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AGS-17 - the long arms of the Soviet infantry

AGS-17, which stands for the Automatic Grenade Launcher, is one of the lesser known, but nevertheless - very iconic weapons of the Soviet Army. Used in literally every Soviet-related conflict since its adoption, the AGS-17 has rightfully earned universal love by soldiers.

AGS-17 from our book "Soviet Weapons of the Afghan War"

This grenade launcher is well described and photographed in one of our books - The Soviet Infantry Weapons of the Afghan War. Apart from that, this article is part of a bigger index of all weapons used in the Afghan War.

The history of AGS-17

The real history of the AGS-17 starts way back - even before the Second World War. This is partially covered in our book - Soviet Infantry Weapons of the Afghan War. A very talented engineer, Jakub Taubin, has created a self loading artillery. The project was never worked on enough to make it reliable enough and in 1941 the engineer was executed per Soviet tradition. But this story deserves an article of its own - and it will have it! But later.

The AGS-17 was developed by a team of designers from OKB-16 under the leadership of A. F. Kornyakov. Copyright certificate No. 44547 for application No. 993250 with priority, dated April 5, 1968, was issued to the authors of the invention and registered in the State Register of Inventions of the USSR on December 9, 1968.

In 1971, the AGS-17 was adopted by the Soviet Army of the Armed Forces of the USSR.

Production of AGS-17 was started at the Vyatsko-Polyansky Tool-Building Plant.

First use in combat

Essentially, the AGS-17 is a self loading, automatic weapon, which shoots exploding projectiles at a distance of up to almost 2100 meters. For an infantry soldier of 1960s it all sounded as a dream. But above all - it is a light and portable weapon of just 30kg, that can be carried around the battlefield by a crew of two or three people. Wise to remember, that at the time, personal protection was limited to a steel helmet. Some armies did not even have that. And while VOG-17 grenade (that is used in AGS-17) does not have big fragments, they still do considerable damage to a soft target.

Vietnam soldiers with AGS-17

The first use of these weapons in the actually combat is not that clear. Many claim, that they were supplied to Vietnam, which continued being Soviet friend and ally after Americans fled the country. It is rumored that AGS-17 were supplied just before the Chinese aggression in Vietnam in 1979. And it is claimed that they have worked really well - for obvious reasons. Chinese Army had capable human resources to do wave-attacks, but lacking armor and PPE. These were perfect conditions for the AGS-17, which was designed exactly for this.

Use of AGS-17 in Afghanistan

While it is known that Vietnam does have AGS-17 in its armory now, it is entirely proven that they had it during the China-Vietnam war. What we are absolutely sure of is that AGS-17 was used by the Soviet forces when they invaded Afghanistan. And it was used a lot.

Unlike some other weapons, even basic one like AK-74, only entered production years before the Afghan war, the AGS-17 was around for almost a decade. Most unit were well equipped with it and personnel knew how to use them. They were available literally in every fighting battalion - infantry, airborne, support troops, you could get you hands on it.


Being a very light weapon for the amount of firepower delivered it became the cornerstone of almost every Soviet foot patrol in Afghanistan. When disassembled in two parts - the grenade launcher itself and the tripod, the crew of two could relatively easily carry it on their backs and then maneuver on the battlefield when needed. The ammunition was, of course, rather heavy - each VOG-17 weights one third of a kilogram, which makes the whole "magazine" of 30 rounds heavier than 10kg. This was substantial and had to be split between the whole team.

From our book "Soviet weapons of the Afghan War"

But all this weight gave the Soviet ground troops considerable advantage and hence increased the chances of not only surviving, but completing the mission. Delivering these 30mm grenades at a range of over 2km it was a formidable weapon. The only gun that Mujaheddins could possibly use as a counterpart was the DShK, but since it was almost three times heavier - they rarely used it in a non-static role.

There is more to the AGS which goes beyond the scope of this article - and can be read and seen in Soviet Infantry Weapons of the Afghan War.

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