Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova
The RPK, or Ruchnoy Pulemyot Kalashnikova, is a Soviet made light machine gun based on the AK platform. It was designed in the late 1950s by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It was made to replace the RPD light machine gun, another weapon built on the AK platform. The RPK was first introduced in the 1966 May Day Parade in Moscow. The weapon weighs in at around ten pounds, which is pretty light for a light machine gun. It was about forty inches long, making it quite long and difficult to use by the Vietnamese given their average stature. It fired the same cartridge as the AK, the 7.62x39. This was done dliberately to help make ammunition more universal and to save money. The weapon is gas operated and fires from a rotating bolt. It has a decent rate of fire at 600 rounds per minute. It feeds from curved magazines similar to the AK of 20,30, or 40 rounds as well as a 75 round drum magazine. The weapon had an effective range of 100-1000 yards, but that is really pushing it. Since this LMG is automatic only, it is very hard to control once when you are going for sustained fire, especially out at close to 1000 yards.
Some of these Soviet-made machine guns were sent to Vietnam as aid. However, the Vietnamese began to produce their own version of the gun, the TUL-1, which was based on the RPK as well as the Chinese Type 56 AK. The TUL-1 lacked the rate controller that was featured on the Soviet gun which helped with the rate of fire. This weapon featured a heavier barrel than the Type 56 as well. The RPK and its derivatives saw action across the globe, including Vietnam. Today, the RPK is Russia's main LMG militarily. It has been adopted by many other former Soviet-bloc nations like Romania and Bulgaria.