How Russian VKS rifle, the ASh-12 assault rifle and the RSh revolver appeared?

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PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – A series of terrorist attacks in the 90s and 2000s forced the Russian security officials to start developing a new large-caliber assault weapon necessary for a successful fight against armed bandit formations. This is how the VKS rifle, the ASh-12 assault rifle and the RSh revolver appeared.

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Silent long-range

In 1997, at the Moscow International Arms Exhibition in Sokolniki, the Tula Central Design and Research Bureau of Sports and Hunting Weapons (TsKIB SOO) presented its novelty – a large-caliber silent sniper rifle OTs-44 chambered for 12.7 × 108 mm. The rifle was developed by L.V. Bondarev, designer of a shortened SVU sniper rifle (OTs-03).

OTs-44, like OTs-03, has a bullpup layout, which made it possible to preserve the long barrel of the weapon with a small size. The design of the muffler is such that its body is put on over the barrel, practically without increasing the length of the rifle.

According to the developers, the rifle could hit targets at a distance of up to 2 km, and penetrate 20-mm armor at 100 m. The shooting was carried out with conventional machine-gun cartridges, which means that there could be no talk of high-precision shooting. At the same time, the main goal of the OTs-44 project was to reduce unmasking signs during firing.

Given the lack of a special subsonic cartridge, the author of the design was able to achieve only a significant reduction in the muzzle flame. The sound of a shot using a standard large-caliber cartridge was reduced to the level of the SVD, but still remained unacceptable for such a weapon.

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“Exhaust” for the FSB

The next logical step for TsKIB SOO was the development of an experimental cartridge with a shortened sleeve. The “donor” for him was a 20-gauge hunting cartridge case shortened to 54 mm. The same standard B-32 bullet was used as a projectile. Experiments with such cartridges allowed researchers to understand the capabilities of the future system, as well as to attract the attention of interested law enforcement agencies.

In the summer of 2001, by order of the FSB, experimental design work (ROC) “Exhaust” was opened in Tula to develop a new sniper complex, superior in destructive effect to standard sniper weapons chambered for 9 × 39 mm.

The results of experiments with OTs-44 were not in vain. The new rifle became a logical continuation of the previous work at TsKIB SOO. Six Tula designers presented their projects of promising rifles, including L.V. Bondarev. A.B.’s variants reached the final stage. Adova and V.V. Zlobin, the last of which was recognized as the best.

It was Zlobin who proposed a new cartridge, which they began to equip on the basis of a shortened cartridge case of 8.6 × 69 mm (.338LM). This decision later made it possible to develop an assault rifle and a revolver chambered for cartridges with the same sleeve.

The finished rifle prototype was ready in the second half of 2002. In December of the same year, he successfully passed preliminary tests, and in February 2004 – state tests. On May 11, 2004, the 12.7-mm VKS rifle and cartridges for it were adopted by the FSB. In 2005, the complex was adopted by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation and was first shown to the public at the Interpolitech exhibition under the designation VSSK.

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In addition to the VKS rifle, the complex included four cartridges of the SC-130 index. Two of them, with high-precision bullets, are designed to destroy unprotected personal body armor, as well as unarmored targets and manpower in it.

The PT bullet has a two-component core made of steel and lead in a bimetallic sheath, while the PT2 has an all-metal bullet made of bronze. Another version of the PT1 single-component bullet was not adopted for service. The third high-penetration cartridge VPS is designed to engage targets protected by personal body armor and technical equipment.

The bullet of such a cartridge has a hard-alloy core protruding from a steel body with a tungsten core and a copper jacket, and is capable of piercing a sheet of steel St.3 16 mm thick at a distance of 100 m. In 2006, the ballistic tip and container disappeared from the design of the VPS cartridge.

Later, in the SC-130 cartridges, the brand of the powder charge was also changed from pyroxylin P-45 to nitroglycerin NBPl 14-10. For teaching the techniques of loading and checking the action of the rifle mechanisms, there is a PU training cartridge.

The VKS non-self-loading magazine rifle has a rather short barrel and an impressive silencer. Not only the muffler body is made of polymer materials, but also the forend, the stock and the handle. The rear sight is made in the form of a diopter sight with a flywheel for making corrections.

Mechanical sighting devices are folded in the case of installing an optical sight, which is not included in the standard rifle kit, and a special sight for videoconferencing is not yet required. Unusual and reloading handle, which has a fuse for spontaneous opening of the bolt and a two-arm lever to facilitate unlocking the barrel.

