The AK-101 was developed from the successes of the original post-World War 2-era AK-47 assault rifle though with foreign customers in mind. It was, therefore, chambered to fire the relatively available 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge. Like the AK-47 before it, the AK-101 system was also designed from the mind of fabled Soviet/Russian gunsmith Mikhail Kalashnikov with design work beginning sometime in 1994. To date, some 25,000 examples have been produced and a shorter carbine form - the AK-102 - has also been developed from the AK-101. Some features found in the AK-101 series have also been implemented into the similar AK-103 family line, this weapon system chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge.
The AK-101 came about to feed the market need for those discerning customers who wanted a modernized form of the world-renowned Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle with the universality of the NATO 5.56mm cartridge. As such, the AK-101 series features lightweight construction that utilizes composites and modern manufacturing techniques in her design. This makes for an end-product that is decidedly lighter than her previous forms and makes for an easier-to-handle assault rifle system all the while being able to operate from a common ammunition caliber.
Externally, the AK-101 is decidedly the AK-47 in general layout and appearance. The receiver is slab-sided with clean lines that tapers to the forend. An ergonomic, foldable shoulder stock (lockable) is featured at the rear of the receiver. The pistol grip is relatively straight though angled to the rear for a firm hold while the trigger group consists of a curved trigger unit and a rectangular trigger ring. Ahead of the trigger is the magazine release and the curved, smooth-sided magazine is fed just ahead of the magazine release lever. The forend is protected over in an ergonomic piece which - as in the AK-47 - sees the gas cylinder set above the barrel, protruding just a short distance away from the receiver. The barrel runs under the gas cylinder and sports a single-baffle muzzle brake / flash suppressor (similar to that as featured in the AK-74) as well as a noticeable forward sight post. A cleaning rod is standard and fitted along the underside of the barrel. The weapon weighs in at just 7.5lbs without the magazine installed. Overall length is just over 37 inches with the stock fully extended and 27.5 inches with the stock folded over the receiver. The barrel is 415mm (16.3 inches) in length. Beyond the presented adjustable iron sights, the AK-101 can accept an optics mount for the purpose of fitting accessories and specialized optics as needed.
As touched upon, the AK-101 is chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO standard round and features a gas-actuated, rotating bolt firing action with selective fire (limited to semi-automatic and full-automatic modes). The assault rifle feeds from a standard 30-round detachable box magazine and is rated at 650 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,986 feet and an effective range out to 500 meters.
Despite its Russian origins, the AK-101 is not in service with Russian military or security forces who instead utilize the combined efforts of the AK-74M, AK-103 and AN-94 series of assault rifles in their respective varying calibers. The AK-101 has seen orders from Bhutan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Somalia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cyprus and India.
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