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Trial and error method: OTs-12 Tiss

15 November 2018
We would like to tell you about one of the most amazing assault rifles from the 1990s.

The Tiss assault rifle is a wonderful weapon that appeared in the late 1980s to early 1990s; however, very few were produced and they were distributed to Russia's special police units (OMON) and special rapid response units (SOBR). The police at that time did not really know what they wanted — as long as it was not a Makarov pistol (PM) or Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK). Without a clearly set task, the domestic manufacturer was often guided by trial and error when creating new models.

However, it was trial and error that created the excellent Tiss: it was a very compact weapon that could literally break through the enemy's body armor in close combat. All that was needed was to rebarrel the AK and adapt it to the then fashionable 9 x 39 mm special cartridge.


However, this modification was not easy: with such a barrel length, the energy of the subsonic cartridge powder gases was not enough for the automatic mechanism to operate properly, and even a special muzzle device did not help.


Therefore, the designers took an unconventional step: they placed the gas outlet port just behind the cartridge chamber and ran a tube from it to the foresight bar, where the gas outlet on such assault rifles is usually located, so the design began to resemble the notorious self-cleaning system of the AR-15/M16 rifles. But, in reality, it is virtually impossible to clean...

Curiously enough, in the early version of this compact assault rifle, the barrel was longer and the gas outlet was just a standard one.

For the other elements, the Tiss that went into commercial production did not differ much from the well-known Ksusha (AKS-74U), except for the use of original magazines (they were also used in the Groza (Thunderstorm) bullpup).

On the one hand, it had the Kalashnikov's famous ergonomics, while on the other it had а short-range cartridge for covering close and medium distances, with a heavy bullet and a “mortar” trajectory. At the time it appeared, neither the armed forces nor units from the Ministry of Internal Affairs had anything like it. Although the Val, Vintorez, Vikhr, 9A91 and VSK-94 were already in service and offered direct competition to the Tiss, their different design and ergonomics meant that soldiers had to be retrained to use them, while they were used to handling AKs.

  Of course, the Tiss was not an ideal super-weapon and had plenty of flaws. The fact that you cannot clean the gas outlet is still fairly annoying. As one of the users of the compact assault rifle wrote: "The P-45 gun powder used in regular cartridges leaves a lot of residue, which after some time hardens and you have to work hard to remove it”.

And the foresight (a height-adjustable peep sight with a tiny hole) was completely unsuitable for the conditions the Tiss was intended to be used in – the notorious “fast-moving short-range skirmish”. Generally speaking, it was a good idea: to move the back sight backwards and increase the length of the aiming line.


But AKs are well known for having a barrel receiver with a bolt-up swinging cover. What is the point of installing a peep sight if it still does not allow uniform aiming?

In addition, the shield where the port was located was very large and heavily glared; therefore, with back lighting, it was very hard to see anything through the peep sight. An ordinary open-type back sight or collimator would be much more appropriate.

There was a good attempt to improve the Tiss and take it to a higher level: in the early 2000s, the Izhevsk rifle-makers presented their AK-9. It had everything it needed: the usual AK ergonomics, firing with or without a silencer, a convenient butt and a compact Picatinny rail.


Unfortunately, it was all too late: the defense and law enforcement agencies already had plenty of Vals and Vikhrs, pistol-carbines chambered for 9 x 19 cartridges, and TsNIITOCHMASH had already released its CP-2 Veresk (Heather) chambered for the 9 x 21. There was no room left. The AK-9 was never commercially produced, despite the fact that many amateur shooters were interested in its non-military version.

I would like to note that compact automatic weapons based on the AR-15/M16 chambered for powerful short-range cartridges (.300 Blackout, .458 SOCOM), which were common in the United States in the early 2000s, are still very popular. In Russia, this type of weapon (or conceptually similar) is only manufactured for purely civilian purposes; they are AK assault rifles chambered for the .366ТКМ cartridge. The factory ammunition is not subsonic, but this rifle features the same familiar ergonomics as the standard-issue rifle with a short-range large-caliber cartridge. It is not hard for enthusiasts to get subsonic ammo themselves, thanks to the fact that formally Lancasters are smooth-bore rifles...
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