by David Crane
DefenseReview has been interested in the Nikonov AN-94 "Abakan" assault rifle for a pretty long time, now. I believe I first read about it in 1994 or 1995. Designed by Russian small arms designer Gennadiy Nikonov, the AN-94 is an interesting rifle, as it enjoys one of the same (major) advantages as the Ultimax 100 Mk3 5.56mm light machine gun–less recoil and more hits on target during full-auto fire from a lightweight weapons platform. However, the Nikonov AN-94 Abakan rifle accomplishes this feat via a different mechanism than the Ultimax 100 Mk3.
A quick note on the Ultimax 100 LMG (light machine gun): At 11 lbs (empty), the Ultimax 100 LMG, designed and developed by Jim Sullivan (a.k.a. L. James Sullivan), is the lightest 5.56mm LMG/SAW (squad automatic weapon) in the world. Many infantry small arms experts consider the Ultimax 100 to be the best LMG/SAW in the world, as well. The Ultimax utilizes the "Constant-Recoil" principle to mitigate and minimize felt-recoil on full-auto fire. On the Ultimax, the…
bolt carrier never contacts the rear of the receiver, since the receiver is long enough for the bolt carrier to run out on the springs. Jim Sullivan invented and patented "Constant-Recoil" specifically for the Ultimax 100 LMG. The Ultimax was thus the first example of a lightweight machine gun that could outhit a heavier machine gun (of the same caliber)–and at significantly greater range, no less. The Ultimax is the weapon that proved that less felt-recoil and more hits on multiple targets were even possible to accomplish out of a lighter weapons platform. Before Sullivan invented "Constant-Recoil", no one believed it could be done.
The Nikonov AN-94 Abakan, on the other hand, employs something called "blow-back shifted-pulse (BBSP)" to accomplish a similar recoil-mitigation effect as the Ultimax 100 Mk3’s "Contstant-Recoil". The AN-94’s "blow-back shifted-pulse (BBSP)" recoil mitigation system employs a recoilling/reciprocating barrel system and a pulley system. This system allows the Nikonov AN-94 to fire two shots at high rpm (two-round burst) while the barrel is still moving rearward. So, on full-auto, the AN-94 fires the initial two-round burst at 1800 rpm (rounds per minute), with follow-up shots at the much more traditional rate of 600 rpm. Because the AN-94 is an assault rifle, that first shot from full-auto is fired from the closed bolt (for first-shot accuracy), as opposed to the Ultimax, which only fires from the open bolt, since it, by contrast is a light machine gun (LMG), and thus has a different combat role.
One of the most knowledgable people on the Nikonov AN-94 Abakan assault rifle, in the U.S., is noted gunwriter, David Fortier. In September of 2001, Mr. Fortier visited the Izhmash plant in Izhevsk, Russia, and T&E’d the Nikonov AN-94 Abakan. Mr. Fortier came away extremely impressed with the rifle, calling it "a great leap forward in the world of small arms". He went on to say this, "While not flawless, it’s as close as anyone has yet come to building the perfect assault rifle. With it, Russian SPETsNAZ troops will have a significant advantage over Kalashnikov armed foes. The 5.45×39 cartridge has proven itself to be an effective fight stopper in actual combat, and it complements the AN-94 nicely. The Russians claim an effective range of 600 meters for the combination, a significant increase over the AK-74M. The sights and safety show a change in Russian thinking away from the agriculturally simple AK style. When considering that combat effectiveness is 1.5 times better than anything currently fielded and that reliability is superior to the legendary Kalashnikov, you can see what a step forward the AN-94 is."
Quite an endorsement, especially coming from from someone like David Fortier. Fortier knows his stuff, and has a lot of trigger time behind a lot of infantry small arms. If you’d like to read his full article on the Nikonov AN-94 Abakan assault rifle, click on the links below:
DefRev also recommends you check out Valery Shilin’s excellent page on the Nikonov AN-94 Abakan assault rifle. Valery’s page includes a video clip of the Nikonov AN-94 "Abakan" assault rifle being fired in what DefenseReview presumes in the two-round burst fire mode. The video clip is fairly low quality (DefenseReview didn’t shoot it), but it’s still worth taking a look at.
Click here to go to Max Popenker’s excellent and very informative page on the Nikonov AN-94 "Abakan" assault rifle. Max’s "Modern Firearms & Ammunition" site is a superlative internet resource for anyone who has any interest in infantry small arms.
DefenseReview doesn’t yet know who’s exporting the Nikonov AN-94 "Abakan" assault rifle, but we’re guessing it’s Rosoboron State Corporation (a.k.a. "ROSONBORONEXPORT" Federal State Unitary Enterprise, which is Russia’s principal arms exporter, and the "sole state intermediary agency for Russia’s military exports/imports". Rosoboron State Corporation/"ROSONBORONEXPORT" Federal State Unitary Enterprise can be contacted (from the U.S.) by phone at 011 (7-095) 964-6140 or 011 (7-095) 202-6603. Those are their numbers in Moscow, Russia.