The elite Russian force known as the Spetsnaz has a long history going back to the Red Bolshevik Guard, but little is known about them because of the unit’s secretive nature.
Numbering around 15,000-17,000, most Spetsnaz are comparable to US Army Rangers, according to the book “Spetsnaz: Russia’s Special Forces” by Mark Galeotti. About 1,000 of them, however, are on par with the US Army’s Delta Force or Navy SEALs.
The Spetsnaz are also organised differently than US special operations forces in that they have units in multiple military branches, all with their own specialised training.
The Spetsnaz are also afforded the opportunity, according to Galeotti, to usually “get the first pick of new types [of weapons], and also enjoy much greater freedom to customise and “mix and match”” their weapons.
Below are 11 of the most commonly used Spetsnaz weapons, according to Galeotti.
The standard Spetsnaz weapon, according to Galeotti, is some version of the 5.45mm AK-74 rifle. Seen here is the AK-74M, which is also the standard issue for much of the Russian Army. It weighs about 8 pounds and has a 30 round magazine capacity.
Moscow has repeatedly said that they would replace the AK-74 with the AN-94 or the AK-12, which would provide better long-range accuracy, according to Galeotti. The Spetsnaz have used these weapons sparingly, but budget constraints have set this plan back.
Another AK-74 model that the Spetsnaz use is the short-barreled AKS-74U carbine. Also known as the 'Krink', it was originally developed for the Spetsnaz in the mid-1970s and has a nifty side-folding stock, according to The Firearm Blog.
Some Spetsnaz operators sport a slightly different AKM fitted with a GP-25 grenade launcher. The AKM, which is a modernised version of the AK-47, fires 7.62 mm rounds up to 383 yards.
Spetsnaz snipers play an important role in the elite force, and they carry a variety of weapons. Although it's less commonly used today, some still prefer the SVD Dragunov, which fires 7.62 mm rounds and can hit targets up to 1312 yards out.
Another rifle used by Spetsnaz snipers is the SVDS Dragunov, which is an advanced, lighter version of the SVD with a folding-stock. It was originally designed for Russian paratroopers -- the VDV.
Seen here is the bolt-action SV-98 sniper rifle, which the Spetsnaz have begun using more frequently. It usually has a scope with a range of about 1,110 yards, according to Galeotti.
For stealth missions, Spetsnaz are more likely to carry the VSS Vintorez silenced sniper rifle, which the soldier on the front right is holding. It fires a heavy 9x39mm round, according to Galeotti, but is not as accurate at long-range shots. This weapon has become a 'trademark' for the Spetsnaz, and has been used a lot in Crimea.
THE PKP Pecheneg general purpose machine gun is Spetsnaz' main squad weapon, according to Galeotti. It fires a 7.62x54mm round, according to thefirearmblog.com, and began to be used by the Russian military in 2001. The PKP is similar to the US' M249 machine gun.
Another rifle the Spetsnaz carry is a 9mm AS Val. It fires subsonic rounds, which means the bullet travels below the speed of sound and conceals the snapping sound of supersonic bullets.
They also use the SR-3, which is a shortened version of the AS Val. It fires a 9x39mm subsonic round. It's intended for concealed carry and can be fitted with a suppressor.
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