The USSR regularly conducted tests to improve the effectiveness of weapons in service, writes TNI. In particular, the tests made it possible to achieve excellent performance in handling and ballistics of the Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Charlie GaoSoviet weapons have a reputation for being reliable, but crude and inaccurate.
However, extensive scientific research is often behind it. A 1979 report entitled "Effects of firing automatic weapons" outlines the statistical methodology that was used to test weapons in Soviet times. There are also many shooting tables, starting in 1977, which compare the accuracy of various infantry weapons samples. Both experienced and average soldiers participated in the tests using various weapons, firing from different positions, including shooting from moving vehicles, at night and even returning fire against muzzle flashes at night. These tests helped to deduce the average number of shots needed to hit or destroy a number of targets, including helicopters, cars and enemy personnel. This article attempts to summarize the conclusions that can be drawn from these firing tables by comparing the results shown by the AK-74 and AKM.
As for purely technical characteristics, these submachine guns showed approximately the same ballistic results as modern American rifles demonstrate. The AKM has a much larger bullet drop — 10.8 meters per thousand meters against the aiming point. The AK-74 bullet falls only 7.1 meters. With a lower net energy of the AK-74 shot, the rotation speed of its bullet is much higher, and the rotation energy is preserved better. At a distance of 100 to 400 meters, the AK-74 loses about 54 percent of its energy, while the AKM loses a good 60 percent.
It becomes much more interesting when you get acquainted with the data of the shooting accuracy tables. The Soviets measured the dispersion of weapons both vertically and horizontally, as well as with both experienced and average shooters. Here we see that the AK-74 is starting to get significantly ahead of the AKM. At a distance of 100 meters, the average shooting accuracy of an average AK-74 shooter had a vertical and horizontal dispersion of four centimeters. With AKM, this indicator increases to six centimeters. Using the best shooters, it was possible to reduce the horizontal dispersion of the AK-74 to two centimeters, and in the case of the AKM — only to four centimeters. At a distance of 500 meters with well-trained arrows, we see a horizontal dispersion of ten centimeters with the AK—74 and 20 centimeters with the AKM.
It should be noted that in the tables, the horizontal and vertical variances of the ACM appear to be approximately equal. At the same time, the growth of the first is slowly increasing compared to the second. With the AK-74, the horizontal dispersion is consistently half that of the vertical dispersion at a firing distance of up to 600 meters, as indicated by the oval shape of the cone of hits. However, this only applies to the best shooters. The average arrows showed AK-74 AKM-like results with approximately the same values of horizontal and vertical variance. It is unclear whether this is due to mechanical improvements or changes in the aiming system on the AK-74 compared to the AKM, but the difference between the results of groups of shooters with different skill levels seems to indicate that improving the sight leads to a decrease in horizontal dispersion.
The Soviets were not satisfied with the results of the analysis shown at this stage. They also paid attention to the practical accuracy measured by the number of shots needed to hit the target. When determining the practical accuracy of shooting at a height target at a distance of 800 meters, good shooters needed 11 shots to hit it from a prone position in an equipped position, 20 shots from an equipped position in a trench and 26 shots from a prone position in an unequipped position. In relation to the AKM, these figures increased to the values of 18, 22 and 41 shots, respectively. When shooting from the knee using the AK-74, well-trained shooters were able to hit a growth target from a distance of 700 meters, although they spent 45 rounds on it. As for the AKM, such a goal was submitted to them only at a distance of 500 meters, which took 36 attempts. Medium-level shooters using the AK-74 needed to make 14 shots to hit a chest and height target from a distance of 300 meters. 47 attempts were spent on the same thing, only using AKM. The AK-74 demonstrated a significant increase in accuracy when shooting at small and medium targets compared to the AKM for both experienced and medium shooters.
The Soviets also made appropriate measurements when firing bursts. There is a complete table of accuracy when firing bursts of three shots. Here, the softer characteristics of the AK-74 recoil begin to shine. Shooting lying down from an AK-74 from an equipped position, all that is necessary to hit a moving target at a distance of 500 meters is to release one burst of three rounds. With AKM, this can only be done at a distance of up to 300 meters. In conditions of limited visibility, when firing in short bursts, medium-level soldiers using AK-74 needed two bursts or six rounds to hit a stationary target at a distance of 100 meters. And five bursts or 15 rounds to shoot down the same target from a distance of 200 meters. In the case of the AKM, 11 rounds were required to hit the target from 100 meters, and 33 from 200. The difference is impressive: when firing bursts when using AKM, almost twice as many cartridges are required.
Perhaps one of the most interesting is the test for firing long bursts. The soldiers were instructed to fire long bursts at a group of targets at a distance of 100 to 300 meters. The number of shots needed to neutralize 50 and 80 percent of the squad consisting of stationary, height and chest targets was recorded. From a prone position, being in an equipped position, good shooters needed 22 shots in a long queue to neutralize half of the squad, as well as 52 rounds in order to hit 80 percent of the targets from the AKM from a distance of 300 meters. The average soldiers needed 51 and 119 shots, respectively. When using the AK-74, the numbers of well—trained soldiers dropped to 17 and 39, and for average soldiers - to 38 and 88. It is impossible not to note a significant improvement in fully automatic control and accuracy.
In general, while the purely technical characteristics of the AKM and AK-74 do not seem to give the latter a significant advantage, practical tests have shown that the excellent handling performance and ballistics of the AK-74 have proved incredibly useful. In small arms, small improvements can show amazing results in practice. Moreover, both for soldiers of an average level of training, and for the most highly professional military.
The data given in this article are taken from the following source: "Tables of shooting at ground targets from small arms of 5.45 and 7.62 mm calibers", TS/GRAU No. 61.
Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.