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Old 02-03-2018, 05:33 PM   #379
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Default Accuracy of AK-type weapons, barrel length and quality

I've been comparing the various rifles and carbines that would be suitable to a cover identity as Mexican private security (of dubious legality), autodefensas, militia or cartel gunmen. Assuming the planners at Onyx Rain wanted to leave the option of kinetic engagement open without leaving forensic evidence that points to elite Tier One US military special mission units (SMUs), they should avoid chamberings that aren't used by the cartels in Mexico.

From what I can find out, the most common calibers used by cartel gunmen would be 7.62x39mm, 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington, 9x19mm, .380 ACP, .38 Special, .38 Super, .45 ACP, .30-30, 7.62x54mmR, 7.62x51mm/.308 Winchester, .22 LR, .32 ACP and .25 ACP. I'm not certain about the relative order, it's more of a guess in some cases.

I do know that 7.62x39mm and 5.56x45mm are by far the most common in cartel murders. 5.56x45mm ammunition is available from deserters from the military, corrupt supply personnel for security forces and military and smuggled from the US. Seems to have higher street value than illegally imported surplus 7.62x39mm or even 7.62x54mmR.

7.62x51mm is fairly easily available for DTOs in Mexico, due to military stockpiles of G3A3 and G3A4 rifles and the rate of desertion from the military. As it turns out, however, it is not all that popular with cartel gunmen, with the recoil being hard to handle for mostly low skill users with little practice time.

The .30-30 is a common chambering among rural people, who may or may not have bothered to register an old lever action rifle passed down from the time before strict gun control. Winchester 94 in .30-30 sometimes called 'the poor man's AK'. More likely to be used in neighbour disputes than drug murders.

Pistols are used much less in actual drug-related murders in Mexico. This may be due to the risk that the intended victims may be armed and the limited usefulness of pistols as combat arms. .22 LR, .25 ACP, .32 ACP, .380 ACP and .38 Special, i.e. the smaller, cheaper calibers theoretically legal for civilians in Mexico, were the most common criminal weapons before the militiarisation of the cartels and security forces.

This has changed post-2006 or so, with 9x19mm Parabellum having become the most common pistol round for murders at some point before 2011. .38 Super has long been the most prestigious caliber in Mexico and still remains the caliber that 'classy' narcos with lots of cash want their custom decorated Colt 1911s in. Both .38 Special and .380 ACP still enjoy some popularity with street level criminals, being cheaper and easier to get than smuggled 9x19mm Parabellum, but still almost as effective as other handgun rounds.

A lot of media attention focuses on 5.7x28mm and .50 BMG, but these are extremely rare. Rifles in .50 BMG require fairly sophisticated tactics and shooter skill to be used effectively, with the average cartel gunman being much better off with a cheaper and less cumbersome semi-automatic AK- or AR-type rifle.

The Five-SeveN has a significant cachet in narcocultura, but most of the gunmen who listen to the narcocorridos about their mystical 'matapolicia' qualities can't actually afford to get one, let alone keep it supplied with ammo to practice (or shoot for fun).

The 7.62x39mm and 5.56x45mm are obviously the most practical rounds. In this post, I'll focus on the 7.62x39mm, but since I was looking at AK accuracy, I felt that I might as well compare it to 5.45x39mm as well. The 5.45x39mm is actually not common at all in Mexico. It does not , however, immediately suggest 'US special operation forces'. If an ME or a homicide detective comes across some in Mexico, they will probably assume a cartel import.

Actually, that would probably apply to nearly any caliber that isn't something nearly unknown* in civilian hands or Third World military use. Like the 4.6x30mm, .300 Blackout, .458 SOCOM, .50 Beowulf or .500 S&W that certain parties are already packing...

For 5.45x39mm rounds, military weapons left on battlefields (or issued to local forces) in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria have somehow turned up in cartel arsenals before, and it would not be any more implausible for cartels to acquire factory-new weapons from Bulgaria, Russia or Romania than it is for them to somehow acquire the factory-new H&K weapons that have been seized on occasion. Still much more notable than 7.62x39mm or 5.56x45mm, but not a dead give-away, I guess.

*Yes, I'm aware that civilians can get these in the US and that weapons and ammo are often smuggled over the border, but; a) AP ammo is not available to civilians, b) advanced subsonic ammunition is even rarer than the exotic calibers already are and c) only the .300 Blackout is actually used by enough civilian US shooters to maybe not immediately raise eyebrows.

Accuracy of AKs in 7.62x39mm

AK-type rifles in 7.62x39mm will usually have accuracy between 3 to 6 MOA with surplus military 7.62x39mm M43/57-N-231 ammunition. That's solidly Acc 4, with the worst performance arguably being Acc 3 (and Cheap rifles, e.g. the Russian military will reject any rifle which doesn't shoot better than 6 MOA).

