Savage Arms Rifles in Ukraine

The ongoing war in Ukraine has seen all sorts of small arms pop up. Many from military stores, some old some new. But also large numbers of previously civilian-owned and commercially available rifles. 

One manufacturer which continues to surface is Savage Arms. We’ve seen a range of Savage firearms in social media posts from Ukraine. In this short video we’ll take a look at some of the models of rifle which have been seen on the ground.

It is worth noting that Savage 110s have previously been seen in the hands of Ukrainian Special Operations snipers prior to the current conflict, as early as 2017. It was reported in September 2018 that 125 Savage 110 Stealths had been purchased for Ukrainian Airborne troops and it seems that along with Ukrainian Z-10 DMR and other Western bolt actions the Savage Arms rifles are one of the systems which replaced many of Ukraine’s SVDs.

Savage 110 Stealth & Fort 221 [Tavor] (via social media)

Before the war civilian firearms ownership in Ukraine was fairly buoyant, and this only increased as tensions before the Russian invasion rose. Savage Arms have dealers and stockists all around the world, including Ukraine. Savage’s site lists IBIS LLC / Europa Arms Sports Ltd as their Ukrainian stockists with an address in Kyiv but IBIS have a chain of stores across Ukraine.

IBIS’ site lists a large range of Savage Arms firearms and accessories with nearly 50 different models and variations listed. Everything from 110s in .338 Lapua Magnum to semi-automatic 7.62x51mm MSR-10s, and Savage Model 10s in various calibres to MSR-15 ARs.

Savage MSR-15 (via social media)

With the help of DixieMauser, on Instagram, I’ve been collecting images of Savage Arms rifles in the field. From the photos we can see that both Savage’s semi-automatic rifles and bolt actions are in use.

A comparatively small number of photographs feature Savage’s MSR series. In these photos we see MSR-15s, Savage’s AR-15 pattern rifle. In use with Ukrainian forces they all appear to be running variable power optics. Much more common, however, are Savage’s bolt action rifles. They are seen with a range of suppressors and optics being used and while most appear to have factory stocks and chassis some barrelled actions have been placed in after-market chassis.

It is worth noting that Savage previously offered 10 (short action) and 110 (long action) versions of their rifles but in recent years have consolidated to referring to all their bolt actions in the 10/110 series – 110. It is difficult to differentiate between 10/110s in many of the photographs with the magazine being the key indicator.

Savage 110 Carbon Tactical (via social media)

Due to the nature of sourcing the photos across several social media platforms its difficult to identify units or know where personnel are operating. But one thing we can tell is the kinds of rifle being used.

Savage 110 Precisions have been seen as well as a number of 110 BA Stealths. We know that one of these Stealths was also used in Irpin at the beginning of April as it was mentioned in a Daily Beast report and pictured on the ground.

A number of 110s have also been seen in MDT chassis. In terms of calibre 7.62x51mm and .338 Lapua Magnum appear to be the most commonly seen but 300 Win Mag is also believed to be in use.

Conventionally stocked Savages have also been seen including this rifle which appears to be a Model 10 or 110 Hunter. Even a Savage 110 Carbon Tactical, still with its Savage sticker has been pictured. At least one AXIS series rifle has been seen in use with one unit operating around Kyiv.

Savage Stealth (via social media)

It’s also worth noting there it’s not only Savages which have been see, there have also been a significant number of Remington 700s, Sakos and others seen in use. It is impossible to know how many of the Savage rifles were procured by the Ukrainian military and how many are formerly civilian owned or commercially sold firearms.

It is important to contextualise a sampling of photographs like this one as it is difficult to gauge how widespread the use of the rifles is and indeed in what areas of Ukraine they are being used in. They could be in fairly wide use or localised within a region or smattering of units. But we can say that rifles made by Savage Arms rifles are being used as precision rifles by marksmen and snipers of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Special thanks to DixieMauser for his help compiling the photographs of Savages in use, check out his Instagram page here.


