Submachine guns had been Russia’s forte’ during the Second World War, when several million copies were produced of the PPSH-41 and PPS-43 variants. With millions available, tactician’s found that employment of such weapons spurred creation of a new doctrine of warfare, where firepower was favored over accuracy.
This innovation would peak with the development of the AK-47 assault rifle, which, for all but the most specialized operations, caused the phase-out of Russia’s pistol caliber automatic weapons. From then on, the assault rifle would rule Russian thinking for the future, leaving revival of any new submachine guns remote and almost in the realm of fantasy.
Interest in submachine guns waned until the early 1990s, when Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) sent out a request for a weapon specified for use by counter terrorism or law enforcement teams who needed a small, but accurate, firearm for close quarters combat. For the first time in decades, one of the requirements was that it fire a pistol cartridge.
In the arms-producing city of Izhmash, home of the AK-47, Victor Kalashnikov, son of Mikhail, led a design team to meet the requirements. This team included Alexi Dragunov, son of Evgeny, who designed the SVD sniper rifle. Beginning in 1993 and ending in 1995, they worked on a design, submitted it, and watched it compete against others for adoption. After being chosen the winner, the weapon was type-classified as the PP-19 ‘Bizon’ in 9x18mm Makarov caliber.
The Bizon featured commonality with the AK series, while incorporating a unique feed system almost unheard of in firearms. Looking at the gun externally, the roots in the AK are obvious. The left-folding metal stock is the same as the AK-74, and the sheet metal receiver is a derivative as well. A base to affix mounts for optical sights sits on the left side of the receiver, and the iron sights feature a rear notch reading 50 and 100 meters, and a round post for the front. Internally, the bolt carrier is the same, but the piston rod and rotary bolt are gone as the weapon operates by simple blowback instead of gas.
As stated, the feeding system is unique in that, instead of a box, it is a nylon tube that rides forward of the magazine release and ends under the front sight. 64 9×18 mm rounds feed nose-forward in a helix pattern, front to rear, before entering the receiver. Complex as it may seem, it cannot be loaded incorrectly, and the system is well thought-out as it eliminates the hang of a box magazine, allowing the gun to be more easily concealed.
The Bizon has a length of 26 inches with the stock unfolded, and 16.7 inches folded. It features a 7.7-inch barrel, and unloaded, it weighs 4.6 pounds. These are the primary features of the basic gun. The Russians went on to develop the Bizon further and designated the original the Bizon-1.
Next to come was the -2 model, with improved sights and a revised flash hider to accept a quick-detach suppressor. The -2 model is offered in eight variations, with calibers from 9mm (53 rd capacity), 380 ACP (64 rd. capacity), and 7.62X25mm Tokarev (standard 35 round magazine). Different barrel lengths are available as well. Those who wish for something more unusual can choose an internally suppressed 9×18 variant, if necessary.
The latest model, the Bizon -3, features perhaps the most radical modification seen, with a stock that folds over the top of the receiver and threaded barrels able to be tailored with a variety of devices for missions such as flash hiders, compensators and suppressors.
Issued to MVD forces as well as FSB Vympel and Alpha teams, the Bizon first went into combat in Chechnya during the 1990s, and has played an important though covert role in Russia’s internal conflicts ever since. With the current crisis in the Ukraine, the Bizon is sure to be staying warm either from use or from snuggling unseen in the coats of agents.