The Kalashnikov AKS-74U compact assault rifle, colloquially known in the West as the “Krink” or “Krinkov” was officially adopted by the Soviet army in 1978 and mass-produced in the USSR and later Russia until 1993.
The initial request for a new 5.45mm personal defense weapon for vehicle crews and other military personnel was issued by the Soviet army as early as 1971, even before the adoption of the 5.45x39mm cartridge and the new Kalashnikov AK-74 rifle. By late 1973 Soviet military issued a final set of requirements for a 5.45mm PDW type weapon, under the code name “Modern”. Per long-standing Soviet tradition, the development of the new weapon was handled on a competitive basis, with several teams from Izhevsk, Tula, and Kovrov submitting their prototypes for trials. As a result of these trials, military experts selected the PP-1 prototype, developed under the leadership of Mikhail Kalashnikov at IZHMASH. It was based on the AKS-74 rifle and shared numerous design features and some components with it.
Kalashnikov AKS-74U compact assault rifle was assigned the GRAU index 6P26 (6П26), and its initial production was handled by IZHMASH. However, per government orders, its production was transferred to the TOZ arms factory in Tula, which became the exclusive manufacturer of the AKS-74U in 1981. Mass production of the AKS-74U was stopped at the TOZ in around 1993 for the lack of government orders, and production lines were scrapped or repurposed completely by 1997. As a result, no new AKS-74U rifles were made in Russia in the last 30 years, and at present few remaining ones are being gradually replaced by the slightly longer AK-105 or AK-205 rifles in the same caliber.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the AKS-74U found wide acceptance outside of the Russian military, as a patrol weapon for law enforcement, as well as specialized CQB / entry guns for various OMON and SOBR SWAT-type teams.
It must be noted that the nickname “Krink” or “Krinkov” was never used in Russia and has no Russian roots; it came from Afghanistan, where these rifles became highly prized trophies of mujaheddin as weapons of Spetsnaz or helicopter crews.
Besides the basic AKS-74U, there were several specialized versions of the rifle, intended primarily for Spetsnaz use. The first was the AKS-74UN, the night fighting version, with a side rail that normally hosted the NSPU or NSPUM night vision sight. Due to the large size and weight of the sight, and its limited range, the shorter and lighter AKS-74UN was a preferable Spetsnaz ‘night-time’ weapon, compared to the full-size AKS-74N.
The second version, the AKS-74UB, was a dedicated suppressed (silenced) version that had several important changes to warrant a separate GRAU index of 6P27 (6П27). It was issued with the PBS-4 sound suppressor, which was an integral part of the system and removed mostly for maintenance or discreet carry. Special subsonic ammunition, the 5.45x39mm 7U1, had a relatively weak powder charge, so the rifle had to be cycled manually when firing subsonic loads. To achieve necessary reliability in this “manual operation” mode, the AKS-74UB was provided with a plunger-type ejector on the bolt and an enlarged charging handle. The design of the PBS-4 suppressor permitted unrestricted use of the standard, supersonic 5.45mm 7N6 ammunition in semi- and full-automatic modes. A special rear sight with two adjustable blades (for subsonic and standard ammunition) was mounted on this version.
The PBS-4 suppressor was of traditional design, with a removable stack of steel baffles mounted inside a steel body. Unlike earlier suppressors for the 7.62mm AKM and AKMS, the PBS-4 does not use disposable rubber wipes, which is beneficial for accuracy. The 7U1 ammunition was loaded with tungsten-cored bullets weighting 5,1 gram, with nominal velocity around 300 m/s.
The AKS-74UB was also used as a host for the 30mm “Kanarejka” noiseless grenade launcher, which was an improved version of the “Tishina” system, previously used on suppressed AKM rifles. However, the AKS-74UB was a less than successful weapon and was not popular among users, due to the very limited lethality and effectiveness of the relatively tiny 5.45mm subsonic bullets. Starting mid-1980s, it was quickly superseded in the Spetsnaz units by much more effective and popular integrally suppressed 9x39mm AS and VSS weapons.
Basic mechanisms of the AKS-74U are similar to those of AKS-74, including side-folding shoulder stock, made from stamped steel. Major changes include faster rifling in the bore (1 turn in 165 mm as compared to 1 turn in 200 mm for standard AK-74), shortened barrel with gas block moved back and gas piston rod appropriately shortened. The muzzle is fitted with a new flash hider, which noticeably reduces the muzzle blast. The top cover is hinged at the front and opens up and forward, as opposed to the standard, fully detachable top cover of the AK-74. The front sight is installed on the gas block, and the simplified flip-up rear sight is mounted on the top cover. The sight has two settings – one marked with Cyrillic letter “П” (P), intended for all ranges up to 350 meters, and the second, marked with the digit “5”, intended for longer ranges of up to 500 meters.
Early AKS-74U featured AKMS-type wooden pistol grips, which were later replaced with brown plastic grips. Handguards were made from laminated wood. Plastic handguards for the AKS-74U were developed in the late 1980s but never mass-produced in Russia.
A special 20-round magazine was developed for use along with AKS-74U as a personal defense weapon for aircraft crews, but it was relatively scarce. An even rarer accessory was a large and heavy hip holster, made from plastic and intended for helicopter crews who were operating in Afghanistan.
Caliber: 5,45×39 mm
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt with 2 lugs
Overall length: 735 mm (490 mm with folded buttstock)
Barrel length: 210 mm
Magazine capacity, 30 rounds standard
Weight empty: 2,71 kg
Effective range: about 200 meters
Rate of fire: 650-735 rounds per minute