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Bibliography:

Ukrainian Special Forces Precision Rifle Competition, TFB, (source)
Ukrainian President Poroshenko buys 430 sniper rifles for paratroopers, UAWire, (source)
IBIS Savage Arms Listings, IBIS, (source)
You Won’t Believe the Horror Left Behind, Daily Beast, (source)
What Ukrainian snipers are fighting in Donbas, Rambler (source)
First Sniper Tournament of the SSO of Ukraine, SSO, (source)

Ukraine’s Molotov Cocktails

Almost as soon as the war began we started to see evidence of Molotov cocktail manufacture. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense was keen to highlight and encourage it to show civilian resolve in the face of the Russian invasion and there’s been numerous news reports and tv news segments on Molotov production. 

Footage of Molotov manufacture spread across social media and was quickly seized upon by the world’s media. Videos from across Ukraine showed children, students, the elderly and ordinary people working makeshift production lines. 

Kyiv civilians gather in a basement downtown to make Molotov Cocktails (Yan Boechat/VOA)

On the 26 February, two days after the Russian invasion women of Dnipro were featured on TV news making Molotov, shaving polystyrene for use as a thickening agent. In Lviv reports from 28 February suggested that 1,500 Molotovs were being made a day at just one makeshift factory. The Pravda brewery in Lviv also garnered attention with its employees and bottles turned over to Molotov production. The brewery manager said that they had produced 2,000 as of 18 March and shipped some to Kyiv. The former Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov even posed with Molotov Cocktail he’d made using a bottle of 1998 Château Mouton Rothschild. On 7 March the mayor of Lutsk, Ihor Polishchuk, estimated the city had a stockpile of as many as 7,000 Molotovs.

Ukrainian graphic showing where to throw Molotovs at a BTR-82A (Ukrainian MoD)

The morning after the invasion the Ukrainian National Guard posted a graphic showing how to make a Molotov and on the 28 February, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces share some graphics suggesting the best places to hit Russian vehicles with Molotovs. And there have also been billboards posted with instructions on how to make a Molotov and another with a simplified graphic showing good spots to throw them. 

We have also seen a number of interesting delivery systems developed ranging from a medieval-inspired catapults to a pneumatic mortar. On 28 February we got our first video of a Molotov being used. With a short video showing a Molotov drive-by, with a Ukrainian’s throwing a Molotov against the rear of a Russian vehicle before speeding away. Since then a handful of other videos have shown Ukrainian civilians or Territorial Defence Force members destroying abandoned Russian vehicles and equipment.

A Russian support vehicle struck by a Molotov Cocktail early in the conflict (via social media)

Historically speaking, petrol-based improvised incendiary bombs have been used since the 1930s. Perhaps the first prominent use came during the Spanish Civil War. The weapons gained their nickname during the Winter War after Soviet foreign minister Molotov. During the Second World War Molotov cocktails were one of the first weapons made by the fledgling British Home Guard, with them remaining in their arsenal well into the war. Both the British and US regular army’s trained with Molotovs during the early years of the war and they were certainly used by Soviet forces. Since then they have been used in countless riots, uprisings, revolutions, insurgencies and conflicts around the world.  

Soldier preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail at Ft. Belvoir, August, 1942 (US National Archives)

How widespread the use of Molotov cocktails has been is pretty much impossible to know at this point. Despite having a comparative wealth of footage and photos from the ground we still only have a tiny picture of what is going on. It does appear that some have been used by the Territorial Defence Force units to destroy abandoned Russian vehicles and some have even been thrown at Russian vehicles – either as part of individual acts of defiance or as part of more coordinated attacks on Russian forces.

While Molotovs may seem futile in the face of a 40+ tonne T-72, they remain a cheap and effective weapon and checkpoints across Ukraine have been seen to have ready supplies of them. For the urban fighting that was expected in cities across Ukraine they make perfect sense as a plentiful, simple weapon which can be used to pepper Russian vehicles. 


