Tuesday, July 30, 2013

APS assault rifle

The APS (Avtomat Podvodnyj Spetsialnyj = Special Underwater Assault rifle) was developed during the early 1970s at TSNIITOCHMASH(Central Institute for Precision Machine building) by the team lead by V. Simonov. APS has been in active service with combat divers of the Soviet and Russian Navy since circa 1975.

APS rifle, with butt collapsed; note crude non-adjustable iron sights and unusual magazine

The APS is designed for special underwater cartridges, which fire 5.66 mm needle-like projectiles 120 mm long. The projectiles are stabilized using a hydrodynamic cavity, generated by the flat point of the projectile. The cartridges use standard 5.45 x 39 cases, sealed from water. The APS itself is a relatively crude, smooth bore arm, with a gas operated, rotating bolt action, fired from an open bolt. Single safety / selector switch is located at the left side of the receiver and allows for single shots and full automatic fire. The gas system features a patented self-adjusting gas valve, which allows the gun to be fired both underwater and in atmosphere. The simple trigger unit allows for single shots and full automatic fire. The rate of fire under water, as well as the effective range, depends on the actual depth. Sights are crude: a non-adjustable open notch rear and post front. The retractable buttstock is made from steel wire. The most complicated thing in the whole design is the feed system, which includes several parts to avoid double and even triple feed with the extremely long projectiles. Unusually deep (front to back) magazines are made from polymer and hold 26 rounds.

It must be noted that while APS could be fired "above the water", it should be done only in the case of emergency. According to the available sources, the expected service life of the APS when fired "in the air" degrades severely, and the effective range is limited only to several tens of meters. So, the APS is useful only under the water, where it is quite effective.

Caliber: 5.6x39 mm MPS
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 823 mm (butt retracted), 615 mm (butt collapsed)
Barrel length: n/a
Weight: 2.4 kg less magazine; 3.4 loaded
Rate of fire: 600 rounds per minute (in air)
Magazine capacity: 26 rounds

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The M3 / M5 series light tanks

The M3 / M5 series (commonly known as the "General Stuart") was an Allied design classified as a light tank and appeared through the early and middle years of the Second World War. The system was under-gunned and lightly armored but fast and reliable enough to warrant a good opinion of her crews. The system would appear of combat value up until 1944 when it was basically outclassed by even the lightest of German counterparts. The General Stuart served with American, British and Soviet forces alike and appeared in several forms throughout its production life.

The General Stuart series of light tank had little combat value by 1944 but nonetheless played a large role in early Allied operations.

Development of the General Stuart stemmed from the American post-World War 1 development of small infantry support tanks, namely the M2, which appeared by the 1930s. This system was an adequate infantry tank for its time, mounting a respectable 37mm main gun and good protection for advancing infantry. By the 1940s however, the system was simply outclassed by its German performers and was relegated to secondary roles, most notably the training of tank crews.

This did not signify the end of the American light tank development program for the invasion of Europe spurned American warplanners to come up with a redesigned version of the M2 in the Light Tank M3 - appearing with an increase to armor and combat weight whilst still retaining the 37mm main gun and machine guns. The M3 entered production and would see no fewer than 5,800 examples by series end.

Britain was a primary user of the M3 system (along with the US Army and the Red Army, te latter via Lend-Lease) and designated it as the "General Stuart" or simply "Stuart". Stuarts under British control served as the Stuart I, Stuart II, Stuart III, Stuart IV, Stuart V and the Stuart VI. The Stuart I and II differed mainly between the gasoline and diesel engines offered for each design while the Stuart III and Stuart differed similarly but featured a gyro stabilized main gun and a power traverse turret assembly. The Stuart V mainly offered up an improvement to armor protection while the Stuart VI was based on the revised M3, becoming the Light Tank M5 series, and featured a twin-Cadillac engine design along with a re-engineered turret.

Armament for the base M3/M5 series centered around the single 37mm main gun mounted in the turret. This main armament was retained throughout the entire lifetime of the vehicle though some variants would appear with the turret completely removed and instead housing more anti-infantry 7.62mm machine guns. Beyond the main gun, the crew of four had access to no fewer than five 7.62mm machine guns elsewhere in the standard design. This would include a bow-mount, coaxial mount, turret roof mount for anti-aircraft defense, and two in driver-controlled sponson mountings.

