This year’s MSPO Defence Expo saw some new ideas and prototypes from the Polish “Łucznik” Firearms Factory in Radom. Some of you might be familiar with these, as the Radom Factory was present at this year’s Shot Show. One of the biggest highlights was an upgraded version of the UKM 2000:

UKM 2000

The UKM (Uniwersalny Karabin Maszynowy eng. Universal Machine Gun) 2000 is an ongoing project by the “Łucznik” Factory in order to modernize the Soviet designed PKM GPMG and adapt it for use with the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge (the original utilizes the 7.62x54R cartridge).

The idea of retrofitting old stocks for a new role and compliance with NATO standardization has its roots in an obvious circumstance, the lack of funds for either development of a new GPMG or the introduction of a foreign design into production. However, this cost cutting technique does not always end up as the cheapest choice in the long run when it comes to firearms and their development. Nor is it easily accomplished.

As the NATO round differs from the Russian 7.62x54R cartridge, the project encountered a significant amount of issues. The pressure provided by the NATO round is less, hence insufficient to operate the flawless full-cycle operation of the PKM design. This in turn leads to a significant amount of jams. Moving on, the gun had to be modified in order to utilize a disintegrating link belt used for 7.62 NATO ammunition, in opposition to a fixed link belt of the original design. These modifications caused the gun to become back heavy and thus lose its unique balance. The size of the new cartridge caused a prosaic yet potentially dangerous issue with the standard metal box used for carrying the ammunition. The extra free space in the box allows the rounds to rattle around inside during movement, which makes a stealthy approach with this gun difficult if not outright impossible.

UKM 2000
UKM 2000 on a tripod
UKM 2000
Thumbs up for the guys downrange, not so much for the gun.

The new version (mod. 2013) is said to have all these issues resolved. It will utilize a new (shorter) barrel together with a full-length one, lighter and adjustable butt-stock, improved gas system and a canvas ammo bag instead of a metal box. This version of the gun is yet to see extensive military testing and a review by our troops downrange. So far the UKM 2000 is not preferred over the original PKM.

UKM 2000
UKM 2000 mod. 2013

The UKM 2000 is definitely a child of necessity rather than well thought through design. Even though it does present serious issues, this is the most the Polish Military can afford at the moment in order to stay true to its commitments towards NATO. As this might be an intermediate solution before a new all-Polish GPMG is created and designed from the start around the 7.62 NATO round, we will surely see the UKM 2000 in service for a number of years to come.