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Bibliography:

‘‘I haven’t told my granny’: Ukraine’s student molotov cocktail-makers’, The Guardian, (source)
‘Ukraine conflict: The women making Molotov cocktails to defend their city’, BBC, (source)
‘Ukrainians Prepare Molotov Cocktails in Kyiv’, NYT, (source)
‘Vulnerable areas of enemy machinery’, Ukraine General Staff, (source)
‘Stark photos show Ukrainians, and even a local brewery, making Molotov cocktails to defend their cities’, Insider, (source)
How To Make a Molotov, Ukrainian National Guard, (source)
‘Catapult for throwing “Molotov cocktails” created in Lutsk’, Rubryka (source)
‘Ukrainian brewery switches from beer to Molotov cocktails’, France24, (source)

Ukrainian Training Videos: RPG-18

Since the war in Ukraine began on 24 February, the Ukrainian armed forces have been hastily putting together and sharing training films for various weapon systems. we’re sharing these so they’re saved for the historical record and so they can be easily found by those who might need them. We’ll try and give some context on the weapon’s origins and on who made the training video.

Demonstrating how to deploy the RPG-18, the tube isn’t fully extended as its a live weapon

In this well shot video a Ukrainian soldier demonstrates the features and handling of an RPG-18. The RPG-18 (‘Mukha’ or ‘fly’) was the first of the Soviet/Russian family of extendable tube launchers (very similar to the US M72 LAW). The RPG-18 was developed in the late-1960s and was introduced in the early 1970s. It has since largely been replaced by larger calibre and more capable launchers. The weapon is a simple, smoothbore, single-use launcher. It is constructed from an aluminium tube with an outer layer of fibreglass.

A close up of the RPG-18’s locking system, rear sight and trigger

It isn’t clear how many RPG-18 the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ may have had in inventory before the war began but it appears that the weapon seen in this video was made in East Germany and probably transferred by Germany as part of Germany’s military aid shipments to Ukraine. While Greece have also reportedly transferred a quantity of RPG-18s, we have seen other examples in the field with identical German instructions stickers.

The video first surfaced around the 21st March, posted by Vadim Kodachigov (the director of Kort, a military industrial company) on Facebook, though he may not be the original creator. Kodachigov appears to be part of a Territorial Defence Force unit. The video identifies the unit as part of the 112th Territorial Defense Brigade (Kyiv). The production value of the video is relatively high, with a title card, good editing, close ups and some interesting footage of the weapon being fired.

RPG-18 Specifications:

Warhead64mm HEAT 
Weight (round and launcher)5.7lbs (2.6kg)
Length27.8in (705mm) – collapsed 41.3in (1050mm) – extended
Effective Range220yd (200m)
Penetration11.8in (300mm) against RHA

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Bibliography:

Earliest video source found: Vadim Kodachigov via facebook (source)

RPG-18, Military-Today, (source)

Ukraine Is Converting Salvaged Russian PKTs

The Kalashnikov designed PK machine gun is one of the most ubiquitous general purpose machine guns in the world. Designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov and his team in the late 1950s. We’ve seen a number of PKMs in Ukraine already but another variant, the PKT, has popped up in a couple of interesting pieces of press footage. 

It appears that there is a car repair shop in Kyiv which is taking in captured and salvaged Russian machine guns and adapting them for ground use with an ad-hoc stock and pistol grip assembly. Fantastic ingenuity and the team is reported to be made up of welders, engineers and mechanics. 

What may be an early version of the adaptation (via France24)

The first piece of footage of the workshop surfaced on the 9 March and a France24 report was published on the 16 March. We’ve yet to see any of the adapted PKTs in the field.

The PKT itself was developed in 1968 to replace the SG-43-derived SGMT. The PKT is primarily used as a coaxial gun on armoured vehicles including the MT-LB, BTR-4, BTR-60, BTR-80, BTR-90, the BMD and BMP series and Russia’s T-72, T-89 and T-90 series of tanks. One thing the Ukrainians have not been short of is captured and abandoned Russian armoured vehicles. The adapted PKTs will probably be used to help equip the Territorial Defence Force battalions which have been raised across Ukraine.

