarely caught on video or camera, and clearly, a purpose-built niche option for urban combat.

4. APS Underwater Rifle

The 1970s were a weird time for warfare theory. A lot of people in the head sheds of both Western and Russian militaries thought lots of battles would be fought by frogmen. As such, both sides designed ‘underwater firearms’.

The Russians utilized the APS Underwater rifle, which fired a 120mm long 5.66mm steel dart through a gas actuated action. The barrel lacked rifling, and the projectile was stabilized via hydrodynamic effects.

Russian Guns - APS underwater rifle
How many frogman fights did the Russians expect? (Courtesy Remigiusz Wilk)

This might be the weirdest of the Russian Firearms, but also one of the coolest.

Imagine a Tom Clancy-esque operation involving frogmen gunfights with each side’s respective underwater rifles. Luckily, for frogmen everywhere, these weapons were never used in combat…that we know of.

5. SPP-1 Underwater Pistol

Since we’re are on the subject of underwater frogman fights, let’s not forget that in the armories of Russian firearms we also see an underwater pistol. The SPP-1 gave Soviet frogmen a sidearm in case their main weapon failed to kill the invading Navy SEALs.

The SPP-1 fired a 4.5 mm steel dart that was 115mm long.

Russian Guns, SPP-1 underwater pistol
Seriously all the frogman firefights. (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Like the rifle, this pistol provided more penetration than a spear gun and offered Soviet frogmen an effective range of about 11 meters when below 20 meters of water.

It was a close-range fighting tool, but I imagine it’d be more comforting than a trident and hard words.

6. OTs-38 Stechkin Silent Revolver

Russia has a real habit of making political opposition disappear. When you kill a dissident in a foreign country, you want to leave behind as little evidence as possible and hopefully remain unnoticed.

You know how the old assassin saying goes, “Take only lives, leave only nothing”.

The OTs-38 Stechkin SIlent Revolver did just that. There is no silencer on this gun. Instead, it uses a 7.62x41mm SP-1 silent round.

Russian Guns, OT2-38 Stechkin silent revolver
Let’s remove dissidents quietly! (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The round works by using a combustive charge to drive a piston. The piston propels the bullet forward and forms a gas seal as it operates. In a revolver, this prevents the gap between cylinder and barrel from releasing gas or noise. The effective range is roughly 25 meters. With a revolver, no casings are left behind, and the gun delivers double-action performance for enhanced reliability with the SP-1 round.

Of all the weird Russian firearms out there, I want this one the most.

7. NRS-2

Okay, maybe I lied with the above statement, but can a knife be considered a part of the Russian guns collective? When does a gun become a knife and a knife become a gun?

When the Spetznaz went shopping for a new knife, they knew one thing, they wanted it to also be a gun. The NRS-2 utilizes the same 7.62x41mm SP-1 round as the OTs-38.

NRS-2 knife that also shoots a single cartridge
When you want a knife that also shoots. (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The NRS-2 fires a single round of ammo before the Soviet Soldier is left to fend for himself with a knife. The purpose of a knife that fires a single round is inherently silly but also inherently awesome.

8. PP-90

Remember that Magpul folding gun thing they showed once a decade ago and then brought back this year as a Glock format pistol? Well, the Russians thought of it first and gave us the PP-90. This 9mm Makarov folding submachine gun came to be in 1990 and was designed for the MVD.

 Russian PP-90
Transformers —more than meets the eye! (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

It’s a submachine gun that could be used in situations that require an SMG but make getting an SMG into action difficult. This covert weapon offered a lot of firepower in a square folding design. Beyond the high-tech folding design, it’s a relatively simple blowback submachine gun with rudimentary sights and controls.

9. MTs255

As a shotgun nerd, I can finally get to my favorite type of Russian guns. Russian shotgun development went a different way from the United States. They embraced numerous designs, one being the MTs255.

The MTs255 is a shotgun that features a double-action mechanism and a five-shot revolver cylinder. The MTs255 was designed for law enforcement and security personnel and utilized black polymer furniture, and the sporting model utilizes wooden furniture.

MTs255 revolver shotgun
Look at it! It’s beautiful but silly. (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

You get a rather rapid-fire shotgun that doesn’t require a complicated semi-auto action. In harsh winter weather, the double-action design allowed for manual cycling of the hammer.

The MTs255 is one of the weirder Russian guns, but it’s certainly a product of its environment. In that context, it makes sense.

10. KS-23

The KS-23 is a unit of a pump-action shotgun. It has a 26mm bore, making it essentially a 6.27 gauge shotgun. The barrels come from 23mm anti-aircraft guns that were rejected from service anti-air guns. The KS-23 came in several models. Only the KS-23M was adopted, and it featured a folding wire stock, a 16-inch barrel, and has a 3 round capacity.

Russian guns - KS-23 pump action shotgun, 23mm.
23mm shotgun…need I say more? (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

The KS-23 was originally designed for prison riot use. It came ready to function with heavy loads of less-lethal buckshot. Over time, buckshot, barricade buster, a flashbang, and CS rounds were developed for us.

The KS-23 is the large bore shotgun currently in use, you know, over there.

11. BS-1 Tishina

Let’s say you want an under-barrel grenade launcher, but lots of your operations require stealth. What are you to do? Well, if you are in the Russian Firearms world, you develop the BS-1 Tishina silent grenade launcher. T

he BS-1 Tishina utilized a bolt action that cycled a blank round into place. The blank round fires and ignites the grenade propellant, launching the grenade in a fashion that reduces the signature and report of the grenadier.

BS-1 Tishina automatic grenade launcher
Silenced grenade launchers seem silly. (Courtesy of Vitaly V. Kuzmin)

Grenades explode with a good, loud bang, so you hardly notice the pop that propelled the grenade. This silent grenade launcher was developed for the Spetsnaz and saw action in their numerous little wars in which silent grenades were a necessity.

I’m pretty sure this is the only silent grenade launcher to ever be fielded.

Weird Guns from…Where Else?

I’m only one man and can only do so much research. As such, I know I’ve had to miss some very cool guns from the eastern front. As such, let’s turn it over to the community.

What weird Russian guns did I miss?

In fact, beyond the Russian guns, what sorta weird guns (of any kind) from around the world tickle your fancy?

Let me know below.

 

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner, a lifelong firearms enthusiast, and now a regular guy who likes to shoot, write, and find ways to combine the two. He holds an NRA certification as a Basic Pistol Instructor and is the world's Okayest firearm's instructor.

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