In the end, the Stuart appeared where ever it was needed and with three of the larger Allied armies. It earned a favorable reputation that would go on to solidify its place in World War 2 history. Though outclassed by many of the German platforms, the Stuart series nevertheless retained the qualities and capabilities admired by a tank crew on the battlefield.

Designation: Light Tank M3 / M5 (General Stuart)
Classification Type: Light Tank
Contractor: American Car & Foundry Company - USA
Country of Origin: United States
Initial Year of Service: 1941

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bersa Thunder & Thunder Mini

Bersa pistols are manufactured in Argentine by the Bersa S.A. company. Thunder pistols are available, in several different versions. The Thunder-380 pistols are of simple blowback design, while more powerful Thunder-9, Thunder-40 and Thunder-45 pistols are of locked breech design. Thunder series pistols are relatively compact and handy, yet they offer significant capacity with major pistol calibers, combined with good, fully ambidextrous ergonomics. Bersa pistols also are relatively inexpensive and offer decent reliability, making them good personal defense firearms. The only differences between Thunder and Thunder-mini pistols (which also sold as Thunder Ultra-Compact) are size and magazine capacity. The Ultra-Compact .45 pistols are roughly intermediate in size between standard and mini pistols, and, unlike smaller caliber brothers, they have a single stack magazine.

Bersa Thunder Nine (caliber 9x19mm Luger, Bersa Thunder 40 looks exactly the same).

Bersa Thunder 9 pistols are standard issue pistols for the Argentinean Federal Police and the Buenos Aires Province Police.

Bersa Thunder Mini 9mm left side

Bersa Thunder-9, Thunder-40 and Thunder-45 pistols are locked breech, short recoil operated firearms of Browning type. barrel is locked to slide by single large lug, which engages the ejection port in the slide. The unlocking is caused by the cam-shaped underbarrel extension. Trigger is of double action type, with exposed hammer and ambidextrous frame mounted safety, which decocks the hammer when engaged, then locks the slide and sear. The action also features a firing pin safety, which blocks the firing pin until the trigger is pressed. The slide release lever also is ambidextrous, and the magazine release button can be easily mounted on the either side of the grip. magazines of the 9mm and .40SW versions are of double stack type, .45 caliber magazines are single stack. Sights are fixed, with front sight integral to the slide and rear dovetailed to the frame. Latest production pistols also feature an integral key lock, located above the trigger on the left side of the frame, as well as accessory laser / light rail on the frame below the barrel.

Bersa Thunder Mini 9mm right side

Thursday, July 18, 2013

SR-3 / SR-3M "Vikhr"

The SR-3 "Vikhr" ("Whirlwind") compact assault rifle was developed in TSNIITOCHMASH by A. Borisov and V. Levchenko during early 1990s. Initially known as "MA" (Malogabaritnyj Avtomat = small-size assault rifle), it was based on the silenced 9 mm AS "Val" assault rifle, and intended for concealed carry by special VIP protection teams and State security operatives. The SR-3 is widely used by various FSO (Federal Protection Service, a VIP protection organization, which guards the President and the government of the Russian Federation) and FSB (Federal Security Service) operatives, elite Russian counter-terror teams and other specialized users in the MVD and Russian police. In terms of size and weight, the SR-3 is similar to many submachine guns, but it fires much more powerful 9x39mm ammunition, available in armor piercing (SP-6) and ball (SP-5) loadings. Thus, SR-3 is considered to be an assault rifle rather than a submachine gun.

SR-3 Vikhr compact assault rifle, shoulder stock folded.

Following the demand from users, the TSNIITOCHMASH recently developed an improved version of the SR-3, with intent to produce a more versatile weapon for Law Enforcement use. The new SR-3M (Modified) compact assault rifle features more convenient fire controls and charging handle, integral forward grip (folding), and, most important, specially developed quick-detachable silencer (sound moderator) and a standard side rail for mounting day or night optics on the left side of the receiver. Another useful accessory for the SR-3M is a new magazine with enlarged capacity (30 rounds), which also provides more reliable feeding during automatic fire.

SR-3 Vikhr compact assault rifle, shoulder stock extended.

