Weapons: Russia Looking To Escape The 1950s


July 15, 2015: In June a Russian manufacturer revealed a new pistol design intended to replace and upgrade the standard Russian military pistol. Called PL-14, or “Lebedev” (after it’s designer) the semi-automatic handgun appeared to be a very modern design, one that would also appeal to police and civilian customers. PL-14 is a 9x19mm, 0.8 kg (1.76 pounds) empty, 220mm (8.65 inch) long weapon with a 127mm (5 inch) barrel and a 15 round magazine. One unusual aspect of the PL-14 is a “loaded chamber” indicator, which combined with unusual chamber geometry gives the pistol an ability to operate properly even if the chambered round’s casing is poorly manufactured and it’s dimensions are beyond the tolerances of most pistols, in which such a round would usually cause a jam.  The very low placement of bore axis is meant to make recoil less of a problem this improving accuracy. PL-14’s design is not only ergonomic and utilitarian but also good looking. Some observers described it as “retro-futuristic” suggesting a future as a movie prop as well.

Currently the most common pistols used by the Russian military are the MP-443 Grach and Makarov PM. MP-443 uses the Western 9x19 round, including the locally produced, hot loaded 7N21 armor piercing round. MP-443 is 0.59 kg (1.30 pounds) empty, 184mm (7.2 inch) long pistol with a 112mm (4.4 inch) barrel and a 17 round magazine. While it's a relatively modern weapon, it lacks most of the PL-14's advances in ergonomics, which combined with a shorter barrel makes it slightly less accurate and less comfortable to use.

The MP-443 itself was meant to replace the Makarov PM, however due to lack of funding for a low priority budget item like sidearm replacement, many Russian troops are still using the 1950's era Makarov PM. The iconic cold war handgun fires a Russian 9x18mm round, weighs 0.73 kg (1.60 pounds) empty, is 161mm (6.3 inch) long, has a 93.5mm (3.68 inch) long barrel and an eight round magazine. While more compact than modern service pistols, the weak round and short barrel results in poor accuracy and hitting power. The small magazine is also a disadvantage in combat situations, though this was partially remedied in a 90's modernized variant in form of Makarov PMM, which included 12 round magazines.

PL-14 would certainly find civilian buyers in the western countries, ensuring sales even if Russian government won't decide to buy any, however it will not be sold in most of these countries in foreseeable future, due to Ukraine related sanctions, which target the manufacturer (which also makes Kalashnikov rifles and similar weapons).  --Adam Szczepanik



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