Offering up an aftermarket optics rail, this option appears to have been abandoned in favour if a side-mounted optics mount (via UAWeaponsTracker)

The PKT is solenoid fired, with the gunner pushing a button to fire the gun. This means that it obviously has no pistol grip or trigger assembly but it also lacks sights and a bipod. So when the Ukrainian’s are salvaging these gun they are essentially useless for immediate ground use. The footage from the workshops shows that they have developed a simple stock and pistol grip assembly. The stock slides into the trunnion at the rear of the receiver, where the solenoid firing unit normally fits. The pistol grip and trigger mechanism assembly is then pivoted up and secured by a cross pin. There appears to be a simple hook projecting up from the trigger mechanism assembly which trips the sear inside the PKT.  

Diagram showing the PKT with its solenoid firing mechanism in place
In this diagram we can see how the PKT is mounted in an armoured vehicle (PKT Manual)

The stock appears to be from a standard PK and the pistol grip is a widely available aftermarket AK-pattern grip which seems to be held in place by a large nut and bolt. To get around the PKT’s lack of sights the workshop have fitted a scope mount, welded to the left side of the stock assembly. The gun is seen here with what appears to be a thermal optic.

In the second piece of footage we see some adapted PKTs with classic AK pistol grips attached to stock assemblies. The pistol grip no longer hangs free but is attached to the stock. The trigger mechanism also appears to have been redesigned. Now when the trigger is pulled an arm protrudes from the stock, it pivots from the top – rather than from the bottom as in the example we saw in the first video. This might suggest that the gun featured in the 9 March footage is the workshop’s initial prototype. If so they have moved from a relatively crude design to a more sophisticated on in about a week. From the France24 report it seems the engineers and mechanics had the benefit of some military experience and some technical drawings. 

Detaching the stock and firing mechanism assembly from a PKT (via France24)

In terms of historical precedent – there is plenty. As long as tanks have had machine guns infantry have been salvaging their guns for ground use. Seen during both world wars and in conflicts around the world. In terms of ad-hoc weapons for home defence forces like the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force the British Home Guard during the Second World War were partially equipped with aerial Lewis Guns which were retrofitted with bipods and stocks.

Below are some examples of PKTs adapted in Ukraine since the conflict in Donbas began in 2014.

The adaptation of PKTs specifically was seen during the Chechen Wars and in 1992 the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Further adaptation have even been seen in Ukraine since 2014.

PKT (Rosobronexport)

A kit was reportedly designed by Tula which allowed a PK stock with rear sight and a pivoting pistol grip to slot into the rear trunnion of the gun. This provided a mechanism to fire the gun and a bipod with a front sight could be fitted. It is unclear if this has ever been fielded. 

A captured Kord (Tank) heavy machine gun and a PKT

From the footage it appears the workshop are also working on adapting NSVTs, the vehicle mounted variant of the 12.7×109mm NSV heavy machine gun. The mechanic lifts an NSVT without its barrel to show a workshop-made pistol grip assembly with some box steel projecting out the rear, perhaps for a stock to be fixed to.

The PKT has a slightly longer barrel at 722mm or 28.4in (compared to the PKM’s 645mm or 25.3in), a slightly redesigned gas system and is also 1kg heavier at 10.5kg (23lbs). The PKT has a thicker barrel profile. The PKTM has a slightly reinforced receiver but few other differences compared to the PKT.


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PKTM Specifications (from Rosoboronexport):

Caliber:7.62x54mmR
Weight: 10.5kg / 23lbs
Overall Length: 1098mm / 43in
Barrel Length: 722mm / 28.4in
Rate of fire: 700-800RPM
Belt capacity: 250rds
Muzzle velocity: 850m/s / 2788ft/s
Sighting range of fire: 1500m / 1640yds

Bibliography:

Operator’s Manual PKM Machine Gun, US Army, (source)
PKT Coaxial Machine Gun Modified for Infantry Use, Silah Report, (source)
Differential Identification of NSV and Kord Heavy Machine Guns, ARES, (source)
PKTM, Rosoboronexport, (source)
PKT (PKMT) Machine Gun, Tankograd, (source)

Thank you to Amael Kotlarski for a copy of the PKM manual

Ukrainian Training Video: RPG-76 Komar

Since the war in Ukraine began on 24 February the Ukrainian armed forces have been hastily putting together and sharing training films for various weapon systems. One of the most interesting weapons to be transferred to Ukraine is the Polish RPG-76 Komar (‘Mosquito’).

