First of all, a more compact weapon, rather than a full-sized machine gun, was needed by those who would simply be inconvenient to handle a large-sized handgun. Drivers, armored vehicles, artillery, supply troops, communications, and so on, need weapons, but its application against the enemy is not the main task. If for participating in combat in direct contact with the enemy, handguns are the main means of combat, for the rest they are more likely even self-defense weapons, or, more precisely, weapons just in case. Thus, it turns out that the necessary machine is quite light, relatively compact, but at the same time with the same efficiency as the larger counterparts, which is naturally impossible. In general, a compact version of the machine was needed and in 1973, the first requirements for a new weapon were made, which became the basis for the Modern contest.
The competition for a new small-sized machine was quite large. Despite the fact that almost everyone was confident in the victory of the sample from Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov, many well-known designers took part in this competition. As in other contests, the Kalashnikov victory was predictable, primarily due to the fact that his version of the weapon was based on the full-size version of the machine, which meant no need to re-equip production, that is, reduce the cost of the weapon. Nevertheless, gunsmiths worked, someone hoped for a miracle, but basically all of this was done in order to build on the future, so to speak, to create a base that would be inherited by the new generation of designers.
The requirements for a small-sized machine gun, according to the terms of the competition, were quite tough and one could say impracticable for reliable and reliable weapons. Needless to say, the weapon had the ability to conduct both automatic and single fire. The weight of the machine should not exceed 2,2 kilogram, the length of the weapon should have been no more than 450 millimeters with a folded butt and 750 millimeters with a butt laid out. The target range was supposed to be 500 meters. The main hitch in these requirements were dimensions and weight, of course, plastic could be actively applied, but such a sample would obviously not have passed, even if it were ideal - too negative a relation to plastic in weapons at that time. The layout of the bull-pops was also not welcomed, although it could significantly reduce the dimensions of the weapon, while using the barrel of normal length, and a more comfortable retention would provide higher accuracy in maintaining automatic fire, and of course the weapon would have a number of drawbacks inherent in all the "bull dad". In general, although no one forbade the use of bullpup's layout, everyone understood that in such a layout the weapon would be guaranteed a failure in the competition.
Understanding in advance that the victory will be for the Kalashnikov model and that it is almost impossible to meet the required weight and dimensions, the majority of the designers participating in the competition did not really adhere to the established requirements. Let's try to get acquainted with the most interesting "rivals" AKS74U, suddenly there was something better than "Ksyush" and in order to save this sample we missed.
Evgeny Fedorovich Dragunov's automatic machine - the small-sized MA machine
Evgeny Fedorovich started working on his submachine gun in 1975, the main “chip” of the weapon was the fact that polymers were widely used in it, despite the fact that they were viewed obliquely, although at the same time the topic was actively developed. So to say was a turning point in the active introduction of polymers in the design of weapons. The gunsmith decided to make his machine gun maximally saturated with plastic, so that even despite losing this sample in the competition, it is of particular value for the development of weapons business, since this sample proved that plastic and firearms are quite compatible, while the weapon itself is not does not suffer in reliability, strength and durability. However, earlier specimens proved this.
In order to make the introduction of plastic into the design of a plastic weapon maximal, Evgeny Fedorovich invented an original layout for the main elements of the weapon, which made it possible to almost completely “unload” the plastic parts of the machine, significantly increasing their service life, making it equal to the metal parts. The receiver box was naturally metal, the barrel was installed in it, and behind the barrel there was a shutter that moved along the guides located above it, so the shutter turned out to be “suspended” and in its movement did not contact the plastic in any of its positions. From the receiver was a metal butt, folding up, that is, the recoil energy also did not touch the plastic. The entire lower part of the machine was made of glass-filled polyamide AG-4В. In the same place, the trigger mechanism of the weapon was mounted in plastic, and the only metal part embedded in plastic was the ring through which the pin passed, fixing the entire assembly. The weak point of such a design can only be called the fact that when firing with a folded butt, without resting on the shoulder, the life of the weapon was sharply reduced, since in this case plastic took almost all the recoil energy to itself, passing its arrow through the handle of the weapon. This, in principle, could be quite easily solved by adding a couple of metal parts, strengthening the plastic handle and connecting it with the receiver, but this was not done, because without them the weapon exceeded the competitive limits in weight. In addition, the forearm of the weapon, which was also plastic, was associated only with a metal receiver, and this significantly increased the service life of the weapon even when firing without using a butt, while shooting, like in a movie, with one hand even now comes to my head , and then all the more.
