Madsen LAR: An AK for NATO!

The Madsen LAR (light automatic rifle) was an attempt by the main Danish arms manufacturer to get into the military rifle market after World War Two (they also released a bolt action rifle around the same time, the Model 47). The first version of the LAR was chambered for 7.62x39mm and submitted to Finnish testing, where it lost out to the Valmet-made Rk-62. Madsen then scaled up the working parts of the rifle and offered it in 7.62mm NATO for testing by the rest of the international military community. Unfortunately for the company, there were no takers, and the rifle was never put into serial production.

At its mechanical heart, the Madsen LAR is a Kalashnikov system, sharing the long stroke gas piston and the exact same style of rotating bolt and bolt carrier as the AK. It uses an aluminum alloy lower receiver with steel front trunnion, and a more complex (and much more closely fitted) receiver cover. It probably would have been a quite serviceable rifle in the field, but it was both a bit too late to market and failed to offer any substantial advantage over rifles like the G3 and FAL.

Many thanks to the Tøjhusmuseet (Royal Danish Armory Museum) for letting me have access to these very rare rifles!



  1. Kinda disappointed that Ian didn’t get into the most interesting aspect of tjjis rifle, to me–The way the receiver/barrel attachment system has the extension going out to the gas block, which should have had a very interesting effect on the harmonics and accuracy, as well as allowing for isolating the barrel for things like attaching bipod and other accessories. This aspect of the design has always made me wonder, looking at it, whether or not it worked out,show it affected accuracy, and the overall utility of it.

    This is a very interesting rifle, because it sure looks like it had a lot of potential, and like the timing of its development and marketing was what led to its failure. Manufacture looks like there was an awful lot of complex machining, as well.

    The other thing about this rifle that Ian didn’t mention is the somewhat nutty idea a few folks have put forward, that the influence between this and the AK ran backwards from what you would suppose, which was that the LAR and Madsen were the originals, and the AK was the outgrowth. How the hell that works with the timeline, absent a time machine or some really unfortunate and highly effective secrecy on the part of Madsen…? I’ve never been able to work out, at all. But, there are folks out there who will tell you that Madsen was first, and Kalishnikov ripped them off, which is kinda-sorta nuts, despite the somewhat lengthy peripheral involvement Madsen had with Russian small arms design. Teasing out the reality here might be a waste of time, but it would be nice to have a “one-stop source” to point people at in refutation. The length of an argument I got into with a guy I served with in Germany over this issue, after his exposure to his Danish girlfriend’s dad… Wow. Someone, somewhere in Denmark, well… They are convinced that Madsen helped design the AK, and they have told a lot of people that, and point to this rifle as evidence.

    • Too many tales for me. Poor gun didn’t get a chance with all the competition… why not just kill the Russian gun makers with spoons if we must insist on patent suits!?

      • The thing I find most interesting is how all of these folks seemingly refuse to credit the Soviet system or Mikhail Kalishnikov with being able to produce something like the AK series of weapons. It’s almost pathologic, in some individuals.

        The supposed Danish connection between the Madsen and AK was something I’ve heard at least two or three different times, from different sources. None of which were at all credible, especially with what I know of the two timelines involved.

        The first time I had this little tidbit of information about how Madsen really designed the AK came about because I made the mistake of taking my Valmet M76 with me to Europe, when the Army sent me there. I was a private, I read the briefing materials, and talked to people I knew, and it sure looked like I’d have range access and the ability to do some shooting over there… LOL. Not hardly, and sure as hell not with that M76. I showed up in my unit over there, told the guy who picked me up from battalion that I had a POW, or a personally owned weapon with me, and got a crack about them not having facilities to process enemy prisoners of war. I opened up the case and went “Uh, yeah… I’m thinking the Arms Room might need to get opened, y’know…?”, and away we went. The commander about to crapped himself when he saw it, and the upshot was he basically told me that so long as I kept it in the Arms Room, never drew it, and didn’t make a big deal out of it, he’d sign off on anything I bought over at the Rod and Gun Club. So, I had an AK derivative in the Arms Room that I couldn’t shoot, but could use for doing foreign weapons familiarization with, which I did so folks would know how to work an AK, should the need arise.

        Long story short, after about a year and a half, I’m a newly-minted corporal giving a familiarization class on the AK series of weapons, using my M76. I’d usually go over the history of the design, show how it worked, strip it, put it back together and then let the guys do some functions drills with it so they would at least know which end the bullets came out of when it fired…

        In the middle of doing the “history of” bit, this new Lieutenant pipes up from the back, and says “Hey, that’s not completely true, about Kalishnikov designing the AK… They got it from the Danes…”.

        Needless to say, I’m a little nonplussed. Where the hell did this guy get this, and WTF is he basing it on?

