The Sudaev AS-44 assault rifle was the very first Soviet automatic rifle. It was developed for the then new 7.62mm model of the 1943 intermediate cartridge. The entire program was commenced in mid-1943, once Soviet experts had studied captured German Mkb.42(H) assault rifles and their ammunition.
By late 1943, Soviet designers produced their own version of the intermediate round, the 7.62×41 M1943, which later became 7.62×39 with the introduction of steel-cored, boat-tailed bullets in 1947.
Initial work included a complete family of small arms to arm an infantry squad – a semi-automatic carbine, a select-fire assault rifle and a light machine gun. The first Soviet designer to create a 7.62mm assault rifle was Alexey Sudaev, who previously designed the highly successful PPS-43 submachine gun. His weapon, known as “Avtomat Sudaeva AS-44”, was first tested in 1944, and by mid-1945 a small batch of AS-44 rifles was produced at Tula arms factory (TOZ) for field trials, along with RPD light machine guns and SKS carbines.
A number of AS-44 rifles were issued to various infantry units of the Soviet army shortly after the victory in Europe, and trialled until the end of that year. Results were mostly positive, although military experts noted the excessive weight of the gun (5.2 kg / 11.5 lbs with empty magazine and bipod), as well as suggestions that some parts needed to be strengthened with a folding stock version specifically for mechanized troops. Sudaev then designed a lightened version of his gun that had a slightly shorter barrel and no bipod, which was then entered into assault rifle trails, held by the Soviet army in 1946. However, Sudaev fell severely ill and died in August of 1946 at the age of 33. His untimely death put an immediate stop to further development of the AS-44 assault rifle, and we all know the eventual result – in early 1948 the trials commission recommended the Kalashnikov assault rifle for field trials, and in mid-1949 the AK-47 became the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet army. However, it is hard to underestimate the historical importance of the Sudaev AS-44 rifle, as it was the very first assault rifle to be chambered in the now famous 7.62mm M1943 cartridge and produced in some numbers (possibly a hundred or so guns).
The Sudaev AS-44 assault rifle is a gas operated, select fire weapon. It has a long stroke gas system and utilises tilting bolt locking, somewhat similar to that of the Tokarev SVT-40 rifle. It fires from an open bolt. The fire mode selector lever is located on the left side of the gun, above the trigger; the manual safety is a cross-bolt button located above the pistol grip. There is a dust cover for the bolt handle. When the bolt is in its forwardmost position, it can be raised manually to close it in its slot. When the gun is cocked, the bolt handle automatically moves the dust cover into the open position. The rifle was equipped with a wooden stock and separate wooden pistol grip. The barrel was fitted with a muzzle brake, bayonet lug and folding bipod. Ammunition is fed from a detachable box magazine of 30-round capacity.
|Full text name||Sudaev AS-44 assault rifle (USSR)|
|Caliber cartridge||7.62x39 M43|
|Overall length, mm||1000|
|Barrel length, mm||550|
|Weight empty, kg||5.2 (with magazine and bipod)|
|Magazine capacity, rounds||30|
|Cyclic rate of fire, rounds/min||600-700|