Guns of the Spetsnaz: Specially Designed CQB Rifles

Group of the Russian Police Spetsnaz operators posing with their weapons at the ready. The officer on the left is armed with the SR-3M fitted with sound moderator and tactical light. The two other officers are armed with 9x19 PP-19-01 submachine guns of Russian origin.

Many exclusive photos were kindly supplied by Russian Police Spetsnaz operators who prefer to remain anonymous except for their semi-official call signs “Karden” and “Junker81”.

Ammunition
All 9×39 ammunition is loaded into Berdan-primed steel cases with a lacquer coating.  No headstamps are provided on SP-5 and SP-6 ammunition.  SP-5 bullets are fully jacketed, with a tombac-plated steel jacket.  The core is of the combination type – the front part of the core is made from steel, the rear part from lead.  SP-6 bullets are semi-jacketed with the same tombac-plated steel jacket, but the pointed steel core/penetrator projects from the front of the bullet and the space between the penetrator and the jacket is filled with a thin layer of lead.  The penetrator is made from hardened tool-grade steel and usually separates from the jacket when hitting armor plate or other hard barriers: the penetrator goes inside the target while the jacket remains outside the barrier/armor plate.  When hitting soft armor or body tissue the SP-6 bullet normally stays intact, thus ensuring conformity with international conventions on warfare.  Penetration for the SP-6 cartridge is usually listed as 7-8 mm (about 1/3 of an inch) of mild steel at 100 meters, or “guaranteed penetration of Class Three body armor at 400 meters.”  The “Class 3” body armor, according to Russian standards, ensures protection against all conventional pistol rounds as well as against standard 7.62×39 ball bullets, fired from an AK assault rifle.  The SP-5 bullets are unmarked, while SP-6 AP bullets are marked with black paint over the tip of the bullet.

The PAB-9 ammunition offers performance similar to that of the SP-6, but may cause excessive wear to the barrels of the AS, VSS and SR-3 weapons, so it should be used only in the 9-A91 and VSK-94 rifles.  Unlike the SP-5 and SP-6 ammunition, the lacquered steel cases of the PAB-9 ammo bear standard Tula Cartridge Works headstamps with factory code, year of manufacture and caliber information.  PAB-9 bullets are also marked with black paint over the tip of the bullet.

Newest in the line of 9×39 cartridges is the SPP “Sniper, Improved Penetration” loading, which features a hardened steel core, exposed at the nose like in SP-6 AP bullet, but the core is noticeably shorter.  It is marked with blue tip and accuracy-wise it is on par with SP-5 ball (ballistics are also the same), but its penetration against body armor is close to the SP-6 AP.  Not surprisingly, it is most expensive version of all 9×39 variants currently in production.

SR-3M rifle with loaded 20-round magazine and butt folded.

SR-3 / SR-3M Compact Assault Rifle
The SR-3 is a gas operated, selective-fire weapon.  Its receiver is machined from a steel forging for improved strength and durability.  The long-stroke gas piston is located above the barrel and is rigidly attached to the bolt carrier.  The rotating bolt has six radial lugs and locks into the receiver.  The bolt charging arrangements on the SR-3 consist of dual sliders, located above the barrel.  To manually cycle the bolt, the user has to grip these sliders with his fingers and pull to the rear, then release.  When the gun is fired, the sliders remain stationary.  To facilitate manual bolt closure in the event of a failure to close the bolt completely, the right side of the bolt carrier has a tear-drop shaped and serrated dimple, accessible through the ejection port.  When required, the user has to put his finger into this dimple to force the bolt carrier forward.  The SR-3M reverts to a conventional cocking handle, permanently attached to the right side of the bolt carrier.

The trigger unit is somewhat similar to that of the Czech-made Sa.Vz.58 assault rifle, and is striker-fired.  The striker spring is located below the bolt return spring, and both springs are assembled into the captive unit with spring guides and a polymer bolt buffer attached to the rear plate of the unit.  The safety levers are ambidextrous and located above the trigger guard.  On the SR-3M, the non-ambidextrous safety lever is similar to the one found on all Kalashnikov-type rifles.  The fire mode selector is a separate cross-bolt button (on SR-3) or lever (on SR-3M), located within the trigger guard, just behind the trigger.  The selector positions are marked with white dots on the pistol grip: three dots on the left side mark the full-automatic setting, and a single dot on the right marks the single-shot mode.

