Type Light machine gun
Place of origin Soviet Union
In service 1961–present
Used by See Users
Wars Vietnam War, Cambodian Civil War, Soviet war in Afghanistan, Second Chechen War, various others
Designer Mikhail Kalashnikov
Variants RPKN, RPKS, RPKSN, RPK-74, RPK-74N, RPKS-74, RPKS-74N
Weight 4.8 kg (10.6 lb) (RPK)
5.1 kg (11 lb) (RPKS)
4.7 kg (10 lb) (RPK-74)
4.85 kg (10.7 lb) (RPKS-74)
Length 1,040 mm (40.9 in) (RPK, RPKS)
820 mm (32.3 in) stock folded (RPKS)
1,060 mm (41.7 in) (RPK-74, RPKS-74)
845 mm (33.3 in) stock folded (RPKS-74)
Barrel length 590 mm (23.2 in)
Cartridge 7.62x39mm M43 (RPK, RPKS)
5.45x39mm M74 (RPK-74, RPKS-74)
Action Gas operated, rotating bolt
Rate of fire 600 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 745 m/s (2,444 ft/s) (RPK, RPKS)
960 m/s (3,149.6 ft/s) (RPK-74, RPKS-74)
Effective range 100–1,000 m sight adjustments
Feed system 40-round curved magazine, 75-round drum magazine (RPK, RPKS)
45-round box magazine (RPK-74, RPKS-74)
Sights Front: semi-shrouded front post, rear: sliding tangent with adjustable notch
555 mm (21.9 in) sight radius
The RPK (Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova, Russian: Ручной пулемёт Калашникова or "Kalashnikov hand-held machine gun") is a 7.62x39mm light machine gun of Soviet design, developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the late 1950s, parallel to the AKM assault rifle. It was created as part of a program designed to standardize the small arms inventory of the Red Army, where it replaced the 7.62x39mm RPD light machine gun. Presently the RPK continues to be used by the armed forces of countries of the former Soviet Union and certain African and Asian nations. The RPK was also manufactured under license in Bulgaria and Romania.
The RPK operates on the same basis as the AKM assault rifle, it uses the same 7.62x39mm ammunition and has a similar design layout, the only differences in both weapon types are the result of increasing the RPK’s effective range, enhancing its sustained fire capability and strengthening the receiver housing. The RPK receiver is fabricated from 1.5 mm (0.1 in) sheet of steel (compared to only 1 mm sheet metal used in the AKM). Interchangeability of parts between the RPK and AKM is quite significant.
The RPK light machine gun, compared to the AKM rifle, has a new, heavier and extended barrel with an increased heat capacity. The barrel is permanently fixed to the receiver and cannot be replaced in field conditions; the barrel’s bore is chrome-lined. The barrel is fitted with a newly designed front sight base, gas block (without a bayonet lug) and an under-barrel cleaning rod guide. The barrel also features a folding bipod, mounted near the muzzle and a front sight base with a lug that limits the bipod’s rotation around the barrel. The barrel’s muzzle is threaded, enabling the use of a blank-firing adaptor. When the blank-firing adaptor is not used, the threading is secured by a thread protector cap from the AK-47 rifle. The barrel is fixed to the receiver in a modified trunnion, reinforced by ribbing, which is slightly wider than the one used in the AKM. Symmetrical bulges on both sides of the barrel chamber ensure proper fit inside the receiver. The receiver cover is stamped from a smooth and thicker (than the AK) piece of sheet steel.
The RPK uses a different return mechanism compared to the AKM, consisting of a rear spring guide rod from the AK, and a new forward flat guide rod and return spring. The weapon’s sights are graduated for ranges of 100 to 1,000 m in 100 m increments and the rear leaf sight has an adjustable notch. The RPK features a thicker, wooden forearm, a fixed wooden buttstock shaped like the RPD stock, optimized for prone firing, and a pistol grip from the AKM.
The weapon is fed from box magazines with a 40-round capacity or a 75-round drum magazine, both are compatible with magazines used with the AK-47 and AKM series.
Supplied with the RPK are: spare magazines, a cleaning rod, cleaning kit (stored in a hollowed compartment in the buttstock), a sling, oil bottle and magazine pouches (a single-pocket pouch for a drum magazine or a 4-pocket pouch for box magazines).
A variant of the RPK is the RPKS (S – So skladnym prikladom), equipped with a side-folding wooden stock and intended primarily for use with air assault infantry (in the former Soviet Union the RPK was issued mainly to motorized units). Changes to the design of the RPKS, resulting mainly by the introduction of the folding stock assembly, involve the receiver. It uses a trunnion riveted to both receiver walls that has a socket and tang, allowing the stock to be connected with a pivot pin. The trunnion has a cut-out on the right side designed to engage the stock catch and lock it in place when folded. The wooden stock is mounted in a pivoting hull, which contains a catch that secures the buttstock in the extended position. The rear sling loop was moved from the left side of the stock body to the right side of the stock frame.
Comparison of the AK-74 (top) and RPK-74 (bottom).
1974 saw the introduction of the RPK-74 light machine gun together with the AK-74 assault rifle chambered in the 5.45x39mm cartridge. It is currently used primarily by member-states of the former Soviet Union, as well as Bulgaria and North Korea. It is also used in small numbers by the Polish Armed Forces.
The RPK-74 is a modernized variant of the AK-74 rifle, and the modifications implemented mirror those made to the AKM, while working on the RPK light machine gun. The RPK-74 also uses a longer and heavier chrome-lined barrel. Fixed to the barrel are: a newly designed front sight base, gas block with the gas channel placed at a 90° angle to the bore axis, and a ring mount for the cleaning rod. The RPK-74 was also equipped with a folding bipod and a changed front sight tower. The external muzzle portion of the barrel contains threads that enable the use of a slotted flash suppressor or blank-firing adaptor. The barrel is mounted inside the front receiver trunnion in a way analogous to the RPK, however the rear stock trunnion was reinforced, and the magazine well received steel inserts to increase structural integrity.
Additionally, the RPK-74 has a modified return mechanism compared to the AK-74, which uses a new type of metal spring guide rod and recoil spring. The rear sight assembly, forward handguard and receiver dust cover were all retained from the RPK.
The RPK-74 feeds from 45-round plastic magazines, interchangeable with magazines from the AK-74, designed to be charged from stripper clips.
Standard equipment includes: eight magazines, six stripper clips (15 rounds per clip), a speed-loading magazine feed guide, cleaning rod, cleaning kit, sling, oiler and two magazine pouches.
Another variant of the RPK-74 is the RPKS-74, which is equipped with a wooden folding stock from the RPKS.
The RPK family of light machine guns is also available in a night fighting configuration. The weapons are then designated RPKN, RPKSN, RPK-74N, RPKS-74N and equipped with a side rail mounted to the left side of the receiver housing, which is used to mount an NSP-3, NSPU or NSPUM night vision sight.
An improved variant known as the RPK-74M was developed that includes a polymer foregrip, pistol grip and side-folding stock as well as a side rail for mounting optics. An export variant chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO was also introduced, designated the RPK-201. Also for export is the RPKM chambered in 7.62x39mm; it uses the same polymer furniture as the RPK-74M variant. A series of semi-automatic rifles based on the RPK receiver are manufactured by the "Molot" factory in Russia, these are known as the the Vepr and Vepr 2. They are offered in several chamberings, including: .223 Remington, 7.62x39mm and .308 Winchester. They are intended mainly for the civilian market.