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The Russian PKM 7.62 Machine Gun

By Oleg Volk

The PKM, Modernized Kalashnikov Machinegun, is one of the most common modern GPMGs. Designed to fill the same role as the German MG3, American M60 and Belgian MAG58, it provides surprisingly good performance and reliability despite having to use tapered rimmed 7.62x54R ammunition. The original PK was adopted in 1961, with the much lighter PKM superseding it by the end of the 1960s. At the time, it supplanted the much heavier and labor-intensive SGM43 and RP46 machine guns. Since the PK family spawned a half-dozen variants overall, this article will address only the specific early production PKM to which I have access.

PKM is a gas-operated, long recoil design based on a stamped and folded receiver.

The metal is thicker than on the AKM, has welded-on reinforcements and more numerous cross pins for greater strength and rigidity. Like the MG3, it has stamped corrugations, but the overall weapon is substantially lighter at 16.5 lbs. For comparison, MG3 and M60 weigh in at 23, MAG58 aka M240G at 26. While the weight of a GPMG itself is only a fraction of the entire loadout, a 200-round belt doubles the weight of a PKM, but it does enable hand-held fire with 3.5-lb, 50-round belts. Although PKM may be light enough for hand-held use, being no heavier than the classic 30-06 Browning BAR, it lacks any kind of forend. The shooter may hold it by the barrel handle or by the rigid 100-rd ammunition belt box snapped under the receiver, but none of these holds is particularly steady. A more recent development of PKM, the PKP or “Pecheneg,” adds a proper forend for more mobile use while dispensing with interchangeable barrels. Non-mounted use is also complicated by the left-side ejection of fired cartridge casings that tend to hit the shooter’s support hand.

The cyclic rate depends on the ammunition and can vary from 700 to 750rpm. The standard 24-inch barrel makes full use of the powder burn and has heat endurance of about 400 rounds in rapid fire or 1,000 rounds in sustained fire at half...

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