Arms manufacturer Kalashnikov has released an updated version of the RPK-74 Soviet light machine gun, the RPK-16, as shown in footage from Izhevsk released on 24 January. The updated design boasts an interchangeable barrel for close quarter and long-range combat. The 4-kilogram, 5.45-calibre weapon has a rate of fire of 700 rounds per minute. It is expected to be adopted by the Russian armed forces sometime this year.
Video credit: KALASHNIKOV.MEDIA
The RPK-74 is a further development of the RPK light machine gun. Since the Soviet Union was switching to a lighter, higher velocity caliber (5.45×39 mm), they needed weapons to fire it. Consequently, the AK-74 rifle and RPK-74 squad automatic weapon were developed by the famous Mikhail Kalashnikov in the 1970s. The RPK-74 is based on the AK-74 assault rifle in the same way as the previous RPK was based on the AKM assault rifle. It can be seen as a heavy-barrel version of the AK-74, fitted with bipod. The RPK-74 became the standard squad automatic weapon in service with the Soviet Army. Currently it is used by the Russian Army and most of the former Soviet republics.
The RPK-74 is a gas-operated weapon capable of both semi-automatic and automatic fire. Its heavy chrome-lined barrel is unable to be changed, severely limiting its sustained rate of fire. The RPK fires from a closed, rotating bolt. Many parts are interchangeable with the AK-74 assault rifle.
This weapon its rugged, reliable, simple to operate and to maintain. This light machine gun do not jams or misfires in worst conditions possible. If it jams, stoppages are easy to fix. This weapon can be field stripped in one minute without using any tools.
Despite its advantages the RPK-74 looses to Western weapons in terms of range and accuracy. This squad automatic weapon is poorly balanced.
A combined safety and fire mode selector switch locks the bolt group and the trigger in the “safe” position. It also serves as a dust cover. The middle position is for automatic fire and the bottom position is for single shots.
The RPK-74 uses 45-round box magazines, made of polymer materials. For some reason high-capacity drum magazine is no longer used on this weapon. Various drum magazines were tested, including one holding 100 rounds, but were not adopted. The RPK-74 can also use standard 30-round box magazines from the AK-74 assault rifle. And vice versa – the AK-74 accepts magazines of the RPK-74.
This weapon has simple iron sights. Some models have a special rail and can be fitted with scopes or night vision sights. Range of effective fire is 460 m against a torso-sized target and 640 m against a running man.
Original version has a wooden buttstock and foregrip. On later versions these were made from polymer materials.
RPK-74N: RPK-74 equipped with a left side rail to mount a night vision sight. The letter “N” in the designation stands for “night”.
RPKS-74: version of the RPK-74 for paratrooper use with a side-folding stock. Otherwise it is identical. The letter “S” in the designation stands fro “folding”.
RPKS-74N: RPKS-74 modified to incorporate a side rail on the left side of the weapon for a night vision sight.
RPK-74M is a modernized and improved version of the RPK-74. The letter “M” in the designation stands for “modernized”. It features black polymer furniture, making the weapon lighter. It also uses improved magazines. This light machine gun comes with a side-folding stock as standard. It is used by the Russian armed forces alongside the earlier versions of the RPK-74.
RPKM: export version of the RPK-74M chambered for 7.62×39 mm ammunition.
RPK-201: export model of the RPK-74M chambered for a standard NATO 5.56×45 mm ammunition. It was developed to complement the AK-101 assault rifle.
RPK-203: another export model of the RPK-74M chambered for 7.62×39 mm ammunition. It was developed to complement the AK-103 assault rifle.