November 23, 2011
Marco Vorobiev was a member of the elite Soviet Spetsnaz in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He's a U.S. citizen now and conducts training courses that draw on his special forces training. He'll have a new installment every Wednesday.
Among the new rifles I got to handle while visiting "Molot" Arsenal in town of Vyatskiye Polyany in Russia was the new Vepr-1V. Essentially a, sporterized RPK, the Vepr-1V embodies all the features of its original predecessor. Save one: selective fire.
I could hardly contain my excitement when the rifle was brought out during our meetings at the Director General Offices. The gun was dressed in black (updated for RPKM-74) plastic and sported the desirable side-folding stock. This particular rifle was chambered in 5.56x45 NATO (.223), but the plant technical director said that models in 5.45X39 and 7.62X39 will also be available.
I have written about the RPK during Soviet times. There are conflicting opinions about its effectiveness and the role it plays within a unit. Some try to compare it to the PKM light machine gun. Obviously, a lighter gun firing a smaller cartridge comes out a loser. In my opinion, the RPK's bad rap is undeserved, and the comparison to the PKM is a mistake at best. I think both come from simple ignorance.
The fact is that the RPK is an excellent weapon when used properly. It is essentially an AK on steroids. That makes it a great addition to a squad. There's no need to retrain the operator and it takes the same magazines, which is very important in a gunfight.
But what makes it special are a longer and heavier barrel and 30%-50% larger capacity magazine. The heavier barrel allows longer bursts and the larger capacity magazine provides longer intervals between reloading, which makes RPK a great support weapon.
Obviously, it does not come close to the PKM in firepower. However, the ability to fire it as a conventional rifle and a lower weight that allows the gun to be easily maneuvered makes an RPK a very valuable addition to any dynamic close-contact firefight.
The attached bipod and lack of recoil make the RPK a formidable weapon at distance as well. We utilized these guns with great effect in Afghanistan. So the RPK was ever present on any combat mission my unit was involved in.
Now this very weapon is a part of the new "Molot" lineup. Obviously, in order for the Vepr-1V to be importable, it has to comply with laws and regulations, and as such will have to have some features removed or modified. The U.S. version will have a thumbhole stock instead of the sexy folder, and there will be no bipod or flash hider.
However, the gun will come with correct front furniture, proper for an RPK length barrel, adjustable rear sight and side-mounted optics rail. We should catch a glimpse of this new rifle at IO, Inc. booth at upcoming SHOT Show.
The RPKS-74 has all the attributes of its military ancestor: the bipod, folding stock, flash hider, etc. The Vepr-IV will have a thumbhole stock for import.
Many authorities have pooh-poohed the RPK, but Vorobiev says it was a formidable weapon in the right hands, providing support fire as seen here in Afghanistan.
The Vepr-1V will come with a 10-round box-type mag and a drum. But don't get excited; the latter is a regular 10-round magazine cleverly disguised as a drum.
Some features will have to be removed for importation. No folding stock and pistol grip, but a thumbhole stock instead; no bipod and no flash hider.