The Russian branch of the Ministry of Internal Affairs called for a new lightweight, close-in fighting weapon system suitable for special forces and internal security use. The weapon would be able to supply repeating volume fire with excellent accuracy within range and offer capable man-stopping qualities in a compact package falling into the submachine gun classification. Various forms were entertained and experimented with until the "PP-19 Bizon" prototype emerged as the favorite. Design work on the Bizon was headed by Viktor Kalashnikov, son of fabled gunsmith Mikhail Kalashnikov, and spanned from 1993 to 1995. The senior Kalashnikov was already well-known around the world for having designed the ubiquitous AK-47 series of gas-operated assault rifles and its numerous variants. As such, the Bizon itself was born out of the true Kalashnikov pedigree and brought with it much of what made the former designs so reliable and popular amongst its myriad of users. Production of the new weapon began shortly thereafter and was handled by the long-running Izhmash concern. The PP-19 has been in operational service since 1996 and is issued to both Russian special forces elements (including Spetsnaz) and several internal governmental security forces.
The Bizon's firing action is based on the "straight blowback principle" utilizing a closed-bolt assembly. There is a fire selector switch which allows for different methods of fire based on operator needs of the moment (safety, semi-automatic fire and full-automatic fire). The outward appearance of the receiver (taken from the AKS-74) is in the standard Kalashnikov styling with the charging handle and ejection port seated to the right side of the body. The black fiberglass-polyamide pistol grip (taken from the newer AK-100 series) is slightly angled rearwards and lacks ergonomic finger grooves. The curved trigger (taken from the AK-74 assault rifle) is set within the large rectangular trigger guard and suits a gloved hand easily enough. A Kalashnikov-style magazine release is identified ahead of the trigger unit and aft of the magazine feed. The barrel assembly is covered over by a metal forestock which sports three horizontal cooling slots to either side. The two-strut shoulder stock (taken from the AKS-74 ) is hinged to fold over the left side of the gun body, not impeding the gun's functionality whatsoever. The folding stock allows for a more compact form, suitable to the close-in fighting required of special forces and security forces alike. The barrel protrudes a short distance ahead of the forend and is capped by a slotted muzzle brake. The Bizon retains the AK-style rear sight (ala the AKS-74U series) at the front end of the upper receiver and also fits a forward sight aft of the muzzle brake.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of the Bizon is its cylindrical "helical" magazine which sits under the lower receiver and forestock. This drum-style magazine approach allows for greater ammunition-carrying capacities in a compact form but also requires the need of a rather complicated internal feed mechanism to manage each cartridge at speed as they are accepted into the receiver. This undoubtedly increases the chance of an internal jam during basic firing functions. The base Bizon fires from a 64-round drum. The weapon was initially chambered for the 9x18mm Makarov cartridge but has since been branched out to include the 9x19mm Parabellum , the .380 ACP and the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridges.
The PP-19 Bizon sports a rate-of-fire between 650 and 700 rounds per minute. She weighs in at approximately 4.6lbs and features a muzzle velocity over 1,000 feet per second (varies depending on ammunition type being used). Effective range is out to 200 meters, again, depending on cartridge selected. Overall length is 26 inches with the stock extended. This shrinks to a very compact 16 inches when folded over.
The original Bizon production model was the plainly labeled "Bizon" which was changed to "Bizon-1" after the arrival of the "Bizon-2". The Bizon-2 was actually a revised family of firearm subsets to include the Bizon-2-01 through the Bizon-2-07, each differing in their chambering, ammunition count and functionality. The Bizon-2-01 was chambered for the 9x19 Parabellum cartridge and utilized a 53-round magazine. The Bizon-2-02 was chambered for the .380 ACP and sported a 64-round magazine. The Bizon-2-03 was chambered for the 9x18 Makarov cartridge and issued with an integral sound suppressor for clandestine work. The Bizon-2-04 was similar in that it chambered the 9x18 Makarov cartridge but was a basic shortened "carbine" form with semi-automatic firing functionality. The Bizon-2-05 was offered in the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge and was a semi-automatic-fire-only variant. The Bizon-2-06 was chambered for the .380 ACP and offered semi-automatic-fire-only. The Bizon-2-07 was chambered for the 7.62x25mm Tokarev and, interestingly, was completed with a 35-round detachable box magazine over the original's helical drum. The Bizon-3 followed the Bizon-2 into production and incorporated subtle changes to the overall design including a relocated rear sight, an over-folding stock and muzzle adapter.
The Bizon has since seen combat action in the 2nd Chechen War and, more recently, during the 2008 war with Georgia over South Ossetia. The "Bizon" names simply translates to "Bison".
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