It has always been something of a challenge to equip logistical, special role and second-line troops in warfare. The role is typically taken up by the submachine gun but there are times when an even handier, portable assault weapon is required. During the Cold War (1947-1991) between the East and the West, the Soviet Union sought to solve this issue within their ranks and called on local industry to develop a new close-quarters weapon. One entry into this competition became the Stechkin, an automatic pistol with qualities more akin to a machine pistol - the bridge between a semi-automatic handgun and a submachine gun. The Stechkin's formal name was "Avtomaticheskiy Pistolet Stechkina" or "APS", this literally translating to "Automatic Pistol Stechkin".
Igor Stechkin was credited with the design of the pistol, hence it bears his name, and work began in the late-1940s and continued into the early-1950s.
At the core of the design was a blowback system of operation which centered on the 9x18mm Makarov Soviet pistol cartridge. The pistol had a selective-fire capability and could reach out, with some accuracy, to 655 feet while maintaining a rate-of-fire of 750 rounds-per-minute. Muzzle velocity of the outgoing bullet reached 1,115 meters-per-second. To promote better accuracy while in full-automatic fire, there was an optional solid shoulder stock attached to the base of the grip. Sighting was through an iron arrangement and the sidearm more or less mimicked in appearance the various John Browning-inspired semi-automatic service pistols of the period.
After official evaluations and trials, this automatic pistol was formally adopted for service in 1951. Serial production was had through the Vytatsky Polyany Machine-Building Plant. Production of the APS pistol spanned from 1951 until 1958 and issuance was to vehicle and artillery crews as well as some officer-level candidates. Security forces soon took up the type and it was offered up for sale on the foreign market where takers were aplenty.
As designed, the sidearm weighed 2.7lb and had an overall length of 8.9 inches with a barrel assembly measuring 5.5 inches long. Feeding was by way of a 20-round detachable box magazine inserted into the base of the grip handle. The usual pistol controls were found on the receiver including the fire rate selector and safety.
In service, the Stechkin proved its worth for what it was but it was also soon found to be a large and heavy gun to manage. It was uncomfortable in the hand and its high rate-of-fire made it prone to jamming while engagement range was limited in practical use. This led to the series being pulled from large scale active service though Soviet / Russian special forces continued to appreciate the weapon and valued the pistol's close-quarters "punch".
In all, operators included the usual Soviet allies and customers in Armenia, Angola, Cuba, Georgia, Libya, Romania, Ukraine, Syria and Tanzania. In Romania, the weapon was recognized as the "Dracula Model 98" (1998) and was chambered for the 9x19mm Parabellum German pistol cartridge. Several modifications were made to the gun to produce this local mark.
The APB became a silenced version of the original APS pistol. This form appeared during the 1970s and about 2,000 were produced from 1972 until 1973. Changes included a lengthened barrel assembly, reduced muzzle velocity and optional wire stock. The barrel was threaded to take on a suppressor component which was used to reduce the noise of the exiting bullet. This weapon became another highly-value version of the Stechkin pistol for Soviet / Russian special forces operatives with the series still in service today (2017).
The Stechkin is known to have had combat exposure in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) as well as the Soviet War in Afghanistan. It has also been a noted participant in the ongoing War in Donbass between the Russia and Ukraine.