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Assault Rifle (1980)

Infantry Small Arms / The Warfighter

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The KMZ AEK-971 debuted in the latter-half of the 1970s and has since appeared in a variety of forms.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/25/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.
The AEK-971 Assault Rifle emerged from the Kovrov Mechanical Plant (KMZ) during the 1980s with design work having begun the decade prior. At its core the weapon became a traditional automatic weapon system firing the usual array of Soviet standard cartridges through a gas-operated, rotating bolt action. Its form and function were similar to the classic Kalashnikov family of rifles and included the over-barrel gas cylinder as well as the curved, detachable box magazine. Where the AEK-971 differed was in its use of the BARS action - "Balanced Automatics Recoil System" - which has proven to increase shooter accuracy in successive fire (i.e. burst fire, full-automatic fire) by reducing the effects of recoil. In the BARS system, the recoil effects are moved closer to the muzzle and a rearward action of the bolt and bolt-carrier help to further minimize the effects of "muzzle climb".

The AEK-971 was one of several firearms entered into a competition to find the next standardized Soviet Army rifle and this included the competing AN-94 detailed elsewhere on this site. The rifle was eventually adopted, though in limited numbers, and issued to various elements of the Soviet Navy and federal forces but little else in terms of reach has been seen of this design - it did manage to see combat service in the Second Chechen War with Russian forces. The AN-94, despite being heavier and more expensive to manufacture, won out over the AEK-971 in the long run.

Nevertheless there still remained support for the AEK-971 design which has managed to stay in the fold and deliver several related variants and subvariants. AEK-971 became the primary variant of the family, chambered for the 5.45x39mm cartridge, while the AEK-972 was chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge favored by the West. This led to a slight variation in the curvature of the magazine. The AEK-973 was the third in the series and chambered for the 7.62x39mm rifle cartridge which gave better penetration at range. The AEK-971 and AEK-973 then begat subvariants all their own, these becoming the improved AEK-971S and AEK-973S (respectively) forms. The pair used an all-new trigger system, three-round burst fire mode, and lighter-weight shoulder stocks.

More modern incarnations of the AEK-971 are the A-545 and A-762. As their designations suggest, these models are chambered for the 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm cartridges respectively. The A-545 is actively competing against the AK-12 model as both remain in limited service for evaluation purposes. The A-545 is considered the direct successor to the earlier AEK-971 line.


Service Year

Soviet Union national flag graphic
Soviet Union


Assault Rifle

Kovrovsky Mekhanichesky Zavod - Soviet Union / Degtyarev Plant - Russia
National flag of Russia National flag of the Soviet Union Russia; Soviet Union
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Automatic Function
Features a mechanical function to automate the firing action.
Assault Rifle
Modern class of long gun featuring select-fire properties, automatic internal function, and magazine feeding.

Overall Length
960 mm
37.80 in
Barrel Length
420 mm
16.54 in
Empty Wgt
7.28 lb
3.30 kg

Iron Front and Rear; Optional Optics


Gas-Operated; Rotating Bolt; Selective Fire

Rotating Bolt
System utilizes internal mechanism to lock the breech or rear barrel assembly prior to firing.
Gas-operated system is featured, typically involving a gas cylinder and rear-driven piston directing energy to the bolt component.
(Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information)


5.45x39mm; 5.56x45mm NATO; 7.62x39mm

Sample Visuals**

Graphical image of a 5.56mm intermediate rifle cartridge
Graphical image of a 7.62x39mm rifle cartridge
Rounds / Feed

30- or 45-round box magazine OR 60-round drum.
Cartridge relative size chart
*May not represent an exhuastive list; calibers are model-specific dependent, always consult official manufacturer sources.
**Graphics not to actual size; not all cartridges may be represented visually; graphics intended for general reference only.
Max Eff.Range
1,640 ft
(500 m | 547 yd)
Muzzle Velocity
2,885 ft/sec
(879 m/sec)

AEK-971 - Base Series Designation; chambered for the 5.45x39mm cartridge.
AEK-971S - Improved model of the AEK-971 with new trigger mechanism, lighter-weight shoulder stock, and three-shot burst fire mode.
AEK-972 - Chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge.
AEK-973 - Chambered for the 7.62x39mm cartridge
AEK-973S - Improved model of the AEK-973 with new trigger mechanism, lighter-weight shoulder stock, and three-shot burst fire mode.
A-545 - Modernized offshoot of the AEK-971 in 5.45x39mm chambering; revised iron sigths, Picatinny rail support, and ambidextrous fire mode selector switch.
A-762 - Modernized offshoot of the AEK-971 in 7.62x39mm chambering; revised iron sigths, Picatinny rail support, and ambidextrous fire mode selector switch.

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