This post is going to cover 2 videos from two excellent sources. The first is 9-Hole’s AK-74 “Alpha” – Modernized AK Practical Accuracy test and after action. The second is Brandon Herrera’s commentary on the AK-12, of which he has assembled a working select fire copy.
His title is a little more pointed than mine.
The question though is did the Russian military pull what the US Military has been accused of with projects like the OICW, SCAR, and now the NGSW program. That is chasing down an “upgraded” rifle that isn’t actually an upgrade.
There are recent situations where upgrades have been snuck under the RADAR and paid off. The Marine Corps. ‘deny til we die’ adoption of the M27 as a ‘supplement’ to the M249, then replacement, and then replacement for the M16A4 and M4 rifles for the combined arms forces. That project “ballooned” *wink* into a new service rifle for the Marines considered forward forces and the M4 and M16 were slid rearward.
There are measurable improvements in accuracy and reliability the M27 has over the TDP’d M16A4 and M4 rifles. It was a smart move.
The AK-12 doesn’t appear to be doing that for the Russian armed forces over the AK-74M, especially with options like Zenitco that can be added to the AK-10X and AK-20X rifles. Unlike some of the PIP (Product Improvement Programs) that have resulted in the M4A1, SOPMOD, and URG-I, along with the HK416/M27, the program that delivered the AK-to 12 has seemed to deliver a rifle the Russians already had.
That was an issue with both the SCAR program and the slightly earlier OICW, XM8. The rifles, while they worked ‘better’ than the M4 didn’t work enough better.
When you upgrade a graphics card in your computer you are usually upgrading the efficiency of that computer’s image processing by a significant margin. You may double the power, you may quadruple it. The efficiency gained by that is usually astoundingly significant and can allow you to play or process very high amounts of data, usually the complex visual and audio variety.
By contrast, the upgrades provided by the XM8, SCAR, and HK416 were all roughly 1% at best over the M4. So the US has consistently decided not to change their several million deep inventory of M16’s and M4’s over to a new system, and instead elected to upgrade in place and attrition the rifles out as they go. The M4A1 was the right call, even going to the Block II or URG-I across the force would be hard to justify the efficiency gains across most of the force. Those specialized rifles are in the proper portions of the force. The NGSW will probably represent the largest force shift adoption of a weapon that can be justified and that is because we are looking at going back to a battle rifle.
The Russians seem to have completed, and poorly at that, the mistake that we kept looking at by continuing to see if another 5.56 rifle could replace or should replace the M4 enmass. In short, no. While there were better rifles, mathematically speaking, the M16 was actually and is actually a damn good rifle.
The AK-74 is too. So like the exterior mods the M16 and M4 have received, especially since 1998, the exterior mods on an AK-74 cover everything the AK-12 was supposed to do. What the AK-12 delivered was a mid-tier modded AK-74 that you don’t appear to be able to do much with, and the Russian forces weren’t even equipped with the ancillaries that even rear echelon troops in the US enjoy. You know, crazy things like optics.
Tracking the earlier and more ambitious AK-12 prototypes showed a more forward thinking rifle around the proven core operating concept. That got rolled back to basically, “well, rails are cool.”
So, was the AK-12 a mistake? Or rather another one, they’ve made a few recently, in their military logistics. Trying to keep up with the US and falling short?