The Stechkin automatic pistol became the same "calling card" of the Soviet weapons school as the Kalashnikov assault rifle. It was put into service more than 60 years ago, but it is still very popular among the special forces.
The second half of the 40s of the last century was marked by an explosion of activity of Soviet designers of small arms. The Great Patriotic War showed the need for a qualitative change in the system of personal weapons of fighters, and the military and political leadership of the USSR tried to create conditions for these changes to be embodied in metal. For example, six weapon schools and designers took part in the competition for a new assault rifle, which was then ultimately won by Mikhail Timofeevich Kalashnikov with the famous AK-47 product. Ten gunsmiths took part in the competition for a new self-loading pistol, which was held in 1947-48, including the creator of "TT" Fedor Vasilyevich Tokarev and the creator of "SKS" Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov. However, in the end, a 9-mm pistol designed by Nikolai Fedorovich Makarov was adopted for service in 1951.
The Makarov pistol (PM), created according to the general layout of the Walther PP pistol, turned out to be simple to operate and manufacture, reliable and small-sized. At that time, he became the optimal personal weapon for senior officers, and perfectly suited for arming the police. Therefore, even in Soviet times, "PM" produced several million units, and the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant continues, albeit not on that scale, to produce various modifications of this product.
However, the "PM", with its effective firing range of up to 50 meters (in reality, of course, it is much less) and a magazine for 8 rounds was not "strong" enough in a real clash with a prepared enemy. In addition, the short barrel of the "Makarov" at a distance of already 25 meters gave a significant dispersion of bullets. Therefore, to equip the crews of combat vehicles, the first numbers of heavy weapons crews, as an individual defense weapon for snipers, grenade launchers and platoon-company officers, at the same time - at the end of the 40s of the last century, it was decided to develop an automatic pistol, but under the same pistol cartridge - 9x18 PM. Such a pistol was the "APS", designed by a young talented Tula gunsmith Igor Stechkin.
For the sake of fairness, it must be said that there is still a lot of incomprehensible and even mysterious in the history of the APS pistol. Let's start with the fact that Igor Yakovlevich himself was a very extraordinary person. For example, the members of the commission remembered for a long time the defense of his thesis on the topic “Self-loading pistol of 7, 65 mm caliber” (Stechkin graduated from the weapons and machine gun department of the Tula Mechanical Institute). According to the memoirs of contemporaries, the project was so original that one of the members of the diploma commission publicly expressed doubt that this weapon would work. In response, the student pulled out a pistol of this design that he had made with his own hand from his jacket pocket, and fired three times with blank cartridges at the ceiling of the auditorium, where the defense was in progress …
As a result, Stechkin received a "red" diploma and was sent to work straight to one of the main "weapons" of the country - TsKB-14 (now - the Tula Instrument Design Bureau). Moreover. The 26-year-old graduate of the institute at the Central Design Bureau is almost immediately instructed to create a new army 9-mm pistol, which, with single and automatic firing modes, could effectively hit the enemy at distances up to 200m. Moreover, this happens at the end of 1948, when the battle between ten weapon designers for the right to equip the Soviet army and navy with a new self-loading pistol reaches its climax. And already, in principle, it is clear that the victory in this battle is won by Nikolai Fedorovich Makarov, who, by coincidence, has been working at TsKB-14 for the fourth year already, and, moreover, was a scientific consultant of such a sensational thesis of a student of the Tula Mechanical Institute Igor Stechkin.
Now it is difficult to say what kind of participation Nikolai Makarov, in addition to developing and "fine-tuning" his pistol, could have taken in the creation of the "Stechkin automatic pistol" (APS). Some design features and the order of assembly and disassembly of the APS are similar to the PM. Both pistols, despite the fact that work on "Makarov" began several years earlier than on "Stechkin", were adopted at the same time - in 1951. And both designers also received the Stalin Prize together - in 1952. Stechkin - for "APS", Makarov - for "PM". But at the same time, in the memoirs of Igor Yakovlevich Stechkin, it still sounded that "APS" was his own engineering brainchild. “The assignment I received was to design a 9mm pistol capable of single and automatic firing at distances of up to 200 meters, with a large-capacity magazine and using a holster as a stock. After the development and approval of the project, a sample was manufactured, which successfully passed the factory tests. After revision and elimination of deficiencies, field tests of two pistols were carried out in comparison with Mauser, Astra pistols and Sudaev's submachine gun. My pistol, having shown excellent results, was noticeably superior to Mauser and Astra, and was practically not inferior to the PPS”- Igor Stechkin recalled in 1966.
