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Friday, April 08, 2016

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Weapons of the War in Afghanistan: Individual Weapons Part II

Weapons of the War in Afghanistan
Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

In the world of war, weapons and technology are ever changing, each war is characterized by the weapons and tactics used to fight it. As new environments and enemies are encountered, the parties to those wars develop new - more effective tactics, technologies, and weapons to counter and defeat their adversaries. The ingenuity seen in war has existed since (and most certainly before) the first wars of recorded history and continue to this very day. 

Keeping with that theory, let’s take a look at the weapons that have characterized the wars and conflicts that the United States has been a party to over the course of it’s history. During the course of this series, I aim to breakdown the weapons used in each conflict by their classification, and to which party they were employed by. Having served in combat operations in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley, I would like to start our series with the War in Afghanistan. 

For our fourth installment, let’s take a look at the most commonly encountered individual weapons in Afghanistan; focusing on the most common rifles and carbines of the war. Rifles have longer barrels than carbines allowing for the projectile to reach a higher velocity, range and accuracy. Carbines on the other hand have shorter barrels and often have collapsible (telescoping) stocks. This allows the weapon system to be more compact and better for maneuvering in close quarters battle as well as clearing rooms, trenches, and other tight or enclosed areas.


More than any other weapon in the War in Afghanistan the AK (or AK47) is by far the single most commonly encountered. The ammo and weapon itself are plentiful throughout Afghanistan. I cannot count the number of times I have been shot at by an AK while in Afghanistan. The wide availability of the AK in Afghanistan is due in part to the US, Pakistan, and other countries governments supplying the Mujahideen and Taliban with them during the Afghan Soviet War and during some time after the war. 

The AK-47 is a selective-fire (semi-automatic and automatic), gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known in the Soviet documentation as Avtomat Kalashnikova.

    • Cartridge: 7.62x39mm 
    • Effective Range: 350 m
    • Weight: 7.7 lbs / 3.47 kg
    • Rate of Fire: 600 rounds per minute
    • Capacity: 30 and 40- round magazines, 75 and 100-round drums

            Questioning a local found along the perimeter around Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

            Just as with the AK, the AKM was also supplied by various countries to the Mujahideen and Taliban, and is found in large quantities across Afghanistan.

            The AKM is an assault rifle using the 7.62×39mm Soviet intermediate cartridge. It is gas operated with a rotating bolt. The AKM is capable of selective fire, firing either single shots or automatic at a cyclic rate of 600 rounds/min. Despite being replaced in the late 1970s by the AK-74 the AKM is still in service in some Russian Army reserve and second-line units and several east European countries.
            • Cartridge: 7.62x39mm
            • Effective Range: 350 m 
            • Weight: 6.83 lbs / 3.1 kg without magazine
            • Rate of Fire: 600 rounds per minute
            • Capacity: 30 and 40-round magazines, 75 and 100-round drum.
            Investigating an area used by AAF forces to fire upon OP Rock with volleys of RPGs and small arms fire.

            While not as common as the AK and AKM the AK74 can be found occasionally but is not highly prevalent due to a lower availability of it's ammunition. 

            The AK-74 is an adaptation of the 7.62×39mm AKM assault rifle and features several important design improvements. These improvements were primarily the result of converting the rifle to the intermediate-caliber, high velocity 5.45×39mm cartridge. In fact, some early models are reported to have been converted AKMs, re-barreled to 5.45×39mm. Compared to the preceding AKM the AK-74 has better effective range, firing accuracy (a main development goal) and reliability. The AK-74 and AKM share an approximate 50% parts commonality (interchangeable most often are pins, springs and screws).
            • Cartridge: 5.45x39mm
            • Effective Range: 500 m Point Target, 800 m Area Target
            • Weight: 6.8 lbs / 3.07 kg without magazine
            • Rate of Fire: 650 rounds per minute
            • Capacity: 30 or 45-round RPK-74 detachable box magazine or 60-round casket magazine
            Investigating structure in abandoned village used by AAF fighters apparently as a medical station.

            SA Vz.58
            The SA Vz.58 can be found in Afghanistan in small numbers. ACF/AAF fighters usually acquire theses through thefts and attacks on government/military forces and government/military  compounds.