        Turns out, he’s dating the Danish au pair who worked for one of the general officers we had, and he’d been back up to Copenhagen with her, where she introduced him to her father and another male relative, maybe a great-uncle, who were somehow affiliated with the Danish Army, and what he called the Danish Army Museum there in Copenhagen. He’d been treated as the prodigal fair-haired child, being your typical blond, blue-eyed strapping young West Point grad, and the dad and uncle had taken him around on the grand tour of things military in Copenhagen–Which included a visit to what I’m pretty sure must have been the same museum that Ian was at, and a behind-the-scenes look at stuff the average person didn’t get to see. I don’t think the Madsen LAR was on display, back in those days, because the LT described it as being something he was shown on the down-low, and thought it was supposed to be something of a close-hold deal. He was positive that the gun he was shown was the Madsen LAR, which I showed him pictures of from the 12th Edition of Ezell’s Small Arms of the World, and that he’d been told that it was developed before the AK, and that the Danes had either sold the design to the Soviets or had it stolen. That was the story he walked away with, at any rate.

        I pointed out the problems with that whole thing, based on the timelines involved, and he told me he’d check with his Danish informants the next time he went North with his girlfriend. Month or two later, and he’s gone up there again, and I’m hearing third-hand what had to be a more-or-less misinterpreted account of the Finnish trials, the period of which had mistakenly been set back to the immediate post-WWII era. I’m not so sure how that all would have worked, what with the Finns using an AK-series rifle as a control in those trials, but… Well, you get the idea.

        Ran into this same story a few years ago on the Internet, and it was making the rounds on a couple of chat boards, with some links to some Danish sites of doubtful provenance that supposedly said about the same things about the LAR/AK connection. So, for what it’s worth, it’s a story with some legs on it, dubious as it is to anyone with a passing familiarity with the development history of modern small arms.

        I seriously doubt that there’s a direct connection between the LAR and the AK. If there was one, then whoever it was at Madsen who did the design work on the LAR was a genius far ahead of his time, and whoever got it to the Soviets was either a damned fool or a really excellent Soviet intelligence agent. I can’t picture Madsen doing direct contact with the Soviets at the dawn of the Cold War, either, so even if the Madsen LAR was really designed before the AK, I doubt the Soviets came by the design honestly.

        Where this story originates is probably with the Finnish trials, and the typical confusion people have with these things. For the love of God, how many folks are there out there who will insist, with a straight face, that they had a “Mattel”-marked M16A1 in Basic Training? This is a similar thing, only with a Danish flavor to it.

  2. This looks like solid ‘machinery’ – literally, but in no way suitable as series production service weapon. I say this while I respect the fact that Madsen had been a reputable arms maker.

    The cost would be most obvious issue as too much unnecessary machining is present and probably (although not mentioned) resulting weight. In contrary, the HK rifle was exactly of the opposite conception – as much stamped parts as possible and thus lower cost indication right from get go. I presume these were strictly prototypes at this point and as such might have been slated for further development.

    I very much value Ian’s trip to destinations such as Royal Danish Military Museum; good job as usual.

    • What ought to be mentioned is that the operating concept is sound and certainly looks durable and as Ian suggested, probably reliable. So I’d give it 3 out of 5. Definitely a solid effort.

      • To me, the least durable part of this gun looks to be the narrow neck on the back of the gas piston rod/ recoil spring guide rod. During recoil, after the initial push on the bolt carrier the neck is under tension and could stretch.

        • Yep, I missed to mention it. It is kind of iffy, especially in the neck, although I gather that designer meant to alleviate rod bending since the sphere should find ideal location automatically. Theory gone little too far, perhaps.

    • “This looks like solid ‘machinery’ – literally, but in no way suitable as series production service weapon. I say this while I respect the fact that Madsen had been a reputable arms maker.”
      So basically it was manufacture-wise outdated before reached production?

        • You may as well ask the Swiss to make the AK to their standards. Overbuilding the rifle works for custom jobs involving tortuous field use without tool kits but not for mass production. I doubt anyone uses a rifle to savagely bludgeon an opponent to death on a daily basis.

          • And, yet… All too often, that’s what some poor bastard is going to have to do with the damn thing, at some point.

      • I’d suggest for comparison to look at either FNC or SIG 550 although those are fully developed rifles (both co-incidentally use AK operating mechanism). I do not know how prototypes leading to them looked like; it is probable they were kind or “not mature” or “overbuilt” as well.

        One thing in common on both of them though is that their receivers are stamped/ fabricated sheet metal, not machined out of block. Machined receiver out of block in modern assault rifles has only sa58, but that is extremely streamlined.

        • Take a look, again: Yes, the receiver is machined, but it isn’t really a classic receiver, either. It is more a chassis that the trunnion/barrel assembly is bolted to, and with it being aluminum…? Much easier and faster to machine. The AR-15 has an aluminum shell all the working bits bolt into, more-or-less. This Madsen just turns that idea inside-out…

          • No, it is not a “bad” idea to machine a ‘chassis’ (as substitute for word receiver). One thing to consider though it that steel and aluminum do not like each other in friction contact.

            This is solved in AR15 with combination of hard anodize and solid film lubricant (SFL) as it is known – sprayed right over the contact surfaces at ambient temperature.

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