The SR-3 features the receiver, machined from a bar of steel, and gas-operated action with long stroke piston, plus the same rotating bolt group from the AS. However, the SR-3 has no integral silencer, nor provision to mount one, and thus is much shorter than the AS. Other changes included a more compact, top-folding butt and simplified flip-up rear sight. The redesigned charging handle, made in the form of dual sliders above the forearm, must be grasped by thumb and index finger and then retracted to load the weapon. The trigger unit is generally the same as in the AS, but the AK-type safety is replaced by ambidextrous lever above the pistol grip. The fire mode selector is of cross-bolt, push button type and located behind the trigger, inside the trigger guard. SR-3 uses same polymer magazines for 10 or 20 rounds, as the parent AS and VSS rifles. Open sights consist of a protected front post and a flip-up rear sight with U-notch, with settings for 100 and 200 meters range.

SR-3M Vikhr compact assault rifle, early model, with 'old pattern' 20-round magazine; shoulder stock and forward grip extended.

The SR-3M differs by having AS-style controls (safety lever, semi / auto selector switch inside the trigger guard, charging handle), improved polymer furniture, AS-style side-folding shoulder stock, quick-detach mount for proprietary silencer at the muzzle, and a side-rail for mounting of various optical equipment (Red-dot or telescope day sights, night sights).

 SR-3M Vikhr compact assault rifle, current issue model, with 'old pattern' 20-round magazine, quick-mounted silencer and telescope sight.

SR-3M Vikhr compact assault rifle, current issue model, with 'new pattern' 30-round magazine.

SR-3 SR-3M
Caliber: 9x39 SP-5, SP-6
Action Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length (butt folded / open) 396 / 640 mm 410 / 675 mm
700 / 970 mm with silencer
Barrel length 156 mm 156 mm
Weight: 2.0 kg less magazine 2.2 kg less magazine
3.2 kg with empty 30-rd magazine and silencer
Rate of fire 900 rounds per minute 900 rounds per minute  
Magazine capacity 10 or 20 rounds 10, 20 or 30 rounds

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


The Ballester-Molina pistol, originally known as Ballester-Rigaud (so marked during first years of manufacture, circa 1938 to 1940), were made in Argentine by Hispano Argentina de Automotives SA (HAFDASA) company. Manufacture started in 1938 in attempt to provide Argentinean police and military with less expensive alternative to the Colt modelo 1927 pistol, domestically made licensed copy of the American Colt M1911A1 pistol. Production of the Ballester-Molina ceased in the early 1950s. While Ballester-Molina pistol is externally very similar to Colt, it has significant differences, especially in the safety and trigger unit arrangements. Actually, the only parts exchangeable between Ballester-Molina and M1911A1 are the barrel with link and the magazine. The trigger and safety arrangements were more or less copied from the Spanish Star pistols, with the pivoting trigger, single trigger to sear link, and no grip safety. Ballester-Molina pistols were used by Argentinean military and police, as well as supplied to the Britain during Second World war. Britain issued these pistols to their Special Operations Executives agents, which usually operated behind enemy lines.

Ballester-Molina pistol, left side.

The Ballester-Molina pistol is a short recoil operated, locked breech pistol. the locking system is similar to that of Colt M1911A1, with the swinging link used to unlock the barrel from the slide. The single action trigger is pivoted on the axis, the frame-mounted manual safety locks the slide and the hammer.

Ballester-Molina pistol, right side.

Type: Single Action
Calibers: .45ACP
Weight unloaded: 1075 gram
Length: 216 mm
Barrel length: 127 mm (5")
Capacity: 7 rounds

Monday, July 15, 2013

AEK-971 - a more stable firing platform due to the momentum cancelling technology used

The AEK-971 assault rifle was developed at Kovrov Machinebuilding Plant (formerly known as Kovrov Machineguns Plant) by chief designer S.I. Koksharov. Originally designed and tested during 'Abakan' trials of late 1980s, it failed in trials, but its development was continued in hopes to sell the gun to police forces and for export. During early 2000s small batches of AEK-971 rifles in 5.45x39 caliber were manufactured for Russian MVD (internal affairs ministry) troops, but its production has ceased in 2006, as Kovrov Machinebuilding Plant got rid of all military production and switched to civilian products only. All plans, tools and technological packages for AEK weapons were transferred to the ZID plant in the same city, but production of the AEK-971 was not resumed due to the lack of orders that might warrant expensive tooling and production setup at the new factory.

