Six thousand rounds per minute. AO-63: Soviet project of a double-barreled machine gun

The AO-63 double-barreled submachine gun, another achievement of the Soviet arms industry, was called a “horror story for NATO.” But, despite the very interesting technical characteristics, it never entered mass production.

Technical characteristics and advantages of AO-63

Development of AO-63 began in the first half of the 1980s. At that time, nothing foreshadowed the collapse of the Soviet Union, therefore, much attention was paid to strengthening the defense capability, including various innovations in the field of weapons. The development was led by Pyotr Andreevich Tkachev (1934-2012), and they were carried out at the Central Scientific Research Institute of Precision Engineering of the USSR (TsNIItochmash).

AO-63 became a logical continuation of another project of an experimental machine – AO-38, which was developed at the same TsNIITOCHMASH in the 1960s. The main feature of the AO-38 was the increased accuracy of fire in automatic mode, which was significantly higher than that of all small arms models known at that time. However, work on the creation of AO-38 was postponed until better times. In the early 1980s. it seemed that these best times had come, and TsNIItochmash returned to the design of an experimental machine.

In AO-63, the principle of a double-barreled machine gun was implemented, which made it possible to combine various calibers and classes of small arms in one case. The technical characteristics of AO-63 were as follows: caliber – 5.45 mm, cartridge – 5.45×39 mm, weight – 3.68 kg without magazine, length – 890 mm. The maximum firing range was up to 1000 m. At the same time, many parts of the AO-63 were borrowed from the AK-74, which was taken as a basis for the development of a double-barreled machine gun. But the AO-63 store was three-row.

Two barrels and 5.45×39 mm ammunition turned AO-63 in theory into a real threat to enemy armies. The rate of fire of AO-63 was really fantastic: up to 6 thousand rounds per minute in automatic fire mode and 850 rounds per minute in semi-automatic mode. The delay between shots from two barrels was only 0.01 seconds, which turned out to be sufficient to prevent recoil from increasing.

The designers calculated that the AO-63 assault rifle was on average 1.59 times superior to the AK-74, and 1.70 times when firing at targets prone and prone. At the same time, both experienced shooters and beginners were specially involved in the tests. And in all cases, the performance of the experimental machine was impressive.

Why AO-63 did not enter serial production

The machine had great potential. However, the point in the history of the AO-63 project was put by competitive tests “Abakan”. Although the AO-63 turned out to be quite good in the accuracy of fire, the complexity of its scheme became an unambiguous disadvantage. The decision was made in favor of the Nikonov AN-94 “Abakan” assault rifle.

The AO-63 assault rifle never entered mass production. But was it even worth expecting that such a weapon could be adopted by the Soviet Army? Its complex double-barreled design increased the duration of assembly and disassembly of the assault rifle two to three times; it also required the adaptation of ammunition to a similar rate of fire. If for special units this could still be at least somehow acceptable option, then for mass (“all-army”) use – definitely not. Too many problems arose, and the real positive effect of using the AO-63 assault rifle was not proven. But the very fact of the development of a double-barreled machine gun in the USSR, let’s say, frightened the West, and not so much the professional military as the media, who loved to tickle the nerves of the public with various stories about the terrible Soviet weapon.

It is likely that on the basis of the AO-63, the development of a more advanced double-barreled machine gun would have continued, but a short time after the tests, the Soviet Union collapsed. The domestic industry, including the defense industry, was far from being in the best position. The AN-94 assault rifle, which won the competition, was produced in very limited quantities in the mid-1990s, and then its production ceased altogether.

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