By the early 1950s, requirements were fixed for a new general purpose machine gun (GPMG), firing 7.62x54R ammunition from belts and capable of firing from an integral bipod, an infantry tripod mount or a vehicle mount.  By 1956-7 a new design, the Nikitin general purpose machine gun became a favorite.  A batch of 500 of these weapons was ordered.  The slow production of this weapon spurred the Soviet Army General Artillery Department to order Mikhail Kalashnikov to build another machine gun to compete with the already established design.

  The weapon was officially adopted in 1961 as the PK (Pulemet Kalashnikova).  When the basic weapon was improved in 1969, it was re-designated the PKM.  The PKM  Pulemyot Kalashnikova Modernizirovanni, Russian for Kalishnikov's Machine-gun Modernized.

The PKM is a gas operated, belt fed, air cooled, automatic only, machine gun. It fires from an open bolt and has a quick detachable barrel. The gas system consists of a gas chamber with a manual gas regulator, and a long stroke gas piston located below the barrel. Locking is achieved through a rotating bolt with dual locking lugs.  The weapon uses a two-stage belt feed from steel non-disintegrating belts. Upon the opening stroke of the bolt group, a special claw-shaped ejector withdraws the cartridge back from the belt, and a spring-loaded arm then lowers it into the feed way.  Upon the closing stroke of the bolt group, the feed lug on the bolt pushes the cartridge into the chamber. Feed is from the right side only.  Spent cases are ejected to the left through a special window in the receiver that has a spring-loaded dust cover which automatically opens and closes during each reloading cycle.  Loading and ejection windows in the feed unit also have dust covers.  The feed unit cover is hinged at the front and can be lifted up for loading, unloading or inspection.  Standard belts have a capacity of 100 (for PKM) or 200 and 250 (for PKMS) rounds.  Belts are fed from special steel ammunition box.  The 100-round box magazine can be clamped under the receiver of the PKM for better mobility.

The PKM is fitted with a skeleton wood butt stock fitted with a hinged butt plate, and a wood or plastic pistol grip.  The rear part of the butt stock houses an accessory / cleaning kit while a disassembled cleaning rod is stored in the right leg of the bipod.  A folding bipod is fitted to the gas tube below the barrel.  Each PKM has a mounting interface which allows it to be placed into the cradle of a universal tripod, designed by Samozhenkov, converting it into a PKMS medium machine gun.  This tripod has traverse and elevation mechanisms, and has an adapter for anti-aircraft use.  Standard sights are of the open type, with a hooded post front and tangent-type rear sight, marked for ranges of up to 1500 metres and with a windage adjustment mechanism.  The PKM was available in four versions:

  • PKM LMG (mounted on an integral bipod)
  • PKMS MMG (mounted on a universal tripod)
  • PKMT (mounted on a tank as a coaxial gun with electric trigger and other necessary changes)
  • PKMB (mounted on an armored personnel carrier version with appropriate mountings)
  • Copies of the PKM machine gun are still being manufactured in Bulgaria, China, Iran, Poland, Serbia (former Yugoslavia), either to chamber the in original Soviet 7,62x54R cartridge, or in 7,62 x 51 NATO cartridge.  This weapon is found in all the East Bloc countries including Africa, Southern Africa, South America and Asia.
  • Weight: 7.5 kg (16.53 lbs)
  • Length: 119.2 cm (47.4 inches)
  • Barrel Length: 64.5 cm (25.4 inches)
  • Cartridge: 7.62 x 54mm R
  • Action: Gas operated; open bolt
  • Rate of Fire: 650 rounds/minute
  • Muzzle Velocity: 825 m/s
  • Effective Range: 100- 1,500 sight adjustments
  • Feed System: Belts in 100, 200, or 250 round boxes
  • Sights: Open sights