Soviet* SEALs Stay Strapped while Submerged

Underwater AK2If you’ve been used to carrying a gun every day, you hate being without one, but frogmen have long had to either go without, or use special underwater weapons. The reason is the fundamental difference between aero- and hydro-dynamics: weapons efficient in the air are much less so in the denser medium, water. Weapons efficient underwater are hopelessly compromised on the surface. A number of unsatisfactory options for the combat swimmer include: just carrying a knife for undwerwater action; having two separate weapons; doing without armament during the underwater phase; training to bring a handgun into contact with an underwater opponent.

Underwater AKFor quite a few years Russia has been working on a single multipurpose sub- and surface gun, which would allow them to retire their special purpose underwater weapons, like the smoothbore APS (which looks like an AK with a footlong magazine, because it’s basically an AK that fires footlong underwater spears) and a variety of pistols. While specialist publications and blogs have followed the development of the bullpup AK ADS since 2007, it’s making a splash (no pun intended) now because it was the Tula Instrument Design Bureau’s featured display at a Moscow arms trade show. To make sure you got the idea, Tula displayed it in an aquarium.

The gun uses two different kinds of 5.45mm ammo, one for limited-range underwater engagements, and one the conventional, standard Russian infantry round. As the frogman changes mediums, he changes magazines, and he’s good to hook. The rifle appears to be a bullpup AK with a  few modern updates — a Picatinny rail and a 40mm grenade launcher (not the old 30mm one, although this one works on the same principles as the old one). An older Wikipedia entry has the photo of an earlier iteration that you see below (it’s expandable with a click). From this we can learn that the ADS:

  • Uses a standard AK-74 magazine;
  • is available in a suppressed version (using this at the same time as the GL, though, appears to be a Hollywood impossibility; the suppressor casing intrudes into the firing line of the grenades);
  • Has a Glock-style trigger safety that we believe to be a first among Russian weapons;
  • Appears to have rather short-radius iron sights built in;
  • Does have the P-rail on the carrying handle, which is the sincerest form of flattery perhaps, but kind of 1990;
  • Appears to have an adjustable gas system;
  • Appears to have a non-reciprocating, left-hand or possibly selectably-ambidextrous, non-cycling charging handle, and,
  • Appears to have, apart from changes required by the long trigger, classic AK lockwork, judging from the position of the pins in the receiver.  This implies selective fire, with a trigger, dual disconnector, and hammer system on the same general principles used in the M1 Garand and AR-15.


There’s been a lot of media coverage of the new gun, which must please the marketing department. To us, the best general-media coverage (because it’s got the most technical information!) is this story and video at Russia Today. (If we haven’t munged the code, the video is embedded below).

Designed by Russia’s Tula Instrument Design Bureau the ‘ADS’ gun can shoot underwater using a special cartridge, which in size is suitable for the standard magazine case Kalashnikov assault rifle.  To fire under water or on land, one only needs to replace the magazine of the 5.45 millimeter automatic rifle.

“Until now underwater fighters were compelled to use two types of weapon – for use under water and the Kalashnikov for overland firing. Now it is only necessary to replace the ammunition magazine,” Nikolay Komarov, head of department of foreign economic relations of the manufacturer in Tula told

The ‘ADS’ is also equipped with a 40 mm grenade launcher. Developers believe that its effectiveness and accuracy are comparable if not greater than the legendary AK-47m.

“The main feature of it is that the fire can be carried out both under water and on land. Currently, no country in the world has been developing such machine guns, they are developing only underwater guns,” a representative of the developer told Ria.

The weight of the machine gun with the grenade launcher is approximately 4.6 kg. The ‘ADS’ uses bullets of 5.45х39 mm at a firing rate of 800 shots/min with the aim range on a land of 500 m.

The rifle’s effective firing range underwater when using a specially designed cartridge is about 25 meters at a depth of 30 meters and 18 m at a depth of 20 m. The new underwater cartridge is externally very similar to standard 5.45×39 ammunition except for a different specially calculated bullet shape. The bullet length is 53.5 mm compared to an overall cartridge length of 57mm.

As compared to the Soviet underwater assault rifle APS that was designed back in 1970s, the new ADS is no less efficient when firing on land than a traditional Kalashnikov. Firing 5.66 mm caliber steel bolts, the APS with its non-rifled barrel is somewhat inaccurate on land. Out of water the APS’s lifetime was only 180 shots with an effective range of around 50 meters.

via Underwater ‘Kalashnikov’: Russia showcases first ever efficient amphibious assault rifle — RT News.

Now that’s really a “sub” gun!

The new gun was displayed at an international arms fair in Moscow, Interpolitex, which has separate expo halls for cop gear, unmanned vehicle technology, physical and border security, and military equipment.

As we mentioned, it’s been around for a while, and The Firearms Blog has covered the gun’s special-purpose ammunition before, and linked to a Russian-language report with further video on the gun. (UPDATE: From the TFB report, the round appears to be a saboted, possibly fin-stabilized, penetrator and the case appears to be rebated rather than rimless. There’s more info on the ammunition at — linked below). From this we learn that the acronym ADS stands for “Avtomat Dvukhsredny Spetsialny,” which meatball-translates to “dual-medium special assault rifle.” We also learn what the Russian word for “bullpup” is:

(This post has been edited to correct the invisible video. You should now have a working video window above. We regret the error).

It occurs to us that Maxim Popenker has to be all over this development, and sure enough he has been, and his page has excellent detail on the history and development of the ADS, including pictures of an earlier developmental version that shot the APS’s foot-long speargun darts, and a patent-filing image of the normal-length underwater ammo, and an explanation that it’s actually quite different from an AK:

They used the A-91M bullpup assault rifle as a starting point, retaining its bullpup layout, gas operated action with rotary bolt locking and forward ejection through the short tube running above and to the right of the barrel. Some parts of the weapon were necessarily redesigned and materials revised to work reliably when submerged in water, gas system was modified with addition of the environment selector (“air / water”). Integral 40mm grenade launcher (which fires VOG-25 type ‘caseless’ grenades using additional front trigger inside the trigger guard) is fitted with removable barrel which can be removed when it is not needed by the mission profile. Muzzle of the barrel is threaded to accept muzzle brake / compensator, tactical silencer or blank-firing adapter.

That brief snippet does not do Max’s reportage justice; go there and Read The Whole Thing™.  Max’s pages on the A-91/A-91M and its non-bullpup forerunner the 9A-91 may also be of interest. Here is some information on the mechanism of the 9A-91:

The 9A-91 rifle is a gas operated, rotating bolt weapon, which utilizes a long stroke gas piston, located above the barrel, and a rotating bolt with 4 lugs. The receiver is made from steel stampings; the forend and pistol grip are made from polymer. The steel buttstock folds up and above the receiver when not in use. The charging handle is located on the right side of bolt carrier (it was welded solid on early production guns, or can be folded up on current production guns). The safety / fire selector lever was located at the left side of the receiver on early guns, but was since relocated to the right side, to clear space for the sight mounting rail. Safety / fire selector lever has 3 positions and allows for single shots and full automatic fire.

Screen Shot 2013-10-25 at 12.34.09 PMHere’s a picture of the right side of the ADS, somewhat crudely snipped from the Russian video above, with part of the selector visible at far left. You can see another reason we think the lockwork is AK-derivative. Without an ADS to examine, or maybe a .pdf manual (hook us up, Rosoboronexport, willya?) we can only speculate, of course. It does make us want to get our hands on one.

* Yes, they’re not Soviets any more, but we were going for the alliteration — and Mr Putin does seem to forget that from time to time.

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