The weapon turned out at the same time and interesting and it seems to be built according to the well-known scheme - automation, using the energy of powder gases withdrawn from the barrel. The barrel bore was locked with an 3 bolt when turning, the bolt carrier was not connected to the pusher. The trigger mechanism trigger, made a separate unit, allowed the maintenance of automatic and single fire. It is interesting that the trigger mechanism is made with the so-called “cockpit hammer” with a twisted combat spring, working in compression. This virtually eliminated friction between the bolt carrier and the hammer during its movement, and therefore extended the service life of the weapon. However, this is exactly what caused the first problems in testing weapons. When testing a small-sized MA in unfavorable conditions, in automatic fire mode, the weapon gave frequent failures, since the self-timer did not pull the trigger from a dead center and, accordingly, a shot did not occur. This required changes in the location of the parts of the trigger mechanism, and this was done several times until everything began to work properly. The reasons for the failure were that while moving the bolt carrier forward, it was necessary to spend energy to overcome the resistance of the compressed combat spring, while doing so only with the mass of the bolt carrier and the bolt of the weapon, accelerated by the return spring. So to ensure the operability of the machine, it was necessary to install a return spring of sufficient rigidity so that pressing the slide frame on the self-timer was sufficient to remove the trigger from the dead point. In turn, we should not forget that the pusher is not associated with the slide frame, because the more rapid movement of the latter could deform the pusher, which, of course, was unacceptable. It is clear that the separate pusher and bolt carrier take their roots from the SVD, but here, unlike the SVD, the length of the pusher is less, respectively, it is less elastic, which causes problems. In the end, the problem was solved, and a balance was found between the rigidity of the recoil spring and the durability of the pusher with a high weapon reliability.
Naturally, a lot of attention was paid during testing to the strength of plastic parts of weapons, so when testing for strength, it was revealed that the machine, thrown on the hold handle, bounces like a basketball, but there were no complaints about the strength. Actually, therefore, this sample can be identified as a weapon that proved to the Soviet military industry that “firearms” and plastic are quite compatible things. It was also noted separately that the machine turned out to be fairly flat, with no protruding parts, well, except maybe the shutter handle. This had a positive effect on both the carrying of weapons and their storage. Separately, the designer considered the laboriousness of manufacturing his own sample, which was even less than in the production of AK74, naturally with a well-established production.
The controls of the machine are quite interesting and worthy of special attention. The trigger, the shutter knob, the magazine latch are all understandable and familiar, but the fuse switch and the translator of fire modes are quite interesting. The switch itself is made with a small L-shaped part, it has three positions: “automatic fire”, “single fire” and “fuse”. The first two positions are not interesting in principle, but in their third position the switch location is not quite usual. So in a position that ensures the safety of the handling of weapons, the short part of the switch is located in such a way that it closes the “window” between the safety bracket and the trigger. This solution allows you to immediately determine whether the weapon is on the guard or not, which is quite convenient, since the shooter receives information as soon as he takes the weapon in his hands. The second end of the switch becomes in such a position that it closes the slot for the shutter handle, so that the shutter cannot move to its extreme rear position. But this is not all the interesting things in the controls. Fixing the folding butt is carried out by a rather large button located on the back of the machine; when pressed, the butt can be folded or unfolded. Interestingly, the butt itself does not increase the thickness of the weapon and does not affect the ease of holding or aiming in its folded form. The sights of the machine gun are made in the form of a fixed front sight and reversible diopter rear sight with aiming distances 300 and 500 meters. It is the rear sight that is the element that holds the metal and plastic of the automaton together from the back side. To disassemble the weapon during maintenance, it is necessary to rotate the rear anti-clockwise 90 degrees, which will make it possible to open the receiver, which rises up and gives access to the “inner world” of the MA small-sized machine gun.