Getting 1.75 MOA to 2.5 MOA from a mostly unmodified AK-type rifle looks doable, being mostly a matter of decent commerical or military-issue ammunition, with a well-maintained rifle that either arrived without any problems or has had minor issues with the gas system or parts fit fixed, either with a Dremel or switching out a part or two. I'll call this either Match ammo or a Fine (Accurate) rifle, for Acc 5, with the Cost difference usually being 'paid' mostly in user time to find a decent commercial rifle, to configure a rifle with a minor issue or to find commercial ammo that the rifle likes.

Extremely short-barrelled 'Krinkov' type 7.62x39mm SBRs might be represented with Acc 3, especially if not using Bullet Travel rules adjusted for individual chambering ballistics, but note that having a shorter barrel doesn't actually make them less mechanically accurate, just harder to shoot accurately with iron sights. And the difference in external ballistics between a 11.9" barrel (PM md 90 carbine) and a 16.3" barrel (AKM) is pretty much negliable anyway, at least in so far as concerns the ballistic trajectory.

Accuracy of AK-rifles in 5.45x39mm

Does anyone have good arguments why modern AK-type rifles chambered in 5.45x39mm should not have Acc 5, assuming that they are not defective or damaged?

From what I can find, the accuracy one can expect with surplus military 7N6 5.45x39mm ammunition from the few commercially available semi-automatic rifles in the US in the caliber is around 1.4 MOA to 3 MOA. When accuracy is worse than 4 MOA with 5.45x39mm, it's usually user error or some problem with the gas system, which can be a problem with certain models.

It looks like TL8 military models of Bulgarian, Polish, Romanian and Russian AK-74 type rifles mostly shoot 2-3 MOA. I'd call that functionally equivalent to most rifles which get Acc 5 in GURPS, including numerous common rifles chambered for 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington or .30-30 with military issue or common ammunition (better ammo and a decent rifle can yield MOA or better with these calibers, of course).

And, obviously, the 5.45x39mm 7N6 shoots flatter and retains velocity out to longer distances than any 7.62x39mm ammunition of which I'm aware, even from the longer RPK barrel. From a 16.3" barrel, the 5.45x39mm 7N6 is about equal in terms of trajectory to the NATO standard 5.56x45mm M885 from a 20" barrel and the round gets better external ballistics from carbine length barrels, i.e. 8" to 14.5", than 5.56x45mm M885.

I can find no justification for giving the AKS-74U (or similar short 5.45x39mm rifles) Acc 3 while the MP7A1 gets Acc 4. Or, rather, the MP7A1 is about equally accurate and has better ergonomics within a 100 yards. It gets rapidly less accurate after that, with the AKS-74U being easily capable of 'minute-of-bad-guy' accuracy at 300-500 yards, depending on user skill, but the MP7A1 being essentially useless at longer than 150 yards.

The H&K MP7A1 gets 3 MOA at a 100 yards, but given the rapid loss of velocity with distance, it's only 4 to 6 MOA at 200 yards and even worse after it goes transonic. It's got a 9" sight radius, which is pretty much exactly the same as the AKS-74U. Sure, the MP7A1 has much nicer sights, but if that has any game effects, it would be more elegant in rules terms to model it by calling it a +1 to skill at up to 100 yards.

The AKS-74U gets 2 to 5 MOA, depending on brand of ammo and exact rifle (not Fine, just differences between individual stock rifles), at ranges up to 400-500 yards. I couldn't find data for anyone shooting them at longer ranges, but I expect their accuracy gets worse as they hit the transonic zone. At any range, though, the 5.45x39mm rounds, even from only a 8" barrel, will have greater velocity and a flatter trajectory than the 4.6x30mm rounds from the 7" barrel of the MP7A1.

So either the AKS-74U rifle is Acc 4 or the MP7A1 is only Acc 3, with a special +1 bonus within 100 yards.

Considering that a lot of 3 to 5 MOA rifles with less velocity and worse trajectory than the 5.45x39mm from a short barrel get Acc 4 in GURPS, I think that I prefer just giving AKS-74Us Acc 4 unless they are shooting poor or unsuitable ammunition.

Actually, one reason why AKS-74Us might have a poor reputation for accuracy is that many rifles referred to by that name are made by individual gunsmiths or hobbyists (or are Khyber Pass copies) by cutting down a longer barrel. This will result in the wrong twist rate to shoot standard 53 grain surplus or military issue ammunition accurately from such a short barrel.
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Last edited by Icelander; 02-05-2018 at 11:39 AM.
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