While the Soviets might have been backwards in many ways, they created advanced small arms and the AS VAL proves they could think ahead.
Integrally suppressed firearms could become the future of firearms development. Suppressors are becoming extremely common with military forces. The Marine Corps plans to issue suppressors to every infantryman, and special ops have long used suppressors with their various rifles and pistols. Way back in 1987, the Russians came up with their own solution in the form of the AS Val. The AS Val took the suppressed assault rifle concept and ran with it.
The AS Val is an integrally suppressed rifle with selective fire capabilities chambered in the 9x39mm cartridge. An integrally suppressed rifle incorporates the suppressor from the get-go. This often results in a simplified platform that’s considerably shorter than a rifle with an attached suppressor. Where did the AS Val come from? Why did the Russians want such a specialized rifle? Did it work?
Well, let’s dive in and find out.
Origins of the AS Val
The AS Val was never intended to be a general infantry rifle. As an integrally suppressed rifle, it was designed with special operations in mind. Prior to the advent of the Val, special ops troops were using firearms like the AKS-74UB, AK 74s, and 47s with attached suppressors. Soviet forces wanted something quieter and more efficient for clandestine ops. As such, they wanted the weapon to be both compact and effectively silent.
An AK with a mounted suppressor is quite long, and moving to an integrally suppressed rifle would reduce the overall length significantly. To make the AS Val as silent as possible, the Soviets created an entirely new cartridge known as the 9x39mm. Suppressors work to suppress the gunshot of the weapon but do nothing to stock the supersonic crack. That loud crack can still ring your ears and be heard for quite some distance.
So, a subsonic round prevents that supersonic crack and provides the most silent weapon possible. Again, it’s never going to be as quiet as the movies would have you think, but you can eliminate a sentry or small patrol without raising the alarm at the nearby town or base.
The Soviets created two rifles for this purpose, the AS Val and VSS Vintorez. Both utilized the same caliber.
The rifles premiered in 1987. The AS Val provided a selective fire submachine gun, and the VSS Vintorez provided a short-range precision rifle.
Specs and Breakdown
As anyone else would imagine, the AS Val was based on the AK series of rifles. Russians used the same long-stroke gas piston system, safety, Warsaw pact rail, and similar sights as the AK’s.
A folding stock allowed it to be an incredibly compact package. Its overall length is 34.4 inches and 24.2 inches with the stock collapsed.
At 5.51 pounds, the AS Val is rather lightweight. The design gives you a near submachine gun-sized weapon that packs more power, more range, and soft armor-piercing capability than a submachine gun.
The 9×39 round is rather large and does require a somewhat large magazine. Most AS Val’s are used with a 20 round magazine. However, 30-round magazines existed as well. These tend to be quite long and somewhat unwieldy.
What’s really fascinating is that the AS Val could be broken down into several pieces and stored in a specialized case. Users could quickly deploy the gun from the case and get to work. It would be a hellacious weapon for an infiltration force looking to assassinate a high-value target or conduct guerilla-style attacks.
The 9×39 provided the Soviets with a hefty, hard-hitting round for the AS Val and Vintorez rifles. It remained an interesting option for Soviets looking to kill their enemies quietly. The round weighs a hefty 276 grains, double what an AK 47 round weighs. So, its considerable weight made it naturally subsonic. Admittedly, the heavier round had a limited range, and while it could be lethal out to 400 yards or so, its optimal range was 220 yards.
Within that range, the round hits hard, penetrates armor and intermediate barriers well, and outperforms pistol cartridges designed for suppressed use. Like the 5.45, the 9.3mm projectile has an air gap at the tip that allows it to yaw and deal greater damage against a human opponent.
Various 9×39 cartridges were created for different purposes. There is a sniper-specific round, an armor-piercing round, and a training round.
The rifle and round are still used to this day, and more conventional special operations units have found the AS Val and the 9x39mm round efficient.
The Silent Soviet Killer
The AS Val proves that even though the Soviets were filthy communists, they could design interesting and effective firearms. Creativity seemed to rule the roost, and the silenced Soviet assault rifle has likely done bad things in bad places that we’ll never know about. It’s a fascinating design and showed some forward-thinking in removing partisans.