The Firearm Blog has some videos of a few of Molot’s Vepr prototypes, courtesy Raskin Guns. These videos showcase some of the possible future features in store for Russia’s—and hopefully our own—hunters and competition shooters. It would seem that not just the AK is getting an overhaul.
Molot’s Veprs are AK-pattern rifles but are not based on the AKM and its descendants, instead they take after the RPK, the Soviet light machine gun. As it stands, for some, the AK just wasn’t overbuilt enough, and Molot took LMG machinery and started building consumer rifles with it. The finished rifles all have thicker steel receivers (1.5mm steel instead of 1mm) and an enlarged barrel trunnion and heavy barrel.
Veprs weigh more but are far more accurate on not just the first shot but also follow-ups. They also stray further from most AK standards, both externally with different sights and furniture as well as internally; the Super Vepr and Vepr Pioneer have a different fire control group that’s more of a trigger pack than what you’d find in an AK.
These prototypes display several new features in addition to those seen with previous Veprs. One thing that stands out is the forward charging handle. This non-reciprocating handle rides along side the gas tube and pushes directly on the bolt carrier, meaning that it won’t get hot after shooting for a while. The Veprs with this charging handle have smooth bolts without charging handles on them.
Another thing missing is the ejection port dust cover safety. These Veprs use a new crossbolt safety system common to hunting rifles. Most of them have modified dust covers with rails for optics that mount to the barrel trunnion for stability.
Gone are traditional buttstocks in favor of AR-style telescoping buffer tube assemblies with M4-style buttstocks. These tubes are fitted with recoil-absorbing pistons to take the sting out of some of the more powerful cartridges, like .308 Winchester.
But the coolest change, and far and away the most desirable, is the modified magazine well on the new Vepr .223 and .308. These magazine wells are designed to use Western drop-free magazines. Standard AR/-15/M16/M4/STANAG mags for the .223 and FN FAL magazines for the .308. They use a small release lever inside the trigger guard and appear to operate with a last round bolt-hold-open catch.
The only criticisms we can make are that the changes are decidedly friendlier to righties than lefties, and that camo-pattern Vepr with the Weaver rail puts the optics pretty high up, too high for a solid cheek weld.
All that said, a Vepr in .223 that, from the factory, accepts AR-15 magazines would be a huge hit Stateside, and so would the .308 (although SR25 magazines would be more popular). That single feature alone would guarantee Molot success with Americans. The RPK receiver and machine gun barrel is just icing. But if Molot goes too crazy with changes they could make the rifles less compatible with the strong aftermarket here in the U.S., shooting themselves in the foot.
We can’t help it, we want one. Of each.
Photo credit K-Var.