The resulting sample slightly violated some of the points of the requirements of the Modern contest, however, even the winner did not fit into them. So the weight of the small-sized MA automaton designed by Evgeny Fedorovich Dragunov was 2,5 kilograms without cartridges, despite the fact that polymers were widely used in it, which, by the way, also have weight. In length with a folded butt weapon also did not fit - 500 millimeters. With the butt spread out, the length of the machine was 735 millimeters, that is, 15 millimeters less than the required. The length of the barrel of the weapon was equal to 212 millimeters, so it was possible not to dream about really aiming shooting at 500 meters, but it wasn’t even the design of a sniper rifle. The rate of automatic fire was 800 shots per minute, which I probably would have even considered negative qualities. The rate of fire is not so high that there is a tangible advantage in accuracy when shooting from unstable positions, but at the same time it differs significantly from the usual 600 shots per minute, of course, you can get used to it, but nonetheless. It feeds weapons from detachable magazines with a capacity of 30 5,45x39 cartridges from AK74.
By the time of full completion of work on the small-sized MA of the Dragunov design, the decision was made to adopt AKS74U, however, the designer had completed his work, creating, in the end, a reliable and interesting model, ready for serial production, which is worthy of respect.
Automatic machine of Andrey Semenovich Konstantinov - small-sized machine AEK-958
On account of this gunsmith a huge number of a wide variety of weapons - from a sniper rifle to a machine gun, however, almost all of them were in the "losers" in all competitions. However, this does not mean that the designer’s weapon was bad; according to the results of the contests, it was often possible to find lines in the conclusions that spoke about the superiority of Andrei Semyonovich’s weapons, including superiority over the eternal winner of the Kalashnikov machine gun. It was thanks to the participation of such gunsmiths that more successful designers were forced to constantly improve their weapons so as not to simply “fly out” of the leaders. That is, it can be said that it was precisely such works that, as a result, turned out to be losers, moved the arms industry of the Soviet Union forward, and also replenished the base of designers with new solutions and knowledge. The gunsmith and the “Modern” competition did not bypass their attention by presenting their small-sized AEK-958 submachine gun, although very little is known about this sample.
Most likely, the well-known CA-958 automaton formed the basis of the AEK-006 automaton; however, due to its compact dimensions, the balanced automatics were not applicable to the small-sized automaton, at least this was not said anywhere, although little was said about this automaton at all. It is known that the weapon uses automation built according to the scheme with removal of powder gases from the barrel when the barrel is locked into two combat protrusions. The trigger hammer has the ability to conduct both single and automatic fire. The switch of weapon and fuse modes of operation is located on the right side, has three positions and is rather small in comparison with AK. The switch is located slightly in front of the hold handle. Also located on the right side and the shutter handle. Overall, the weapon didn’t stand out much, but it was the only sample that fit in terms of size and weight into the conditions of the competition, which is worthy of respect, since it was one of two machines that managed to meet the requirements.
Automatic machine Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov - small machine gun AG-043
Another version of the weapon presented at the Modern competition, which fit into the requirements, was Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov’s small-sized machine gun, under the designation AG-043. The weapon is also a little-known and a lot of data about it is not enough, but it was possible to dig up something. The weight of the Simonov machine gun was just 2,1 kilograms, the length of the weapon with the butt folded was only 42 centimeters, and with the unfolded 68 centimeters. Thus, it is not even desirable to call this weapon a machine gun, since many submachine guns have a large mass and size. Nevertheless, this sample was fed with 5,45x39 cartridges from stores from a Kalashnikov assault rifle and more than satisfied the accuracy of fire at short and medium distances. Here it should be noted that the gunsmith himself was already quite old at the time of the “Modern” competition, so apparently he adhered to strict rules and did not allow himself liberties like other designers. In my opinion, Sergey Gavrilovich managed to do the impossible, since it is simply impossible to put everything together in such small dimensions and with such weight, and in order to still work it is necessary to have not just talent, but a huge store of knowledge.
In general, the weapon was more than a classic in the location of controls, and if it were not for small dimensions, it would be the most ordinary sample. It is interesting that there is quite improbable information that this machine was nevertheless adopted for use, however, by the State Security Committee. True or not, at the moment someone is unlikely to respond, besides, the adoption of weapons does not mean that at least someone held the weapon in their hands, so that everyone can decide for himself, the KGB missed such an interesting one model of the machine, which can be worn hidden or not.
To be continued ... and not one.