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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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Since the effective range of silenced pistols is severely limited. during the late 1980s.Ammunition . which used the same basic principle. fitted with detachable sound suppressors (silencers) and loaded with special versions of 7. and was intended for accurate sniper work out to 300-400 meters. (right) metric bullet muzzle cartridge designation w eight velocity SP-4 7. So.62x41 9. The SP-5 cartridge was loaded with standard “ball” bullet with lead core. suitable for specially designed automatic weapons.7. and loaded with heavy. loaded 7. both based on the same receiver and gas operated action – VSS sniper rifle and AS 2 of 5 15. also initiated by Spetsnaz requirements.guns. This cartridge has been adopted circa 1983 by KGB and Spetsnaz elements of the Soviet Army.62x39 M43 case.62mm PZA silent cartridge and fired case (note projecting piston) loaded 7.3 g / 143 grain 200 m/s / 655 fps SP-5 and SP-6 subsonic assault rifle ammunition Next line of development.Modern Firearms ..ru/ammo/sp-e. the standard 7. scout and Spetsnaz elements of the Soviet army originally employed AK and AKM rifles. but in more powerful form. which did not projected from the case when fired.htm SP-4 silenced ammunition The key problem with the SP-3 and PZAM ammo were their telescoped pistons.62mm SP-4 silent cartridge (left) multi-shot capabilities of PSS / SP-4 compared to 9x19 Parabellum cartridge system.. along with six-shot.62x39 US (Umenshennaya Skorost – Low velocity). which projected significantly from fired cases and thus made almost impossible to develop the semi-automatic weapons for these cartridges.62x39 M43 ammo. as well as by some FSB and MVD elite units. but its performance was still inadequate. which could defeat typical military type body armour at the ranges of up to 300-400 meters.62mm PZAM silent cartridge and fired case (note projecting piston and slightly bottlenecked cartridge) loaded into steel clip. 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. known as SP-5 and SP-6. During late 1970s and early 1980s Soviet designers solved this problem by developing the 7. streamlined bullets.62mm SP-3 cartridge and spent SP-3 case and bullet. these cartridges were loaded with heavier bullets. and fitted with a brass driving band at the front. who not require 7. as used for S4M pistol 7. To achieve subsonic velocity along with acceptable ballistics. soviet designers developed improved sub-sonic ammunition. The SP-6 cartridge featured an armour-piercing bullet with hardened steel core. necked-out to 9mm. The SP-4 ammunition and PSS pistols are still in use by elite Spetsnaz units within Russian armed forces. The telescoped two-stage piston has been replaced by single-stage piston. Two weapons were initially developed for this ammunition. Apparently. loaded into steel clip used for MSP pistol Note that piston is of two-stage telescoped design http://world.Special purpose cartridges of US. also involved silenced weapons. were based on a 7.62x42 SP-4 ammunition. known as 7.2010 01:53 . magazine fed. These cartridges. blowback operated semiautomatic PSS pistol and single-shot NRS-1 scout shooting knife. made of mild steel.62mm M43 bullet has been replaced by the cylindrical bullet.
such as SR-3 and 9A-91 compact assault rifles. and a powerful powder charge. is used in another service 9x19 cartridge. designated as PAB-9. this cartridge in its basic form. several more weapons were developed for 9x39 ammunition. and the tip of the penetrator is exposed at the front of the bullet. almost obsolete. light weight bullets is somewhat questionable. Bullet of the similar design. The space between the core and jacked is filled with polyethylene.62x39 9x39 9x39 bullet w eight 12.7. The one way to deal with body armor is to adopt smallercaliber. to achieve better penetration. and used same magazines with 10. conducted since late 1980s under the codename “Grach”. is that such ammunition is usually quite expensive. Another offspring of the ”Grach” trials is the 9x21 family of ammunition. Russian armed forces adopted an improved version of the world’s most popular pistol ammo. which has been developed in late 1990s for the GSh-18 pistol. At the minus side.ru/ammo/sp-e.. Armor piercing bullet for 7N21 ammo features a hardened steel penetrator core. with peak pressures running up to 2 800 kg per square meter. This cartridge featured bullets with stamped (instead of machined) steel cores. this version of the 9mm features an armor piercing bullet of proprietary design. known as 9mm SP-10 AP cartridge (right) compared to SP-10. An attempt was made during late 1990s to produce much cheaper 9x39 AP loading. accuracy was poor and barrel wear significantly increased.62 US СП-5 СП-6 metric designation 7. gas operated action – VSS sniper rifle and AS assault rifle. which brings this cartridge. to the +P+ level. as well as increased driving surfaces. but this time with improved penetration capabilities rather than stealth. as well as with most other special purpose cartridges.Modern Firearms . associated with 9x39. 7N31. Police and State Security units. 9x21 ammo also available 3 of 5 15.62x39 M43 cartridge for scale SP-10 armor piercing pistol ammunition This development leads us back to pistol ammunition. with integral sound suppressors. and 7. the terminal performance of the small-caliber.5 g / 193 grain 16. used by elite Internal Affairs Ministry. SP-6 AP dummy cartridge. with its ammunition being about 100 years old. Latter on.or 20-round capacity. Adopted by the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) of Russian Federation.Special purpose cartridges of US..Ammunition . high velocity bullets for both pistols and submachine guns. and latter was adopted for PP-2000 submachine gun. cartridge 7. As a result. officially designated as 7N21. The proliferation of body armor rendered most military pistols. The one problem. Both weapons were selective fired. both beneficial for accuracy. First produced circa 1994.htm left to right: SP-5 ball cartridge case and bullet. This gives additional benefit of flatter trajectory and lessened recoil. After initial test and research. so this ammunition is apparently no longer in use.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. enclosed into bimetallic jacket. but of lighter weight.2010 01:53 .guns. is more or less a stretched-out 9x19 Parabellum cartridge (left) 7N21 cartridge with improved performance. the 9x19 Parabellum.
