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Special purpose small arms ammunition of USSR and Russia.
© 2005 - 2008 Maxim Popenker SP-3 and PZAM silenced pistol ammunition During the postwar period, there was much development in the field of the small arms ammunition. Soviet Union actively participated in these developments, following both mainstream and some more or less unconventional routes. The mainstream developments are well known and included 7.62x39 M43 and 5.45x39 M74 intermediate ammunition for assault rifles, as well as 9x18 ammunition for pistols. Of cause, there was much more development in these lines that it might appear at the first sight, but for now we will focus on rather more interesting types of ammunition. During the post-war decades both USSR and its major rivals from NATO were deeply engaged in espionage and counter-espionage. These activities sometimes called for very special actions, usually described by typical Russian euphemism as “wet deeds”, or, in plain language, murders. These clandestine operations required some very special weapons, and during early 1950s the designer Igor Ya. Stechkin (better known as an author of the 9mm APS Stechkin automatic pistol), developed a very special weapon for KGB. Externally this weapon looked much like flat tin cigarette case, but internally it held three short barrels and a trigger unit. The intended use of this weapon was obvious, but the necessary compact size effectively prohibited the use of a standard silencer. As a result, Stechkin developed a special type of ammunition, which required no silencer to be fired silently. The major source of the sound of gunshot is the large volume of hot gases, violently expanding from the muzzle and creating a sound wave. Stechkin avoided this problem by encapsulating the blast of the propellant within the cartridge case. First experiments were conducted using standard 9x18 cases, but the ammunition, designated SP-1 (Spetsialnyj Patron 1 – special cartridge 1), never achieved production status. The SP-2 ammunition, which was the first to be produced in any quantity, has been based on 7.62x39 case, slightly shortened and fitted with round-nose 7.62mm bullet with aluminum core extended back into the case to rest on the internal piston. Internally this cartridge contained a small charge of propellant behind a short piston, which propelled the bullet out of the case when fired and then locked the hot powder gases inside the case. The resulting sound was almost non-existent, and the cartridge has been adopted by KGB for clandestine operations. To improve performance and somewhat confuse possible investigators, the round-nose bullet has been later replaced by standard pointed 7.62mm bullet originally used in 7.62x39 M43 ammunition. Earlies development centered on a large steel case with single-stage piston and internal firing pin, located in the base in attempt to keep high pgas pressures within the case after the discharge. This design was known as 7.62x63 PZ cartridge, which later evolved into PZA and PZAM cartridges of the basically same dimensions. This ammunition was in use since mid-1960s in S4M silent pistol. Later on, another cartridge cartridge, designated as 7.62x38 SP-3, has been developed and put in use during early 1970s, along with MSP two-barreled derringer type pistol and NRS scout shooting knife. The SP-3 featured much shorter case, because it used more compact two-stage piston system and more or less standard primers, securely crimped into the base of the cartridge. The performance of the SP-3 was about 25% less (in terms of muzzle energy) than of PZAM, but it was considered sufficient for its intended use in deep concealment last-ditch weapons used by Soviet secret intellegence agents outside of USSR. cartridge metric designation PZAM SP-3 7.62x63 7,62x38 bullet weight 8 g / 123 grain 8 g / 123 grain muzzle velocity ~ 175 m/s / 570 fps ~ 150 m/s / 490 fps muzzle energy 122 J / 90 ft-lbs 90 J / 66 ft-lbs
loaded 7.62mm PZA
loaded 7.62mm PZAM
7.62mm SP-3 cartridge and spent
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62mm SP-4 silent cartridge (left) multi-shot capabilities of PSS / SP-4 compared to 9x19 Parabellum cartridge system. The SP-4 ammunition and PSS pistols are still in use by elite Spetsnaz units within Russian armed forces.62mm PZAM silent cartridge and fired case (note projecting piston and slightly bottlenecked cartridge) loaded into steel clip. Apparently.62mm SP-3 cartridge and spent SP-3 case and bullet. The SP-6 cartridge featured an armour-piercing bullet with hardened steel core. who not require 7. suitable for specially designed automatic weapons. also involved silenced weapons. This cartridge has been adopted circa 1983 by KGB and Spetsnaz elements of the Soviet Army.. magazine fed. but in more powerful form. The SP-5 cartridge was loaded with standard “ball” bullet with lead core. During late 1970s and early 1980s Soviet designers solved this problem by developing the 7. which could defeat typical military type body armour at the ranges of up to 300-400 meters. but its performance was still inadequate. fitted with detachable sound suppressors (silencers) and loaded with special versions of 7. known as 7. along with six-shot. So. blowback operated semiautomatic PSS pistol and single-shot NRS-1 scout shooting knife.2010 