Prototype Assault Rifle
The Izhmash AL-7 assault rifle competed unsuccessfully against the more cost-effective AK-74 adopted by the Soviet Army during the 1970s.
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The newer AK-107 and AK-108 assault rifles - detailed elsewhere on this site - emerged from the "AL-7" design which appeared as an experimental type during the early part of the 1970s. The AL-7 was a departure from previous Kalashnikov offerings in that it relied on a "balanced" gas system of operation for automatic weapons. This new system was developed specifically to reduce the inherent recoil of such automatic weapons and this, in turn, decreased the climbing of the barrel when firing successive shots - known as "muzzle rise" or "muzzle climb". Its development stemmed from engineering work accomplished by Pyotr Tkachyov of Tsniitochmash during the 1960s and its formal name was known as "Balanced Automatics Recoil System" - or "BARS". Yuriy Alexandrov of Izhmash then took this system and reworked it to power the gas-operated AL-7 prototype.
Despite its improvement over previous AK types, the AL-7 was deemed too complex and too expensive to mass produce in the numbers required by the Soviet military at the time. As such, the design was abandoned and not resurrected until the 1990s. Alexandrov sought this opportunity to simplify his earlier creation to compete against the Izhmash AN-94 product (detailed elsewhere on this site). The resulting modifications led to the AK-107 and AK-108 lines - their "AK" designations actually stemming from the "Alexandrov/Kalashnikov" marriage and not from "Avtomat Kalashnikov" that marked earlier AK rifles.
The AN-94 itself was adopted in 1995 and continues to see service today - though in limited numbers and with only some elements of the Russian Army and governmental internal affairs and police groups.
The BARS arrangement did away with the original Kalashnikov reliance on a gas-operated piston and it was this shift that allowed the recoil to be more controlled - the gun became a more stable firing instrument and also aided in ranged accuracy. The recoil effects, balanced by the rearward action of the bolt and bolt carrier, were now concentrated more at the muzzle then at the rifle body itself. Efficiency of the standard riflemen was then increased (at least theoretically).
The Soviet Army, citing cost as a primary issue, moved on adoption of the AK-74 instead which continued tradition and familiarity for its troops and logistics network. The BARS approach was also trialled in several other rifle types of the Cold War period but few, if any, gained traction to the point that they became frontline weapons for the Soviets.
As completed, the AL-7 weighed 8.5lbs and featured a running length of 36.5". It was chambered to fire the 5.45x39mm Soviet cartridge from a gas-operated, rotating bolt action. Feeding was from a standard 30-round, curved detachable box magazine inserted into the bottom of the receiver in the usual way - the well sat just ahead of the trigger group and pistol grip. The gas cylinder was positioned above the barrel and a typical shoulder stock was fitted at the rear. Many physical facets of the AL-7 were carried over from the original AK-47 layout. Muzzle velocity was 2,500 feet per second with an effective firing range out to 1,500 yards in extreme circumstances. Sighting was through iron fittings at front and rear for more accurized, ranged fire. The rifle also supporting the mounting of the GP-30 Under-Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL) to further broaden the tactical value of the standard Soviet infantryman.