AK-203 to Replace INSAS: Russian Solution to Forces’ Rifle Woes?

India has signed a deal with Russia to manufacture 750,000 AK-203s, the latest derivative of the AK-47 rifle.

3 min read
The AK-203 assault rifle will soon be manufactured in Amethi.

India has recently signed a deal with Russian arms firm Kalashnikov to manufacture 750,000 units of AK-203, the latest derivative of the AK-47 assault rifle.

The decision comes after a string of complaints on INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles were received from ground troops deployed in combat areas across the country. India had been looking for a new rifle to replace the INSAS for almost a decade.

These assault rifles, which will soon be manufactured in Amethi after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of its production unit on Sunday, 3 March, would be given to the Indian Army’s infantry troops in a progressive manner.

After the rifles are supplied to the defence forces, they will also be rolled out to the paramilitary and state police forces, ANI reported.

The idea is to provide troops – that regularly engage with terrorists or insurgents – with the advanced rifles to counter complaints of jammed or misfiring weapons in combat operations.

AK-203 vs INSAS

A head-to-head comparison of the two rifles reveals that the AK-203 is clearly the superior choice.


Though both rifles are gas operated with a rotary bolt-locking mechanism, the AK-203 rifle scores over the INSAS as it has a folding adjustable buttstock, ergonomic pistol grip and a selector with an additional tab for the trigger finger – making it easier to hold and operate.

The (5.56 x 45 mm) INSAS can be used in a single shot and three-round burst mode. The (7.62 x 39 mm) AK-203 rifle can be used in automatic and semi-automatic mode. Both are compatible with NATO standard ammunition.


The AK-203 is lighter (almost 4 kg weight with empty magazine) and smaller (705 mm, stock-folded length) than the INSAS (4.25 kg weight without magazine, 960 mm), making it easier to carry.


Although the INSAS has a superior rate of fire (650 bullets per minute) than the 203 (600 per minute), the Kalashnikov rifle is said to have near perfect accuracy.

The 203 magazine can also carry 30 bullets as opposed to INSAS’ 20. Both have an effective range of 400 metres.



The standard issue INSAS rifle, used by the Indian military and paramilitary forces, is plagued by several operational issues regarding its durability and reliability in rough weather conditions.

Users have complained about several issues with the INSAS such as gun jamming, rifle going into automatic mode when it was set for three-round bursts and oil drips during combat, The Times of India reported.

Another shortcoming is with the INSAS magazine, which is made of a translucent UV stabilised polycarbonate resin. Although this enables the user to count the bullets remaining, it makes the magazine more susceptible to breakage.

These operational glitches have forces soldiers deployed in J&K and northeast areas to turn to the AK-47 or other imported guns.

On the other hand, the 200-series Kalashnikov rifles are said to be reliable in all weather and operational conditions, as noted in this FirstPost report.

The AK-203 has the same basic design, layout and major features as the AK-47, but features an improved ergonomic design and modern accessory interfaces.


AK series rifles are used and manufactured widely across the globe, owing to its reliability.

Consider the AK-47. Over 50 countries use the Kalashnikov rifle while over 30 countries have the licence to manufacture it, as per The Times of India report.

The AK-203, in particular, is also used by Russian special forces. The deal for the 203 was finalised last year in October, after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to India.

The INSAS, meanwhile, is used primarily by India and Bhutan, as per ‘India and the Dynamics of World Politics’, a book on Indian Foreign Policy. It also sees limited usage in Nepal and Oman.

The defence ministry has also signed a contract with American firm SIG SAUER recently for the procurement of 73,000 SIG 716-G2 assault rifles – in a deal valued at $97 million ( nearly Rs 700 crore). Deliveries are likely to take place within a year, reported PTI.

(With inputs from ANI, PTI, The Times of India, FirstPost and Kalashnikov website)

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