01:53 . streamlined bullets. which used the same basic principle. and was intended for accurate sniper work out to 300-400 meters. also initiated by Spetsnaz requirements. known as SP-5 and SP-6. during the late 1980s. as used for S4M pistol 7. which did not projected from the case when fired. loaded 7. as well as by some FSB and MVD elite units. Two weapons were initially developed for this ammunition.62x39 US (Umenshennaya Skorost – Low velocity). (right) metric bullet muzzle cartridge designation w eight velocity SP-4 7. and loaded with heavy.62x39 M43 case. soviet designers developed improved sub-sonic ammunition.Modern Firearms . To achieve subsonic velocity along with acceptable ballistics.62x41 9. the standard 7.ru/ammo/sp-e. and fitted with a brass driving band at the front. made of mild steel. these cartridges were loaded with heavier bullets. were based on a 7.62mm M43 bullet has been replaced by the cylindrical bullet. The telescoped two-stage piston has been replaced by single-stage piston.guns. These cartridges.3 g / 143 grain 200 m/s / 655 fps SP-5 and SP-6 subsonic assault rifle ammunition Next line of development..7.62x39 M43 ammo. loaded into steel clip used for MSP pistol Note that piston is of two-stage telescoped design http://world. Since the effective range of silenced pistols is severely limited. both based on the same receiver and gas operated action – VSS sniper rifle and AS 2 of 5 15. the earlier MSP pistol with SP-3 ammo and S4M pistol with PZAM ammo were not phased out of service and still can be encountered in the hands of serious operators. which projected significantly from fired cases and thus made almost impossible to develop the semi-automatic weapons for these cartridges. necked-out to 9mm.htm SP-4 silenced ammunition The key problem with the SP-3 and PZAM ammo were their telescoped pistons.62x42 SP-4 ammunition.Special purpose cartridges of US.Ammunition . scout and Spetsnaz elements of the Soviet army originally employed AK and AKM rifles.62mm PZA silent cartridge and fired case (note projecting piston) loaded 7.
as well as increased driving surfaces. with peak pressures running up to 2 800 kg per square meter. accuracy was poor and barrel wear significantly increased. is that such ammunition is usually quite expensive. 9x21 ammo also available 3 of 5 15. Latter on.62x39 M43 cartridge for scale SP-10 armor piercing pistol ammunition This development leads us back to pistol ammunition.62x39 9x39 9x39 bullet w eight 12. and the tip of the penetrator is exposed at the front of the bullet. designated as PAB-9. This gives additional benefit of flatter trajectory and lessened recoil. As a result. The one way to deal with body armor is to adopt smallercaliber. The space between the core and jacked is filled with polyethylene. Another offspring of the ”Grach” trials is the 9x21 family of ammunition. both beneficial for accuracy.ru/ammo/sp-e. officially designated as 7N21.htm left to right: SP-5 ball cartridge case and bullet. is more or less a stretched-out 9x19 Parabellum cartridge (left) 7N21 cartridge with improved performance. known as 9mm SP-10 AP cartridge (right) compared to SP-10. which brings this cartridge. is used in another service 9x19 cartridge. gas operated action – VSS sniper rifle and AS assault rifle. The one problem. Police and State Security units. This cartridge featured bullets with stamped (instead of machined) steel cores. First produced circa 1994. and latter was adopted for PP-2000 submachine gun. this cartridge in its basic form. almost obsolete. At the minus side. but this time with improved penetration capabilities rather than stealth. enclosed into bimetallic jacket. such as SR-3 and 9A-91 compact assault rifles.guns. Bullet of the similar design. cartridge 7. several more weapons were developed for 9x39 ammunition.2010 01:53 .Ammunition . which has been developed in late 1990s for the GSh-18 pistol.Modern Firearms . associated with 9x39. the terminal performance of the small-caliber. Both weapons were selective fired. so this ammunition is apparently no longer in use. 7N31. high velocity bullets for both pistols and submachine guns.62 US СП-5 СП-6 metric designation 7.5 g / 193 grain 16. The proliferation of body armor rendered most military pistols. Russian armed forces adopted an improved version of the world’s most popular pistol ammo. Armor piercing bullet for 7N21 ammo features a hardened steel penetrator core. and a powerful powder charge. the 9x19 Parabellum. with integral sound suppressors. Adopted by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) of Russian Federation.Special purpose cartridges of US.. but of lighter weight.8 g / 260 grain 16 g / 247 grain muzzle velocity 290 m/s / 950 fps 280 m/s / 920 fps 280 m/s / 920 fps http://world. and used same magazines with 10. SP-6 AP dummy cartridge. conducted since late 1980s under the codename “Grach”.. After initial test and research. and 7. to achieve better penetration. with its ammunition being about 100 years old.or 20-round capacity. An attempt was made during late 1990s to produce much cheaper 9x39 AP loading. to the +P+ level. light weight bullets is somewhat questionable. this version of the 9mm features an armor piercing bullet of proprietary design.7. as well as with most other special purpose cartridges. used by elite Internal Affairs Ministry.