The flip-up rear sight has an L-shaped blade with settings for 100 and 200 meters.  Both front and rear sights are protected, and the sight line is relatively short.  The SR-3M is provided with a typical Russian side rail mount that accepts standard scope mounts; in view of their CQB role, these weapons are often fitted with red-dot sights.

VSK-94 (top) and 9-A91 rifles compared. Note that both are equipped with PSO-1-1 4X telescope sights and Russian-made Zenith tactical lights on proprietary mounts.

The SR-3 is equipped with a compact muzzle brake/flash hider and cannot accept any suppressor.  The quick-detachable suppressor for the SR-3M is of a conventional expansion type.  It has seven baffles made from stamped steel and welded into a single removable unit.  The suppressor is attached to the gun via short threads at the base of the modified flash hider/muzzle brake, with a plunger-type lock below the muzzle.  The service life of the suppressor is normally equal to that of the entire gun system.

The furniture of the SR-3 consists of a short polymer fore end, a polymer pistol grip and a top-folding shoulder stock made from stamped steel.  The SR-3M is fitted with a side-folding skeletonized shoulder stock, borrowed from the AS rifle, which is made of steel tubes with a plastic buttplate.  It folds to the left side of the gun and does not interfere with the controls so the weapon can be fired with the stock folded.  The SR-3M is also provided with an integral folding fore grip attached to the front of the fore end.

The SR-3 is usually issued with 10- and 20-round double stack, double feed magazines, made from plastic, and compatible with the AS and VSS rifles.  The SR-3M rifle can use the same magazines but is normally issued with newly developed stamped steel magazines with a 30-round capacity.

9A-91 and VSK-94
The 9A-91 rifle is a gas operated, selective-fire weapon that utilizes a long-stroke gas piston, located above the barrel, and a rotating bolt with 4 radial lugs.  The charging handle is located on the right side of the bolt carrier.  (It was welded solid on early production guns, or can be folded up on current production guns.)  The safety/fire selector lever was located at the left side of the receiver on early guns (made before 1995), but has since been relocated to the right side to clear space for the sight mounting rail.  The safety/fire selector lever on both 9A-91 and VSK-94 has three positions and allows for single shots and full automatic fire.  The receiver is made from steel stampings and the fore end and pistol grip are made from polymer.  Feed is from a double stack, double feed straight box magazines with a 20-round capacity, made from stamped steel.  These magazine are not interchangeable with other families of 9×39 weapons, such as the AS / VSS / SR-3.

A 20-round magazine for the VSK-94 or 9-A91 rifle, loaded with the newest blue tip SPP (Sniper, Improved Penetration) ammunition.

The barrels of the 9-A91 and VSK-94 are threaded at the muzzle.  Early production 9-A91 rifles were issued with spoon-type muzzle flip compensators, but current production guns of both types are issued with screw-on suppressors of typical multi-baffle design.  When the suppressor is not fitted, the muzzle threads are protected by a simple screw-on nut.  Both guns can be routinely fired with or without the suppressor, depending on the mission profile.

The stamped steel buttstock folds up and above the receiver when not in use.  On the VSK-94 the polymer buttstock and pistol grip are made as a single unit and can easily be detached for storage or transportation.  The pistol grip on the VSK-94 is hollow and is used to store the muzzle protector nut when the suppressor is installed on the gun.

On the 9-A91 the L-shaped flip-up rear sight has settings for 100 and 200 meters range.  On the VSK-94, the rotary rear sight is “+” shaped and has 4 settings, from 100 to 400 meters, but it is most often used with a 4X PSO-1-1 telescopic sight or some type of night sight, installed using the standard side mount on the left side of the receiver.  9A-91 rifles are often used with some type of red dot sight, more often than not of non-standard, aftermarket variety, as standard issue Russian red dot sights are usually far too heavy and bulky.

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