Note: This is part of a series. You can read parts one, two, threefour, and five here.

The Soviet standard man-portable arsenal is employed by Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatist forces across the board sans the FM 100-2-3 organization of forces. This includes all of those mass-produced machine guns such as the AKM, AK-74, BG-15 or GP-25, AKSU-74, SVD, RPK, RPK-7 and PKM. We would also be remiss not to mention the standard of any Warsaw Pact nation: the Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers (RPGs), the RPG-7V, RPG-16D, RPG-18, RPG-22; as well as the 9K111 Fagot anti-tank missile and the exceptional but primarily sight-only employed AT-4/SPIGOT. Further support weapons included the all too often – violently overused in Ukraine AGS-30; the world’s worst machine gun also known as the DShK and the lifesaving or party-starting ZPU-2.

Truck mounted ZPU-2 with twin 14.5-mm cannons. Image courtesy of the author.
Truck-mounted ZPU-2 with twin 14.5-mm cannons. Image courtesy of the author.

All these weapons were built out of the worst fears of the Cold War which never materialized into reality. Now, many of these old, but new-in-box machine guns – some stamped as late as 1979 with accompanying support small arms dating as late as 1984 are showing up on the battlefield.  The amount of munitions was shocking and disappointing.

For those of you who have never spent some time out of the NATO-sphere, former Warsaw Pact supplied countries ammunition cans first require a can opener to get to your ammo, you are then presented with a metal box full of loose or awkwardly packed paper wrapped rounds along with the tetanus-wielding sharp edges. This is not too much of an issue for magazine loading weapons, but clearly the old Soviets had something against the disintegrating link. Every belt-fed weapon system such as the PKM, DShK, AGS and so on, requires every single round to be hand-loaded onto one of your always-too-few 50-round belts, and if you forget a belt, you’re going to have a bad day.