By: Warren Gray
Copyright © 2023
“The reason these firearms exist is that in Russia, first-time firearm buyers
can only purchase shotguns and defensive, less-lethal firearms. Only after
five years of continuous shotgun ownership, they become eligible for
acquiring a rifle…So, offering a gun that works almost like a rifle,
yet legally qualifies as a shotgun, and can be purchased with no wait
times, proved to be a great idea, attracting more people to the market.”
— Hrachya H., Managing Editor, The Firearm Blog, September 11, 2020.
The Russian Federation certainly has some strange and unusual laws regarding the ownership of firearms and ammunition, and these have led to the development of a series of hybrid weapons, which are technically smoothbore for most of the barrel length, but with five to six inches of rifling just behind the muzzle. The first of these radical new weapons, introduced in 2019, was the Kalashnikov TR9 Paradox smoothbore rifle, chambered in .345 TK (8.76mm), which is essentially a Saiga-9 (the saiga is a sheeplike antelope of Siberia) with a half-rifled barrel, and a barrel length of 14.45 inches.
The Tekhkrim company manufactures the special, .345 TK cartridge, which is a 5.45x39mm (from the AK-74, AK-105, and AK-12 assault rifles) case that is shortened to 22mm, and loaded with 8.76mm pistol-sized bullets, specifically designed for smoothbore weapons with half-rifling. The overall case length is similar to 9x19mm ammunition, with bullets offered in 115-grain (7.5-gram) hollowpoint, 115-grain full-metal-jacket (FMJ), or 147-grain (9.5-gram) FMJ, subsonic-only configurations. The case mouth, however, is twice as thick as that of a 9x19mm cartridge.
The Tekhkrim firm also produces the similar, .366 TKM and 9.6x53mm Lancaster cartridges. The Lancaster rifling has an oval cross-section in the bore, which twists to impart spin to the bullet. The lack of standard lands and grooves legally qualifies it as a smoothbore weapon in Russia.
The TR9 Paradox is a folding-stock, military-style, pistol-caliber carbine (PCC) with a built-in, rifled choke (nicknamed the Paradox choke) and a long, curved magazine built to look like a 30-rounder, but in reality, holding only the standard, 10-round capacity allowed by Russian law for civilian firearms.
It features a chrome-lined barrel with muzzle brake, side-folding, triangular stock, and hinged receiver cover with a Picatinny rail section. The TR9 is very similar to the Saiga-9, which in turn is the civilian variant of the Vityaz-SN submachine gun. It’s approximately as effective as a 9x19mm carbine, with an effective range of about 160 yards. There’s also a TR9S version since 2022, with a revised and updated FN-SCAR-style folding stock.
Next, the Tekhkrim TK509 carbine is listed as a “hunting” weapon, built upon an AR-15-style platform and chambered for .345 TK, again with a 10-round magazine designed to appear as a 30-round version.
There’s also a double-barrel, TK527 hybrid weapon, with a 12-gauge-shotgun upper barrel, and a lower barrel in 9.6x53mm Lancaster, which is a development of the venerable, 7.62x54mmR cartridge case.
Finally, in the .345 TK ammo category, there’s the new, lightweight, folding, Tekhkrim TK502 survival gun, a single-shot, break-action firearm with a totally-smoothbore barrel, which is very similar in appearance to the American Chiappa Little Badger survival weapon, but much more powerful. Introduced in October 2021, this is a simple, inexpensive, minimalist design, offering the equivalent of 9mm stopping power in a very basic, survival weapon.
There’s yet another new hybrid weapon and a different caliber to consider. In September 2020, Kalashnikov Concern and Molot Arms introduced their new Vepr-9 (“Wild Boar”) PCC, chambered in 9mm Altay (or 9x22mm Altay, named for the rugged, Altay Mountains of Central and Eastern Asia), also with a 22mm case length, but the ammunition is produced instead by the Barnaul Cartridge Plant for half-rifled or Lancaster-bore firearms. This is lighter, hotter, FMJ ammunition, at 94 grains bullet weight, and 1,380 feet per second muzzle velocity, loaded in steel cases.
Molot Arms also produces the VPO-185 PCC in 9mm Altay, and a civilian version of the VSS Vintorez suppressed sniper rifle, also in 9mm Altay, called the Sapsan-L (“Peregrine Falcon”), with a 16.12-inch barrel.
Finally, for those Russian civilians who desire a lot more stopping power in an “assault-rifle” lookalike weapon, Kalashnikov Concern introduced their TG 2 hybrid rifle in November 2020, a very close copy of the AK-103 assault rifle in 7.62x39mm, except that the TG 2 is chambered for the powerful Tekhkrim .366 TKM (9.55×37.5mm).
Like the AK-103, the TG 2 sports a 16.3-inch barrel, with the first 10.4 inches being smoothbore, and the final 5.9 inches (150mm of Paradox bore) are rifled. There’s a 10-round magazine, built to look like a 30-rounder, and the .366 TKM cartridges are available with bullet weights of 170, 208, or 231 grains, with muzzle velocities running from 2,030 to 2,295 feet per second. Military analyst Dmitry Safonov noted that, “The (.366) TKM bullet is 1.5 times heavier than the 7.62x39mm. It has great stopping power, and is suitable for hunting mid-sized prey.”
The Kalashnikov TG 2 has a high-impact, polymer stock, which folds toward the left side of the receiver, but unlike the AK-103, it cannot be fired with the stock folded. It’s legally a smoothbore rifle, and may be purchased with no restrictions or waiting period, on the same day that the individual receives his firearms license. Vadim Kozyulin, a professor at the Academy of Military Sciences, assessed that, “We get a smoothbore weapon with the (basically the same) capabilities of a grooved one.”
While the concept of half-rifled, hybrid barrels seems pointless to most Americans, because the rifling, however limited, still imparts a stabilizing spin on the bullets, it’s one of the current peculiarities of Russian firearms laws. The projectiles may not be quite as accurate, or have the same range, as bullets fired from a fully-rifled barrel, but they’re still reasonably accurate, and just as deadly for hunting or self-defense.
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Warren Gray is a retired, U.S. Air Force intelligence officer with experience in joint special operations and counterterrorism, and is an NRA member. He earned Air Force and Navy parachutist wings, and four college degrees, including a Master of Aeronautical Science degree, and was a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Intelligence Operations Specialist Course, and the USAF Combat Targeting School. He is currently a published author, historian, and hunter.