31 August 2010
The Russian Doll Terry Gander examines an ammunition version of an old theme ...
Everyone has seen a Russian Doll at some time or another but the example I was given at a defence exhibition some years ago is one of the most unusual I have yet encountered. Instead of the usual nest of carved wooden dolls, one within the other and diminishing in size as the layers are removed, this one is based on Russian small arms ammunition.
The donation came as a result of the Russians exhibiting at a Western defence expo for the first time. Held in Greece, the expo took place in very hot weather, which was unfortunate for the Russians who had little idea of what to expect, and were short of ready cash to purchase much-needed liquid refreshments. A few well-timed beers not only helped to gain access to display cases to photograph some ‘special purpose’ small arms but also helped to establish good personal relations that lasted over many years. The Russian Doll was one result.
Not only was the gift much appreciated, it also provided examples of some of the most widely used small arms rounds ever manufactured. When it comes to small arms ammunition production the Russians think in terms of millions with overall totals that far outnumber nearly all their Western equivalents. But, as a starter, the outer casing for the ‘doll’ is a cartridge that now has no equivalent in the West at all.
It is the 14.5 x 114mm heavy machine gun round, a munition that started life as an anti-tank rifl e round in the 1930s. When anti-tank rifles went out of fashion it was retained for a new generation of heavy machine guns of which the KPV is still around in some numbers throughout the world as a light air defence weapon. By any standard this cartridge is powerful. These days the projectile is usually an API (sometimes with a tracer) fired at a muzzle velocity of about 1,000 m/s. The projectile weighs 64.1 grams and round length is 155.8mm.
The rest of the article appears in the Sept/Oct 2010 issue of the Armourer.