The 5.45×39 AK-12 has been adopted by the Russian military and will be issued to elite units.

Jane’s 360 is reporting that the Russian military is adopting two new assault rifles (real, selective-fire assault rifles, not the semi-automatic carbines that the anti-gun left falsely calls “assault rifles”) to replace their current infantry rifles and carbines.

The Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has selected two assault rifles manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern as new standard issue firearms for the Russian Ratnik soldier modernisation programme.

“We have already made a deal and selected assault rifles from Izhmash. It won in cost to effectiveness terms. The quality is also acceptable for us,” Deputy Minister of Defence Yuriy Borisov stated on Russian radio on 24 January.

Borisov stated that two assault rifles manufactured by Kalashnikov Concern were selected by the Armed Forces: the AK-12, chambered in 5.45×39 mm, and the 7.62×39 mm AK-103-4.

“We also increase the number of ordered Ratnik systems from 50,000 to 70,000”, Borisov added.

According to Borisov, the AK-12 is quite similar to its predecessor, the AK-74M, and has some common parts. The Russian army is expecting the price of the AK-12 will be 25% more than the AK-74M.

The AK-12 is a fifth generation AK-pattern rifle, featuring several ergonomic improvements, a bolt catch, accessory rails, and a telescopic buttstock. The AK-12 is also has a lower recoil impulse than the AK-74M. Design work on the AK-12 began in August 2011 with the first prototype unveiled on 24 January 2012. The rifle is fed from 30 round AK-74 box magazines, but 60 and 95 rounds magazines are also available.

The 7.62 mm chambered AK-103-4 is the newest revision of the AK-47. It is also equipped with a Picatinny rail, telescopic folding buttstock and effective muzzle device.

The AK-12 is little more than a modernized AK-74M with a handful of ergonomic improvements, miles of rails, and a bolt-catch. The AK-12’s additional recoil mitigation is frankly unnecessary, as the intermediate caliber 5.45×39 cartridge isn’t a punishing round to fire to begin with, even on full-auto.

I’m frankly more interested in whether or not the units that adopt the AK-12 will use the millions of existing 30-round AK-74 magazines, or whether the 60-round “coffin” magazines that were developed concurrently with the rifle is reliable enough and provides enough performance gains that it will be adopted by the elite units fielding the newish rifle. The rifle is designed to integrate with the Ratnik army modernization system, which is a Russian attempt to catch up with the lower-level networking and communications capabilities of more modern armies.

The AK-12 seems to have been selected over the superior A-545 (an AEK-971 variant) due to political pressure to keep Concern Kalashnikov viable after the United States imposed sanctions on Russian small arms imports to the United States due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The AK-103-4 is a modernized 7.62×39 AKM, but I’ll be honest and admit that I have no idea what separates the “-4” from previous iterations of the rifle. It is reasonable to assume that the “-4” might include some sort of factory rail system to accommodate optics. Again, the adopted 7.62×39 design is being produced by the Concern Kalashnikov, to help keep them afloat now that they’ve lost a major export market now that Saiga/Izhmash cannot be sent to the United States.

I do find it interesting that the Russian military is still pushing forward with two intermediate caliber cartridges with new rifles, instead of standardizing on the 5.45×39 cartridge, which is lighter to carry and tends to have better range.

Does anyone have information (not blind speculation) on why that might be? It isn’t like they couldn’t easily phase out the 7.62×39 as the existing rifles wore out from use.