Early model AEK-971 rifle in 5.45x39mm

The AEK-971 assault rifle has a gas driven, balanced action with rotating bolt locking. Balancing mean that AEK971 gas drive has two gas chambers and two gas pistons. The first gas piston is linked via a gas rod to the bolt carrier and operates as usual. The second gas piston is linked to a balancing steel weight and moves in the opposite direction to the main gas piston. Both pistons are synchronized through a simple gear. This design is intended to eliminate three of the four elements of action impulses, which cause a rifle to move during full-auto fire. The first impulse is received when the bullet moves along the barrel - this is the basic recoil itself. The second impulse is received when the heavy bolt carrier/bolt group moves along the receiver back and forth. The third impulse is received when bolt carrier/bolt group slams against the receiver in the rear position, and the fourth when this group is stopped in the forward position after a new cartridge is chambered. The synchronous and opposite movement of the balancing weight eliminates all except the recoil impulse, so the rifle becomes far more stable during full-auto fire.

Early model AEK-973 rifle in 7.62x39mm

The gain in accuracy in full auto is about 15-20%, when compared to the AK-74 assault rifle in the same caliber. The AN-94 assault rifle, which was officially adopted by Russian army, has a slight edge over the AEK-971 only in short burst (2 rounds only) mode. In full-auto medium or long burst fire mode (3-5 or 7-10 rounds per burst) AEK-971 wins hands down, being also some 0.5kg lighter than the AN-94, and much simpler and cheaper to manufacture.

Late production model AEK-971 rifle in 5.45x39mm with red-dot sight

AEK-971 has a side-folding plastic buttstock, a plastic forearm and fire control grip, and uses standard AK/AKM or AK-74 30-round magazines (depending on the chambering). It also features a safety switch/fire mode selector of different appearance from the Kalashnikov design. The fire selector allows 3 modes of fire - single shots, 3-round bursts and full auto.

Prototype AEK-973S rifle in 7.62x39mm with telescoped butt

Caliber: 5.45x39mm (AEK-971), 5.56x45 (AEK-972) and 7.62x39mm (AEK-973)
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt, balanced
Overall length: 965 mm
Barrel length: 420 mm
Weigth: 3.3 kg without magazine
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds, all standard AK-47 or AK-74 magazines depending on caliber

Monday, July 8, 2013

S-23 Cannon

The S-23 was a heavy gun to be used in Europe if the Cold War got hot. It was available to Soviet allies and operations were trained by the members of the Soviet army. This massive weapon uses a 16 man crew and is towed by an AT-T heavy-tracked tractor which also carriers the crew their supplies and some ammunition. This ammo was large and heavy, the HE round is 84.09kg (185.4 lbs) and the concrete piercing round weighs 97.7 kg (215.4 lbs). The gun was also available to shoot a 0.2kt nuclear projectile.

When paired with other Soviet artillery weapons, the S-23 would have added a ferocious punch to an already intimidating barrage.

A Soviet Army heavy artillery brigade had 12 S-23 weapons; the amount of fire power was staggering along with 155mm and 130 mm artillery howitzers in the division.

The S-23 had an 8.8 m (28 ft 10.46 in) barrel. To reduce the overall length the barrel could be moved and linked to the trailing double wheel carriage. The carriage was a standard split type with two twin rubber tires in front and a dolly in the rear, also with two rubber tires.

Rate of fire was 1 round per minute and 1 round per 2 minutes of sustained fire. The effective range of an HE projectile was a reported 30,400 meters (33,245 yards) while a rocket-assisted projectile could reach within 43,800 meters (47,900 yards).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

