ABOVE: ASh-12 rifle with tactical sound suppressor and 10-round magazine. Photo: KBP, Russia
ASh-12 assault rifle is one of the most mysterious Russian small arms of the recent years. Its photos began to leak onto the Internet 2 or 3 years ago, with little to no reliable information. Mostly these photos were from “non-public” demonstrations of new small arms and equipment, produced by Russian companies for Russian military and Law Enforcement needs. Only recently some bits of reliable, first hand information were made publicly available from the Instrument Design Bureau, or KBP in short, a Tula-based famous Russian manufacturer of precision and guided weapons, automatic cannons and innovative small arms. It must be noted that information on all new small arms which were designed on government requirements and money (from military or state security services such as FSB) are tightly controlled by their “sponsors,” and only the client (i.e., Army or FSB) can authorize release of information to the general public and the amount of information to be released. It appears that the gun in question became sufficiently mature over its 5 years of active duty, and so the service that paid for it finally has cleared the manufacturer to release some information.
The ASh-12 assault rifle was designed and manufactured by Central Design Bureau for Sporting and Hunting arms (TsKIB SOO, a subsidiary of the KBP mentioned above). It was developed on request from Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) as an ultimate close combat “man-stopper” weapon for their elite counter-terrorist units. It is not known who formulated requirements for this rifle, but it is believed that those requirements came from successful use of the 9×39 weapons in CQB roles (i.e. 9-A91 and SR3M compact assault rifles), along with publicly available information about American developments in short-range, big-bore tactical rifles firing cartridges such as .499LWRC or .50 Beowulf.
Adopted by FSB without much fanfare in 2011 along with specially designed ammunition, ASh-12 rifle is apparently employed as THE CQB / entry weapon against the most dangerous armed criminals or terrorists who haVE to be stopped, literally, with the first shot.
To achieve maximum stopping power at short range, the ASh-12 is built around a specialized family of CQB ammunition, which includes several loads. The case is rimless and 55 mm long and is the same that is used in STs-130 subsonic sniper ammunition, used in the VKS “Vychlop” suppressed sniper rifle. The loads for ASh-12, however, are different as they use shorter and lighter projectiles (STs-130 sniper cartridges use bullets as heavy as 75 gram / 1157 grains). It must be noted that the load data below is not official, and actual specifications might differ a bit from numbers stated here; official values for muzzle velocities also are not published yet.
List of loads for ASh-12 includes THE following types:
12.7 PS-12B Armor Piercing round with steel-core projectile with exposed tip, projectile weight is about 18 gram / 280 grain. These rounds can be used against terrorists wearing heavy body armor or to shoot through steel doors, vehicle sides and other similar barrier.
12.7 PS-12 subsonic round for use with sound suppressor, with jacketed lead core projectile; bullet weight is around 33 gram / 510 grain.
12.7 PD-12 duplex round with two jacketed projectiles stacked one in front of another increases short-range effectiveness against “soft” targets.
12.7 PS-12A with light and fast jacketed bullet for general short- to medium-range work.
Depending on the bullet type and target (protected or unprotected) maximum effective range varies between 100 and 300 meters.
The ASh-12 assault rifle itself is unusual in that it uses short recoil operated action with rotary bolt locking, as opposed to universally used gas-operated actions of modern assault rifles. It is of bullpup layout, with steel upper receiver and polymer lower receiver. Ejection is to the right only. Manual safety is ambidextrous and is located above the trigger guard. Ambidextrous fire selector is located at the rear of the magazine housing and offers single shots and full automatic fire modes. A lever that is located at the rear, next to the recoil pad on the stock, is responsible for disassembly of the gun.
Ammunition is fed from a proprietary detachable box magazine holding 10 or 20 rounds. The rifle can be equipped with a wide variety of sights and accessories using integrated Picatinny rails. It also comes with a compact quick-detach “tactical” suppressor (which is to be used with subsonic ammunition) and with a larger and highly effective sound suppressor optimized for heavy subsonic loads. For unsuppressed work, the barrel is equipped with an effective muzzle brake.