Demonstrating the controls of the RPG-76

The RPG-76 is essentially a smaller, lighter single-shot RPG-7, it has a folding stock and its round is adapted so its rocket nozzles are angled at 45-degrees to protect the user when firing. The RPG-76 was developed in the mid-1970s and entered production at Niewiadów in the mid-1980s. It was eventually withdrawn from general issue in 2003 but remained in Polish Army stores and saw some use with Polish troops during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While the RPG-76 can reportedly penetrate up to 260mm of Rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) it lacks a tandem charge round which could engage targets, such as tanks, with explosive reactive armour. Despite this it should be more than capable of taking on most Russian light armoured vehicles and soft-skin vehicles like trucks.

Demonstrating aiming the RPG-76

The small number of examples seen in the field so far appear to date to the late 1980s. Poland announced they would be transferring military aid to Ukraine in early February and has since transferred ammunition, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, mortars and provided medical supplies.

Another example of an RPG-76 in the field:

The video first surfaced around the 11th March, posted on Facebook by Vadim Kodachigov (the director of Kort, a military industrial company), though he may not be the original creator. Kodachigov appears to be part of a Territorial Defence Force unit, who may also feature in the video.

RPG-76 Specifications:

Warhead: 40mm HEAT 
Weight (round and launcher): 4.6lbs (2.1kg)
Length32in (805mm) – folded 43in (1190mm) – extended
Effective Range273yd (250m)
Penetration10.2in (260mm) against RHA

Watch the training video for the Stinger MANPADS here


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Bibliography:

Earliest source found: Vadim Kodachigov via facebook (source)

RPG-76 Komar – Polish miniature grenade launcher: how to shoot with this weapon, Defense Express, (source)

Ukrainian Forces Takes Delivery of Polish RPG-76 Komar Rocket-propelled Grenade, MilitaryLeaks, (source)

Poland pledges to send weapons to Ukraine, Independent, (source)

Translation of video adapted from @mdmitri91’s translation

Ukrainian Training Video – Stinger MANPADS

Since the war in Ukraine began on 24 February the Ukrainian armed forces have been hastily putting together and sharing training films for various weapon systems. The weapons including Western transferred systems like Stinger, Javelin, Piorun and Panzerfaust 3 as well as Ukrainian-made weapons like the Corsair and Stunga.

We’ll be sharing these training films so they’re saved for the historical record and so they can be easily found by those who might need them. We’ll try and give some context on the weapon’s origins and on who made the training video. 

The first of the films was made by the Command of the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (or SSO) and covers the assembly, components, aiming and handling of the Stinger man-portable air defence system (MANPADS). 

FIM-92 Stinger is a man-portable, short range air defence system. It was developed in the 1960s by General Dynamics and uses infrared homing to track its target – some variants can also use UV. Stinger has been sent by Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, and the Netherlands with both the twin-launcher, pedestal-mounted version and the shoulder-fired system transferred to Ukraine. It is estimated that as of 20 March over 2,000 missiles have been transferred.

FIM-92 Stinger Specifications:

WarheadHigh Explosive
Warhead weight1 kg (2.25 lb) HTA-3
Missile Length59.8 in (1.52 m)
Missile Weight 22 lb (10.1 kg)
System Mass33.5 lb (15.19 kg)
EngineSolid-fuel rocket motor
Guidance systeminfrared homing
Range (Dependent on variant)3-5 miles (4.8 km to 8 km)
Altitude (Dependent on variant)Up to 3.8 km (12,500 feet)

Bibliography:

‘STINGER Instruction from SSO of Ukraine’, SSO, (source)


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