This is the first of the revitalized Weapon Trivia Wednesday articles. We’re thinking about bringing WTW back as a recurring weekly post on Breach Bang Clear, the way we used to do it. In the new Weapon Trivia Wednesday we will provide information and analysis on the rare, obscure, and just plain horrible in small arms history
Let us know in the comments below what you think about the article and what you think about the idea of the WTW series.
Weapon Trivia Wednesday: the Pecheneg PKP.
The Pecheneg PKP (or 6P41 in Russian nomenclature) is the latest evolution of the popular PK series of general purpose machine guns in the former Soviet and Russian Forces. This platform draws on the design of the Pulemyot Kalashnikova designed by the late Mikhail Kalashnikov in the 1960’s. 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 trip of the Central Asian steppes – the Pechenegs.
The PKM is, put simply, an upside down AK operating system. It feeds from a non-disintegrating belt in lieu of a magazine.
With over a million PKMs produced, it the most commonly found GPMG in the Third World. Its popularity is due to its rugged operating system and light weight. It tips the scales at just shy of seventeen pounds (7.5kg). So think SAW or Minimi weight with FN MAG or M240 punch (it fires the Russian 7.62x54R round). The PKM’s light weight is often a shock to personnel used to the heavier FN MAG or M240. This family of weapons is gas-operated and fires from an open bolt. The cyclic rate of the PKM is 650-750 rpm and the PKP 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 and utilized from metal box that attaches to the receiver. The PKM design has also been converted to 7.62×51 NATO by the South African and Polish Armed Forces.
PKP vs. PKM
So how does the PKP vary from the standard Combloc workhorse the PKM? The Pecheneg only has several changes although significant ones from the PKM. The first and most prominent is the non-quick change barrel. In the PK/PKM series the barrel is a rather light weight design (compared to Western GPMGs like the FN MAG) and features a quick change barrel. On the PKP the barrel can obviously be removed to change to a cool barrel but is not intended to be done in combat. To keep the barrel cool the PKP features a forced air cooling system that is very rare in modern designs. It is the one most famously employed in the World War I Lewis Gun.
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 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 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 in the PKP are 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. How the new design has actually fulfilled the requirement for a squad level light machine gun is largely unknown as the PKP is not in use outside of the former Soviet Union. Most of the information on use has been obtained from its use in counter terror operations in Chechnya and Dagestan by Russian SOF. The first deployment of the PKP beyond the Caucasus has been during the current Crimea Crisis. Russian Forces in Crimea have been seen using the PKP in large numbers.
Interestingly enough it has been spotted being used in vehicle mounts on Russian Tiger armored vehicles, which is outside of its intended role. This weapon is not intended to be used as a vehicle mounted or sustained fire machine gun. The decision to use a non-quick change barrel is unusual but as feedback on the weapon system in combat extremely limited at this time we can only speculate as to the whys and wherefores.
Some video of the Pecheneg in use (in a training capacity) can be found in this video:
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Read more of our AK related articles in Vodka Blasters.