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The 100-Series Kalashnikovs: A Primer
By N.R. Jenzen-Jones

The so-called “AK-100 series” (or simply “Hundred Series”) weapons are the latest iterations of the venerable Kalashnikov system currently in mass production. The new generation of AK rifles includes the AK-101 through AK-105, and the AK-74M. The AK-74M, AK-101, and AK-103 are full length assault rifles, whilst the AK-102, AK-104, and AK-105 are short-barrelled variants. The AK-107, AK-108 , and AK-109 assault rifles are further developments of the AK-100 series, but are different enough to be considered separately. They feature a new gas system, designed by Yuriy Alexandrov, which differs from previous Kalashnikov designs. The AK-9, a purpose-built suppressed assault rifle chambered for the 9x39mm SP-5 and SP-6 rounds, is also a further development of the 100 series.

To be clear, there is no weapon designated the AK-100, although it is believed that the AK-74M was referred to by the designers as such, prior to being type-standardised by the military. There is also no weapon designated the AK-106. This is an occasional point of confusion, with some online discussion confusing the Arsenal SLR-106 with the non-existent AK-106.

After modernising the AK-74 as the AK-74M (Avtomat Kalashnikova obraztsa 1974 Modernizirovannyi; Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle Model 1974 Modernised) in 1991, the next few years saw Izhmash develop a range of variants of this weapon, designed primarily for export. It formed the Kalashnikov Joint Stock Company to market these rifles worldwide. The series was finalised over the course of 1994, and the AK-101 through AK-105 models were released. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the expected rise in foreign exports led to these firearms being built around three different cartridges:
  • 5.45x39mm - Designed primarily for domestic use by Russian forces, this round is fired by the AK-74M and the AK-105.
  • 7.62x39mm - This cartridge was included largely to appeal to Russia's export partners, and has seen the most foreign purchases. The AK-103 and AK-104 are chambered for this round.
  • 5.56x45mm - This NATO round was included for export purposes, and has seen limited sales. This cartridge is fired by the AK-101 and AK-102 rifles.

Gordon Rottman's guide to the AK family notes “Izhmash reasoned that some users would rather replace their worn AKs with improved models at a lower cost than if they were to acquire weapons from Western, Chinese, or other arms merchants.”

Like their predecessors in the Kalashnikov lineage, the AK-100 series rifles are gas operated, rotating bolt select-fire weapons. They take their design cues and appearance from the AK-74M, featuring the same black synthetic (glass-reinforced polyamide) furniture and magazines, and a black phosphate finish on metal parts. They also feature the same solid plastic, side-folding buttstock. This appears similar to the fixed stock version, and folds to the left. The weapons also feature dovetail sight mounts on the left side of the receiver housing, designed to accept a wide range of optics. Another useful feature to note for identification purposes is the smooth top cover, which differs from the ribbed variety seen on some AK-74s, and AKMs.

The 100-series is generally regarded as being manufactured at a slightly higher standard than previous AKs and feature cold hammer forged barrels. Whilst the weapons are often referred to as a “unified complex” in Russian literature, the weapons are stand-alone in nature. Neither the barrels, nor the magazines of different calibres are interchangeable. It should also be noted that NATO STANAG magazines are not compatible with the AK-101. The AK-74M, -101, and -103 feature the extended muzzle brake seen on AK-74 rifles, and the AK-102, -104, and -105 feature a shorter, conical muzzle brake, as seen on the AKS-74U (“krinkov”). Sights on the full size rifles are optimistically graduated to 1,000m (3,281ft), whilst the shorter-barrelled rifles have sights marked to 500m (1,640ft).

The AK-101 and AK-103 rifles are also available in both semiautomatic only, and three-round burst variants. The semiautomatic variant is designated the AK-101-1 or AK-103-1, and three-round burst variant the AK-101-2 or AK-103-2. The -2 variants retain their fully-automatic fire capability. There is also a ‘-3’ variant of the AK-74M and AK-103 available, featuring an underbarrel accessory rail on the fore-end, and an ergonomic pistol grip. Both of these features can be seen on the new AK-12 assault rifle.

