Country of origin
Practical rate of fire
8 - 12 rpm
Range of effective fire (solid shot)
Range of effective fire (buckshot)
classified as a carbine (KS being shorthand for "Karabin Spetsialniy",
or "Special Carbine"), the unique Russian-made KS-23 shotgun was
developed primarily for the purpose of suppressing riots. Firing an
enormous 23 mm shell, comparable to in size to the old 6-gauge
shell, it is possibly the most powerful tactical shotgun in use
The origins of the KS-23 are somewhat obscure. It was
designed in 1971 by the TsNII-TochMash weapon design bureau, but
exactly how and why the design was ordered are unknown to published
sources. The weapon itself was to be manufactured using cut-down
barrels for the 23 mm 2A7 automatic cannon (used in the manufacture
ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft gun system).
Specifically, barrels were selected from the production line that
were rejected for anti-aircraft use due to design flaws, but were
still sufficiently strong for lighter projectiles and pressure
Development dragged-on throughout the 1970s, and it wasn't
until 1981 that production actually began. The shotguns were
constructed by Tulsky Oruzheiny Zavod, receiving the KS-23
designation in 1981, and they were finally formally adopted by
Soviet law enforcement forces in 1985. Production and development
continued into the late 1990s, but little else has been publicized
about the KS-23's production.
With the obvious exception of its unusual barrel and powerful
ammunition, the KS-23 is a relatively conventional shotgun. It seems
that it is based on Winchester Model 1200 pump-action shotgun design. The
stock is wooden, apparently carved from walnut, and the pump is made
of polymer, giving the weapon's construction a decidedly haphazard
appearance. The forward tubular 3-round magazine is mounted
underneath the barrel, and is fed through a loading port on the
underside of the receiver; the operator can also load a fourth round
into the chamber through the ejection port on the right side of the
receiver. Sling swivels are fitted to the magazine plug and the base
of the stock. The safety is controlled by a button, located at the
front of the trigger group. The bolt carrier is reminiscent of those
used in Eugene Stoner's assault rifle designs, with a rotary bolt
and four radial locking lugs. The trigger is single-action.
are extremely austere, consisting of a front blade and rear notch,
neither of which are adjustable. However, unusually for a weapon of
this type, the KS-23 is tapped to accept a telescopic sight; though
this would be of little use when firing buckshot, unitary
projectiles like slugs and gas cartridges are much easier to aim at
longer distances with the addition of a scope.
The KS-23 fires only proprietary ammunition, but a wide
variety of loads were developed for it. These include two different
buckshot rounds the "Shrapnel-10" and "Shrapnel-25" rounds, rated as
effective at 10 m and 25 m, respectively; presumably, they use two
different sizes of shot. Two less-lethal projectiles are available;
the "Strela-3" ("Arrow 3") cartridge, which fires a plastic bullet
for less lethal purpose, while the "Volna-R" round, which fires a
rubber baton projectile. Two tear gas rounds are available, the
"Cheremukha-7" and "Syreni-7", which hold CN and CS agents,
respectively. There is also a "Volna" round (not to be confused with
the Volna-R), which is an inert cartridge used for training and
The most infamous load for the KS-23 is the "Barrikada"
("Barricade") round, a solid steel rifled slug fired at an extremely
high muzzle velocity. This round was developed primarily for use
against soft-skin vehicles, such as cars and cargo trucks, and is
reputedly powerful enough to shatter an iron engine block at
distances of up to 100 m. The Barrikada is also effective against
personnel behind cover (or rather, what they might think will
provide them with cover), such as concrete, sandbags, and brick.
There are also two grenade launcher attachments for the
KS-23; the 36 mm Nasadka-6, and the 82 mm Nasadka-12. These are used
to launch the 36 mm "Cheremukha-6" grenade and the "Cheremukha-12"
grenade. Both of these grenades carry a tear gas warhead with CN
agent, with the
Cheremukha-6 being more effective against small groups of people
than the 23 mm gas shells, while the Cheremukha-12 can instantly
saturate a large area with gas. Both launchers require the PV-23
blank cartridge to launch their respective grenades.
The KS-23 is used by Russia, a number of other Former Soviet
Union nations, and Vietnam, but its distribution is otherwise
unclear. It is used by police and paramilitary forces throughout
Russia, notably the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It is also unclear
if the KS-23 has any military operators, but there is little doubt
that this weapon's performance makes it an attractive candidate for
use in combat operations (particularly in urban warfare). It is also
unknown exactly when or if production ended, but it continued at
least into 1998.
cost and production status of the KS-23 are effectively unknown, to
say nothing of its availability.
Original production model, as described above.
KS-23M Drozd: A "shorty" version of the KS-23, with a
detachable wire buttstock and a shorter 410 mm barrel.
Bullpup version of the KS-23, with a radically new layout, and a
5-round detachable box magazine.
TOZ-123 Drake: Civilian model of the KS-23. A civilian
version has also been manufactured, the TOZ-123 Drake, but it has
not been a commercial success due to the peculiarities of various
nations' firearms legislation. While the TOZ-123 is technically
civilian-legal in Russia, firearms ownership in that nation is
nonetheless heavily restricted and regulated, and the weapon itself
(and especially it's ammunition) is extremely expensive compared to
more conventional 12-gauge shotguns. The legal status of the TOZ-123
in the US is especially bizarre, as the TOZ-123 was for some reason
banned by name from export into the US. Moreover, while the KS-23's
design should logically make it civilian-legal in the US, the gun
laws in that nation are in disagreement as to whether the is a
shotgun or a rifle (due to the rifled bore); which is no small
rifle, as a 23 mm pump action shotgun would be completely legal,
while a 23 mm rifle would be designated as a "Destructive Device" (a
catch-all legal designation that also includes anti-tank rifles,
flamethrowers, cannons, mortars, rocket launchers, and so on ---
rifles exceeding 12.7 mm in bore, with a few exceptions such as big
game rifles, are technically "Destructive Devices" in the US).
Needless to say, the awkward and confusing legal red tape
surrounding the TOZ-123 and KS-23 has significantly harmed their
sales prospects, and made them very rare and difficult for civilians
to legally acquire. This would also explain why the KS-23 is so
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