The AN-94 (Russian: 5,45-мм автомат Никонова обр. 1994 г. / АН-94 «Абака́н», GRAU designation 6P33) is an assault rifle of Russian origin. The initials stand for Avtomat Nikonova model of 1994, after its chief designer Gennadiy Nikonov who previously worked on the Nikonov machine gun.
The AN-94 was designed as a potential replacement to the AK-74 series of rifles currently in service with Russian Armed Forces. Due to complex design and expense, its adoption has been very slow and it is in limited use, and it most likely will never become general issue. As of March 2013, the AK-74M is still the general issue rifle used by the Russian Armed Forces, with the AN-94 being discontinued in 2006.
The stated great advantage of the AN-94 system is its ability to delay the recoil force until the fired round/s have left the barrel. This, it is claimed, enables more 'hits' on target under the most adverse combat conditions. The AN-94 offers a unique two-shot burst function at a stated 1800 rounds per minute rate of fire. The Nikonov mechanism fires the second shot in the burst quickly enough to allow it to escape before the recoil of the first shot is felt, thus potentially allowing the two shots to hit extremely close together, for example to aid in piercing body armor.
The most conspicuous identifying feature of the AN-94 is its magazine which is canted several degrees to the right of center (when viewed from a firing position). This design feature is necessary to accommodate the unique ammunition feed mechanism. The AN-94 is chambered in the same 5.45×39mm M74 cartridge as the AK-74, and it utilizes a rotating bolt to lock the action. Gennadiy Nikonov and his engineers used the Russian term смещенный импульс свободного затвора (smeshchonnyy impuls svobodnovo zatvora) to describe the rifle's method of operation, meaning "blowback shifted pulse."
When a round is fired, residual energy from the propellant charge in the cartridge acts upon the safely locked breech and bolt carrier. Simultaneously, a quantity of powder gases driving the bullet through the barrel is tapped and acts upon the piston in the gas tube located above and parallel to the barrel. The movement of the piston and its connecting rod acts upon the locking bolt, causing it to rotate and allow the breech to safely open. This initiates the extraction and ejection cycle for the spent round of ammunition.