The Kalashnikov assault rifle has long been in service with many countries, in one form or another, it was also used in the Warsaw Pact countries. In the process of the collapse of the Soviet Union, many abandoned these weapons in favor of foreign models or their own designs, but there were also those who tried to modernize the AK, bringing it to the requirements of the new allies. In the process of such modernization, a new weapon appeared, in the appearance of which it was already possible not to discern the progenitor. In Ukraine, similar work was also carried out, in particular, an automaton was created in the bullpup Vepr layout, which, later, turned into a Maluk submachine gun.
Vepr assault rifle
The modernization of the Kalashnikov assault rifle was the initiative of Colonel Anatoly Anatolyev, Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Sheiko and Major Andrei Zharkov. Initially, the idea itself was not limited only to the rearrangement of the AK, both SKS and SVD were used, and the first version of the weapon was assembled on the basis of the PKK. In other words, everything went into action, which could be used to implement the idea of creating a full-fledged working model of a weapon in a bullpup layout. The weapons that novice gunsmiths used for their designs were intended for disposal, that is, they were actually inoperable, therefore, in addition to reworking the structure, they also had to do repairs.
It is clear that such activity could not remain unnoticed for a long time, and the Security Service of Ukraine became interested in the military. The issue was resolved with the assistance of the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, to whom the already existing developments were demonstrated. After receiving approval and an order from the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, it became much easier to work, you could not look back and use all available opportunities to implement the project.
For the first time, the results of the work of military designers were demonstrated at the "Arms-95" exhibition. The Vepr assault rifle immediately attracted attention, especially the paratroopers became interested in weapons. At the same time, it was proposed to rename the weapon from Vepr to Wolf or Wolverine, so that there would be no confusion with the Russian Vepr. The Minister of Defense, satisfied with the result of the work, assured the designers that their work would not be in vain and that funding would be provided in the near future and a pilot batch of weapons would be ordered for testing in the troops.
Soon, "the power has changed", the Minister of Defense has changed, respectively, the designers have lost support. Despite this, the work of the designers was not stopped and soon, thanks to their friends, they managed to agree on the testing of weapons in the army. The weapon received only positive reviews, but they got interested in the weapon back, but the matter did not go further than the manifestation of interest.
During all this time, the designers have patented several of their ideas, but in view of the obvious futility, their enthusiasm has clearly diminished. In 2001, the designers were forced to transfer all the documentation to the Scientific Center for Precision Engineering. In addition to the documentation, over 100 thousand dollars were also transferred there. It took two whole years to master this money, as well as to transfer the handle for cocking the bolt to the left side on the propellant gas outlet and to cover the bore with a special compound to increase the service life. True, what kind of coating it is and how it affects the durability of the barrel, the information was not disclosed, apparently the secrecy did not allow. Everything else in the weapon was completely identical to the results of the work of Anatolyev, Sheiko and Zharkov.
The weapon was sent to the troops for testing, where it again received only positive reviews. Until 2010, it was planned to purchase several thousand machine guns, the transfer of the army to new weapons was not planned. Apparently, there was an understanding that with all the advantages of automatic rifles in the bullpup layout, this weapon also has disadvantages, therefore, it is not worth completely abandoning automatic rifles in the classic layout. The cost of one weapon unit was declared in the region of $ 100-150, which is explained not by the creation of a machine gun "from scratch", but by the modernization of preserved samples. A much more interesting figure was the declared cost of organizing work on the modernization of the AK, namely, half a million dollars. It was planned to “recapture” this money by supplying weapons abroad, but the money for starting work on mass production was never found, nor was it decided on the territory of which enterprise the work would be deployed. The main reason, it seems to me, was the long payback time of the project, with the cost of one machine being $ 100-150, it was apparently considered inexpedient to give half a million.
Of course, Russia also drew attention to the novelty, namely, they decided to ask what was happening and who gave permission for the production of weapons on the basis of the AK. The answer to these claims was as follows. The Kalashnikov assault rifle is not produced on the territory of Ukraine, the Vepr assault rifle is a modernization of the weapon that is in storage, and accordingly there can be no patent claims.
At first glance at the weapon, you can recognize the Kalashnikov assault rifle in it, which it is. By and large, the entire modernization consisted only in removing the stock and moving the pistol grip forward. A plastic cheek piece has appeared on the receiver cover. Sights have undergone changes, which have become dioptric on high stands. The rear sight was able to fold, so as not to interfere with the use of the optical sight. Inside, the weapon was left unchanged, the only detail that was added was a long link connecting the trigger and trigger.
To be objective, even at the time of work on the modernization of weapons, the Vepr machine gun is very far from ideal. Yes, the weapon turned out to be more compact and stable when firing, but it had absolutely all the drawbacks of the bullpup layout, to which they added their own special "disadvantages".
