The Soviet Army – PK General-Purpose Machine Gun

The following extract comes from US Army Field Manual 100-2-3 – The Soviet Army; Troops Organisation and Equipment published in June 1991. The publication was approved for public release with unlimited distribution (ie may be freely used). The entry provided covered the PK, PKS, PKB, PKMB, PKMS, PKT machine guns.


The 7.62-mm general-purpose machine gun Pulemyot Kalashnikov (PK) is a gas-operated, belt-fed, sutained-fire weapon. The Soviets based its design on the Kalashnikov assault rifle. Notable differences from the assualt rifle are the gas cylinder below the barrel and the hollow-frame stock resembling that of the SVD sniper rifle. The PKM fires 7.62 x 54R rimmed cartridges using a metal nondisintergrating belt.

The basic PK model is bipod-mounted. It is fed by a 100-round belt carried in a box fastened to the right side of the receiver. It weighs 9 kilograms and is 1,161 millimeters long. It is constructed partly of stamped metal and partly of forged steel.

The PKS is a PK mounted on a lightweight (4.75-kg) tripod. It uses either a 200- or 250-round belt. The belt feeds from a box placed to the right of the weapon.

The PKT is the tank-mounted version of the PK. Late-model Soviet tanks, turreted APCs and ICVs, and amphibious scout cars mount it as a coaxial machine gun. It has a longer and heavier barrel than the PK. It also lacks the PK’s stock, sights, bipod, and trigger mechanism. The PKT has a solenoid at the rear for remote-controlled firing, although it also has an emergency manual trigger.

The PKB is a variant of the PKT. It is intended for use as a pintle-mounted gun on APCs and SP guns. It differs from the PKT by having a butterfly trigger rather than a solenoid trigger and by having double space grips and front and rear sights. There may also be a PKMB, derived from the PKM rather than from the PK.

The PKM is an improved, lighter version (8.4 kilograms) of the PK, using stamped metal components instead of machined metal. Joinable 25-round sections of nondisintergrating metalic belts feed the bipod-mounted PKM. An assault magazine attached to the rails under the reciever can cary 100 cartridges belted in this way. Either 200- or 250-round belt boxes can also feed the PKM.

The tripod-mounted PKMS is a lightweight version of the PKS. It has the same characteristics as the PKM, from which it is derived.


The effective range of the PK-series machine guns is 1,000 meters. The have a cyclic rate of fire of 650 rounds per minute and a practical rate of fire of 250 round per minute. Ammunition types include the following: ball, ball-tracer, armor-piercing incendiary, armor-piercing incendiary-tracer, and incendiary-ranging.

The PKM is currently organic to the machine gun platoon of a BMP-equipped MRC and to the machine gun/antitank platoon of a BTR-equipped MRC. it normally fires from its bipod mount but can also fit in vechicle firing ports.

The PKS and PKMS are also infantry weapons. Used as heavy machine guns, they provide long-rage area fire. Their tripod provides a stable mount for long-range ground fire. The tripod opens quickly to elevate the gun for antiaircraft fire. The machine gun has an effective range of 600 meters against slow-moving aircraft.

The PKT serves as a coaxial machine gun on most modern Soviet tanks, ICVs, and APCs. The PKB (PKBM) serves as a pintle-mounted gun on older armored vechilces such as the BRDM, BTR-50 and BTR-60.


The nondisintergrating belt can get in the way if the gunner must move the weapon during firing. Barrel changing is not as fast and effective as in the more recent Western machine guns. Althought designed by Kalasknikov, the weapon’s moving parts are not interchangable with those of the AK-series weapons.


The Soviets introduced the basic PK machine gun in 1964. They followed it with the PKS, PKT, PKB (1968), PKM (1971), and PKMS. Compared to the US M-60, the PK-series machine guns are easier to handle during firing, easier to care for, and lighter. They use a more powerful cartridge and have a slightly shorter effective range (1,000 meters versus 1,100 meters for the M-60). The PK and PKM once served as squad machine guns in BMP-equipped motorized rifle squads, but now the 5.45-mm light machine gun RPK-74 has that function. The vechicle-mounted PKT continues to be standard equipment on many armored fighting vechicles.

The following data comes from Janes Infantry Weapons 1995 – 1996.

This entry covers the PK machine gun. Adjustments have to be made for other models.

Cartridge:7.62 x 54ROperation:gas, automatic
Locking:rotating boltFeed:belt; 100, 200 and 250 rounds
Weight:9 kg empty; tripod 7.5kgLength:1.16 m; on tripod, 1.267m
Barrel:658 mmRifling:—-
Sights:fore, cylindrical post; rear, vertical leaf and windage scale adjustable to 1500 mMuzzle velocity:825 m/s
Rate of fire:cyclic, 690-720 rds/minEffective range:1000 m

Additional Information:

Two PK machine guns firing rounds.



  • US Army Field Manual 100-2-3 (June, 1991)
  • Jane’s Infantry Weapons 1995 – 1996
  • Kalashnikov Arms by Military Parade

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