The AK-74 is a 5.45 mm assault rifle developed in the early 1970s in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It was the first Soviet rifle to be chambered in an intermediate rifle caliber. It was introduced into service in 1974 (used to equip, among others, Soviet forces engaged in the Afghanistan conflict). The weapon's name is an abbreviation for (Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1974, Russian:“Kalashnikov automatic rifle model 1974”. Currently the weapon is in use by the majority of countries of the former USSR . License production of the rifle and its several locally-designed variants is carried out in Bulgaria (AK-74 and AKS-74U), China (Type 88), the former East Germany (MPi-AK-74, MPi-AKS-74, MPi-AKS-74K), Poland (wz. 1988 Tantal, wz. 1989 Onyks) and Romania (AKS-74).
Russian Naval Infantryman with a late model AKS-74.
A Bulgarian-made AKS-74U.The AKS-74U also has a different sight system setup with a U-shaped flip sight instead of the standard notch sight on a sliding tangent. The rear sight has two settings: “P” (fixed for firing at 350 m) and “4-5” (used for firing at 400-500 m). The rear sight is housed in a semi-hooded shroud that is riveted to the receiver top cover. This top cover is connected with the gas tube cover and is hinged, pivoting forward when opened. Both the gas tube and handguard are also of a new type and are shorter than the analogous parts in the AKS-74.
The AKS-74U is significantly more maneuverable in tight quarters than the AKS-74, however the steep decline in muzzle velocity from 900 to 735 m/s resulted in a decrease in effective aimed range (the effective hitting distance for a “running”-type silhouette was reduced from 625 to 350 m). The carbine cannot mount a bayonet or standard under-barrel grenade launcher. However, a suppressed 30 mm BS-1 grenade launcher was developed for this rifle that fires high explosive dual purpose (HEDP) grenades. The grenades from the BS-1 are launched by blank cartridges and the weapon is cycled manually in this mode of operation. The majority of these guns were made at the Tula Arms Factory rather than Izhmash.
The AK-74 family of weapons are also available in a “night-fighting” configuration equipped with a side-rail used to mount optical night vision devices (these variants, the AK-74N, AKS-74N and AKS-74UN are used with NSPU and NSPUM sights). The AKS-74UB (B ? Bezshumniy) is a specialized variant of the AKS-74U, adapted for silenced use with the PBS-5 sound suppressor (used in conjunction with the subsonic 5.45x39mm US cartridge).
In 1991 the Izhmash factory in the city of Izhevsk began production of an improved variant of the AK-74 ? the AK-74M (M ? Russian: Modernizirovanniy ( or "Modernized") assault rifle. Apart from several minor production improvements the rifle also features a new synthetic stock made from a black, glass-filled polyamide that is shaped like the AK-74 fixed stock, but also folds like in the AKS-74. Additionally the AK-74M uses a reinforced muzzle device and dust cover. Each AK-74M is fitted with a side-rail bracket for mounting optics. The AK-74M has been accepted as the new service rifle of the Russian Federation.
The AK-74 was also the basis for the new Russian family of Kalashnikov weapons that consists of: the 5.56 mm AK-101 standard rifle and 5.56 mm AK-102 carbine (both use the NATO-standard 5.56x45mm cartridge), 7.62 mm AK-103 assault rifle and 7.62 mm AK-104 (both chambered for the 7.62x39mm M43 round) and the 5.45 mm AK-105 carbine (adapted to use 5.45x39mm M74 ammunition). The AK-101, 102, 103 and 104 are destined primarily for export, while the AK-105 is slated to replace the AKS-74U with the Russian Armed Forces.
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