All hundred series rifles are designated with the suffix N2, when equipped with the 1PN58 night sight, and N3 when equipped with the 1PN51 (i.e. AK-74MN2, AK-103N3, etc.). As with other Kalashnikov developments, the 100 series rifles remain compatible with most existing accessories, including the PBS series suppressors, various muzzle brakes, a range of box and drum magazines of varying construction and capacity, scope mounts, and a wide range of collimating, telescopic, night vision, and thermal optics.

The AK-74M is the standard service rifle of the Russian Federation, replacing the AK-74 and AKS-74 in the procurement system almost immediately after its adoption in 1991. The -74M has also been adopted by several former republics of the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. Azerbaijan has licensed the design from Izhmash, and is now producing a modified AK-74M – known as the “Khazri Assault Rifle” – locally. The AK-74M is also in use with the Cypriot National Guard (Ethnikí Frourá).

The AK-103 has seen the most export success, with a number of countries producing, or aiming to produce, the rifle under license. India was one of the earliest purchasers, with a factory established over the course of 2008/09. Ethiopia’s state-run arsenal, the Gafat Armament Engineering Complex, produces a copy of the AK-103 known as the ET-97/1 Assault Gun. A version with a side-folding metal skeleton stock is also produced. According to some sources, the Iranian Takavaran (naval commandos) have also used AK-103s.

Venezuela has established a plant to manufacture the AK-103 under license – an endeavour which will be conducted by the comically-named Compania Anonima Venezolana de Industrias Militares (Anonymous Venezuelan Company of Military Industries). Production is understood to have begun on a limited scale, although the author has yet to see a photo of a Venezuelan-manufactured AK-103.

The AK-103 has also seen some limited adoption, primarily by various Spetsnaz GRU (Russian Army) and Spetsnaz MVD/OSNAZ (Ministry of the Interior) units. It has also been reported in use with the FSIN (Federalnaya Sluzhba Ispolneniya Nakazanii; Federal Penitentiary Service). Finally, the AK-103 (specifically, the AK-103-2) has been sighted numerous times in Libya, presumably as part of an arms deal with Russia. It has also been reported that Libya had an agreement with Russia to produce the -103 under license; however there is no indication of how far along this deal had progressed. The author has written several articles on the AK-103-2 in Libya, most of which can be found at his blog, www.securityscholar.com.au.

The AK-102 has seen limited use with the Royal Malaysian Navy’s PASKAL (Pasukan Khas Laut; Naval Special Forces) unit. The AK-104 and AK-105 are both in use with certain Russian military and law enforcement units. There were rumours that the AK-105 would replace the AKS-74U, but it appears to have supplemented it instead. The AK-105 is in use with the Azerbaijani State Border Service (DSX; Dövl?t S?rh?d Xidm?it) Rapid Action Group (CHQ; Cevik Herekat Qrupu), who have even fitted a number of -105s to Israeli-made CornerShot weapons systems. The AK-104 is also in use with certain Yemeni Army units.

China’s state-owned military company, Norinco, has produced a near-copy of the AK-101 as the AK 2000, which features a side-folding stock similar to that seen on the Type 56-2. The AK 2000 has been exported to Indonesia, and is in use by police and paramilitary forces there, including BRIMOB (Brigade Mobil; Mobile Brigade). 100 series rifles have also been reported in the inventories of Private Security Companies (PSCs) in Iraq and Afghanistan, in the hands of insurgents in Chechnya and Ingushetia, and in Colombia. There is a good likelihood they are present in several other conflict zones as well.

