The AKMS is the modification of AKM with folding stock. Due to its charismatic outline, it became one of the more popular rifles within the forces as well as in the reenactment and airsoft communities. It was, in turn, rather popular in Afghanistan, but for a different reason. Continuing our work on the list of the infantry weapons used by the Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan, we present you with this article about the AKMS.
The complicated history of AKMS
Most people think, that all new generations of AK modifications were adapted by the forces on the same day. I mean AK+AKS, AKM+AKMS, AK- 74+AKS-74, and other versions of foldable and regular weapons, such as RPK and RPKS. This is not true. The modifications with folding stock usually had their fair share of problems related to the said stock. AKMS was not an exception. In fact, the adaptation of AKMS happened three years after the regular, wooden stock AKM was adapted and in mass production.
The AKM rifle went into production straight after successfully finishing trials in 1959. In the same trials, AKMS was stated to have a number of problems and was not recommended for mass production because of the following technical failures:
insufficient strength of the metal stock and receiver;
the possibility of accidental reloading of the rifle when falling on the back of the receiver;
unsuccessful design of the rear of the receiver, resulting in superficial damage to the shooter's hand holding the rifle by the pistol grip when firing
After some engineering and mechanical work, as well as taking thicker metal for certain parts of the rifle, the AKMS was recommended for mass production. The results received from the tests were implemented onto regular AKM rifles as well - the safety switch and the receiver cover were reinforced for both rifles. On the 7th of September 1962, the "7.62mm modernized Kalashnikov assault rifle with folding stock - AKMS" was officially adopted by the order of the Minister of Defence.
Ever since the AKMS became the main weapon of the Soviet Airborne Forces. It was also issued to some other military specialties, namely the tank crews. And just like the regular AKM, it was a pretty common weapon during the initial invasion of Afghanistan.
Use of AKMS in Afghanistan
AKMS was used in Afghanistan both by the Soviet Army and by the mujahadeen which could get their hands on whatever modification was around. Counterintuitively, the AKMS rifles were not used by the paratroopers all that much. By the time of the invasion, they were already phased out in all Airborne units by fresh AKS-74 rifles.
The one unit which was the biggest fan of AKMS rifles in particular was the 781th Reconnaissance Batallion of the 108th Motor Rifles Division. As the reconnaissance team, the unit was equipped with 7.62 AKMS rifles from the beginning of the Afghan campaign. Later on during the war, they were forced to reequip to the division's standard. After some arguing and prolonging the decision they were finally rearmed circa 1985. What is interesting is that before the adoption of 5.45 AKS-74 rifles in the battalion they have already used 5.45 RPKS-74 machine guns as their standard light support weapon.
Other units used AKMS as well, just not in such overwhelming numbers. Spetsnaz groups really liked having quite a few, sometimes up to half weapons in the group, or they could have armed the whole team with 7.62 weapons for some tasks.
One big advantage of AKMS was the ability to attach a PBS-1 silencer and use subsonic ammunition. This was not the case with any of the 5.45 weapons from the arsenal, apart from AKSU-74 which was not supplied with silencers in big numbers in Afghanistan. So it was only natural that for some tasks AKMS was essential.
AKMS, just like AKM, was also preferred by some troops for the ability to use a huge 75-round drum magazine. While the drum could give overwhelming firepower for some short period in a firefight, it was a really hard magazine to load and certainly very inconvenient to store when not attached to the rifle - it would take the space of half of the RD-54 pack.
AKMS in popular culture of reenactment
AKMS is one of the iconic rifles used by the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. It does look cool and it does stand out from the crowd of AKS-74 guns. Naturally, people in general, and those who do reenactment in particular - want to stand out. So for many, AKMS is a weapon of choice to reenact the Soviet-Afghan conflict.
Not to get too judgy here, but it is definitely not the best option. While AKMS was present in Afghanistan and was used in quite some numbers, it still was far from the main weapon of almost any unit. The rule of thumb would be to get AKMS for further impressions after one already has a regular AK(S)-74.
Saying that, it is important to note, that different countries have different options in terms of what airsoft or real guns people have options to get. While some countries can't have airsoft guns at all, others have limited to no supply of any 5.45 weapons - deacts or blank. In such a scenario, having AKMS would be preferred to not having a weapon whatsoever.
If, for whatever reason, one does have AKMS as the only or primary weapon, it is advised to put the rest of the impression around it. The good thing is that there was at least one AKMS in most fighting units, but usually in airborne or Spetsnaz ones. The issue of AKM vs AKMS was discussed in this article, but the general rule is that infantry used AKM, Spetsnaz used AKMS and airborne used both of these.
To build a good impression with AKMS one should study the photos from the conflict. Luckily, there are quite a few of them. Overall, AKMS is a perfect rifle for reenactors as it is suited for modifications - just what every reenactor desires. In this case, it is for the good. Attaching a PBS-1 silencer as well as a drum magazine would not hurt, but instead, it will improve the overall impression.