The AK-74 assault rifle is the modernized version of the AK-47 developed in 1974, chambered in a smaller cartridge (5.45 x 39 mm vs. 7.62 x 39 mm). The weapon went into mass-production in 1976. The newest variant, the AK-74M, is the main service rifle for the Russian Federation armed forces and has been since the early 1990's.
When it first appeared, the AK-74 was assumed to be a limited-production version to equip special forces. In reality, the Soviet Union was to mass-produce this rifle to replace their inventory of AKM weapons en masse.
Like its parent AK-47 and AKM weapons, the AK-74 is a magazine-fed, selective-fire, intermediate caliber assault rifle with a rigid piston gas system and rotating bolt locking mechanism. The stamped sheet metal receiver is borrowed from the earlier AKM. The AK-74 has other differences from the AKM, notably the distinctive muzzle brake. This muzzle brake drastically cuts the already mild recoil and muzzle climb of the AK-74 but has the negative effect of increasing noise and muzzle blast. Current production versions also employ a mounting rail on the left side of the receiver for fixing a telescopic or night vision sight.
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