Kalashnikov PK / PKS / PKM / PKMS machine gun (USSR/Russia)
Like many others, Soviet military experts closely examined the German ‘heritage’ of WW2, and like many, they found the idea of a Universal (or General Purpose) MG to be very appealing, especially from the logistical and economical point of view. It was therefore decided to replace the separate company, battalion and tank MGs with a single universal design, adaptable to any of these roles. By the early 1950s, requirements were fixed for a new GPMG, firing 7.62x54R ammunition from belts and capable of firing from an integral bipod, an infantry tripod mound or a vehicle mount. After many false starts, by 1956-7 a new design became a favorite, the newly developed Nikitin GPMG. This was a gas operated, air cooled, belt fed weapon with a quick-detachable barrel. It used a fairly typical rotating bolt locking along with less typical (at least, for Soviet guns of the period) features, such as self-regulating gas system and push-through feed system with open-pocket steel belts (incompatible with earlier Maxim and SG-43/SGM belts). By 1958, the Nikitin design was already recommended for adoption, and a batch of 500 guns was ordered for extended field trials with troops, but the situation then became surprisingly complicated. For some reason,General artillery department of Soviet army decided to spur the somewhat slow development of the Nikitin GPMG, and ordered Mikhail Kalashnikov to build his own machine gun to compete with the already established design. At the time Kalashnikov was busy finalizing his improved AKM assault rifle and its companion machine rifle which later became the RPK. However, he accepted the challenge and put some men of his team onto the task of creating their own universal machine gun. It must be noted that this strange situation resulted in a clash of interests between GAU (who literally placed its bet on a new Kalashnikov design) and some elements in Army and Soviet Ministry of Defense Industry, who put their stakes (including their future careers) on the Nikitin design. Exact details of this “undercover battle” are unknown to the general public, but result is widely publicized – the Kalashnikov design won the trials and was subsequently adopted in 1961 as the PK (Pulemet Kalashnikova), in four basic versions: PK LMG (on an integral bipod), PKS MMG (on a universal tripod), PKT (tank coaxial gun with electric trigger and other necessary changes) and PKB (armored personnel carrier version with appropriate mountings). It also must be noted that while PK turned out to be an excellent weapon, people who tested PN often thought that it was actually superior to PK.
The PK is a gas operated, belt fed, air cooled, automatic only, machine gun. It fires from an open bolt and has a quick detachable barrel. The gas system consists of a gas chamber with a manual gas regulator, and a long stroke gas piston located below the barrel. Locking is achieved through a rotating bolt with dual locking lugs.
PKT (Tank) is coaxial weapon used on most Soviet and Russian main battle tanks. It has a heavier, non-fluted barrel. The barrel is also longer than on the PK to provide ballistics similar to that of the earlier SGMT weapon it replaced (to avoid replacement of the expensive tank sights). The gas block is modified and the stock, bipod and pistol grip are discarded. The firing solenoid is attached to the rear of the receiver, but the PKT also retains an emergency mechanical (manual) trigger.
PKB (for armored cars) is the same as the PK but installed on a special mount. However, there were special versions of the PKB fitted with dual spade grips instead of the pistol grip and shoulder stock. Such versions also were used on Mi-8 Hip transport and Mi-24 Hind attack helicopters in window and door mounts through the Afghanistan campaign of the Soviet army.
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