The main disadvantage is the location of the fire mode translator-fuse switch. Since this part was left unchanged, now to switch it is required to reach almost to the very shoulder, and with the same hand, which will need to be carried after switching to the pistol grip. In terms of the location of the fuse switch, left-handers were very lucky, but immediately after the start of firing, this luck for them ends due to the fact that shell casings begin to fly in front of their very nose. It turned out that the weapon is not the most convenient for all people, regardless of which hand is the "main" one. At the very least, the fuse switch also had to be moved forward.
The total length of the weapon is 702 millimeters, the barrel length is 416 millimeters. The mass of the machine without cartridges and magazine is 3.45 kilograms. The machine is powered by detachable magazines chambered for 5, 45x39 cartridges from AK.
Obviously, the Vepr submachine gun turned out to be very raw. It is absolutely incomprehensible what the money was spent on and what they did in the Scientific Center of Precision Engineering, since all the work was done before them, and absolutely free of charge. If we evaluate the Vepr assault rifle as an attempt at the cheapest possible conversion of AK into a bullpup, then on the whole the attempt was a success.
Vulkan and Malyuk automata
However, the work on the weapon was not stopped, which is not surprising with so many shortcomings, but obvious prospects. In 2005, Interproinvest LLC began to work. The first version of the weapon received the designation Vulcan. By and large, it was the same Vepr "hung" with plastic. Of course, this result was not satisfactory.
In 2015, the company demonstrated the end result of its work already with the name Malyuk (Kid). The weapon has received a number of changes, but not all flaws have been fixed. At the moment, the weapon is being tested, and the machine exists in three versions for cartridges 5, 56x45, 5, 45x39 and 7, 62x39. The modernization of Kalashnikov assault rifles is planned to be carried out on the territory of the Lviv enterprise "Electron".
The weapon gives the impression of a completely modern design, but no matter how much plastic you hang on the AK, it's still AK. Above and below the weapon there are two fastening strips; on the upper strip, folding removable sights are attached. The handle received protection for the holding hand in front, while the safety clip was not abandoned. A very interesting and at the same time controversial solution is the magazine eject button, which is located behind the trigger. How convenient it will be to change stores in thick winter gloves is anyone's guess. The switch for fire and safety modes remained in its usual place. The handle for cocking the shutter can be installed both on the right and on the left. Partially tried to minimize the inconvenience when using an assault rifle with an emphasis on the left shoulder, adding a reflector for spent cartridges to the design.
The length of the weapon is 712 millimeters, the barrel length is 416 millimeters. The mass of the machine is 3, 2 kilograms without a magazine and cartridges. The design of the magazines has not been changed, therefore the weapon is compatible with Soviet magazines, and in the case of a variant of the machine under 5, 56x45 magazines from AR-like models.
The Vepr-Vulcan-Malyuk assault rifle can undoubtedly be called one of the completed projects in the early 90s in Ukraine. Despite the rather complicated history of its appearance, this weapon was nevertheless brought to some kind of logical conclusion.
Obviously, even if these weapons do not gain distribution in the army, manufacturers will be able to offer them for export. However, behind the elegant wrapping is still the same Kalashnikov assault rifle, the reserves of which in warehouses, although large, are not endless. Sooner or later, the question of rearmament of the army will arise and it may well turn out that even for such a modernization there will be no initial weapon.
Many note that Malyuk assault rifles are the first step towards standardizing weapons in accordance with NATO requirements, but it is not worth considering it back in this context, for the same reason that AK stocks will sooner or later run out and change the barrel under 5, 56 and saw off the butt will simply be nothing. In this regard, the problem of creating its own machine gun for Ukraine remains, since it is unlikely that the Kalashnikov concern will give the go-ahead for the production of weapons, especially after uncoordinated modernization works.
In other words, no matter how they shout about their own new Ukrainian machine gun, it is not, since it was produced in the USSR, and in Ukraine it was just modernized. In general, the Malyuk assault rifle should probably be viewed as an export product rather than a weapon for domestic use. Apparently, Soviet AKs have ceased to be in demand and they have to be updated to be bought.
In addition to Vepr, there is also a mention of a balanced automatic machine, which had the name Soroka. There is absolutely no data on this machine, many even question the existence of this project. Perhaps the project really existed, but the balanced automation system did not succumb to the Ukrainian designers, and due to reliability problems, the weapon remained unknown. Or maybe there really was no such weapon at all.
It is also worth mentioning that the Fort arms company currently produces two assault rifles. These machines are not Ukrainian developments. So, the weapons under the designation Fort 221, 222, 223, 224 are various versions of the Israeli Tavor assault rifle. Models numbered 227, 228 and 229 are variants of the same Israeli weapon, namely the Galil machine gun. Based on this, we can safely say that at the moment a completely Ukrainian machine gun does not yet exist.