Right side view of Kalashnikov AK-74 assault rifle with orange bakelite magazine.
Source: Sergei Sandalov - © GNU Attribution - Share Alike license
The AK-74 is a late Cold War era assault rifle of Soviet origin. It was developed to provide Soviet forces with a firearm firing a high velocity small caliber cartridge analogous to the American 5.56x45mm introduced with the M16.
The AK-74 is a further development of the AKM. The most notable difference is the use of the new 5.45x39mm cartridge, which was developed specifically for the AK-74. The most notable external differences from the AKM are the large muzzle device and less curved magazines. The folding stock variant uses a side folding triangular metal stock, which is a major ergonomic improvement over the AKMS.
The AK-74 fires the 5.45x39mm Soviet round from a 30 round magazine. The 45 round magazine and 75 round drum developed for the RPK-74 light machine gun can also be used. Although the 5.45x39mm has less muzzle energy than the 7.62x39mm round, it has a flatter trajectory and has much less recoil. Cyclic rate of fire is about 650 rpm. Practical combat range is 300 m, but targets can be engaged out to 500 m.
The AK-74 was adopted by Soviet forces in large quantities. Derivatives of the AK-74 were also acquired by Warsaw Pact nations, although in much smaller numbers than the AKM and its variants. The same goes for export sales. The AK-74 was exported to some allied nations, but in insginificant numbers compared to Kalashnikov assault rifles in 7.62x39mm.
Full size standard version of the AK-74. It has a fixed wooden stock.
A variant with an optics mount on the side of the receiver is called AK-74N. This variant is normally issued with night vision optics.
Full size AK-74 with side folding stock. Issued to special forces and troops that require a more compact weapon. The triangular side folding stock is a more solid design than the underfolding stock on the AKMS. It also allows for a better cheek weld.
The AKS-74N is the folding stock counterpart of the AK-74N.
Compact assault rifle derived from the AKS-74. Developed for vehicle crews and other personnel that require a personal defense weapon. It has a much shorter barrel and large muzzle device. Other differences include a hinged dust cover and simpler sights.
This variant is described in a separate article.
The AK-74 was developed to replace the earlier AKM as the standard issue rifle in Soviet military service.
The AK-74M is the Russian successor of the AK-74. The single AK-74M model replaces all four AK-74 versions.
The PM md. 86 is the Romanian counterpart of the AK-74. It is a local development of the PM md. 63 in the 5.45x39mm cartridge.
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