The AK Vibe: Weird AK Variants

Ye olde AK-47, or AKM, has been an inspiring rifle. For a gun that basically came out of World War II, it had staying power. The Russians have been using some variants of the AK-47 since its first adoption. In fact, as we’ve seen in the Ukraine Conflict, even the standard old AKM is still seeing service with Russian forces. The AK is basically branding for Russia at this point, and they’ll likely cling to it for the foreseeable future and likely put out crappier and crappier versions like the AK-12.

The AK design has been used to create shotguns, submachine guns, sniper rifles, and more. It’s truly inspired some of the weirdest rifles I’ve ever seen. The need to cling to the AK has created several weird AK-based rifles. It got to the point where you’ll ask what exactly an AK is. We know it’s a long-stroke gas piston assault rifle, fed from a box magazine, and is typically capable of selected fire.

Yet, does that answer the question of what we consider an AK? After reading through numerous articles, watching historical videos, and reviewing these weird AK descendants, I had an epiphany. An AK is a vibe. You know it when you see it, and it’s not contained to one caliber or firearm type. With that in mind, let’s look at the weird Russian rifles with that AK vibe.

The Weirdest AK Descendants

APS Underwater Rifle

Is it any surprise that the rise of cocaine occurred during the Cold War? It’s pretty clear the Colombian go-go powder made its way to the Soviet Union when we look at the APS Underwater rifle. Alongside cocaine, the idea of heavily armed, secretive frogmen would be a constant threat to ships, docks, and ports. This gave rise to the notion of underwater rifles and handguns by both American and Soviet forces.

APS rifle
The APS rifle looks ridiculous.

The Russians looked at the AK-47 and immediately decided it could be used underwater, with some modifications. It’s still a long-stroke gas piston gun with a big curved magazine that rocks into place. The APS underwater rifle has an open receiver design to allow water to move around when the weapon is fired. This prevented the whole exploding thing when gas, water, and projectiles all started moving around.

The APS Underwater rifle used specialized steel darts and an unrifled barrel. The steel darts were 5.66x120mms locked into a 5.66x39mm case. The magazine is massive due to the length of the 120mm projectiles. The effective range varied depending on depth. As you got deeper, the range got shorter. At five meters, it could reach out to 30 meters, but at 40 meters, it reached only 11 meters. The APS Underwater Rifle takes a piece of the weird AK cake.

AN-94 Assault Rifle

The AN-94 was one of my favorite guns in Metal Gear Solid 4. The rifle is very much an AK derivative and uses the long-stroke gas system, 5.45 cartridge, and AK-74 magazines. Externally, it looks like a modernized AK design, but in reality, it’s so much more. If you’re on the wrong end of the gun, you might notice the weird cant of the magazine; it’s shoved out to the right-of-center several degrees. This is to make room for the Russian space magic.

AN-94 assault rifle
The AN-94 looks normal, but it’s the inside that counts. (World Firearms)

The AN-94 uses a very complicated system to reduce the recoil of its two-round burst function. The idea is that the system fires two rounds at 1,800 rounds per minute, and supposedly, the recoil of two rounds firing feels like one round. The AN-94’s system involves a barrel that moves rearward, a pulley system, and a special rod to load the chamber. It’s bizarre and overly complicated, but according to the few people who have fired one, it works.

AN-94 taken apart
See the round thing? That works with a belt as a pulley. (World Firearms)

The AN-94 system was originally intended to replace the AK-74, but the cost of production and complications prevented this. Still, the rifle was produced for special purpose use. Oddly, a group of people who can institute a pulley into a rifle can’t make it easy to mount optics.


I should mention that I have no context for the designations the Russians use. We know AK is Avtomat Kalashnikov, and 47 is the year it was adopted. What is AO-46? Well, I have no idea. It’s not initials, and it’s not the year. The AO-46 was a special-purpose weapon that never made it too far past the prototype stage. The Soviets wanted to outdo the Americans for short rifles and, after seeing the XM-177, wanted a much smaller rifle.

a0-46 rifle
Who says a magazine can’t be a grip? (Gun Wiki)

The AO-46 series was a bullpup-ish platform. It’s less bullpup and more like a Uzi, except the pistol grip was the magazine. Yep, you wrapped your hand around a 5.45×39 magazine. I’m sure it’s super comfortable to grip and fire in full auto. The AO-46 series uses a 9.7-inch barrel, and interestingly enough, the gun didn’t gather gas for operation from the barrel. Instead, it came directly from the muzzle device that acted as a flash suppressor.

The AO-46 featured a top-folding stack. The stock fell right between the front and rear sights. Overall, it was a very compact platform but it never saw adoption. The idea of a short weapon like the AO-46 led to the development of the AKS-74U, so it at least went somewhere.


Some Russians out there must live by the phrase one is none, and two is one, and that Russian designed the AO-63. It was actually two Russians, specifically Sergei Simonov and Peter Tkachev. Remember, two is better than one, and the AO-63 lived this philosophy by taking two AKs and combining them into one. The AO-63 is a double-barreled AK platform fed by this crazy 45-round magazine that uses a main double column and a single column holding 15 rounds.

AO-63 double barrel rifle
Notice the twin barrels. (Source Unknown)

The idea was similar to that of the AN-94. The Russians wanted a rifle that could fire a very accurate two-round burst with limited recoil. The right-side barrel is the main barrel, and when the weapon is fired in semi-auto mode, it’s the only barrel that fires. When you swap to full-auto, the rifle fires both barrels, but there is a .01-second delay between each barrel firing.

Finally, the rifle also had a two-round burst mode. The rate of fire for the two-round burst mode was reportedly 6,000 rounds per minute, making it the fastest-firing rifle. Spetsnaz tested the rifle in the Abakan trials. The rifle was found to be accurate, reliable, and easy to handle, but the AN-94 still won out.


Since we are already talking about double-barrel AKs, let’s look at the 80.002. Again, I have no idea where the naming convention came from. The 80.002 is a double-barrel AK, but it’s not two rifles posing as one. Instead, it’s a twin-barrel rifle with a 5.45 barrel and a shorter 12.7 mm barrel for launching special grenades. The gun has two magazines, one being the standard 30-round AK mag and the second being a 10-round 12.7mm grenade magazine.

80.002 details
Two barrels, two bolts, two magazines? No problems. (Source Unknown)

Russia seemed to be ahead of the US Army, as this project resembles the OICW program and their effort in combining a small caliber grenade launcher and an assault rifle. It should be noted that the rifle could still use Soviet rifle grenades as well. There isn’t a ton of information on how the weapon worked other than they shared the same bolt carrier, which held two separate bolts.

There was likely a selector device to swap between which weapon fed when fired because there appears to be only one trigger. This experimental weapon didn’t make it too far into production. It’s certainly neat, but not neat enough to make its way to fight Rambo and the Mujahadeen.

The Soviet Way

The AK still serves in dozens of military and police forces around the world. It’s a stout, reliable, and easy-to-handle rifle. It seems to be best in its original format, but as we can see, it can be quite versatile. Not bad for what’s essentially a scaled-up version of a WWII-era SMG. AK is just a vibe, and as you can see, that vibe is versatile.

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine Gunner and a lifelong firearms enthusiast. Now that his days of working a 240B like Charlie Parker on the sax are over he's 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 probably most likely the world's Okayest firearm instructor. He is a simplicisist when it comes to talking about himself in the 3rd person and a self-professed tactical hipster. Hit him up on Instagram, @travis.l.pike, with story ideas.

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