Quality is an investment in the future, and that very well applies to the weapons that the troops used throughout history. The development of weapons dramatically changed the course of warfare in the 20th century due to the combined lessons of the past and the technological advancements that continue to develop. Even when produced long ago, there are still infantry weapons still being used by the militaries of today all over the world, proof that quality is indeed an investment in the future. Here are some of them:

PK Machine Gun

In 1955, the Main Artillery Directorate of the Soviet Union adopted the specs requirements for a new 7.62 mm battalion-level and general-purpose machine gun to be chambered for a rifle cartridge,

PK Machine Gun
PK Machine Gun (Warman, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

In 1958, G.I. Nikitin and Yuri Sokolov developed a machine gun prototype that successfully passed the field tests. A batch of their guns was manufactured in 1960 for service tests before production at the Kovrov Mechanical Plant. A team of Izhevsk Mechanical Plant designers led by the famed creator of the AK-47 also created the PK Machine Gun. Their version was a gas-operated rotary-bolt design based on the trusty Kalashnikov-pattern arms.

Their design was preferred because it was more reliable and cheaper to manufacture compared to the Nikitin-Sokolov one. So their PK went into production at the Kovrov Mechanical Plant.

The PK machine gun was an open bolt design with improved heat management during automatic fire that helped avoid “cook-off” or when the firing chamber becomes too hot that the propellant in the chambered round ignites, causing the weapon to fire until the ammunition is exhausted.

Its rimmed 7.62x54mm cartridges are set in a metal ammunition belt and are designed to be held against the shoulder inside the non-disintegrating looped links that leave the rim exposed at the rear. To charge the PK, it uses a non-reciprocating charging handle on the right side of the receiver.

PK’s gas cylinder is mounted under the barrel with a gas regulator that has three fixed positions. Corresponding holes were opened by the gas regulators to change the amount of propellant gas that escape out of the gas cylinder, so varying amounts of energy were transferred to the long-stroke piston.

Similar to the M-27 Infantry Automatic Weapon of the United States Marine Corps, the PK machine gun is meant to be used as an automatic weapon for the squad. What’s outstanding about this gun is the combination of its power and accuracy that it is still currently manufactured in Russia and is also being used worldwide.

M16 Rifle

M16 rifle’s development began in 1956, which was meant to be an update on the well-known AR15. The original gun was a 5.56x45mm automatic rifle with a 20-round magazine that the United States Air Force adopted in 1965 and the Marine Corps in 1966.

Carl Witherspoon Cleans His M-16 Rifle. (USMC Archives from Quantico, USACC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

M16 is gas-operated and has both semiautomatic and fully automatic fire-control options, with materials made of aluminum and composite instead of wood that made the iterations of the M16 significantly lighter than the M14 or Ak-47. The M16A4, for instance, which has been the standard infantry weapon of the US Marine Corps since 2003, weighs just over 7 pounds when unloaded. It is 39 inches long and has a 20 or 30-round magazine that could fire .223-calibre ammunition at a rate of 700-950 rpm.

During the Vietnam War, the US troops had struggles defending themselves against AK-47s, and they were given the M16. The problem was that they were not given any training as the guns were introduced during the conflict, plus the harsh Vietnam jungle made it hard for them to clean and maintain the gun. Improvements were made that soon turned the M16 into a far more effective rifle, and while the US military had largely transitioned to the M4, the weapon is still widely used by the other forces.

The secret to the endurance of the M-16 as a weapons system is its low cost of its ammunition and manufacturing costs, its light weight, high accuracy at range and ability to accessorize it with scopes, laser range finders, grenade launchers and or even switch out its barrels to larger calibers.

QBZ-95 Assault Rifle

The QBZ-95 was developed and designed by Duo Yingxian in the late 1980s when the Chinese wanted to replace their version of the AK-47. The result was the bullpup assault rifle that had several notable features: it can launch rifle grenades from the barrel, it can mount an under-barrel grenade launcher, and a bayonet can also be added if needed. In 1995, QBZ-95 was adopted by the People’s Liberation Army. It also became standard for the People’s Armed Police that had been used during conflicts like the Sri Lankan Civil War, the War in North-West Pakistan, and the War in Afghanistan.

QBZ95 automatic rifle. (User:Tyg728, modified by User:Hohum, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
QBZ95 automatic rifle. (User: Tyg728, modified by User: HohumCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Other Asian counties like Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar also use the weapon. An export version of it, chambered for 5.56×45 mm NATO, called the QBZ-97, is available for sale in Canada, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and South Asia.