Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The AK-74 assault rifle is the modernized version of the AK-47 developed in 1974, chambered in a smaller cartridge (5.45 x 39 mm vs. 7.62 x 39 mm). The weapon began mass-production in 1976. The 5.45 mm bullet has an air pocket inside that allows it to tumble when striking a soft target such as a human, making increasing wounding effects. The Afghans who fought the Soviet Union often referred to the 5.45 mm as "the poison bullet" because of its capacity to maim.
The weapon is another Mikhail Kalashnikov design, with a system of operation described as a long-stroke gas system, with a rotating bolt locking mechanism. The receiver is made of stamped sheet metal, and is extremely durable. The AK-74 has other slight differences from the AKM, such as having a rather large and distinctive-looking cylindrical muzzle brake at the muzzle, and most have been manufactured with black plastic stocks rather than laminated wood. Most AK-74s that have black plastic stocks have a hinge in the buttstock just behind the receiver so that the rifle can be folded for storage. Many AK-74s have a front sight base that is more narrow, as viewed from the side, than the front sight base of the AKM. The current version, the AK-74M, has a mounting rail on the left side of the receiver for mounting a telescopic sight or a night sight and all-black plastic furniture. It was introduced in 1991 and is currently the standard assault rifle of the Russian military.
The various Warsaw Pact countries were mostly slowly converting to the new 5.45 x 39 mm cartridge when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, making various derivative 5.45 x 39 mm calibre rifles with varying degrees of slight difference from the Russian AK-74. The Kalashnikov series of weapons are world-renowned for their reliability.
It is claimed that, as a result of combat experience in Afghanistan and Chechnya, the Russian army wants to go back to the old 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge and use a rifle designated AK-103. This is basically a 1990s-production AK-74, with the muzzle brake, folding plastic stock, and optics mounting rail of the AK-74, but in the old 7.62 x 39 mm caliber.
The weapon fires a 5.45 × 39 mm round with a muzzle velocity of 900 m/s. Muzzle energy is 1,385 joules, giving an effective range of around 400m. (The sights are zeroed for 300m.) The cartridge weight is 10.75 g. Projectile weight is 3.42 g. The new cartridge was designed to give greater effective range (because of the high velocity) and greater controllability in full-auto fire (due to the reduced recoil).
To fire, insert a loaded magazine, move the right selector lever on the right to the bottom position, and pull back and release the cocking lever on the right top. Aim and pull trigger.
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