The Firearm Blog recently posted an interesting article about an unusual anti-materiel rifle in use with forces affiliated with the Free Syrian Army. ARES has now identified this weapon. The rifle is indeed chambered in 14.5 × 114 mm, but has not been craft-produced and is not, as has been speculated, blowback operated. It is actually a modified, Soviet-era design 2X35 sub-calibre training device produced by the Russian Degtyarev Plant, designed to be fitted into the main gun of a main battle tank such as the T-72. This weapon is designed to fire on a similar trajectory to the main gun to offer a safer and more cost-effective alternative to training tank crews.
The purpose of the gun explains the ‘slimline’ design and the large circular features on the receiver and barrel, intended to centre the weapon within the breech and bore of the tank gun. The weapon’s gas tube is mounted on the right side and is not visible in the media shared by TFB. As seen in the video, it fires from an open bolt. The feed mechanism is part of the design and has not been fabricated or modified. The only changes made are to the scope and mount, lever-actuated firing mechanism (replacing the intended solenoid-based system), the added flash-suppressor, optional PK butt-stock, and of course the adapted tripod.
Figure 1.2 Patent diagram, showing 2X35 sub-calibre training centred in a notional gun barrel (source: patent).
The same weapon was observed in use in the Ukraine conflict in 2016, pressed into service in a slightly different configuration with a substantial suppressor (see below). Whilst it is encouraging to see more coverage of unusual firearms in conflict zones by firearms news websites, it is important such firearms are correctly identified by trained specialists.
Figure 1.3 2X35 sub-calibre training device re-purposed as an anti-materiel rifle or large-calibre sniper rifle in Ukraine (source: Ukrainian NSAG media).
Overall length: 1,660 mm
Height: 350 mm
Width: 175 mm
Total weight: 29 kg
Magazine capacity: 6 rounds
Maximum rate of fire: 10 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity: 980 m/s
Figure 1.4 2X35 sub-calibre training device (source: V.A. Degtyarev Plant).
Remember, all arms and munitions are dangerous. Treat all firearms as if they are loaded, and all munitions as if they are live, until you have personally confirmed otherwise. If you do not have specialist knowledge, never assume that arms or munitions are safe to handle until they have been inspected by a subject matter specialist. You should not approach, handle, move, operate, or modify arms and munitions unless explicitly trained to do so. If you encounter any unexploded ordnance (UXO) or explosive remnants of war (ERW), always remember the ‘ARMS’ acronym:
AVOID the area
RECORD all relevant information
MARK the area from a safe distance to warn others
SEEK assistance from the relevant authorities