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Soviet APS - the first underwater rifle for specialists

Today, we are going to talk about equipment which, unfortunately, is only available to a few and not even the best equipped dive shop can supply you with it. We are talking about a rifle adapted to shooting underwater. Where did it come from? What are its characteristics? How does it work on the surface?
Published: May 6, 2015 - 19:44
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 10:46
Soviet APS – the first underwater rifle for specialists

Today, we are going to talk about equipment which, unfortunately, is only available to a few and not even the best equipped dive shop can supply you with it. We are talking about a rifle adapted to shooting underwater. Where did it come from? What are its characteristics? How does it work on the surface?

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Where did the idea for a firearm that could be used effectively underwater come from? Probably from man’s general urge to create more and more perfect tools for the extermination of his fellow man…

Already at the beginning of the 20th century, many armies recognised the potential of diving. In the 1930s and during World War II, the first troops using diving equipment appeared, to carry out diversion and special operations, the so-called Frogmen (man-frogs).

Aps_protei_ida71_00

Unfortunately, both divers and their opponents had the same problem – the lack of suitable weapons for underwater combat. Therefore, for many years the No. 1 weapon for a diver was a knife. This is probably the origin of the anecdote that a diving knife is the most effective weapon in a clash with a shark. You can stab our ‘buddy’ with it and run away while the shark takes care of your bleeding colleague…

It is not important how much truth there is in this, but the absurdity of the whole situation shows how necessary a new fighting tool was. More effective and able to reach the enemy not only in direct confrontation but also from a distance.

The first firearms with which the ‘frog men’ were equipped were various variations of the legendary Kalashnikov Automatic (AK). Unfortunately, transported in waterproof containers, the rifles were still weapons to be used only on the surface.

A slight breakthrough came in the early 1970s with the appearance of the Soviet-made SPP-1 submersible gun. Unfortunately, the range still left much to be desired (17m at a depth of 5m, 11m at a depth of 20m and only 6m at a depth of 40m).

It is at this point in our story that Vladimir Simonov appears – the man responsible for the construction of the underwater rifle. The main problem he had to face was to create a mechanism in which there would be room for the flow of water caused by the moving elements of this construction and for the gunpowder gases produced during firing. His work led to the creation and introduction of the APS rifle – Avtomat Podvodny Spetsialnyy – in the mid-1970s.

The APS rifle is 823mm long and weighs 3.4kg loaded. The ammunition is steel bullets with a diameter of 5.66 mm and a length of 120 mm. One magazine holds 26 such bullets and weighs approximately 1kg. In contrast to traditional weapons, the barrel is not threaded, and the fired bullets maintain their trajectory in accordance with the hydrodynamic effects acting on them. This translates into a range of 30m at 5m depth, 20m at 20m depth and 11m at 40m depth.

The APS also works on the surface, but here its output drops from 2000 rounds to just 180, with a range of ~50m.

The undoubted advantage of the introduction of the APS was the possibility of both attack and defence under water, at a much greater distance than offered by the SPP-1 pistol. However, the dependence of the Simonov rifle’s effectiveness on the water environment eliminated the weapon from the equipment of the Specnaz units (which operate both under water and on land) and limited its use only to scuba-diving troops.

Only the appearance of another Russian design in 1991 – the ASM-DT rifle – changed the situation and pointed to the golden mean, providing a universal product for fighting under and above the water surface.

Source: wikipedia.org, world.guns.ru

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About author

Tomasz Andrukajtis
Editor-in-chief of the DIVERS24 portal and magazine. Responsible for obtaining, translating and developing content. He also supervises all publications. Achived his first diving certification – P1 CMAS, in 2000. Has a degree in journalism and social communication. In the diving industry since 2008.
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