ADS dual-medium

For several decades, Soviet and then Russian combat divers and Naval commando units were armed with special weapons for underwater combat, including the SPP-1 pistol and APS underwater assault rifle. The main drawback of these weapons is that their effectiveness (and life expectancy) for use above the water is severely degraded compared to standard 'above water' weapons. Therefore, combat divers and other Spetsnaz units, when engaged in amphibious operations (below the water and above), had to carry on the mission two types of weapons - one for underwater use and another for use when on shore or on board of enemy surface vessels. The first known attempt to produce a single weapon which could be effectively used either below or above the water was the ASM-DT experimental 'dual-medium' or amphibious assault rifle, developed in Tula in around 2000. The main problem with ASM-DT was that it still had to use extremely long, specially designed underwater ammunition when submerged, which necessitated overly long receiver, complicated magazine well of adjustable size and two types of magazines. This was found unsuitable for combat use, and further development commenced at the famous arms development facility KBP (Instrument Design Bureau) in Tula. By 2005, design team at KBP has successfully developed effective underwater ammunition which retains the compact size of the standard issue 5.45x39 7N6 ball (as well as 7N10 and 7N22 AP) rounds, and thus can be loaded and fired from standard AK-74-type box magazines, and, more importantly, fired from the same chambers and barrels that would accept the 'above-water' 7N6 ammunition.

ADS dual-medium / amphibious / underwater assault rifle, current model, which can be used in same configuration either above or below the water, with only change being ammunition type (in similar magazines)

This new cartridge is known as 5.45x39 PSP, and is externally similar to standard 5.45x39 ammunition except that it has a different bullet shape. Internally it differs in having a long bullets, which has specially calculated shape and protrudes back into the cartridge case all the way to the bottom, with overall bullet length being about 53mm (2.1 inch), compared to overall cartridge length of 57mm. There are two types of PSP ammunition, the 5.45 PSP (combat ammunition) with hardened steel projectile weighting 16 gram (muzzle velocity on air about 330 m/s) and 5.45 PSP-U (practice / training ammunition) with bronze projectile weighting 8 gram (muzzle velocity on air about 430 m/s). Effective range with PSP ammunition varies from 25 meters at 5 meters depth to 18 meters at 20 meters depth; effective range of the PSP-U training ammunition when below teh water is about 2 times shorter.

ADS dual-medium / amphibious / underwater assault rifle configured for above-water "Spetsnaz"  use; grenade launcher barrel is removed, and a silencer and night sight are installed for special operations

Having settled on new ammunition, designer at KBP commenced work on the new weapon, well suitable for both surface and underwater combat. This new rifle was designated as ADS (АДС - Автомат Двухсредный Специальный - Avtomat Dual-medium, Special). They used the A-91M bullpup assault rifle as a starting point, retaining its bullpup layout, gas operated action with rotary bolt locking and forward ejection through the short tube running above and to the right of the barrel. Some parts of the weapon were necessarily redesigned and materials revised to work reliably when submerged in water, gas system was modified with addition of the environment selector ("air / water"). Integral 40mm grenade launcher (which fires VOG-25 type 'caseless' grenades using additional front trigger inside the trigger guard) is fitted with removable barrel which can be removed when it is not needed by the mission profile. Muzzle of the barrel is threaded to accept muzzle brake / compensator, tactical silencer or blank-firing adapter. Rifle is fitted with adjustable iron sights, and an integral carrying handle is provided with Picatinny type rail on the top to accept various day and night optical sights. The ADS can fire any standard issue 5.45x39 ammunition (ball, tracer, AP) when above the water, with accuracy and effectiveness similar, if not better than of AK-74 / AK-74M general issue assault rifle. When submerged and loaded with 5.45 PSP ammunition, ADS outperforms APS underwater assault rifle in terms of accuracy and ease of handling.

Diagram from original Russian patent, issued in 2006, for the design of the 5.45x39 PSP underwater cartridge and bullet, which protrudes down the cartridge case all the way to its base.

Early prototype of the ADS dual-medium / amphibious assault rifle configured for above-water fire, with standard AK-74 magazine loaded with 5.45x39 ammunition

Early prototype of the ADS dual-medium / amphibious assault rifle configured for under-water fire, loaded with special magazine with underwater ammunition with long, needle-like bullets; it was based on the earlier ASM-DT experimental dual-medium / amphibious assault rifle

Caliber: 5.45x39mm 7N6 / 7N10 / 7N22 for above-water fire and 5.45x39 PSP or PSP-U for under-water fire
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt
Overall length: 660 mm
Barrel length: 415 mm
Weight: 4.6 kg (with integral 40mm grenade launcher)
Rate of fire: 600-800 rounds per minute
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds



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