2 g / 600 m/s 65 / 1967 grain fps 7. 4. with 4 of 5 15. This weapon used cartridges. which could be considered as a “special purpose”.45x18 MPTs cartridge had a rimless bottlenecked case.66x39 bullet w eight muzzle velocity underwater cartridges. cartridge SPS MPS metric designation 4. was a smoothbore weapon). which looked more or less like scaled down 7. took the place during 1970 – 1972 timeframe.5x40R 5. and the steel bullets were covered by special lacquer coating.62x39 M43 cartridge. externally similar to earlier SPS pistol ammunition.Modern Firearms . made of brass. This ammo is used in SPS “Gyrza” pistol and in SR-2 “Veresk” submachine gun. but based on the standard 5.66mm MPS dummy cartridge 13. MPS “ball” and MPST “tracer”.62x39 M43 cartridge for scale.5mm SPS cartridge case and bullet. almost unique to the Soviet armed forces.35x16SR and 7. left to right: 7. with flat shape and not thicker than a matchbox (17mm)”. The 5. as well as offered for export.65x17SR. as entirely unsatisfactory. the bottlenecked brass cartridges were rimmed and loaded using special flat clips.7.htm in AP-T (tracer) and SP-11 low-ricochet ball (with lead core) bullets. underwater cartridges propelled the long and slim drag-stabilized bullets.2010 01:53 . 4..Special purpose cartridges of US. when the KGB requested the development of an “easily concealable pocket pistol. in the water. as well as self-defense weapon for top ranked officials.45x39 M74 cases. such as 6. 5. To achieve better loading and extraction. Special Forces elements of the Soviet Navy requested further development and by the mid-1970s soviet designers brought in an unique underwater assault rifle. After a short research designers rejected available western “pocket-gun” ammunition. in fact. This “rifle” ammunition is available in two basic forms. cartridge 7N21 metric bullet muzzle designation w eight velocity 9x19 5. and were used in four-barreled SPP-1 break-open pistols.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.3 g / 460 m/s 82 / 1508 grain fps 4.Ammunition . is the underwater firearms and ammunition for these.guns. This pistol was intended as a concealed carry weapon for security personnel. MV depends on the actual depth Small-caliber pistol ammunition The last development.9 g / 390 m/s 122 / 1278 grain fps 6. Initially developed during late sixties.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.ru/ammo/sp-e. which held all four rounds together. Both APS underwater automatic weapon and SPP-1M underwater pistol are still in use by Russian navy. Both primer pockets and case necks were sealed against the water. and rapidly developed a small round.. the APS (which. Initially satisfied with the pistol. http://world.5mm SPS dummy cartridge.
However. turned into a predictable failure.2010 01:53 .45x17 2. with pointed jacketed bullet. The terminal performance of this tiny cartridge is rather unspectacular. but it has a reputation for penetrating soft body armor at shorter distances..5 g / 320 m/s 39 / 1050 grain fps http://world.guns. and the latter attempts to use it for larger PDW-type weapons such as full-size OTs-23 “Drotik” automatic pistol.Modern Firearms .45mm MPTs metric bullet muzzle designation w eight velocity 5. made of brass.7.Special purpose cartridges of US.htm 5 of 5 15. working under cover. bottlenecked case. Still.Ammunition .45mm 7N7 cartridge (right) compared to reliable 5. as well as by various law enforcement operatives. the extremely compact and quite 5..ru/ammo/sp-e.45x18 PSM pistol is widely used as a self-defense weapon for Army 9x19 Parabellum cartridge (left) and MVD generals. cartridge 7N7 / 5. it is by no means an “armor piercing” ammunition.