            The SA Vz.58 is a gas operated, magazine fed, selective fire weapon. It uses a more or less conventional short stroke gas piston, located above the barrel. The gas piston has its own return spring. The locking system features a linearly moving bolt (breechblock) with a separate tilting locking piece. The breechblock (bolt) is located under the bolt carrier, and the locking piece is hinged to the bolt and located under it. The weapon fires from the closed bolt all times. When the weapon is fired, the gas piston gives a short tap to the bolt carrier. After a free movement of about 22 mm (.9 inch) the bolt carrier swings the locking piece up from the locking recesses in the receiver, and thus unlocks the bolt. From this moment on the bolt group moves back at once, extracting and ejecting the spent case and chambering the fresh cartridge. At the end of the return stroke the bolt stops in the forward most position against the breech face, while the bolt carrier continues to move forward, swinging the locking piece down and into the locking recesses, thus locking the bolt to the receiver. The overall system can be roughly described as a mix between the Walther P-38 pistol and the CzechZB-26 (or British Bren) machine gun locking. The charging handle is attached to the right side of the bolt carrier. The trigger / hammer unit also differs from the most common designs in that it is a striker fired design. The massive cylindrical striker is located at the rear, hollowed part of the bolt, and has its own spring located under the bolt group return spring. The striker has a lug that interacts with the sear and is used to hold the striker in the cocked position. The overall design of the trigger unit is relatively simple and has few moving parts. The safety / fire mode selector switch is located at the right side of the receiver, and has 3 positions for safe, semi, and full automatic fire.
            • Cartridge: 7.62x39mm
            • Effective Range: 800 m, 2,800 m Maximum Range
            • Weight: 6.4 lbs / 2.91 kg 
            • Rate of Fire: 800 rounds per minute
            • Capacity: 30-round magazine
            On patrol in the village of Kandalay, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

            Chinese copies of the SKS have made their way into Afghanistan over the years. Though not as prevalent as the AK and its variants, the SKS can be found in small numbers in caches as well as occasionally in the hands of dispatched enemy fighters.  

            The SKS is a gas operated, magazine fed, semi-auto weapon. It utilizes a short-stroke gas piston with its own return spring, and a tilting bolt locking, where a bolt tips down to lock onto the floor of the receiver. The charging handle is attached to the right side of the bolt carrier and moves when gun is fired. Receiver is machined from steel. The SKS is fed from the integral 10-round magazine, which could be loaded from the top through the open bolt by loose cartridges or by using special 10-round stripper clips. Stripper clip guides are machined into the front of the bolt carrier. Military-issue SKS carbines are equipped with non-detachable bayonets, that could be folded down and backward when not in use. Soviet, East German and Yugoslavian carbines use blade-shaped bayonets, Chinese Type 56 carbines use spike-shaped bayonets, which are slightly longer than the blade-shaped ones. In general, the SKS is an excellent all-around weapon that offers slightly longer range and better accuracy than an AK, but for modern military use lacks the magazine capacity and selective-fire capabilities.
            • Cartridge: 7.62x39mm
            • Effective Range: 400 M
            • Weight: 8.5 lbs / 3.85 kg
            • Rate of Fire: 35-40 rounds per minute
            • Capacity: 10-round internal box magazine
            One of our adopted Platoon Dogs "Champ" at a fighting position at Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.


            The PPSh-41 is a magazine-fed selective fire submachine gun using an open-bolt, blowback action. Made largely of stamped steel, it can be loaded with either a box or drum magazine, and fires the 7.62×25mm Tokarev pistol round.
            • Cartridge: 7.62x25mm Tokarev
            • Effective Range: 125-150 m
            • Weight: 8 lbs / 3.63 kg without magazine
            • Rate of Fire: 900 to 1000+ rounds per mintue
            • Capacity: 35-round box magazine or 71-round drum magazine

            Infantryman manning radio/.50 Cal. position at OP Rock, Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. 

            Myself  before going out to set up an ambush for ACF/AAF forces
            Firebase Vegas, Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. 

            For more info on these and other weapons
            Technical specs compiled from:

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            Shawn in the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

            For more info on these and other weapons
            Technical specs compiled from:

            "The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."


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