The AK 400 Assault Rifle generated massive interest among law enforcement agencies when it was first unveiled during a closed meeting organized by the Presidential Security Service of the Russian Federation at the end of 2015. A sample of this new assault rifle is currently being evaluated by potential customers, an anonymous representative of the Russian military-industrial complex told the Russian Izvestia newspaper on May 19th.
Furthermore, to weeks before the aforementioned leak to the Russian press, world-famous marksmanship instructor Larry Vickers − former member of the 1st SFOD "Delta" of the U.S. Army and currently running and hosting the Vickers Tactical video channel on YouTube − was given a chance to familiarize with the AK-400. A longtime fan of Russian firearms, Vickers currently hosts on his YouTube channel a wide selection of videos about some of the latest models offered by the Concern Kalashnikov − including the AK-9, AK-12, and AK-107 assault rifles, the SV-338 rifle, and the PL-14 pistol among others.
On May 2nd, 2016, Larry Vickers published a 2.5-minute video on his YouTube channel, discussing the features of the AK-400 and showing a shooting test.
The first conclusion that can be drawn from Vickers' videos is that the Kalashnikov rifle has been thoroughly modernized and that a "400-series" of AKM firearms could soon be coming − not limited to the AK-400 rifle but also probably including the new heavy-barrel, drum-magazine fed RPK-16 light machinegun, issued with an integral folding bipod, first glimpsed in Fall 2015 on the Russian TV program Serving the Motherland.
The AK-400 should be made available in two calibers: the relatively modern, low-impulse 5.45x39mm and the classic soviet M43 7.62x39mm. That was indeed the sample tested by Larry Vickers − sporting an overall weight of 3.1 kg, a total length of 942 mm, and offering a rate of fire ranging around 600 rounds-per-minute just like most Kalashnikov-based assault rifles.
The AK-400 was built around the AK-100 rifle series; more specifically, the AK-104 compact assault rifle was taken as a basis, extended to the typical overall size of the AK-74M, and vastly upgraded. Most noticeable is the new left-side-folding, telescopic polymer buttstock patterned after the KM-AK upgrade kit stock offered for early-model Kalashnikov assault rifles, developed by the Concern Kalashnikov of its own initiative as part of the "Obves" research and development project in accordance with terms of references provided by the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation.
The idea of a folding and adjustable buttstock for an AK-type rifle is not new by itself − similar designs have been available on the market for years now through non-Russian manufacturers such as FAB Defence, CAA, Magpul, and others − and the same goes for the new hollow, polymer pistol grip that can be used to store cleaning supplies or batteries. The creators of the AK-400 also redesigned the receiver top cover, which is now more in the style of the AKS-74U model. Being more stable and fitted with a full-length Picatinny MIL-STD-1913 rail, it can efficiently host collimators and day or night optical sights. Shorter Picatinny rails are integrated on the redesigned polymer forend, providing an installation platform for accessories such as foregrips, tactical gunlights, tactical target illumination or designation lasers, laser simulation systems (such as the MILES system), and much more.
The front sight block of the new AK-400 has been moved at about the height of the gas valve, just like on the AK-104 and on most Western assault rifles. The adjustable rear sight was replaced by a removable and adjustable open sight; the muzzle brake has also been redesigned, allowing the AK-400 to launch rifle grenades of foreign manufacturer. For the same reason, the gas system has been equipped with a two-position valve which also adds to the legendary reliability of the AKM platform by keeping the gas chamber cleaner.
The AK-400 comes with a four positions fire selector, a feature previously available only as an optional with the AK100 series: Full automatic (A), Three-rounds burst (3), semi-automatic (1) and Safety (П). Magazines for both the 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm variants are the same standard curved 30-rounds models found on the AK/AKM and AK74 series. First impressions are sketchy, but the AK-400 has so far been reported to be a solid design, taking advantage of the latest Russian and foreign improvements on the AK platform and offering excellent stability in full-auto even when chambered in the relatively high-impulse 7.62x39mm caliber.
It is noteworthy how the new AK-400 prototype was first introduced in Fall 2015, before the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation had to decide which new prototype assault rifle − the choice being between the Concern Kalashnikov's AK-12 and the Kovrov AEK-971, a.k.a. the ZID A-545/A-762 − would be adopted as the new infantry rifle component of the RATNIK combat equipment system modernization program.
Both prototypes have been recently criticized by the Russian Ministry of Defence due to their cost, which in both cases "significantly exceed the price of current service models, such as the AK-105".
Under this point of view, it's clear why the Concern Kalashnikov's management seems to be aiming at the development of a modern and inexpensive alternative that would have the potential to be adopted by the Russian Government and sold abroad both to MIL/LE and commercial/civilian customers. The AK-400 is definitely the by-product of the wave of changes that in the past two years has been revolutionizing the staffing and technological policies of the Concern Kalashnikov. that have apparently occurred at the Concern over the last two years. Most notably, the arrival of a new Chief Designer and Deputy CEO in the person of Sergei Urzhumtsev − formerly at MOLOT, a competitor known mostly for its VEPR line of hunting and tactical rifles and shotguns, very popular both in Russia and abroad − has heralded the introduction of more meaningful and practical developments.
Unlike the AK-12 and the AS-1/AS-2 specialized bull-pup prototype assault rifles − reportedly developed hastily, under the pressure of a call to "develop something new, it doesn't matter what" − the the AK-400 came into existance through a more rational evolutionary process, representing the "reincarnation" of an earlier project − the AK-200 prototype assault rifle − which at the time was pushed aside in favour of the AK-12. For this reason, the AK-400 may prove itself even more interesting than the AK-12 and the AEK-971, particularly in terms of reliability and pricing.