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Carbine / Shotgun Assault Weapon

Soviet Union | 1985

"Though more akin to a combat shotgun by Western standards, the Soviets classified their KS-23 series as a carbine."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/15/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
While displaying an appearance more akin to a shotgun, the Russians designate their KS-23 as a "Special Carbine" (KS = "Karabin Spetsialniy") due to its large-caliber rifled barrel assembly (unlike conventional shotguns that make use of smoothbore barrels). The KS-23 utilizes a massive 23mm round which has more in common with the Soviet anti-aircraft projectile than a standard shotgun slug. Considering the KS-23 was developed from abandoned anti-aircraft cannon barrels that failed quality control testing, this is not a surprise for the KS-23 was developed as a specialized anti-riot weapon by reconstituting these "flawed" 23mm barrels. The size and construction of these barrels proved well-formulated for the use of special, low-powered projectiles and, thusly, the barrels began appearing in a shorter, cut-down form to produce the new "KS-23". The Soviet concern of Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod was charged with its production while design was attributed to TsNIITochMashwith development occurring throughout the 1970s. TsNIITochMash is the "Central Research Institute for Precision Machine Building" that makes its name as a primary Soviet/Russian military and internal security firearms producer. The KS-23 entered service with Russian police forces in 1985.

At its core, the KS-23 is a manually-actuated, pump-action slide weapon system that, for all intents and purposes, is a "shotgun" classification by Western standards though larger in scale by any respect. The system weighs in at 3.85 kilograms and sports a running length of 1,040mm with a barrel length of 510mm (in her basic form). Her formal caliber is listed as 23mm which becomes 6.27 gauge in American nomenclature while the feed system consists of tubular magazine housed under the barrel. The magazine can only hold 3 x 23mm shells though a fourth round can be chambered "ready-to-fire" and increases total ammunition capacity to four. Iron sights are integrated as standard and the internal firing system concerning the 23mm requires use of a multi-lug locking bolt assembly. The KS-23 has seen various shells developed for its unique design including basic buckshot, solid steel slug, non-lethal rubber slugs, tear gas and flash-bang shells. Militarized versions can add the optional muzzle attachment for firing barrel-launched grenades of various types (primarily tear gas for riot control) as well as grapple hooks and the like for special forces elements.

The KS-23 designation identifies the initial production models and basic security-minded KS-23 form. The type sports a 510mm long barrel assembly which differentiates it from the other KS-23 production marks. The militarized version is the KS-23M "Thrush" production model which does away with the solid wooden shoulder stock of the base offering and is completed with a handier, shorter 410mm length barrel. Some examples of this model have been identified with or without a wire-type stock. In either case, the KS-23M ends up being lighter in weight and easier to handle as a result. The KS-23K is the KS-23 completely rearranged into a "bullpup" configuration (the action now being located aft of the pistol grip and trigger unit) to take advantage of the inherent internal space generated by the required larger shoulder stock . The new arrangement allowed for an internal magazine of up to seven shells as opposed to the three-shell limit of the original production models. The KS-23K appeared in the late 1990s. The KS-23, in its civilian market guise, is known as the TOZ-123 "Drake" but is only available in the tree-shell form and banned in some countries.

The KS-23 series has only seen limited use since its inception - no doubt due to the weapon's very specific nature and ammunition. Nonetheless, she remains one of the most powerful - if not the most powerful - "shotgun" type systems the world over.

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The physical qualities of the KS-23. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
1,040 mm
40.94 in
O/A Length
510 mm
20.08 in
Barrel Length
8.49 lb
3.85 kg
Manual Pump Action Slide
23mm (6.27 gauge)
3-round tube magazine
Iron Front and Rear
Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the KS-23. Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
492 ft
150.0 m | 164.0 yds
Notable series variants as part of the KS-23 Carbine / Shotgun Assault Weapon family line.
KS-23 - Base Series Designation appearing in 1981; formal use beginning in 1985; fixed wooden stock.
KS-23M "Thrush" - Modernized form of the KS-23; detachable wire stock; shorter barrel for improved portability; appearing in 1991.
KS-23K - Revised design appearing in 1998; bullpup configuration; 7-round box magazine.
TOZ-123 "Drake" - Civilian Market Form; smoothbore barrel; 4-gauge ammunition; 3-shell tubular magazine.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the KS-23. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod - Soviet Union
National flag of North Korea National flag of Russia National flag of the Soviet Union National flag of Vietnam

[ North Korea; North Vietnam; Russia; Soviet Union; Vietnam ]
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Image of the KS-23
Right side profile illustration view of the KS-23 shotgun carbine; color

Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The KS-23 Carbine / Shotgun Assault Weapon appears in the following collections:
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