The collapse of the Soviet Union plunged the new Russian state into chaos, plagued by organized crime and terrorism. To face these challenges, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) of the young Russian Federation put out a search for a new pistol caliber submachine gun suitable for the new challenges of law enforcement. In 1993, the design group of the Izhevsk Machinebuilding Plant sought to answer this need. They were led by a dream team of the sons of famous Mikhail Kalashnikov and Yevgeny Dragunov, the respective designers of the venerable AK and SVD. Victor Mikhailovich Kalashnikov and Alexei Yevgenievich Dragunov envisioned a uniquely compact submachine gun to address the MVD requirements, the PP-19 Bizon (Bison).
Elements of the design and construction history of the Bizon remain state secrets. However, it can be inferred that the Bizon may have been influenced from the U.S. Calico and its helical magazine system. Despite the bold design direction, the Bizon’s magazine was less refined, suffered from reliability issues and brought up an old problem with Russian and Soviet high-capacity magazines. Despite intending to be interchangeable between other Bizons, each magazine was most effective when matched to its parent gun for proper feeding. This was a common issue held by both the PPSh-41 and PPD submachine guns fielded in the Second World War. The helical magazines have two basic types: an early aluminum model and a later production polymer magazine. Both feature a different internal feeding mechanism. The 9×18 magazines hold 64 rounds, and the 9×19 version holds 54 rounds. There is a loading lock so while spinning the magazines’ timing while loading, the tension may be locked to somewhat ease loading. However, the loading process is subjectively awkward and time consuming. The magazines were inserted in a familiar rock-and-lock style of standard AK magazines. The helical magazine was bulky and required multiple design iterations before adoption. The extreme dimensions of the magazines also required specially made pouches that negatively affected the ergonomics of an operator’s kit, trading off magazine capacity for speed and ease of reloads. The Bizon, while in service, was said to have seen little use, losing out to more traditional and reliable submachine gun configurations, such as the widely available AKS-74U. The Bizon remained lighter, and when unloaded, and the low recoil for the 9mm Makarov cartridge produced a light recoil when compared to the Kalashnikov’s prior rifle caliber chambering. Designer Victor Kalashnikov admitted that they had dubbed the Bizon “the women’s gun” due in part to the weapon’s light weight and lack of recoil.
The Bizon achieved some weight savings with a newly designed proprietary receiver, partially relieved at the lower front end with altered and extended bolt guide rails to support the helical magazine and strengthen the front of the receiver. The shortened dimensions excised the standard side, folding locking mechanism seen on the AKS-74 and its derivatives. Instead, the lock had to be redesigned to allow the stock to affix to a cross-trunnion barrel pin when folded. The standard AK triangle side folding stock had a new securing plate riveted and spot welded to access the repositioned stock catch. A sheet metal cover was fitted above the magazine below the barrel, the magazine itself acting as the hand shield. A special trigger guard with flared guide wings was designed, as well as a new shortened side optics mount and a proprietary front trunnion and sight block. The flared magazine housing allowed for ease of magazine changes. The 8.9-inch, 9mm barrel is threaded to 14×1 left hand for a conical bird-cage-type flash hider. The rear sight leaf ranges from 50m to 100m in the 9x18mm Makarov. This design allowed for the near identical manual of arms with other Kalashnikov variants.
I took on the challenge of constructing “the women’s gun” in 9x18mm Makarov, as a builder at M-13 Industries in Las Vegas, Nevada. I originally intended to modify a standard AK receiver before I was contacted by Chitin Defense and ReCreator Blanks, who were working in collaboration to produce a Bizon-clone receiver. The design was copied off a destroyed receiver with incredibly high fidelity. The ReCreator Blanks receiver was an immaculate copy of the examples that I had seen in Russia. For the barrel, we used a Lothar Walther USA 9x18mm barrel blank and chambered and turned down the barrel to the proper diameter, length and threading. An original bolt, destroyed in the deactivation process, took the most time to reactivate. Russian engineers had cut off most of the face, the extractor and the firing pin. Special care was taken in every aspect of the build to ensure a true and, at the time, a one-of-a-kind build in the U.S.
On the Range
While on the range testing the M-13 Industries Bizon, I was amazed at how compact, balanced and well-grouped the weapon shot. The carbine is accurate and has enough rounds contained in its just-right capacity magazine. This built-in 9×18 magazine holds 64 rounds. Using the earlier model aluminum helical magazine, I tested various ammunition manufacturers, including Wolf, S&B and Fiocchi. Due to the drastic feed angle, hollow-point projectiles do not feed in the Bizon. Overall, I was amazed how well it functioned and felt while shooting the weapon.
Despite falling out of favor to other conventional submachine guns, the Bizon is still retained in specialty armories in Russia, and they appear in modern photos of Russian Special Forces training from time to time. However, just as the PPSh-41 and its drum were supplanted by more reliable and faster reloading stick magazine designs, the Bizon has been widely replaced by the traditional layout of the PP-19-01 Vityaz. With a surge of popularity, introduction to the Russian civilian market and increased use by Russian security forces abroad, the Vityaz will likely carry on as Kalashnikov Concern’s submachine gun for years to come.