The 5.45mm Kbk Wz. 88 Tantal assault rifle was developed in Poland by the arms-making factory ZM Lucznik (code 11) as a replacement for the 7.62mm Kbk AKM (Kalashnikov AKM) rifle then in use by the Polish military. The development work started in 1981, but it was subsequently delayed by political unrest in Poland and resumed in 1985. Final rifles were ready in 1988, and official adoption by the Polish military followed in 1989, under the official designation “5.45mm karabinek Wzòr 1988” (5.45mm carbine, model of 1988).
The Tantal code name was originally assigned to the R&D program and later became a sort of nickname for a resulting weapon. The service life of the Kbk Wz. 88 Tantal assault rifle was relatively short, as in less than ten years after its adoption Poland decided to switch to NATO standard weapons in preparation for joining NATO. As such, by the turn of the 21st century, the 5.45mm Kbk Wz. 88 Tantal assault rifle was officially replaced by the 5.56mm Kbk Wz. 96 Beryl assault rifle. Relatively few Tantal rifles were produced, and most ended up being sold for export as military surplus, either converted to semi-auto or as parts kits.
The Kbk Wz. 88 Tantal assault rifle is best described as a modified clone of the Soviet Kalashnikov AK-74 rifle. Some parts, such as bolt carriers or magazines are interchangeable between these two, and the general layout and functioning are the same, but there also are some notable differences. For one, Polish engineers severely redesigned the firing group and safety. The traditional Kalashnikov-type safety has only two positions on the Tantal rifle, for safety and fire. The mode of fire (single shots, three-round bursts, or full automatic) can be selected via a separate lever, located on the left side of the receiver. The barrel also looks different, due to the longer muzzle brake – compensator, also designed to launch rifle grenades. A collar is added to the front of the gas block. This collar is used as a mounting point for a detachable lightweight bipod, which was a standard accessory for the Tantal rifle in Polish service. The pistol grip and forend are made from plastic, and the folding shoulder stock is made from a thick steel wire. The stock folds to the right. Standard magazines were made from stamped steel, but any AK-74 compatible magazines also can be used in the Tantal rifle. A few of the early Kbk Wz. 88 Tantal assault rifles were made with a night sight rail bolted to the left side of the receiver.
The Kbk Wz88 Tantal assault rifle specifications: