Editor’s note: Edvin Lofthammer is a student as the Swedish Defense University writing a thesis on the adoption of the AK4 by the Swedish military. The following article is an interesting side note of Swedish development that did not fit into the scope of his thesis, but ought to be published nonetheless.
by Edvin Lofthammar
During the early Cold War, Sweden had a rapidly expanding military as a result of it’s neutral stance in the balance between the west and the east. In WW2, Sweden had been able to stay out of the conflict, but due to this there were some moments were they had to compromise on their hard-line neutrality in order to appease the major actors of the war. Infamously, Sweden allowed German soldiers to pass through the country via train, a number totaling around 2,140,000 soldiers between 1940 and 1943. After WW2, Sweden decided to invest large amounts of resources and money in both civilian and military defence, which formed what in Sweden is referred to as the Total Defence (Totalförsvaret). During WW2 Sweden had produced a lot of it’s own military hardware, and continued to do so into the Cold War. This included the Kulsprutepistol M/45 (known as “The Swedish K” abroad) and the Automatgevär M/42 (mostly know as the Ljungman abroad, pronounced Yung-Mann). When Sweden realized it had to update its standard issue infantry rifle in the early 60s, it was therefore only natural that a domestic design be submitted as well. This would be the AK GRAM.
The AK GRAM was an experimental gun designated as an Automatkarbin in Swedish nomenclature. This translates to Automatic Carbine, and is not synonymous with either the term Assault Rifle or Battle Rifle which are prominent in the English-speaking world. The “Automatic” in Automatic Carbine refers to it being a self-loading gun. A mainly fully automatic weapon would have the prefix “Kulsprute” (Bullet-Spewing). The Carbine part was simply because it was considered shorter than what would typically be considered a rifle. There is however some instances of Automatic Carbines being longer than Automatic Rifles. For example, the M-14 (which was also trialed by Sweden during the same time) was at this time designated an Automatic Carbine despite its total length being 1,126mm, which is longer than the German G-43 at 1115mm, which was considered an Automatic Rifle. The most accurate description of the AK GRAM in English-speaking circles would be Battle Rifle, as the gun was chambered in both 6.5 Swedish and 7.62 NATO.
The gun can trace its heritage back to the AG 42, as the AG 42 was modified to become another prototype Automatic Carbine intended for use with Swedish paratroopers. This gun first became known as the AK FM/57, and featured, among other things, a folding stock, pistol grip and removable 20 round box magazines. From this project (which never saw mass adoption) sprung the AK GRAM. It was originally designated AK m/W, named after its creator E.W. Wallberg who was an engineer at Sweden’s main firearms developer and manufacturer, Carl Gustaf Gevärsfaktori. It is however worth noting that Nils Lundin who was also an engineer at Carl Gustaf Gevärsfaktori is also credited with constructing the gun, and he has been credited with the construction of the mechanism as well. The gun would soon after the first rounds be renamed the AK GRAM. “GRAM” probably refers to the sword “Gram” which in nordic mythology was passed from Oden to Sigismund, and is most likely not an acronym.
The AK GRAM took a lot of details that were changed from the AG 42 when it was modified to become the AK FM/57, including integrating a piston in the previously direct gas impingement system for increased reliability, and it otherwise was very similar to the tilting bolt design on the AG 42. The gun was select fire, and weighed 4.35 kg (9.6lb) unloaded. The length without a flash hider (which was being designed when measurements were taken) was 1060mm, and with the folding stucked folded it was 800mm (31.5in). The barrel length was 520mm (20.5in). Rate of fire was around 650 RPM. The gun was constructed in both 6.5 Swedish and 7.62 NATO, and for the 6.5 Swedish version a curved magazine was designed.
It is more accurate to describe the AK GRAM as a distant derivative of the AG 42 more than anything else, since the gun was changed so much that it became doubtful whether or not they would be able to reuse any tooling from the AG 42. This was something that had previously been heralded as a benefit compared to the foreign designs competing with it, the main competitors being the HK G3 (which after quite a substantial amount of modification was accepted into service as the AK 4) and the FN FAL. The AK GRAM was continuously updated, but always lagged behind its competitors. In 1963 the final model was designated the AK FM/63 GRAM. This design also lagged behind the competition, and this was the point at which KATF (the Swedish ordinance department at the time) pulled the plug on the project and decided to concentrate on the G3 and FAL instead. The main issues that went unsolved throughout its lifetime was feeding and ejecting issues, something even the final version couldn’t alleviate in any acceptable amount. The gun never left the technical testing stages, and tactical testing wasn’t formally commenced.
In 1965 Sweden accepted and started to field the AK 4, and would continue to do so until it was replaced with a modified FN FNC designated the AK 5 in 1985. Sweden had a quite short timeframe of only 5 years to select and adopt its first Automatic Carbine, and this was even in the very first documents regarding the matter one of the key identifiable factors why a domestic option was dubious. KATF estimated a timeframe of 10-15 years to design an Automatic Carbine ready for mass production, which they compared to the 5-10 years required for a machinegun (kulspruta, referring to light, medium and heavy machineguns). Sweden had however managed to produce domestic designs for self-loading and fully automatic weapons before which had been quite succesful, mainly the Kulsprutepistol M/45 and the AG 42. Sweden also had a very succesful aircraft industry, which was producing cutting edge fighter jets like the J-35 Draken in a country of only 7.5 million people. Economically, Sweden was also in the middle of what is sometimes referred to as Rekordåren (the Record Years) which saw a rapid development in Swedish living standards and industry up until the oil crisis in 1973. These factors combined conceivably resulted in the will to atleast make an attempt at creating a domestic Automatic Carbine, despite the even then unsure possibilities of actually producing something usable. The projects justification in the tail end of its lifecycle was to provide Swedish engineers with valuable knowledge and experience in the construction and maintenance of Automatic Carbines. A completely Swedish Automatic Carbine, Assault Rifle or Battle Rifle design has since then not seen the light of day.
No more videos?
You can read up old articles here on Ian’s blog. Really a lot of pearls to find here. Only because he wanted to also document the mechanisms on video forgottenweapons turned into a mostly video channel, but originally it was intended as a library for documents and articles about the more esoteric well forgotten weapons and their function. So go read the articles. Also a lot of guest authors have contributed over the years as well. Also old manuals and other documents can be found here. The videos just take up most of Ian’s time nowadays, but the idea is still building a library of things firearm construction and design. Have fun, they are well written. 🙂
Ian’s working on his next book, so he doesn’t publish videos 6 days a week now. On his off days, sometimes we get guest articles. I’m sure he’d welcome a guest video if you wanted to make one.
It’s interesting that the Swedes were realistic enough to be the pessimists and say that a new rifle would take them up to 15 years to develop… You don’t run into that sort of humility very often. I don’t know whether to be impressed, or wonder why they thought the foreign weapons they were looking at had actually undergone that sort of development already… Of course, the one they eventually chose could well be said to have had development dating back to the middle years of WWII as the Gerat 06.
The Swedes have always done pretty well with small arms; very common-sensical and careful. One has to remember that they’re the ones who initially got the MAG58 off the ground as a project they wanted FN to produce. Their Mauser-pattern rifles were some of the “best of breed”, and their mods to the Mauser contributed a lot to what the Mauser 1898 became. Then, there’s the Carl Gustav, which is probably the most long-lived and useful post-WWII recoilless rifle design out there.
Gotta give the Swedes credit, and I think the Russians are going to really regret pushing them into NATO, over the long haul. There’s a lot of military skill and potential in that nation, and if I were Russian, I think I’d prefer them neutral.
The realistic timeframe combined with will to remain neutral – post WWII would in my opinion motivated the Swedes to try and build a domestic design rifle. Once standardization of calibers commenced, they probably chose to adapt an already existing weapons to their specifications rather than relive the hassle of home soil one.
Also don’t forget the Bofors 40mm AA gun which was used to great extent, and frankly might still be used.
The original 40mm AA gun with an L/60 barrel is not used much any longer, if at all. One of the last users was the USAF in the AC-130 gunships, but the latest variant (AC-130J) no longer has the 40mm guns. Reportedly the Air Force had already trouble finding new barrels for those old guns before they were retired.
The newer post-WW2 L/70 version (M1958) on the other hand is still used and can even be bought as a new naval gun or AFV based autocannon. It is used widely by many navies in patrol and missile boats, increasingly firing “smart” (Bofors 3P) ammunition. The Italian company Leonardo (formerly Oto-Melara) has also their own licensed version of the 40mm L/70 gun for naval applications. So yes, the Bofors 40mm is still around, albeit not in its original WW2 form.
The Turks are doing a good job of blocking Sweden’s entry to NATO because they won’t hand Kurds over to be murdered. Oh, and a guy burnt a koran. They might have been better advised to enforce the building code.
It’s been established that that Koran was burned by a known Russian intel asset.
I think Turkey might well find itself outside NATO if Sweden and Finland don’t wind up inside it.
“(…)The gun was constructed in both 6.5 Swedish and 7.62 NATO, and for the 6.5 Swedish version a curved magazine was designed.(…)”
What about second one. Did they used already existing magazine for 7.62×51 NATO cartridge? If yes which one?
“(…)since the gun was changed so much that it became doubtful whether or not they would be able to reuse any tooling from the AG 42(…)”
Wait… was not machinery for production of said AutomaticRifle was not already sold to Egyptians which converted it to make Hakim https://modernfirearms.net/en/military-rifles/self-loading-rifles/egypt-self-loading-rifles/hakim-eng/ ?
If I remember correctly, the Egyptian machinery was new and not the old Swedish Ljungman production line. I don’t remember where I read that, but I do recall seeing it in print somewhere.
When I arrive at forgottenweapons.com I’m getting an Online Threat notice:
Is this something I should be worried about?
It sounds to me like Sweden could have done unto its 6.5 what the US did unto the .30-06 – shortened the case and powder column and put in a lighter bullet. Thus skipping the whole 5.56 era and attaining the very sort of cartridges the US is fooling around with now (6.8 SPC, 6.5 Grendel, 6mm ARC, 6.8×51).
Small correction on my comment on Kirk.
They created a problem which wasn’t even relevant at that time(referring to the Turkish state)
Yep. Huge “own goal”.
I knew a Turk who’d been around during those days, friend of my step-dads. He specifically left Turkey during the late 1960s because of that BS, as he saw the handwriting on the wall even back then. Although, I think he expected the whole thing to cave in a lot earlier than it did… When he left, the Shah of Iran was supposedly looking at sponsoring the Kurds in order to destabilize both of his regional rivals, the Iraqis and the Turks. Which, now that I think of it, may have rebounded on him.
Frankly, if you’ve got historically “other” ethnicities inside your borders, you’d be wise to get out in front of things and ensure a working sort of federalism with them. Few are wise, however.
I’m a little curious as to what exactly were the “quite a substantial amount of modifications” to the G3?
Straight out of the AK4 entry in Wikipedia:
“The original Ak 4 model (Ak 4A) featured a buttstock that is 20 mm (0.79 in) longer. The bolt carrier had a serrated thumb groove to aid in silent bolt closure and was fitted with a heavy buffer for higher number of rounds fired before failure. The Ak 4 iron sights feature extended 200–500 metres (219–547 yd) sight adjustments in 100 metres (109 yd) increments, because the 500 metres (547 yd) hit probability met Swedish military doctrine. All Ak 4s are adapted to mount the M203 grenade launcher. Later versions have featured various new optics and adjustable stocks.”
I want to say that I’ve seen a detailed list on some Swedish website, but I’ll be damned if I can find it, now.
It’s funny but I don’t find them substantial mods. More like a slight tweaking maybe.
Well, most of the “tweaks” that the Swedes made to the developmental Mauser wound up being rolled into the 1898…
I wish I could find that list of all of them again; it was on some Swedish site and I had to translate it using Google Translate. If I remember right, there were a bunch of things like slightly different plastics used in the stock for better cold-weather durability, stronger bayonet attachment stuff, and it went on from there. Many of the mods were picked up on by the Norwegians and the Danes, as well, quite like the Mausers.
I’ve just done another search for the page I remember, and it seems to have vanished. I thought I got to it through the http://www.gotavapen.se/ site, but I can’t find the page anymore, which looked like a spreadsheet file.
Somebody really needs to put together some sort of scrapbook-like affair so that you can reference where you find stuff like this, and be able to find it again. I’ve always wanted some sort of personal information-management app that would serve that function, so even if the resource vanishes, you can pull up a copy of it again.