Photo: Kalashnikov Concern
The Makarov pistol, which has been already in service for more than 70 years, has become a so conventional attribute of a Soviet and then Russian officer, militiaman, policeman, that nobody seems to be able to invent anything better. At least for mass production. Since as early as the 1980s, it has been discussed that the Makarov has become obsolete, but it is still on duty. In the world of small arms, it is not the easiest thing to squeeze from the podium a reliable and simple structure though having certain disadvantages and being obviously of retirement age.
But the time goes on and other demands are also placed on small arms not only in terms of percussion size and accuracy, but also in terms of ergonomics, design, payload-carrying capability such as flashlight and laser designator.
And such pistol exists in Russia and apparently it will soon become a fully legal successor of the Makarov. We’ll tell you about a new product of the Kalashnikov Concern – the Lebedev pistol fielded a year ago – and explain why short-barrelled guns need a modular design.
Designer Dmitry Lebedev is a distinguished shooter who is sure that designer shall be a good shooter, because who else but an author of a gun model can perceive the benefits and disadvantages of his project in practice. Lebedev got passionate about pistols at his early age and still believes that handgun design is the apex of small arms engineering art. Assault rifles and machine guns allegedly have plenty of space, while a pistol is of compact design, therefore it is harder to fulfill the tasks, at the same time higher virtuosity and more sophisticated ideas are required.
Photo: Igor Rodin
The official history of the Lebedev pistol dates back to 2014, hence the abbreviated designation is PL-14. At that time, the Kalashnikov Concern management initiated the development of a new combat pistol and Lebedev was invited as a designer.
A new 9×19mm pistol prototype was presented as early as next year at the Army-2015 forum. This was perhaps the first domestically made weapon whose concept had been developed using both the military and sportsmen experience and proposals. Therefore, a multipurpose handgun design was achieved that was suitable for everyday use by law enforcement agencies personnel, for special tasks and for practical shooting competitions.
Photo: Igor Rodin
The key benefits of the new weapon included its ergonomics, balance, user-friendliness and brand-new aesthetics. Double-sided controls allowing to use both right and left hand, changeable barrel and Picatinny rail attracted special attention. To say nothing of comfort, user-friendliness, reliability and, in addition, improved safety. The trigger and firing mechanism solution neutralizes any potential auto fire.
In 2017, the Kalashnikov started the development of a handgun at the request of the Russian National Guard. This was the MPL version (Lebedev modular pistol). Modular – because the weapon designers treated the design as a universal platform. A compact pistol version known as the PLK was presented for policemen and EMERCOM personnel still in 2017. This is a more light-weight version with a shorter barrel and weight slightly less than those of the traditional Makarov used by policemen. At the same time, the magazine has more rounds than that of the Makarov – 14 rounds, and for the MPL version – 16 rounds.
Photo: Kalashnikov Concern
Lebedev and his team were continuously introducing improvements and various modifications of the pistol. As a result, the suppressed MPL-1 for special-purpose units, a sports version and a commercial rubber-bullet handgun were designed on a single platform. A flashlight, laser designator, elongated barrel to enable silencer mounting – all for the customer convenience – were included in the handgun. Both the front sight and rear sight may be replaced and collimator may be mounted. Regular 9×19mm Parabellum rounds as well as 7H21 high-impulse armor-piercing rounds may be fired. A fighter armed with MPL is not inferior to the coolest computer game characters, only that the weapon is real.
In early 2021, the MPL, that had been fielded after successful state tests, was provided for the Russian National Guard, and in the last autumn, the Interior Ministry received the first Lebedev pistols. Revolution in the handgun business after so many years of discussion has apparently happened.