Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week 2015 35: Vitaly Kuzmin

vitaly_kuzmin_netAs you might guess from the name Vitaly Kuzminthe website in question belongs to a Russian — in this case, a Russian photographer who’s well wired into the Russian defense and security establishment, or at least, into those parts of it that Russia likes to show off.  Vitaly is an excellent photographer, whether of equipment or of action, and his site is a good visit for anybody who thinks today’s Russian military and paramilitary forces are unchanged from Soviet days.

His posts are in Russian, usually with an English translation or at least an English gist so that foreigners who don’t know the language of Tolstoy and Chekhov (the writer, not the fictional space officer, thank you) can follow along.

He has some excellent photo essays on Spetsnaz, including a multipart rundown on the weapons used by the “Saturn” corrections Spetsnaz element. (These guys are, in effect, the SWAT team for prisons in the Moscow area. While the Gulag is no more, to the relief, we’re sure, of Russians and the world, Russia has its share of criminals, and has to lock them up. Here’s their official site, in Russian of course… we wonder how many of the photos were taken by Vitaly Kuzmin!)

You might also like his archive of posts that are explicitly labeled “arms,” which includes detailed pictures of rarities like the KS-23M shotgun, used primarily with nonlethal ammunition…



This is not your dedushka’s 870. Note the stamped receiver: it was built to work, not to catch attention on a gun-store shelf.

Here’s the internally silenced (in the style of the Vietnam era Quiet Special Purpose Revolver, QSPR, the ammunition contains the expanding powder and kicks the projectile out with a piston) 7.62 x 41mm pistol PSS Vul:


This pistol is a fascinating blend of conventional and unconventional. The rough finish of the grips not only provides a good gripping surface but also (important in an assassination weapon) rejects fingerprints.

Note that the PSS has typically European slide safety (presumably a hammer-drop in the Walther/Makarov style) and butt-heel magazine catch. The sights are fixed, but highly visible, reminiscent of the TT-33 which had excellent fixed sights for its day.


And just so you don’t think Vitaly’s all about little popguns, here’s a type of combat vehicle that is, in 2015, unique to the Russian forces of all the world’s militaries: the BMD-4M airborne combat vehicle, called Bakhcha-U.. This airdroppable light armored vehicle is the latest iteration of a concept the Russians have been using since they were Soviets in the 1970s; BMD-1s spearheaded the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. This latest version is well armed with a 100mm main gun that can also fire ATGMs, and a 30mm coax, controlled by computerized systems.

2015AlabinoFirst-17In the 1960s through 80s, the US had a conceptually similar vehicle, the M551 Sheridan light tank. It was used in the armor unit of the 82nd Airborne Division but also in Armored Cavalry Brigades in Korea and Germany. The M551 had a lot of problems and few were sad to see it go, even though its absence adds to the “speed bump” nature of US airborne forces.

The M551 could be delivered by a C-130 aircraft at conventional drop altitudes (1,000-2,000 feet) or delivered out the back on a skid pallet by the Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System, where a gigantic ring parachute of the sort developed for the Apollo spacecraft recoveries drew it out of the back of the 130 like a veterinarian delivering a calf. When a unit had to provide a Sheridan for a LAPES drop, they never gave up their best one.

The BMD, conceived by designer Arkady Vassilievich Shabalin, is dropped from a larger aircraft (usually an Il-76, although the BMD-1 could be delivered by An-12) at a higher altitude and descends under a cluster of parachutes. An Il-76 can deliver two BMDs to the same or separate drop zones. Its integral cargo crane can pick them up and move them in on to the cargo rails. Because the parachute cluster descends at a faster rate than, say, a normal personnel parachute’s 18-22 feet per second, a secondary deceleration means is required. In the 1970s, this was retro-rockets that were part of the parachute rigging up above the heavy load. Currently, a system of airbags that inflates under the vehicle’s delivery pallet after exit from the aircraft is used.

The Russian system has always been designed with a view to the idea that the crews can be dropped inside the vehicles and be combat ready straightaway. For that reason, the Russian heavy drop system cuts away all the canopies once the pallet is firmly on the ground. Dropping BMDs with live paratroopers inside is a capability the Russian airborne arm VDV very rarely exercise, but Russian sources say it had been done in the recent past (2010) with BMD-2 vehicles.

When they drop a BMD and crew separately, the crew uses a homing beacon to find their own vehicle and get underway in minutes.


7 thoughts on “Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week 2015 35: Vitaly Kuzmin

  1. Matt

    I saw video of Larry Vickers shooting the PSS. He said there are only a few legally in the US. I think the one he shot had been gifted by a Sov ‘diplomat’ to a high ranking US officer, who somehow got a legal import license (cough CIA cough), and sold it. But I could be wrong.

    1. Hognose Post author

      More likely an importer or manufacturer got a request for one from some USG agency and then acquired it directly through Rosoboronexport. (“Russian Arms Export”, the Russian Federation version of Cold War era Soviet Amtorg).

  2. Max Popenker

    PSS safety setup is similar to PM safety setup because the whole trigger / safety / hammer unit of PSS is lifted from the PM

    as for KS-23, it is more or less a clone of Winchester 1300, only on a ton of steroids

  3. Brian Jaynes

    Seems like the Russian BDM-4 is working same role as our Stryker BCT’s (although using tracks not wheels) to cover the divide between ‘leg’ infantry units and true armoired units. Light mechanized infantry or medium infantry depending on the nomeclature de jour.
    Great read! Thanks.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Russians (well, Soviets, but Russia was always the heart of the USSR) had IFVs long before the USA did. For the non-airborne unit, the BMD-1 was conceptually similar to the early Bradley, but preceded the Brad by at least a decade. It had rifle ports, a main gun (in its case a 73mm gun/rocket-launcher hybrid), ability to launch wire-guided ATGMS (AT-3 Sagger in NATO terms), and was amphibious with minimal preparation (on paper, anyway) and fully NBC-protected (filtration & overpressure). The BMD-2 variant had a main gun more like that of the Bradley and still preceded the US weapon. Meanwhile, they developed a variety of armored vehicles for airborne forces, to address the central weakness of airborne and airmobile forces, their lack of heavy weapons.

      The BMD series weapons are essentially a version of the infantry fighting vehicle BMP (the Russian acronym means “combat machine for infantry” exactly) that is lightened and shrunk for airdrop. BMD stands for “combat machine for paratroops”.

  4. Neil S.

    “Ivan, today is day of parachute drop! I have good news!”
    “Good news, comrade?”
    “Da, you will have glorious duty of riding in BMD during descent! Do not worry, this has been done before…”

    I guess it’s not worse then riding an amtrac from the ship to the beach, but I still think I’d rather have my own parachute.

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