Russia appears to be using its invasion of Ukraine as an opportunity to put the AK-12, the most promising model in the AK series, through real-battlefield testing.

According to news reports, the Kalashnikov Concern is tweaking its AK-12 rifle according to the experience gained in Russia’s “special military operations” in Ukraine.

CEO Vladimir Lepin states that proposals for weapon improvement had already been made in line with the trial-and-error observations, including the exclusion of the “two-round burst mode, as well as to provide for the possibility of installing controls on both sides, an adjustable cheek piece,” Lepin said during his interview with Kalashnikov magazine.

He said the upgraded AK-12 prototype had already been shown to the Russian Defense Ministry.

Modernized AK-74, AK-47M

The AK-12 is Russia’s equivalent to the US M4, or at least that’s what one review of the AK series referred to it.

There is no denying that Russia has always been notoriously secretive, especially about its weapons, while the AK line of battle rifles has been the centerpiece of Russian arms exports.  If there is a revolution, coup, or junta overthrowing a government anywhere in the world, chances are you will find the guys at the center of it holding an AK.

In the AK-12, the rotary diopter rear sight was redesigned. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

Hundreds of prototypes and tests later, the AK-12 was finally approved by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for mass production and entered service in the Russian armed forces sometime in 2018. It has nearly identical operating system features to its predecessor, except for a few notable internal and external changes, such as the one-piece gas block with the front sight affixed to its short-barreled. Not to mention that the gas tube is now permanently attached to the gun itself.

A photo of a 5.45mm Kalashnikov AK-12. (Image source: Kalashnikov/Modern Firearms)

The Kalashnikov Concern (formerly Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant) also improved the AK-12’s fire controls, adding a two-round burst—a “double tap” button—alongside the semi-auto and full auto options.

Furthermore, the company emphasized the improved accuracy of this modernized rifle, naming it the first in the AK series to have a free-floating barrel.

“The handguard has no interaction with the barrel, and this traditionally improves accuracy in service rifles,” Sandboxx noted. Because the handguard does not affect the rifle’s zero, it is “much more forgiving during combat.”

The base model for future Russian arms

When the AK-12 prototype was first shown off in the early 2010s, it was said to be the basic platform for future Russian firearms. And through the years, it has had nearly 20 different modifications.

Beginning in 2011, the model modifications were tested as part of the “Ratnik” program, and after several attempts, they were able to develop a promising prototype based on the AK-400. This model “performed rather well” during the second round of official trials and tests and was approved to advance to initial batch production. The finalized models were renamed the 5.45mm AK-12 and the 7.62mm AK-15 and were both unveiled during the 2016 Russian Army expo.

The AK-12’s final production model was showcased at the Military Technical Forum in September 2016. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

The final production model of the AK-12 was based on the AK-400 prototype model. A development was identified as “more reliable, more accurate, and better suited among the modern Russian equipment.”

Below are the technical data of the AK-12, according to Army Recognition.


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  • 5.45x39mm Russia
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Specs. The AK-12 has a total length of 0.945 mm, with a barrel length of 415 mm, and a weight of 3.3 kg. It has an estimated fire rate of up to 1,000 rounds per minute and a magazine capacity of 30 rounds. This gas-operated rifle has been proven to have an effective range of 625 m.

Accessories. Accordingly, the AK-12 rifle can fit a couple of accessories, such as the Picatinny rails at the top of the weapon and other accessory rails at both sides to mount optics and night scopes, lights, lasers, 40mm grenade launchers, and other special equipment. In addition, the new AK-12 magazine has a polymer textured feel, giving users a good grip.

Ukrainian war trophies

Since Russia’s “special military operations” on Ukraine began earlier this year, some Ukrainian soldiers (and even politicians) have been showing off captured AK-12 on social media. Comparing the two nations, it’s no doubt that Russia has(or had) a vast arsenal at its disposal. These rifles are becoming something of a trophy to Ukrainians. Aside from the AK-12, some Ukrainians also manage to seize AK-74s and AK-47M assault rifles and a handful of RPG-7 launchers. In the photo below of weapons seized from the VDV(paratroopers), we would just point out the lack of standardization among Russian troops in their basic combat rifles.  This creates supply problems when you have rifles with different kinds of ammunition along with internal and external parts in your inventory, “Do you need the polymer fixed, the expanding stock, or the fixed one in wood?

But obtaining an AK-12 as the most “sought-after” rifle is not just about its capabilities but also because of the meaningful symbolism it upholds as a propaganda piece.

The Warzone perfectly explained it, saying: “Displaying small arms in this way is a practice that goes way back, but the case of Osama Bin Laden, whose public image was manicured by the inclusion of AK-47-pattern rifles within the background of stills and videotapes produced by Al-Qaeda in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s, is one of the most notable examples in recent memory.”

Nonetheless, AK-12 has been a valuable aid to Ukrainian troops still carrying lesser advanced firearms than the Russian forces.