Russian Commandos Carry Suppressed Rifles That Can Shoot Through Body Armor
The AS Val and VSS are fearsome weapons
by MATTHEW MOSS
In the early 1980s, the Soviet Union’s Central Institute for Precision Machine Building — TsNIITochMash — developed the AS Val suppressed assault rifle and the derivative VSS sniper rifle specifically to outfit Russian special forces and intelligence agencies.
They’re both powerful weapons.
With more and more NATO troops wearing body armor, Russian special forces teams wanted a silent weapon that was also capable of penetrating armor — and could lay down enough fire for fast, violent raids targeting NATO command-and-control centers.
The resulting Val, with its integral suppressor, spurred the development of a whole family of suppressed weapons, including the VSS. The Soviets also designed two new nine-by-39-millimeter armor-piercing rounds — the SP-6 for suppressed assault rifles and the more-accurate SP-5 for suppressed sniper rifles such as the VSS.
The VSS shares approximately three-quarters of its parts with the AS Val, with some differences in stock furniture and the optics mounts. Both weapons are select-fire and have integral suppressors that feature a conventional ported barrel, expansion chamber and baffle system layout.
Both the AS Val and the VSS were ready for frontline use by 1987.
The AS Val and VSS proved to be very effective and remain in service with elements of the Russian army and special forces and Moscow’s intelligence and security forces. The suppressed rifles saw action during the last years of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and played prominent roles in the Chechen wars and the conflict in Georgia.
Most recently, they have seen action during Russia’s interventions in Crimea and Syria.
During the early 1990s, the Kremlin introduced the low-cost VSK-94 to supplement the AS Val and VSS. The VSK-94 is based on the 9A-91 carbine — and its suppressor is not integral.