6P41 PKP Pecheneg: Belt Fed Vodka Blaster

pkp gun
| March 9, 2022
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Categories: Learnin'

The 6P41 PKP Pecheneg is a post-Soviet Union Russian machine gun developed in the late 90s and fielded circa 2001. Although it has been used in conflicts on multiple continents, it was until recently best known by most Westerners for its appearance in First Person Shooter (FPS) games like Rainbow Six and Escape from Tarkov. Its deployment and performance in Russian-backed or -involved fighting over the last decade, however, has seen it increasingly recognized. Many consider it to be the finest machine gun of its kind in the world – and if the PKP isn’t, the PKM probably is. 

BLUF: The PKP Machine Gun was first openly introduced as the 6P41 in 2001. Seen most recently in photos from the Russian invasion of Ukraine in both pro-Russian and (likely captured) pro-Ukrainian hands, it is a modernized iteration of the PKM machine gun. The PKM is itself updated from the original PK Machine Gun (Pulemyot Kalashnikova) series of the late 50sChambered in 7.62x54R, it feeds from a non-disintegrating belt in lieu of a magazine, often from a “nut sack” (like the M249 SAW) with a non-removable, forced-air-cooled barrel.

PKP Pecheneg Machine Gun in a photo from the Russian MoD.

PKP Pecheneg Machine Gun in a photo from the Russian MoD.

Note: The 6P41 is referred to by the Russians as a “medium universal” (what the US would call general-purpose) machine gun: thus we will use GPMG going forward.

Read on to know more. 

This article was one of our earliest Weapon Crush Wednesday articles. It debuted exactly 8 years ago today in March 2014. It has been updated and republished. 

⚠️Most of the imagery in this article was pulled from social media, often a picture so often posted and reposted that its original provenance cannot be determined. No violation of IP or copyright is intended. All rights belong to each image’s respective/original owner. Thank you in advance for contacting Breach-Bang-Clear for credit/removal.
 

6P41 PKP Pecheneg

 

The Pecheneg PKP (6P41 in Russian nomenclature) was at its release the latest evolution of the popular PK series of general-purpose machine guns in the former Soviet and Russian Forces.  The platform draws on the design of the Pulemyot Kalashnikova designed by the late Mikhail Kalashnikov in the 1960s. 

Its predecessor the PKM has been renowned as one of the most reliable post-war general-purpose machine guns, serving in countless armored forces and irregular forces across the globe. It is named after a warlike Turkic tribe of the Central Asian steppes – the Pechenegs. Further evolutions of the weapon (already an excellent design) with improved features have been deployed over the last decade.

The PKM is, put simply, a machine gun built around an upside-down AK operating system firing a larger cartridge. 

With over a million PKMs produced, it is the most commonly found General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) in the Third World.  Its popularity is due to its rugged operating system and relatively light weight. The PKM tips the scales at just shy of seventeen pounds (7.5kg), so think M249 or SAW or FN Minimi weight with FN MAG or M240 punch. In fact, the lightness of the PKM is often a shock to personnel used to carrying and firing the heavier FN MAG and M240. 

The PK family of weapons is gas-operated and fires from an open bolt.  The PKM‘s cyclic rate of fire is 650-750 rpm; the PKP (6P41) is 600-800 rpm.  Both weapons systems’ effective firing range is out to 1500m.  The PKM and PKP also both feed from the right side via non-disintegrating belts of 100, 200, or 250 round lengths, and eject from the left side.  These belts are typically issued, mounted, and fed from a metal box that attaches to the receiver.  

“Spetsnaz LMG, accurate in short to medium range. Capable of long range controlled fire.” Rainbow Six game description

PKP vs. PKM

So how does the PKP 6P41 vary from the standard ComBloc workhorse PKM? 

There are several differences between the PKM and PKP, many of them significant. 

The first and most prominent is the non-quick change barrel.  In the PK/PKM series, the barrel is a rather light design (compared to Western GPMGs like the FN MAG) and features a quick-change barrel.  On the PKP, however, the barrel is not intended to be changed in the field. Such changes are usually necessitated by damage or failure not easily addressed in combat so they are performed at the armory/depot level.

The decision to use a non-quick change barrel is an unusual one. The choice of this design feature dates back to Kalashnikov’s original machine gun design. Historians have forwarded various theories as the General’s choice of a two-stage feed like the venerable Maxim instead of a more modern single-stage feed, but the choice was likely predicated on the vast amount of two-stage materiel already available. Ultimately Kalashnikov designed the PK to wring the absolute most performance from rimmed ammunition and close-pocket belts and he was successful. 

