To most, Russian firearms stop with the AK platform. Modern video games have sparked an interest in other Russian guns, but the AK is the gun that most are familiar with.
But the Russians have produced some truly iconic guns that are both fun to shoot and effective…and aren’t the AK.
And we’re going to talk about them today. Note, this isn’t an all-inclusive list, just some models I think are worth mentioning.
So keep reading!
Summary of Our Top Picks
Best Russian Guns That Aren’t the AK
To the average American, if you were to ask them to name a Russian pistol, they’d stare at you like you had asked for the formula for cold fusion.
To some older shooters, those who embrace less popular rounds, and a good number of gamers, neither of the following pistols I touch on will be a surprise.
In a sense, we have come full circle and what is older is now “cool” again.
The Makarov, in addition to having a caliber named on it, has been used prominently in video games and films for a long time. Ranging from multiple James Bond films, The Hunt for Red October, to the Mission Impossible franchise and RED 2, the Makarov has been used for over 60 years in the prop world.
One of the reasons for its popularity is that a significant number of Eastern Bloc nations adopted the pistol after it was introduced in 1951.
The Makarov typically comes chambered in 9x18mm Makarov, though it’s available in other calibers, including 9x19mm. It’s a blow-back pistol with a simple design.
This simplicity led to it being easy to use, easy to clean, and helped it become a direct replacement for the TT-33 pistol for the Soviet military. The Makarov is still in use throughout the world today and has become popular in the U.S. as another option for concealed carry.
The TT-30/TT-33, or as it is more commonly known, the Tokarev, is a legendary pistol with more than 20 wars under its belt.
Developed in the early 1930s, it was used by the Soviets until 1952, when the Makarov replaced it. That didn’t stop the Tokarev from being used around the globe by more than 30 countries through the present day.
The Tokarev is most commonly seen chambered in 7.62x25mm Tokarev and is known for flat-shooting, accurate and powerful pistol.
Once again, the Russians relied on a simply designed, easy to operate, blow-back pistol to get the job done. The only changes to this simplistic design have been the removal of the safety and, in some cases, conversion to other calibers like .38 Super.
Perhaps one of the oldest Russian firearms on this list, the Mosin-Nagant pre-dates the 20th century. First produced in 1891, it is still in use by some militias across the world and, for many years, was a favorite rifle deployed by snipers.
Though there have been some design changes along the way, many of the rifle’s original features have remained intact since its creation.
Chambered in 7.62x54mmR, the Mosin is a powerhouse rifle for small bore. It was designed as a direct response to the Russian military being outgunned by Turkish soldiers in the Siege of Pleven.
Mosins today require some inspection and love if you want them to be great guns. Some, not all, will be ready to go off the shelf.
As surplus guns, though, many will be in a less than ideal condition and require some work to get them to accurately shoot, which is a huge concern for the growing number of hunters that have developed an interest.
The other big enemy of the Mosin is rust. Many of these rifles are over 60 years old at this point, and not all have been kept under ideal conditions.
Some serious cleaning and possibly refinishing may be needed to get them back in the fight.
Of all the guns on this list, the SKS would be my first choice if I needed something in a pinch. This Russian military rifle was used until the development of the AK-47. It was only taken out of use for the infantry because the SKS was limited to a 10-round magazine with no select-fire capability.
Though it was removed from general infantry use, the SKS still saw deployment by Soviet border troops, some police forces, and many reserve units as late as the 1980s.
Additionally, the SKS has been a favorite of light infantry in many guerrilla warfare groups around the globe.
So why would this be my list fun of choice? First, the price is generally low. At the lowest, you could find an SKS for under $300, though those times have faded. One can still grab an SKS for around the price of some lower quality ARs, and side by side, the SKS wins hands down in terms of workmanship, quality, and reliability.
Additionally, shooting 7.62x39mm allows for a bit more punch behind the round, so it is a bit more ethical to hunt with than 5.56 and allows for the use of bi-metal and steel core rounds in the event they are needed for self-defense.
Finally, the SKS is a simple platform, so throwing it in the hands of an inexperienced shooter will often yield good results. The gun’s weight — with its wood stock — allows for much of the recoil to be absorbed, while the ease of use allows newer shooters to get comfortable behind the gun.
Put all of those together, and it is a well-rounded gun for a relatively low investment.
What do you think of the SKS? Rate it below!
5. Dragunov Rifle
From Rambo 3 to Mission Impossible movies, few sniper rifles made outside of the U.S. have attracted as much attention as the Dragunov.
Designed in 1963 and winner of a fairly cutthroat contest for a Russian military contract, the Dragunov was designed as a squad support weapon. At the time, the Russians felt that longer distance engagements were not the fight of normal infantry armed with submachine guns or moderate range select-fire rifles.
The Draganov allowed squads to field designated marksmen, who were not as highly trained as specialized snipers, to apply shots out to roughly 800 meters.
It was designed to allow the firing of both specialized precision ammo as well as armor-piercing, incendiary rounds. This was accomplished by increasing the twist rate of the barrel over those used in prototypes.
The rifle also features a two-position gas regulator, allowing for the use of the Dragunov even when heavy carbon fouling is present.
Since its inception, the Dragunov has seen use throughout Europe and Asia. Most members of the Warsaw pact had at least one Dragunov marksman per squad.
Later, China reverse-engineered the Dragunov to create their completely unlicensed version. After this took place, countries throughout Africa and the Middle East began fielding Dragunov rifles of some variant, and many still deploy them today.
Another iconic Soviet weapon is the RPG-7. Anyone that has seen a movie featuring Soviet armed bad guys will have seen one of these. Films such as Uncommon Valor, Back to the Future, Red Dawn, The Outpost, and Without Remorse have all displayed this anti-tank weapon in them.
Designed to be fired from the shoulder, the RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenade launcher was portable and deadly. Though the projectile was unguided, accuracy was above 90% inside 100 meters and still above 50% as far out as 200 meters.
The RPG-7 has seen use in several conflicts spanning more than three continents. Most prominently used by the Soviet Union, it was also adopted by the Viet Cong, the IRA, and the Somalis (who used it to down the Blackhawk Helicopters in Mogadishu).
More than 40 countries have used the RPG-7 to great effect, including the U.S. though that variant is made stateside and to government specifications. This firearm has been used in conflicts from the Vietnam war in 1967 through the Nagoro-Karabakh war in 2020. It is perhaps the most iconic rocket-propelled grenade launcher of our time.
As you can see, it wasn’t just AK platform guns coming out of the Soviet Union. Though this list is a small sampling of Russian guns, few are as iconic as the ones I’ve covered.
Go back and rewatch movies from the ’80s and ’90s, and I promise you that you will see one if not all of these guns presented. Look up a conflict in the 20th century, and at least one side will have fielded one of these guns.
If you ever get a chance to shoot any of these, do not hesitate, as they are some truly awesome guns to fire.
What’s your favorite gun from our list? Let us know in the comments below. Really want to live that AK life? Check out our guide to all things AK-47.