Russia’s Big Boomers

By John Henshaw

In the 1970’s a new 12.7x107mm heavy machine gun in service with the Soviet forces came to the notice of the western nations, visible as mounted to T64/72 tanks. Initially it was believed to be an improvement of the aging but still effective DShK. Subsequently, it was found to be quite different but nearly thirty years later little has been published in detail about the mechanism of this innovative and unique Russian heavy machine gun.

The basic gun is known as the NSV-12, 7 taking the letters from the names of its designers Nikitin, Volkov and Sokolov who were assigned to develop a new 12.7x107mm machine gun in 1969. The Soviet Army purportedly adopted it in 1972, as a weapon having an increased adaptability and an improved rate of fire compared to the much heavier DShK.

In contrast to the heavy, all machined receiver of the DShK the designers have made use of modern construction methods more commonly found in the manufacture of assault rifles. The body of the gun is fabricated from two sheet steel pressings integrated with machined components such as the barrel extension, the backplate and the carrier guide rails by the use of sturdy rivets and spot welding. This method of construction enables the fabrication of a robust, lightweight receiver with the ability to include the more complex components requiring greater strength, in a manner suitable for series production. The lighter barrel of the NSV is also readily removable from the receiver in contrast to the much heavier barrel of the DShK, which is secured by a wedge cross bolt. The combined result of these improvements is a reduction of the actual gun weight to 55.125 pounds (25 kg), compared to the 79.38-pound (36 kg) overall weight of the DShK. This gives the gun a greater potential for man portability. When compared to similar weapons produced by other nations the designers have also made use of several features found in other Russian guns. For instance, the carrier assembly is mounted on rollers to give it freedom of movement. The use of rollers to reduce friction can be found in the 14.5x114mm KPV machine gun and the 12.7x107mm YakB Gatling-type gun.

The gun can be basically described as a belt-fed, gas-operated heavy machine gun, designed to be adaptable to a wide variety of roles. The overhead sear assembly is mounted at the top rear of the gun and permits firing from the open bolt only. A tee-slot of the back-plate is used to retain an electrical firing solenoid for use in the armored vehicle role. When it is set up to fire from the infantry tripod the gun is held in a buffered mount and controlled by a butt and pistol grip firing unit, which is linked to the internal sear assembly. It is available in versions with either right- or left-hand feed, but unlike the DShK it is not readily convertible as the feed cover and feed tray are uni-directional.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N11 (August 2003)
and was posted online on October 25, 2013


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