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Subsequently, on the basis of the VKS rifle, a whole family of sniper weapons was created for the most common high-precision cartridges, and the VSV rifle chambered for 7.62 × 69 mm (.300LM) in 2009 was adopted by the FSB.

As a result, TsKIB SOO got several sniper systems on a single constructively unified base chambered for .300, .308, .338 and 12.7 × 55 mm cartridges, which ensure the solution of most sniper tasks during special operations.

The VKS sniper complex and its individual solutions are protected by several patents. “Exhaust” with the VPS cartridge in comparison with the BCC rifle received five times more energy of the shot. Foreign analogues for the same indicator are inferior to it at least one and a half times.

The Tula large-caliber rifle is not without flaws, but, according to the developers, it is constantly being improved. According to official information, in 2014 the modernized VKS successfully passed type tests.


The terrorist acts that thundered in Russia in the 2000s revealed the urgent need of special forces for powerful and maneuverable fire weapons to defeat the enemy. After the events of 2004 in Beslan, TsKIB SOO received a technical assignment for the development of an automatic assault complex with a high penetrating effect and a powerful stopping effect. Soon, the ASh-12 assault rifle based on the VKS rifle appeared in Tula.

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In 2010, the ASh-12 successfully passed state tests, and already in 2012, a powerful assault rifle complex SHAK-12 was adopted by the special units of the FSB. In addition to the assault rifle, the complex included three cartridges for it: PD-12 with a heavy bullet at subsonic speed, supersonic PS-12A with a light bullet and PS-12B with armor-piercing.

Also, work was carried out on two- and three-bullet cartridges, several options for shell and semi-shell bullets. The SHAK-12 complex was developed at TsKIB SOO by designer E.S. Kazakov under the leadership of A.I. Matlashova.

Externally, the ASh-12 assault rifle differs little from the VKS rifle without a silencer. The weapon’s fuse has moved to the fire control handle, and in its place is the automatic firing mode switch. For firing less powerful cartridges, the machine can use several options for muzzle attachments: in addition to a silencer, this is a special flame arrester and a conventional open-type muzzle compensator.

With the latter, shooting from a machine gun sounds closer to machine gun fire, which, in turn, has an additional psychological effect on the enemy. Instead of the forearm, it is possible to install specially designed underbarrel grenade launchers of several options, including a rather exotic three-shot revolving type.

In 2010, Tula designers patented an interesting design of a box magazine for cartridges of 12.7 × 55 mm caliber. Without any technical intervention, the store can be equipped with both rifle and automatic cartridges, despite their different lengths. Cartridges SC-130 are lined up in one row, and PS-12 or PD-12 – in two rows in a checkerboard pattern.

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This design of the store was tested in TsKIB SOO with positive results on a prototype sniper rifle. Perhaps this is not just an attempt to create a kind of universal complex, but a return to the SVU-AS type automatic sniper rifle, developed at TsKIB SOO in the mid-90s.

And the “Tempest” burst again

Soon after the ASh-12 was put into service and launched into mass production, on the instructions of the TsSN FSB, the Vykhlop-R ROC was opened to develop a universal assault revolver. Spetsnaz needed a compact one-shot weapon.

In 2014, six experienced RSh revolvers successfully passed state tests. Each of them could use cartridges of two calibers – 9 mm and 12.7 mm, which was achieved by changing the barrel and drum. In the two-caliber revolving complex, depending on the tasks performed, there were 7 options for ammunition in the ammunition load. The result is a kind of “pocket” versions of the well-known rifles “Vintorez” and “Exhaust”

Previously, weapons of this class were already in service with the special forces of the Soviet state security agencies. In the 60s a single-shot pistol “Tempest” (“Item D”) was produced for them. The weapon had a removable butt-holster, a bipod and a special attachment for shooting cumulative incendiary grenades.

A standard cartridge of 9.1 mm caliber with a cut-off of powder gases in the sleeve made it possible to fire silently without a silencer. Despite the different design, both the “Tempest” and the RSh are large-caliber compact weapons with a small unmasking effect, capable of striking protected manpower at short distances.

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In 2018, new modernized revolvers OTs-134 caliber 9 × 39 mm and OTs-135 caliber 12.7 × 55 mm appeared, which were planned to be demonstrated at the closed display of the Army-2019 forum.

The OTs-135 presented to a select audience had a shorter barrel and a drum with an increased capacity. The revolvers became single-caliber, which probably made it possible to make the 9-mm version more compact and lighter, as well as to achieve reliable operation of automation on a less powerful cartridge.


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