Meet the New Kalashnikov AK12
For nearly the past 70-years, the Avtomat guns of Mikhail Kalashnikov have been the standard rifle of the other half of the world. With a new improvement on this classic design, the Russians have a new AK on the market.
(Even though the AK47/AKM/AKS has been around for over a half-century, its still seeing regular military use in the field such as with this Iraqi special police officer)
Back in the late 1940s, Soviet weapons engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov (with a good bit of assistance from guest worker Hugo Schmeisser), came up with a neat rifle. His gun, one of the first successful assault rifles, was made from a simple sheet of stamped steel, coupled to a trunnion and a collection of parts. Made with loose tolerances, it was almost dummy-proof and very accepting of dirt, grime, mud, and sand. This gun, the AK-47 (for "Kalashnikov automatic rifle model 1947") was made in greater numbers than just about any firearm in modern history, with some 75-million of these 7.62x39mm rifles coming off the lines in a dozen countries over the past several decades.
(The AK74, with its smaller cartridge, plastic magazine, and other minor improvements, has been the standard Russian battle rifle since they went into Afghanistan in the 1980s)
By the 1970s, this design was dated and seen as a throwback to WWII, (based on the German StG44). It was improved with plastic bodied magazine and chambered in a smaller intermediate cartridge, the 5.45-39mm. The gun itself however still used a bunch of good old-fashioned wood in the stocks. Since then, more than 5-million of these AK-74s have been used first by the Soviet then the Russian/Ukrainian militaries.
The thing is, it's not 1974 anymore, and another update is in order.
Design of the AK12
(Yes, this is an AK. Note the movement of the levers that are seen above on the AK47 and AK74, and the vastly more modern modular polymer stock/furniture. No wood here.)
In 2010, the Russians began development of a new and improved AK at the famous Izhmash plant. This plant dates back to the 1800s and has produced millions of Berdan, Mosin, and AK rifles over the past few centuries. Not one to let the new Tsar down, the now-privately owned company had a mockup of the all-new AK-12 ready to show Vladimir Putin in just two years.
Fundamentally, the gun uses the same gas-operated, long stroke gas piston operation with a rotating bolt as all of the AK series guns that preceded it. After all, if it isn't broken, why fix it, right? This select-fire weapon can fire 5.45x39mm in single-shot, three-round burst, or 600-rounds per minute full auto fire at the flick of a switch. Just 28.65-inches long with the stock folded, the gun still has a 16.3-inch long chrome lined barrel.
(Under all those accessories is an AK12)
What makes it different from the AK74 is the fact that it comes standard with extensive Picatinny rails to mount a whole list of goodies that didn't exist in the 1970s. The cocking handle, safety lever and fire selector switch are also moved around on the receiver with input from Russian Special operations types. It's also capable of being made and marketed directly by Izmash in 5.56-45mm NATO (yup, they can now eat AR food), 12-gauge (goodbye Saiga), 7.62-51mm NATO, and 6.5mm Grendel.
When can you get yours?
(The US is awash in American AK74s that have been partially made with American parts and are often equipped with EoTechs, Aimpoints, and other very AR-ish optics)
Well, the Russians like the gun, but already having several AK74s lying around that are paid for, the odds of buying a lot of these new and improved Kalashnikovs is slim. While Tsar Putin may pick up a few for his balaclava wearing super solders, the AK12 seems to be primarily designed for export. This would explain the Picatinny rails and the western caliber choices.
They aren't on store shelves just yet, and when facing such experienced US AK makers as Arsenal, IOI, and Century, it has a good bit of competition that does not have to fight Section 922r compliance.
Nevertheless, we shall see.