By Janne Pohjoispää
In the era of bolt-action military rifles, several nations employed the .22-rimfire variations of their military rifles for basic marksmanship training. But, as all major military forces around the world adopted assault rifles and/or battle rifles, the .22-rimfire training versions of these new service rifles failed to appear, although sometimes .22 caliber conversion kits were issued for training.
Designed in the former German Democratic Republic, the Kleinkaliber-Maschinenpistole Modell 69 or KKMPi-69 was certainly the most widely issued .22-rimfire training rifle in the Cold War era. The KKMPi-69 has not only a similar appearance, but more importantly almost the exact firing and handling characteristic of full-size AK-47/AKM assault rifles. The KKMPi-69 was designed for basic military firearms training and likely also for use as a training rifle with the political youth organizations.
There exist more than a few of the .22-rimfire rifles that have an external appearance similar to the Avtomat Kalashnikova. However, from a technical viewpoint the KKMPi-69 remains a technical curiosity: a selective-fire rimfire rifle that is externally and internally similar to the AKM assault rifle. The KKMPi-69 is certainly not the only selective-fire .22-rimfire caliber firearm ever developed, but certainly the only design issued in quantity for any major military organization.
The construction generally resembles the AKM design, but due to the different caliber and a blowback action, many details are completely different.
The receiver is similar to the AKM receiver body; in fact it appears to be modified from the AKM receiver blank. However, the barrel extension includes neither a bolt-locking recess nor provision for mounting the gas piston tube. The rear end of the barrel extension forms a feed ramp. The receiver top cover is similar to the AK-family but not as tall as the AK’s top cover.
The barrel length is 17.13 inches (435 mm) measured from the muzzle to the bolt face. The bore has six grooves with a right-hand twist. The barrel profile is light and the barrel is mated on the barrel extension by means of thread.
The bolt has a configuration similar to the AK slide. A partially machined casting, finishing of non-essential surfaces is quite crude. The bolt has a claw-type extractor and a floating firing pin. The KKMPi-69 fires from a closed bolt and the cyclic rate of fire is the 700 rpm with standard velocity ammunition. Original East-German ammunition for this rifle was called 5.6 mm M70 and had a muzzle velocity of 1,017 fps (310 mps) when fired from the KKMPi-69’s barrel.
The KKMPi-69 fires from a closed bolt and the trigger mechanism is much that of the AKM/AK-74 series. The trigger mechanism includes an anti-bounce device, (sometimes incorrectly referred to as a “rate-reducer”) just like that used with the AKM. The trigger mechanism components including the hammer and springs were lightened to meet the .22 Long Rifle cartridge energy and primer hardness of the .22 rimfire cases.
The single-column, box-type, detachable magazine has a capacity of 15 rounds. The .22-rimfire magazine is built inside the body of a 7.62×39 mm caliber 30-round magazine, which mounts in the usual way underneath the receiver. The KKMPi-69 magazine is easy to fill and reliable, too, if compared with various commercial high-capacity magazines produced for the Ruger 10/22.
The injection-molded plastic shoulder stock and pistol grip are exactly those of the MPi-KM, or the East-German variation of the AKM. East German AKM butt stocks can be easily distinguished by their stippled external surfaces. The plastic forearm was also taken from the East German AKM/AK-74, but fitted with a diminutive plastic handguard specially designed for the KKMPi-69. The synthetic material used with DDR-made Kalashnikovs is brown colored, hard and slippery; not necessarily an improvement over the Soviet laminated furniture. Like the other East German AK-type rifles the KKMPi-69 shoulder stock does not include a storage compartment for a cleaning kit or a cleaning rod, but pull-through type cleaning kits were issued as packed in sheet steel boxes or cloth-rolls.
The iron sights are similar to the Kalashnikov assault rifles, but scaled down. The rear sight is an open U-notch mounted on a sliding tangent-type base, and it is adjustable for elevation only, from 25 meters to 100 meters with 25-meter increments. The KKMPi-69 also has folding night sights, similar to ones used with some 7.62x39mm MPi-KM and 5.45x39mm MPi-AK-74 assault rifles. The KKMPi-69 night sights have no illuminated inserts but painted spots for training purposes only.
Handling characteristics resemble those of the full-size Kalashnikov assault rifle. Size is similar and weight is approximately that of the AKM assault rifle. The selective-fire capability is certainly a bizarre feature, and while great fun, it provides no real benefit for military training. It may be there simply because the standard AK has it, or its meaning may have been teaching proper handling, rather than firing techniques.
The KKMPi-69 was test fired with both standard and high velocity ammunition. In semi-automatic fire, the KKMPi-69 worked flawlessly with all types of ammunition. But when switched to full-auto fire, it produced continuous malfunctions, especially with high velocity ammo. On most occasions the ejected case hit on the edge of the ejection port and bounced back inside the receiver, and usually stuck into a corner between barrel extension and top cover. The reason was obvious: the KKMPi-69 has an incorrectly designed ejection port. When the top cover was removed, its operational reliability improved greatly although it was not designed to be used in that way.
There exist several look-a-like .22-rimfire rifles that are designed to resemble the Kalashnikov rifles. The KKMPi-69 is a bit different from these designs. While it is not 100% identical to the Avtomat Kalashnikova, it retains the AK’s firing and handling characteristics. The KKMPi-69 remains a technical curiosity that is very rare, as well. However, the KKMPi-69 is the one and only real .22-rimfire Kalashnikov.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V5N2 (November 2001)|