Belarus has developed new assault rifle 7.62x39mm caliber

Belarusian defense industry is developing a new AR-type assault rifle chambered for 7.62x39 (M43) cartridge, according to local media outlets. A prototype of the rifle was presented at a meeting of Belarus' State Military-Industrial Committee (Goskomvoenprom, GKVP). It had no designation; however, the Belarusian media outlets named it ‘the AR-15 assault rifle chambered for the Soviet/Russian 7.62 mm cartridge’.

Belarus has developed new assault rifle 7.62x39mm caliber 925 001
New Belarusian assault rifle chambered for 7.62x39 (M43) cartridge (Picture source BMPD journal)

Unlike the classic AR-family assault rifles, the firearm developed by the Belarusian defense industry is based on the short stroke-piston gas-operating scheme. The integration of piston results in the increase of the rifle's reliability and the reduction of its sensitivity to low-quality ammo. The direct impingement (DI) gas-operating scheme developed by Eugene Stoner for the AR family of assault rifles is sensitive to mud and low-grade cartridges.

The Belarusian 7.62 mm assault rifle has retained the M16A4-type body fitted with an upper MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail interface system (RIS). The angle of the firearm's magazine receiver has been increased in order to incorporate the Kalashnikov AK/AKM 30-round box magazines. The assault rifle has received a Key-Mod handguard that can carry various weapon accessories (i.e., flashlights, laser pointers, etc.) and additional side-mounted Picatinny rails. The firearm is also fitted with an ergonomic pistol grip, a telescopic polymer stock, removable iron sights and an M16-type slotted (cage-type) muzzle break. The demonstrator rifle was fed by a slightly modified Kalashnikov AK/AKM organic metal magazine; however, the weapon is believed to be able to incorporate all types of 7.62x39 30-round box magazines intended for other Kalashnikov AK/AKM derivatives.

According to the official information issued by the Goskomvoenprom, the new Belarusian AR-type assault rifle has an overall length of 985 mm. The firearm is fitted with a 406 mm (16·) barrel. As mentioned above, the weapon is fed by 30-round Kalashnikov magazines. The firearm is claimed to be accurate at a distance of up to 1,000 m with the use of a daylight optical sight.

Belarus' Belspetsvneshtekhnika (BSVT) is promoting the new assault rifle on the global market.

It is noteworthy that the Belarusian industry says nothing about the new firearm, nor does it provide additional information about the rifle's development, trials, etc. The Belarusian Armed Forces are reported to be using traditional Kalashnikov assault rifles, namely 7.62 mm AKM and 5.45 mm AK-74 and their derivatives. Therefore, the new firearm is believed to be an export-oriented item of hardware. It might be intended for special forces as they often use weapons chambered for the M43 effective and widespread cartridge.

Two new pistols were also demonstrated at a meeting of the Goskomvoenprom, a traditional handgun and a pistol in a mount with a folding stock. However, Belarusian officials did not provide any information about these firearms.

Foreign small arms manufacturers also develop their own 7.62 mm designs that are fed by Kalashnikov AK/AKM magazines. For instance, Swiss Sig-Sauer has introduced a variant of its SIG556Xi assault rifle chambered for 7.62x39. Italy's Beretta has re-chambered its ARX160 assault rifle, a part of the ‘Soldado Futuro’ (The Soldier of Future) program, for the M43 cartridge. Kazakhstan is reported to have acquired the 7.62 mm ARX160 for its Special Forces. The 7.62x39 cartridge remains popular as it features a higher penetrating effect compared to that of 5.56 mm STANAG 4172 and 5.45 mm M74 ammo. According to STANAG 4569, Level 2 protection is required to protect a serviceman or a vehicle against armor-piercing incendiary (API) bullets of the M43 cartridge.

It should be mentioned that Belarus rarely develops its own firearms. The BSVT company usually promotes Soviet-age small arms on the global market, including 7.62 mm Kalashnikov AKM assault rifles, 7.62 mm Kalashnikov PKT tank machineguns, 9 mm Makarov PM handguns, 7.62 mm Simonov SKS semi-automatic carbines and even WWII-age 7.62 mm Mosin-Nagant M1891/30 bolt action rifles and 7.62 mm Tokarev TT pistols.

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