The AEK-971 (Автомат Eдиний Кокшарова 971 Avtomat Ediniy Koksharova 971) is a select-fire assault rifle, chambered for the 5.45×39mm round, developed at the Kovrov Mechanical Plant under the direction of Stanislav Ivanovich Koksharov and is based on the Konstantinov SA-006 assault rifle that participated in the "Abakan" trials in 1974.
The AEK-971 has been developed to compete in the "Project Abakan" trials announced by the Ministry of Defence of the USSR, during which preference was given to the Nikonov assault rifle (AN-94 "Abakan"). The original version differs from modern designs, as many innovations were perceived as excessive by the Ministry of Defence, which has led to a simplification of the assault rifle. In 1990 the assault rifle was modified again and produced in small batches up to 2006 for various law enforcement agencies of Russia, after that production was moved to the Degtyarev plant. Production of assault rifles at the new location has ceased, requiring significant investments that will not pay off without receiving large orders.
The AEK-971's internal design and layout are largely based on previous Kalashnikov assault rifles, but with the addition of a Balanced Automatics Recoil System (BARS) which reduces the negative effects of recoil by enhancing the operation of the traditional AK long stroke gas piston. The AEK-971 is designed for the 5.45×39mm round, there are also variants chambered in 5.56×45mm (AEK-972) and 7.62×39mm (AEK-973). Ammunition is delivered through standard AK-74 (designation 6L20 and 6L23 ) or AKM magazines, depending on the caliber.
The operating principle of BARS aimed to eliminate one of the disadvantages of the Kalashnikov assault rifles - not high enough accuracy during automatic fire, caused by the recoil impulse from the bolt carrier assembly being transmitted to the shooter. To counter this, the balanced recoil system works by means of a counter-weight mounted over the gas block and extending over the gas piston (the same scheme is used later in the AK-107 and AK-108 assault rifles). The counter-weight corresponds to the mass of the gas piston and bolt carrier group and are connected by a cog inside the receiver so as the bolt carrier starts to move it pushes the counter-weight in the opposite direction creating the reciprocating action. Additionally at the time of the shot the pressure from the double sided gas port acts on both the gas piston and the counter-weight as they begin to move simultaneously in opposite directions with equal velocities and momentum thus creating the balanced recoil action. As a result the recoil impulse caused by automatic fire is minimized. Accuracy of burst fire from unstable positions is significantly improved.
The AEK-971 has a metal body with the handguard, pistol grip and the receiver made of high strength plastic. Safe-fire switcher is displayed on both sides of the receiver (no safe-mode on the left side). The trigger mechanism provides three modes of fire: single, fully automatic and a three-round burst (early versions had a two-round burst). The assault rifle has slots for mounting a 6x4 bayonet and grenade launcher (GP-25 Kostyor, GP-30 Obuvka or GP-34). The iron sight is similar to the sight of the AK-74 with the rear sight mounted on the receiver cover. The stock on the original version folded to the left side, then it was replaced by an unfoldable fixed stock, and in the modern version was replaced again with a stock that folds to the right side. The first model of the assault rifle had a muzzle brake-compensator with adjustable apertures (increase or decrease while firing from stable and unstable positions, respectively) and in later versions used an AK-74M compensator.
Compared to the AK-74, the AEK-971 has 1.5 times better single-fire accuracy and 2.5 times better burst accuracy. Compared to the AN-94, the AEK-971's accuracy of the second hit of short bursts is worse, but the accuracy of long bursts is better.
The guaranteed life of an AEK-971 is the same as that of an AK-74, around 10000 rounds. The weapon's practical rate of fire is 40 rounds per minute, when firing single shots and 100 rounds per minute, when firing bursts. The rate of fire is 800-900 rounds per minute (the early prototype version had about 1,500 rounds per minute) in both automatic modes (unlike the AN-94 "Abakan", which has a higher burst rate of fire - 1800 rounds per minute). The muzzle energy of the AEK-971 is 1,500 Joules, the AEK-973 - about 2200 Joules at an initial speed of the bullet 880 m/s and 730 m/s, respectively.
Base model, chambered in 5.45×39mm.
AEK-971 with telescopic stock and modified pistol grip.
Variant chambered in 5.56×45mm NATO.
Variant chambered in 7.62×39mm.
AEK-973 with telescopic stock and modified pistol grip.
Successor variant of the AEK-971 line (GRAU designation: 6P67), chambered in 5.45×39mm, with internal and external improvements.
Successor variant of the AEK-973 line (GRAU designation: 6P68), chambered in 7.62×39mm, similar to A-545.