Avtomat AO-63: The Assault Rifle that Never Was

By Lynndon Schooler

Peter Andreevich Tkachev was a small arms engineer for TsNIITochMash, the Central Scientific Research Institute for Precision Machine Engineering, located in Klimovsk about 50 miles to the South of Moscow. A recipient of the Hero of Socialist Labor medal, he is the designer best known for creating the “BARS” Balanced Automatic Recoil System on the prototype AO-38 construction, which is his most enduring design still used today in mainstream Russian small arms production; most famously in the AK-107 and civilian Saiga MK107/SR-1.

AO-63 History

The city of Klimovsk is a small urban center. For much of its Soviet history, and to a lesser extent today, the military and engineering sites of Klimovsk were “closed” installations. Soldiers and scientists lived in on-property dormitories, concrete apartment blocks if married, or if they were lucky and in a position of command, they commuted from Moscow by an electric olive drab commuter transport train. The highest-ranking KGB and authorities naturally had a driver bring them to TsNIITochMash. Either way, work materials were never allowed to leave grounds, and the men and women who worked there for the progress and mutual defense of their country saw virtually no international recognition for their labors as seen by the hotshots in Tula or Izhevsk. Partially because of the cloak and dagger secrecy and partially because of a lack of widespread success, little is known about the designer Peter Andreevich Tkachev working alongside Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov, designer of the SKS. Before Simonov’s death in 1986, the pair finished constructing the AO-63 prototype—one of the most creative but ill-fated small arms never put into production during the Cold War.

In 1981, the Ministers of the Soviet Union called for a program to build a replacement for the AK-74. It would seek a new assault rifle with increased effectiveness in automatic and burst fire. The objective was to create a lightweight design that would increase hit probability by 1.5 to 2.0 times. The project was code-named “Abakan” after a river in the Republic of Khakassia. The program was nearly identical to sporadic U.S. efforts...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V23N1 (January 2019)
and was posted online on November 16, 2018


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