as entirely unsatisfactory.. http://world. MPS “ball” and MPST “tracer”. To achieve better loading and extraction.35x16SR and 7. 5.5mm SPS cartridge case and bullet. Both primer pockets and case necks were sealed against the water.2 g / 600 m/s 65 / 1967 grain fps 7. with 4 of 5 15.7 g / 430 m/s 103 / 1410 grain fps 7N31 7N28 / SP-11 7N29 / SP-10 9x19 9x21 9x21 Underwater pistol and rifle ammunition Next line of development. This ammo is used in SPS “Gyrza” pistol and in SR-2 “Veresk” submachine gun. Initially developed during late sixties.ru/ammo/sp-e. left to right: 7.45x39 M74 cases. almost unique to the Soviet armed forces. MV depends on the actual depth Small-caliber pistol ammunition The last development.Special purpose cartridges of US. was a smoothbore weapon).htm in AP-T (tracer) and SP-11 low-ricochet ball (with lead core) bullets.45x18 MPTs cartridge had a rimless bottlenecked case. 4. This “rifle” ammunition is available in two basic forms. is the underwater firearms and ammunition for these.7. which held all four rounds together. when the KGB requested the development of an “easily concealable pocket pistol. and the steel bullets were covered by special lacquer coating.2 g / 204 250 m/s / 820 grain fps 15 g / 232 360 m/s / grain 1180 fps Note: for underwater cartridges muzzle velocities listed in air.3 g / 460 m/s 82 / 1508 grain fps 4.65x17SR.. which looked more or less like scaled down 7. as well as self-defense weapon for top ranked officials. Both APS underwater automatic weapon and SPP-1M underwater pistol are still in use by Russian navy. in fact.2010 01:53 . After a short research designers rejected available western “pocket-gun” ammunition. as well as offered for export. took the place during 1970 – 1972 timeframe. Special Forces elements of the Soviet Navy requested further development and by the mid-1970s soviet designers brought in an unique underwater assault rifle. and were used in four-barreled SPP-1 break-open pistols. the APS (which. cartridge SPS MPS metric designation 4. underwater cartridges propelled the long and slim drag-stabilized bullets. made of brass.Ammunition . and rapidly developed a small round. the bottlenecked brass cartridges were rimmed and loaded using special flat clips.5mm SPS dummy cartridge.62x39 M43 cartridge. cartridge 7N21 metric bullet muzzle designation w eight velocity 9x19 5. externally similar to earlier SPS pistol ammunition. Initially satisfied with the pistol.5x40R 5. but based on the standard 5. such as 6. The 5. This pistol was intended as a concealed carry weapon for security personnel.guns. which could be considered as a “special purpose”.62x39 M43 cartridge for scale.Modern Firearms .9 g / 390 m/s 122 / 1278 grain fps 6. This weapon used cartridges. with flat shape and not thicker than a matchbox (17mm)”. in the water.66mm MPS dummy cartridge 13. 4.66x39 bullet w eight muzzle velocity underwater cartridges.
However.45mm 7N7 cartridge (right) compared to reliable 5. it is by no means an “armor piercing” ammunition. the extremely compact and quite 5. and the latter attempts to use it for larger PDW-type weapons such as full-size OTs-23 “Drotik” automatic pistol.2010 01:53 .5 g / 320 m/s 39 / 1050 grain fps http://world. with pointed jacketed bullet. The terminal performance of this tiny cartridge is rather unspectacular. cartridge 7N7 / 5.Special purpose cartridges of US..guns.htm 5 of 5 15. made of brass. working under cover.45x17 2.7. bottlenecked case. but it has a reputation for penetrating soft body armor at shorter distances.45mm MPTs metric bullet muzzle designation w eight velocity 5.ru/ammo/sp-e. Still. as well as by various law enforcement operatives.45x18 PSM pistol is widely used as a self-defense weapon for Army 9x19 Parabellum cartridge (left) and MVD generals.Ammunition . turned into a predictable failure..Modern Firearms .
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