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Russia Doesn’t Even Have Enough Rifles to Fight Ukraine

TOS-1 in Ukraine
TOS-1 firing in Ukraine. Image Credit: Russian Military.

The Russian military doesn’t have enough modern rifles to go around and has to equip reservists with antiquated rifles. On day 250 of the war in Ukraine, the fighting continues to go bad for the Russian military

The Russian Casualties

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 71,820 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 275 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 253 attack and transport helicopters, 2,686 tanks, 1,728 artillery pieces, 5,485 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 383 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,128 vehicles and fuel tanks, 197 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,413 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 154 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 352 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

The Russian strategic and operational failures have come at a very high cost indeed. The Russian military is truly hemorrhaging on the ground in Ukraine with no end in sight. The Ukrainian forces are only becoming deadlier with each passing day as more troops who have been trained by NATO arrive on the field equipped with modern Western weapon systems. Meanwhile, the Russian soldiers who are pushed to the frontlines often lack basic warfighting gear, such as modern rifles, bulletproof vests, modern helmets, and even adequate tourniquets. 

But even the rifles that the Russian soldiers who show up at the front are problematic.

What Rifle Do You Got There? 

When Russian President Vladimir Putin called a partial mobilization that drafted anywhere from 300,000 to one million reservists, he certainly didn’t think that there would be an issue with their basic weapons.  

Back in September, reports started emerging with Russian officers and troops concerned about the lack of rifles or the inadequateness of the weapons that the newly mobilized reservists who were showing up in Ukraine were carrying. 

Open source videos and photos showed Russian reservists carrying AKM rifles, a weapon of the Kalashnikov family first introduced in the late 1950s that fires the 7.62mm ammunition. Despite the extreme resilience of Kalashnikov family weapons, a rifle manufactured almost 60 years ago is obsolete for the modern battlefield; poor storage and maintenance conditions most likely exacerbated their condition for the old weapons.

However, that isn’t the only concern for the Russian military. The AKM uses the 7.62mm ammo, while most of the Russian combat units use the AK-74M or AK-12 rifles that fire the 5.45mm ammunition. As a result, the Russian logistics will have to work harder in order to maintain a steady and accurate supply of small arms ammunition to the front lines, and Russian troops carrying rifles of different calibers will have a harder time working together as they won’t be able to resupply one another.


Image of Ukraine tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

“The integration of reservists with contract soldiers and combat veterans in Ukraine will mean Russian logisticians will have to push two types of small arms ammunition to front line positions, rather than one. This will likely further complicate Russia’s already strained logistics systems,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest operational estimate of the war.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.