Russian small arms and military hardware manufacturer Kalashnikov Concern will be exhibiting its latest products at this week’s Expotechnostrazh-2023 exhibition and security technology trade show in St. Petersburg, Russia. The company will be officially introducing its PL-15 Lebedev modular pistol at the event. At the same time, it also announced the initial contractual deliveries are now being made with the first batch undergoing operational evaluation with Russian troops.
“The Expotechnostrazh exhibition is traditionally important for us from the standpoint of its organizer and the customer of our products, the Federal Service of the Troops of the Russian National Guard,” Kalashnikov Group President Alan Lushnikov told the state media outlet Tass on Monday.
“The Russian National Guard is a reliable, proven and extremely important partner. Our current exposition focuses on the Lebedev modular pistol. This year, we have launched its production and are carrying out the first contractual deliveries. Presently, a batch of these items has been passed over to the customer and is undergoing troop tests,” Lushnikov added.
Meet the PL-15
Development of the Lebedev family of pistols began in 2014, with the goal to replace the aging Yarygin 6P35 pistol, which is currently employed by Russian Guard units. According to state media, in November 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin bestowed the Order for Military Merits on the leading engineer-designer of the Izhevsk Mechanical Plant Dmitry Lebedev who developed the new handguns.
The PL-15 – formerly designated the PL-14 – was first presented at the Army-2015 International Military-Technical Forum near Moscow, and its modernized version received the PL-15 index and was demonstrated a year later at the Army-2016 forum. It is a 9mm short recoil-operated, locked-breech handgun that uses a modified Browning cam-lock system similar to the one from the Browning Hi-Power pistol. It is noted for incorporating a double-action-only (DAO) trigger, requiring a long and heavy trigger pull that puts the hammer into a cocked state and then releases it with every shot.
New Kalashnikov Offerings
In addition to the Lebedev handgun, at this week’s security trade show, the Kalashnikov Concern will also display a number of its assault rifles, including those from the 100 and 200 series, as well as the PPK-20 submachine gun and the Chukavin sniper rifle. According to state media reports, civilian-purpose small arms will include the 18.5 KS-K special carbine with an 18.5 KS-K box magazine, the 12х76 MR-155 Taktika self-operating rifle, the 145 Elk hunting carbine, or MR-145 Taktika and the 12х76 MR-135 Taktika self-operating rifle.
The Russian military contractor will also present a new lineup of combat helmets, which are reported to be made using ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene to reduce weight and improve ballistic protection. It is part of a new line of body armor that has been designed for the Russian Army.
“Kalashnikov’s exhibits will also include new products for individual armor protection, such as a lineup of titanium and composite helmets based on ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene and ceramic armor plates,” a company representative told Tass.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) publication, the Krasnaya Zvezda, had first reported in 2021 that Kalashnikov Concern had developed a unique armor material from ultrahigh-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) and ultralight composite materials derived from it.
The quality of these materials was reported to be significantly superior to the quality of foreign armor materials, while the UHMWPE can reportedly stop shrapnel flying at a speed of 670 m/s. That would be similar to Israeli UD material but also superior to the U.S. military’s aramid organic plastic that’s based on Kevlar, which can stop shrapnel that flies at a speed of around 630 m/s and 480 m/s respectively.
It is unclear if any Russian soldiers serving in Ukraine can actually expect to be equipped with the modern body armor or new small arms.
The Expotechnostrazh-2023 exhibition of security technology runs from March 15-17.
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A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.