The AEK-971 assault rifle was developed at Kovrov Machinebuilding Plant (formerly known as Kovrov Machineguns Plant) by chief designer S.I. Koksharov. Originally designed and tested during ‘Abakan’ trials of late 1980s, it failed in trials, but its development was continued in hopes to sell the gun to Russian police forces and for export. During early 2000s small batches of AEK-971 rifles in 5.45×39 caliber were manufactured for Russian MVD (internal affairs ministry) troops, but its production has ceased in 2006, as Kovrov Machinebuilding Plant got rid of all military production and switched to civilain products only. All plans, tools and technological packages for AEK weapons were transferred to the ZID (V.A.Degtyarov) plant in the same city, but production of the AEK-971 was suspended for several years due to the lack of orders.
However, circa 2010 ZiD plant resumed limited production of the modified AEK-971 assault rifle, for Russian Internal Affairs ministry (MVD) and other Russian law enforcement agencies. Since 2013, heavily modified versions of the 5.45mm AEK-971 and 7.62mm AEK-973 rifles were undegoing official Russian army “Ratnik” trials. These new rifles are known as A-545 (GRAU index 6P67, “6П67” in Cyrillic) and A-762 (6P68, “6П68” in Cyrillic), respectively.
In December 2014 Russian army officials announced that A-545 (6P67) and A-762 (6P68) assault rifles sucessfully passed Ratnik trials. After subsequent field trials in early 2018 it was officially announced that A-545 (6P67) and A-762 (6P68) are recommended for adoption by Russian Special Forces, while main body of Russian military would adopt AK-12 and AK-15 rifles. It must be noted that balanced action rifles show any noticeable increase in efefctiveness over conventional designs only when fired in short bursts from off-hands positions. As reported by Russian officials, during Ratnik trials the 5.45mm 6P67 balanced action rifles outperformed 5.45mm AK-12 rifles by about 10% (in terms of total target hits) at ranges of 300 meters and closer. At longer ranges (300-500 meters), conventional AK-12 has similar edge (~10%) in effectiveness over A-545, probably due to its better accuracy in single shots. When compared to conventional designs, balanced action rifles tend to be noticeably more expensive, require more care and attention during maintenance and cleaning, and need more muscle strenght to cycle the action.
The AEK-971 assault rifle has a gas operated, balanced action with rotating bolt locking. Balancing mean that AEK971 gas drive has two two co-axial gas pistons. The primary gas piston has annual shape and is linked via a tubular body to the bolt carrier and operates as usual. The second gas piston is linked to a balancing steel weight and moves in the opposite direction to the main gas piston, iside its tubular body. Both pistons are synchronized through a simple gear (in early models) or two gears (in current production models). This design is intended to eliminate three of the four elements of action impulses, which cause a rifle to move during full-auto fire. The first impulse is received when the bullet moves along the barrel – this is the basic recoil itself. The second impulse is received when the heavy bolt carrier/bolt group moves along the receiver back and forth. The third impulse is received when bolt carrier/bolt group slams against the receiver in the rear position, and the fourth when this group is stopped in the forward position after a new cartridge is chambered. The synchronous and opposite movement of the balancing weight eliminates all except the recoil impulse, so the rifle becomes more stable during full-auto fire, and vibrates less.
Production AEK-971 rifles have a side-folding plastic buttstocks, plastic forearm and fire control grip, and use standard AK/AKM or AK-74 30-round magazines (depending on the chambering). They also feature safety switch/fire mode selectors of various designs, depending on the year of manufacture and factory. The fire selector allows 3 modes of fire – single shots, 3-round bursts and full auto. Inner workings of the gun are acessible through detachable top cover, made from stamed steel.
A545 (6P67) rifle features numerous internal and external improvements over earlier AEK-971. These include, among other things, redesigned receiver with integrated Picatinny rail on the top and hinger pistol grip / trigger unit at the bottom. Rifle now disassembled by removing rear end-cap from the receiver, swinging the pistol grip down and then pulling the bolt group as a single unit to the rear. Other features include ambidextrous fire mode selector / safety levers (with positions for safe, single shots, 2 round bursts and full auto), retractable and adjustable shoulder stock and aperture rear sight.
|Full text name||AEK-971, A-545 6P67, A-762 6P68 assault rifle (Russia)|
|Caliber cartridge||5.45x39 7N6 7N10 7N22 7N247.62x39 M43|
|Overall length, mm||960|
|Length, folded, mm||720|
|Barrel length, mm||420|
|Weight empty, kg||3,5|
|Magazine capacity, rounds||30|
|Cyclic rate of fire, rounds/min||900|