The PKP Pecheneg can fire 600 rounds or more while firing rapidly (e.g. suppression, ambushes, etc.) without changing the barrel. In fact it it designed to do so repeatedly (with suitable intervals) without degrading its performance, dispersion, or life of the barrel. 

To keep the barrel cool the 6P41 features a forced-air cooling system that is rarely seen in modern weapon designs. This arrangement is most famously employed by the Lewis Gun of the WWI era. Constant cooling of the barrel is intended to increase the durability of the barrel and mitigate the dispersion of rounds caused by extended use and heat. 

The PKP barrel itself is also much heavier than the PKM and features cooling ribs, adding to a two-pound heavier overall weight.  Another change to the design was the integral carry handle placed forward of the feed tray cover.  This design is rather reminiscent of the Spanish CETME Ameli light machine gun. 

The designers of the PKP Pecheneg claim the integral carry handle is meant to aid in cooling the weapon and prevent heat mirage or haze from a hot barrel.  Also deviating from the PKM’s construction is the PKP’s (non-removable) bipod position, which is positioned just aft of the front sight post, and a newly designed flash hider.

All of these changes to the PKM design were reportedly intended to facilitate the use of the PKP as a squad-level MG and not a true GPMG, which is how the PKM is situated on the Russian TOE (Table of Organization and Equipment). Various accounts have been made of its original intended use, most of which relate to SOF troops such as paratroops and Spetsnaz units. Regardless of its original intended role it has become increasingly used (and prized) since the advent of GWOT-era conflicts. 

Most of the initial OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) regarding the PKP Pecheneg’s battlefield use came from its deployment on “counter-terror” operations in Chechnya and Dagestan by Russian SOF.  The first large-scale deployment of the PKP beyond the Caucasus (that we’re aware of) was been during the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. 

Over the last decade and a half, we’ve seen the PKP Pecheneg used in almost every conceivable belt-fed role, with open source pictures (frequently social media imagery) of it used in such areas of operation as:

The Russian invasion of Georgia
The seizure of Ukraine
Syria’s Civil War
The Houthi Rebellion (Yemen)
Fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh region (Armenia-Azerbaijan)
and more

The PKP has been carried by assaulters, line infantry, in technical (NSTV) vehicles, pintle-mounted on mutli-role vehicles like the GAZ Tigr, Iveco M65 Lynx, and Chaborz M3 buggy, patrol boats like the Project 03160 Raptor, even on snowmobiles like the Berkut-2 “Golden Eagle 2”.

Pecheneg machine gun on an M3 Chaborz buggy snowmobile.

Pecheneg “Universal Machine Gun” (what NATO would refer to as a GPMG) in a remote area of northern Russia.

It has been widely used in fighting in The Donbas and the subsequent invasion of Ukraine. Thanks to Instagram, Telegram, TikTok, and the like a substantial amount of candid imagery and video of the weapon are now available.  

 

PKP Variants and Usage

The PKP is in use by a variety of professional militaries and armed groups, including:

Russian Federation professional soldiers
Russia-based Private Military Companies
Kazakhstan
Kyrgyzstan
Syria
Namibia
Pro-Russian Separatists in Donbas
Pro-Ukraine Territorial Defense Units (often captured weapons)
Houthi rebels
Russia-backed Armenian security forces and volunteer groups
A variety of Syrian formations
and more

PKP Pecheneg-N: A variant of the PKP with mounting rails for night vision sights (6P41N).

PKP Pecheneg-S: A version of the PKP intended to be used on the lightweight Stepanov 6T5 tripod.

PKP Bullpup: a limited production weapon introduced shortly before the intervention in Crimea developed for SOF/airborne use. This iteration was superseded by the Pecheneg SP. 

PKP Pecheneg-SP: an extremely lightweight model intended for SOF use (SP69). Does not feature the cooling jacket of the “standard” PKP. Rather it uses an improved design profile, titanium, and specialty steel (typically used in aircraft cannon, and far more expensive) to withstand barrel heat. Has Picatinny rail real estate for the 1P89-3 optic (or other sights), a telescopic folding stock, and a vertical foregrip. The shorter barrel is often suppressed. Released c. 2017. 

Some video of these Vodka Blasters in use (in training/display capacities) can be seen below.

Don’t blame us for the terrible music. 

 

 

What else do you want to know about the 6P41? 

More importantly, what did we miss? Hit us up in the comments below! 

 

Mad Duo, Breach-Bang & CLEAR!

 

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