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The Russian A-545: An oddball AK rifle in Ukraine

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A-545 rifle Ukraine

Russian forces in Ukraine have been spotted with A-545 rifles, a strange member of the AK family. The A-545 is a new rifle, but it uses the Balanced Action Recoil System, or BARS, a very interesting operating system that dates back to the 1960s.

In 1965, Peter Tkachev developed a weapon known as the AO-38. The rifle was the first to use the Balanced Action Recoil System and looked almost identical to any other AK series rifle. The AL-7 was then produced, followed by the AL-8 and AL-9 all of which used the BARS.

In 1994, the AEK-971 and AEK-978 rifles were released. These rifles utilized the same balanced action system. They were adopted in limited numbers by Russia’s internal police forces. The AEK rifles gave birth to the KORD rifles and, finally, to the most modern BARS rifle, the A-545. 

The A-545 lost to the AK-12 for general-issue purposes, but the rifle was suggested for special operations forces. Finally, the Russian military decided to issue the weapon to border patrol regiments, national guard units, and special forces.

The primary reason for the A-545’s limited use is the cost of manufacturing and maintaining the rifles, as well as their complicated design. The AK series is well known for being simple rifles that are easy to maintain, on the other hand, the A-545 takes the AK design and makes it fairly complicated due to the BARS design. 

The Balanced Action Recoil System 

A-545 rifle
The A-545 rifle. (Twitter)

The A-545 looks a lot like an AK series rifle, but close inspection reveals some important differences.

Your normal AK is a long-stroke gas-piston gun with a rotating bolt. When a user fires a cartridge, gas is generated that propels the bullet down the barrel. Some of this gas is siphoned off via a gas port and is then fed through a gas tube, which drives the piston rearward and allows the weapon to function. The AK’s long-stroke gas-piston design is hefty and the action of it racing rearward causes additional recoil as weight shifts to the back of the rifle.

In contrast, on a balanced action rifle, the gas block has two ports: one goes rearward, as in a traditional AK, and drives the bolt carrier group backward; another faces forward and diverts gas to a secondary piston that drives a weight forward. An internal gear system sits between the two ports and ensures their movements remain synced. 

With weight moving both forward and rearward, a balanced recoil system is created. For a shooter, this means considerably less recoil and an easier-to-handle rifle. When paired with a muzzle brake or a suppressor, I’d imagine the rifle feels extremely easy to control.

As far as I know, none of these systems have ever been imported to the United States. However, YouTubers Polenar Tactical got their hands on a semi-auto-only version of the modern AK-107 and took it for a spin. According to them, the rifle handles extremely well and has a very mild recoiling design. 

Related: The rise and fall of the submachine gun

Breaking down the A-545 

A-545 rifle

The A-545 appears to use the standard AK-74 magazine. Nevertheless, it takes some very modern cues beyond that. It features a dipter-style rear sight that’s pushed rearward for a long sight radius. In front of the sight sits a series of Picatinny rails making it easy to add an optic. The handguard is from polymer and features Picatinny accessory rails. The rifle appears to be equipped with a fairly hefty muzzle break as well. 

Towards the rear, we see a collapsing stock that appears to be a PDW-type design. The lower receiver appears to be a two-piece design with a polymer portion containing the firing control group. The safety and fire selector is a massive improvement on the standard AK design.

The downside to the rifle and the BARS system as a whole is its complicated nature. The system uses a gear and track to keep the rifle synced. The gear is likely held together by pins and if such a small piece breaks, the rifle will be useless. The skill to fix it would also be higher, requiring armorers with advanced training. 

Gears are great for a nice watch, but it’s tough to sell them on an assault rifle. Perhaps I’m wrong, and it works flawlessly, but the reliability seems to be hedging on some very small but very important pieces that appear to be somewhat complicated to remove and repair. 

I do think the rifle is fascinating, however, like most BARS rifles, I think it’s doomed to be a very limited-issue weapon.

Maybe it’ll be some Ukrainian freedom fighter’s prized possession when the war ends. 

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Travis Pike

Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record-setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines, and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.