The newest development of the Kalashnikov rifle was revealed in a number of high-profile visits by Russian politicians to Izhmash, over the course of 2011 and early 2012. The AK-12 – formerly referred to as the AK-200 – will go into production sometime this year. Several of the new design features have been disclosed, chief amongst them the reduced weight of the rifle (approximately 3.3kg, according to most reports), a newly developed 6o-round casket magazine, and what designers have referred to as “one-armed man” operation – the ability to operate all aspects of the new rifle with one hand, and ambidextrously. The new rifle is also outfitted with an adjustable buttstock, a number of accessory mounting rails, a three-round burst function as standard, and is to be made available in a range of calibres. Three were initially announced – 5.45x39mm, 5.56x45mm, and 7.62x39mm – with Izhmash keeping the last calibre secret. Suggestions from observers included 6.5x39mm Grendel and 7.62x51mm NATO; the latter has now been confirmed. The gas and piston systems will remain the same as the current 100 series, and will not feature the so-called ‘balanced recoil system’ of the AK-107 and AK-108. The AK-12 will be offered in a range of sizes, configurations, and calibres – many for export.

An Izhmash spokesman claims: “It is safe to assume that the new Kalashnikov‘s characteristics are on a par with those of assault rifles currently used by NATO troops.” This optimism sounds similar to statements from around the time of the 100 series release. Regardless of how well the new rifles perform, last year’s decision by Russia’s Ministry of Defence to hold off purchasing any new Kalashnikov models until 2014 at the earliest – owing to a surplus of around 17 million AK-74 rifles already in storage – could put a dent in any potential success story.

Technical Details

AK-74M

Calibre: 5.45x39mm
Overall length: 943mm (37.1”)
Length w/ stock folded: 705mm (27.8”)
Barrel length: 415mm (16.3”)
Weight w/ empty magazine: 3.6kg (7.9lbs)
Weight w/ loaded magazine: 3.9kg (8.6lbs)
Magazine capacity: 30
Muzzle velocity: 900m/s (2,953ft/s)
Cyclic rate: 650 rpm


AK-101
Calibre: 5.56x45mm
Overall length: 943mm (37.1”)
Length w/ stock folded: 705mm (27.8”)
Barrel length: 415mm (16.3”)
Weight w/ empty magazine: 3.6kg (7.9lbs)
Weight w/ loaded magazine: 4.0kg (8.8lbs)
Magazine capacity: 30
Muzzle velocity: 910m/s (2,986ft/s)
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm

AK-103
Calibre: 7.62x39mm
Overall length: 943mm (37.1”)
Length w/ stock folded: 705mm (27.8”)
Barrel length: 415mm (16.3”)
Weight w/ empty magazine: 3.6kg (7.9lbs)
Weight w/ loaded magazine: 4.1kg (9.0lbs)
Magazine capacity: 30
Muzzle velocity: 715m/s (2,346ft/s)
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm

AK-102
Calibre: 5.56x45mm
Overall length: 824mm (32.4”)
Length w/ stock folded: 586mm (23.1”)
Barrel length: 314mm (12.4”)
Weight w/ empty magazine: 3.2kg (7.0lbs)
Weight w/ loaded magazine: 3.6kg (7.9lbs)
Magazine capacity: 30
Muzzle velocity: 850m/s (2,789ft/s)
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm

AK-104
Calibre: 7.62x39mm
Overall length: 824mm (32.4”)
Length w/ stock folded: 586mm (23.1”)
Barrel length: 314mm (12.4”)
Weight w/ empty magazine: 3.2kg (7.0lbs)
Weight w/ loaded magazine: 3.7kg (8.2lbs)
Magazine capacity: 30
Muzzle velocity: 670m/s (2,198ft/s)
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm

AK-105
Calibre: 5.45x39mm
Overall length: 824mm (32.4”)
Length w/ stock folded: 586mm (23.1”)
Barrel length: 314mm (12.4”)
Weight w/ empty magazine: 3.2kg (7.0lbs)
Weight w/ loaded magazine: 3.5kg (7.7lbs)
Magazine capacity: 30
Muzzle velocity: 840m/s (2,756ft/s)
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm

(I wish to thank Deniz Temiz for his assistance with confirming Azerbaijani CornerShot usage.)

(Editor’s note: We are pleased to add Mr. Nic Jenzen-Jones as a contributing writer to Chipotle Publishing, LLC. Mr. Jenzen-Jones is an Australian-based consultant, analyst, and writer. He is a co-editor at Security Scholar (securityscholar.com.au) and can also be found on Twitter (@RogueAdventurer.)

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