Courtesy of Tactical Life

When I was in Russia a little over 12 years ago, I had quite a few contacts with former Desantniks (paratroopers) and Spetsnaz operators and made it a point to ask them about the weapons they had used and their opinions of them. Since most had seen combat in Afghanistan or Chechnya, their views of weapons were often very practical. One of the weapons that I discussed with these veterans was the RPK-74, which basically functioned as a squad automatic weapon.

Just as the 7.62x39mm RPK (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova) had been based on the AKM rifle, the 5.45x39mm RPK-74 was based on the AK-74 rifle. The primary differences between the RPK and the AKM were a heavier and longer barrel that wouldn’t heat up as quickly during full-auto fire; longer-range sights; a threaded barrel to take various muzzle devices; and a sturdier trunnion and receiver cover. The wooden forend and clubfoot buttstock provided for more effective prone use. RPKs were also fitted with bipods. These same features were incorporated into the RPK-74, which, as its designation indicates, was adopted in 1974 and produced by Izhmash. Another change was the reinforced magazine well, and the RPK-74 uses a different guide rod and spring than the AK-74.

Although the RPK accepted 75-round drum magazines, the RPK-74 did not. Well, let me modify that by saying that polymer, 100-round drum magazines were developed, but they weren’t not normally issued because of reliability problems. Instead, 45-round box magazines were issued. This is the extended magazine often seen in photos of ex-Russian paratroopers most often commented on this type of magazine.

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