Peacekeeper's Secret Weapon - The Swedish AK5 Rifle
Text and Photos by Dan Shea

When the UN or NATO Forces are called out, there are frequently "Peacekeeping" forces that come from what might seem an unlikely place; Sweden. In reality, the Swedes have a long and glorious history of martial arms and warfare. I am especially enamored with their water-cooled versions of the Browning machine guns and the Swedish KSP-58 (their FN MAG 58 variant). While neutral in most conflicts, the people of Sweden themselves have never balked at going into harm's way. There is also a parallel tradition of "Red" activity - Peace Movement types -, which you are welcome to read as "Communist-inspired." They appear to be a minority, vocal as they are. I have had the pleasure of speaking with Swedish military personnel who had long terms of service, from the 1940-1950's Suez engagement sitting between the British and the Egyptians, through Bosnia and other current hot spots. Sweden has very active Special Operations units. SAR had the opportunity to discuss the recent Bosnian/Yugoslav wars with some members of Sweden's peacekeeping forces who had served there, and our discussions led to a visit to the Carl Gustav factory, now under the control of Saab-Bofors-Dynamics AB.

There has been a lot of curiosity regarding the rifle the Swedish forces are presently using. It is the Carl Gustav AK5 series of rifle, a factory sanctioned version of the excellent FNC rifle made by Fabrique Nationale Herstal in Belgium. We have thoroughly covered the FNC in previous issues of SAR, and it is important to discuss the differences that the Swedish manufactured AK5 variants bring to the table.

The AK5 followed the AK4 that SAR has recently covered (Volume 7 Number 5) as a rehab project for Saab Bofors Dynamics. The AK4 was a basic HK G3A2 rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO. The Swedish FMV (Dept of Defense) decided to have trials to replace the AK4 during the 1970s, and the two top contenders were a Galil variant, and an FNC variant. Both were 5.56x45mm rifles with successful histories, although neither had been widely adopted, compared with the M16 series, the FAL, or the Galil's precedent, the AK. The Galil became the FFV-890C, and was built under license in Sweden. However, after many tests and changes, it was the FNC style rifle that eventually won out.

The trial guns and the first manufacturing run of the AK5 were performed at FN in Herstal, Belgium. Our information is that serial number ranges in the 50,000 were FN guns. The AK5 was introduced into service in 1987, and deliveries started immediately but took off in 1988. Serial numbers in the 60,000 range were AK5B rifles, manufactured at Saab Bofors Dynamics AB in Eskilstuna. Serial number ranges in the 70,000 range were AK5D models manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Eskilstuna, and serial numbers in the 100,000 range and above were standard AK5 rifles, manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics in Eskilstuna. Approximately 250,000 total AK5 variants were made, and the last delivery was in the year 2000.

The changes that were made are unique to the AK5, and in many ways the basic gas piston, rotating bolt operating system is about all that hasn't been "tweaked" too severely. In this author's opinion, the two most important changes other than environmentally dictated changes are the following:

1- Changing from the original FNC style four-position three-shot burst selector mechanism to a much more simple and reliable Safe-Semi-Full Auto configuration. The three-shot burst mechanism is an overly complex device, just asking for trouble because of the number of components subjected to stress and failure in the extremely harsh environment of the Swedish winter. I do not consider there to be any benefits to adding the extra position, teaching trigger control on full-auto would serve the soldier better. Keep it simple and under stress, the training works.

2- Adding some length to the stock, and lengthening the forend. This makes for a much more controllable and "handy" rifle. The pattern of the stock is similar to the FNC, but the forend has changed in length and surface, giving the operator more to work with, and a far better surface to grip.

There are many other changes from the FNC design that are based on reliability. The gas block and its interface with the gas piston were changed for climate reasons, and both the bolt and extractor were redesigned for winter reliability as well. Cosmetic changes are the trigger guard that will allow for a gloved hand, sling swivels that work better with Swedish winter uniform and sling, and a cocking handle that is more user friendly to a gloved hand. The buttstock lock-up was changed as well. Finally, the finish was changed to a very durable baked enamel in a dark, flat green, to weather Swedish use, as well as wherever they might be deployed. This same basic finish is seen on the Swedish Browning machine gun variants and the KSP-58.

Many modern machine guns include an adjustable gas regulator, which increases or decreases the amount of gas that is redirected from the barrel to the operating system. A simple hole in the barrel, properly sized and placed, bleeds off gas after the forward moving projectile passes it. This gas goes into the gas block, and the regulator device restricts the orifice size going into the piston cup. More gas equals more energy imparted to the piston, and the operating rod is driven to the rear. It is a safe assumption that the lowest gas setting is the correct one to use with a clean weapon in standard environment. These devices, which change the gas pressure are not intended to increase rate of fire, they are designed to increase the pressure to keep the weapon firing under adverse conditions. The gas regulator on the AK5 is a rotating band at the rear of the handguard at the top. When looking down the sights from the operator position, the left hand position is "1" - the normal setting. When this is switched to the right, it is on "2" - and an increased regulator hole is presented to the line of gas flow. This makes the weapon operate at a cyclic rate of approximately 50 rpm more than "1".

SAR's readers will have some interest in the interchangeability of parts between the FNC and the AK5, as some AK5 parts have hit the surplus market, and FNC parts have been hard to find. It appears that most of the peripheral parts of the AK5 will fit the FNC; bolt assembly, recoil assembly, barrel, etc, however the internal trigger group parts do not interchange without some adjusting. We hope to have more definitive information on this at a later point, when parts are more available for a side-by-side comparison.

I was intrigued by the system, and we did live firing but were unable to use test targets at the time. My opinion can only be based on the "feel" of the weapon, how controllable I thought it was. The AK5, and the AK5D were both quite stable in the full automatic position. Even at 8 pounds, I found them easy to handle. I am looking forward to further tests, and there is a strong probability that these rifles would make a good issue weapon in law enforcement situations, especially if you are facing colder weather conditions. More info to come when we can do some more rigorous testing. -Dan

SAR would like to thank Mart Pella from Nammo for his help in facilitating this article.

SAR would like the following people from Saab Bofors Dynamics AB for all of their help in tracing history and technology of this project: Åke Eckström, Director, Head of Small Arms Production Jan Arvidsson, Team Leader of Small Arms Assembly Department

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V7N7 (April 2004)
and was posted online on August 30, 2013


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