Russian APS Underwater Assault Rifle

Today we have a manual for the Russian APS underwater assault rifle, thanks to our friend Hrachya. The APS (Avtomat Podvodnyj Spetsialnyj) was developed in the early 1970s as a way to provide greater firepower to Russian frogmen (who had been previously armed with knives and the SPP-1M underwater pistol). It was initially used by Russian armed forces, but has also been sold on the international market since the fall of the Soviet Union.

APS Underwater Assault Rifle
APS Underwater Assault Rifle

The APS was intially based on the AK-74 rifle, but several significant changes were made. It fires a 120mm long 5.6mm dart or flechette, which is relatively stable traveling underwater – it uses a smoothbore barrel and relies on the shap of the dart for stability and accuracy. The dart is fired by a standard (although well waterproofed) cartridge case with powder and primer. The magazine shape is dictated by the long projectiles, and holds 26 rounds.

Russian APS underwater rifle - exploded view
Russian APS underwater rifle - exploded view

The rifle uses a gas piston like the AK to operate, but fires from an open bolt. This ensures that the barrel remains filled with water, which is necessary to properly stabilize the projectiles. It can be fired dry above water, but this is inaccurate and causes significant wear to the gun. The trigger mechanism has a selector for semi or full automatic fire, and a collapsing wire buttstock provides some stability.

The APS is by far the most fully developed underwater firearm in use, although it does have shortcomings. The wide magazine profile can make maneuvering in water somewhat difficult, and the sights are simple and crude.

Because of increasing water pressure, the APS perform differently at different depths. As one submerges farther, the cyclic rate of the weapon slows down and the muzzle velocity and effective range decrease. At 5m depth, the APS is considered to have an effective range of 30m, decreasing to 11m at a depth of 40m. This change in pressure also necessitates a self-adjusting gas system, to ensure that the action cycles reliably in different pressures. The notion of designing an effective underwater firearm really bring to light a number of interesting considerations not relevant on normal guns.

As I had mentioned above, we have an original Soviet manual for the APS, dated 1983. You can find it on the APS Underwater Rifle page in the Vault, or download it right here:


APS Underwater Rifle manual (Russian, 1983)
APS Underwater Rifle manual (Russian, 1983)


  1. Russians went even further and developed another underwater cartridge which fits 5.45×39’s overall length. New cartridge has a sabot steel bullet (better to say a flechette)which is seated all the way down to the primer. An assault rifle chambered in that new cartridge is called Tula KBP ADS.

  2. I would love to see info on the Tula KBP ADS. Any pictures of either of these weapons would be nice also.

    • My uncle who worked black ops has vivid memories of Soviet officers herding reluctant Russkie frogmen into battle in the sewers of Kabul in 1978 threatening them with underwater assault rifles.

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