Starting in 1952, "APS" went to the troops. Its serial production was launched at the facilities of the Vyatka-Polyansky Molot plant. However, already in 1959 the production of the "Stechkin automatic pistol" was discontinued. And this became another mystery of this pistol.
The tactical and technical data of the "APS", as an individual weapon intended for use in a combat situation in a collision with a trained enemy, suited the Soviet military. Barrel lengthening up to 140 mm (in the case of the PM -93, 5 mm) made it possible to partially compensate for the weakness of the 9x18 PM pistol cartridge, and, together with the greater mass compared to the Makarov, and smoother operation of the automatics, made it possible to achieve good firing accuracy - the dispersion of bullets with single shots at a distance of 50 meters from the "APS" did not exceed 5 cm. At a distance of 200 meters, the radius of dispersion of bullets when firing from the "APS" increased to 22 cm, but for a trained shooter, effective fire from this pistol at distances and more than 100 meters was not particularly difficult …
The magazine for 20 rounds and the originally made retarder of the rate of fire made it possible to conduct automatic fire from the "APS". At the same time, Stechkin provided for a mechanism that made the reloading of the pistol almost instantaneous. After the ammunition is used up, the magazine feed tooth raises the shutter stop, which delays the shutter in the rear position. And after replacing the store, the shooter needs to press the bolt stop head to be ready for firing again - the bolt stop will go forward and send the cartridge into the chamber, while the trigger will remain on the alert platoon.
In addition to the Armed Forces of the Soviet Union, "APS" and its modifications, according to foreign experts, were supplied to Angola, Cuba, Bulgaria, Libya, Mozambique, Zambia, etc. There are photographs where Ernesto Che Guevara poses with "APS", it is reliably known that "Stechkin" was one of Fidel Castro's favorite weapons. And not in vain. “Unlike the Makarov pistol, the recoil of which is felt by the hand as sharp, it is very pleasant to shoot from the Stechkin. Accuracy is also excellent. The shop is very easy to equip. The trigger mechanism and its characteristics are very good for military weapons "- the American expert on small arms Nick Steadman assessed this pistol. In addition, the APS proved to be a very reliable weapon. There are known cases of shooting 40 thousand rounds without any damage to the main parts of this pistol.
However, in the Soviet Army in massive quantities, "APS", paradoxically, did not take root. The most common version is the inconvenience of carrying this weapon. In order to ensure the stability of automatic fire, especially at long distances, a wooden holster was attached to the Stechkin, which at the same time played the role of a butt. The mass of the pistol with a holster - butt was almost 2 kg. In addition, the army's requirements assumed that each serviceman armed with the Stechkin had to carry with him 4 more loaded magazines of 20 rounds each. Therefore, a murmur arose in the army of that time on the topic that the new weapon was too "heavy and cumbersome." As a result, in the 60s of the last century, most of the army "Stechkin" migrated to the weapons depots, and instead in the 70s, the crews of combat vehicles, aircraft and gun crews were armed with "clamshells" - a shortened modification of the AK-74 - AKS-74U.
However, "Stechkin" did not die, because by that time, for its power and accuracy, he had already managed to fall in love with the employees of special units of the Ministry of Defense and the State Security Committee. Moreover, at the end of the 60s, specially for them on the basis of "APS" by the designer A. S. Neugodov (TsNIITOCHMASH) developed a "silent" version of "APS" - "APB" (silent automatic pistol). Reducing the sound level when fired in it was achieved by perforating the barrel and a special expansion chamber, put on the barrel, ease of wearing and use - due to a removable wire shoulder rest and a soft holster. Of course, the use of a silencer reduced the effective range of the shot. But at a distance of 50 meters "APB" and now there are few equals.
This modification of the "APS" was put into service in 1972, and from that time on, "Stechkin" began, in fact, a "second life". "APS" and "APB" were actively used by Russian special forces during the war in Afghanistan (1979-1989) and in all local conflicts that arose in the post-Soviet space. Moreover. In the 90s, during the rampant banditry in Russia, the army "Stechkin" began to actively arm the structures of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. And this is also understandable, since this automatic pistol just occupies a niche between two other types of standard weapons of Russian law enforcement agencies - Makarov pistols and Kalashnikov assault rifles. However, the Russian militia was not original in this respect - after the fall of the Berlin Wall, some of the FRG police officers also armed themselves with the "Stechkin".
Thus, the "Stechkin automatic pistol" outlived its creator for a long time (Igor Yakovlevich died in November 2001) and still remains a popular weapon in the structures of the Russian Ministry of Defense, FSB, FSO, Ministry of Internal Affairs, as well as special forces of a number of foreign countries. Perhaps this is one of the most important signs of a designer's genius - when a product created by him, despite the emergence of new ideas and designs, continues to work even after the death of the creator.