Modern Firearms - AEK-971
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AEK-971 assault rifle (Russia)

 Early model AEK-973 rifle in 7.62x39mm
 Early model AEK-973 rifle in 7.62x39mm



Early model AEK-971 rifle in 5.45x39mm
 Early model AEK-971 rifle in 5.45x39mm



Late production model AEK-971 rifle in 5.45x39mm with red-dot sight
 Late production model AEK-971 rifle in 5.45x39mm with red-dot sight

Prototype AEK-973S rifle in 7.62x39mm with telescoped butt
Prototype AEK-973S rifle in 7.62x39mm with telescoped butt

 

 

Caliber: 5.45x39mm (AEK-971), 5.56x45 (AEK-972) and 7.62x39mm (AEK-973)
Action: Gas operated, rotating bolt, balanced
Overall length: 965 mm
Barrel length: 420 mm
Weigth: 3.3 kg without magazine
Magazine capacity: 30 rds, all standart AK-47 or AK-74 magazines depending on caliber

 

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 police forces and for export. During early 2000s small batches of AEK-971 rifles in 5.45x39 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 plant in the same city, but production of the AEK-971 was not resumed due to the lack of orders that might warrant expensive tooling and production setup at new factory.

The AEK-971 assault rifle has a gas driven, balanced action with rotating bolt locking. Balancing mean that AEK971 gas drive has two gas chambers and two gas pistons. The first gas piston is linked via a gas rod 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. Both pistons are synchronized through a simple gear. 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 far more stable during full-auto fire.
The gain in accuracy in full auto is about 15-20%, when compared to the AK-74 assault rifle in the same caliber. The AN-94 assault rifle, which was officially adopted by Russian army, has a slight edge over the AEK-971 only in short burst (2 rounds only) mode. In full-auto medium or long burst fire mode (3-5 or 7-10 rounds per burst) AEK-971 wins hands down, being also some 0.5kg lighter than the AN-94, and much simpler and cheaper to manufacture.
 
AEK-971 has a side-folding plastic buttstock, a plastic forearm and fire control grip, and uses standard AK/AKM or AK-74 30-round magazines (depending on the chambering). It also features a safety switch/fire mode selector of different appearance from the Kalashnikov design. The fire selector allows 3 modes of fire - single shots, 3-round bursts and full auto.