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Assault rifle

Kbk wz.88 Tantal assault rifle

The Polish Tantal assault rifle was produced in humble numbers and was used only for a couple of years

Country of origin Poland
Entered service 1990
Caliber 5.45x39 mm
Weight (unloaded) 3.4 kg
Length 942 mm
Length (with folded stock) 742 mm
Barrel length 423 mm
Muzzle velocity 890 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 600 rpm
Practical rate of fire 40 - 100 rpm
Magazine capacity 30 rounds
Sighting range 1 000 m
Range of effective fire 500 m


   The Tantal is a Polish clone of the Soviet AK-74. In the mid 1970s the Soviet Union switched from 7.62x39 mm ammunition to 5.45x39 mm round and encouraged other nations from Warsaw Pact, including Poland, to follow. Development of the new Polish assault rifle, chambered for 5.45x39 mm ammunition commenced in the late 1970s or early 1980s. First prototypes appeared in the early 1980s. The Polish weapon was intended to be a lighter and more modern version of the Soviet AK-74. The weapon was adopted by the Polish armed forces as the Kbk wz.1988 Tantal. Full-rate production commenced in 1990 and ceased in 1994. Around 25 000 of these assault rifles were produced. These numbers are humble considering the size of the Polish armed forces. In the mid 1990s Poland was moving towards joining NATO. The country needed to completely re-arm its military with new weapons, compatible with standard NATO ammunition. Eventually in 1997 a Kbs wz.1996 Beryl, which is essentially a re-chambered Tantal, was adopted as a standard-issue weapon. So the Tantal assault rifle was used only for a couple of years.

   The Tantal is a gas-operated, selective fire weapon, chambered for a Soviet 5.45x39 mm ammunition. This weapon has a more complex trigger mechanism than the Soviet AK-74, which alongside semi-auto and full-auto modes allowed for 3-round burst. However this led to a decreased reliability. It looks like this mechanism was borrowed from Romanian AIMS-74 assault rifle, which is another clone of the AK-74, and was developed during the same time frame, but appeared a couple of years earlier. Only few other AK clones have this 3-round burst capability.

   A fire mode selector is located on the right side of the receiver and is operated by the thumb. A safety switch is similar to that of the AK-74 and is located on the right side of the receiver. Overall such fire model selector and safety arrangement is more comfortable to operate that that of the AK-74. Though it is not that comfortable as that of the US M16 assault rifle. Furthermore this more complicated trigger mechanism reportedly caused frequent jamming and misfires.

   The Tantal is simple in technology. It is a rugged weapon that can withstand battlefield abuse. Also this weapon is also simple to use and to maintain. This assault rifle can be briefly field stripped for cleaning without using any tools. There is a minimum of parts. Furthermore there are no small or fiddly parts, that can be lost while cleaning the weapon.

   Despite all of its advantages, the Tantal is inferior to most Western assault rifles in terms of range, accuracy and ergonomics.

   The Tantal was originally fed from 30-round steel magazines. Though this assault rifle is sometimes seen with polymer materials.

   This Polish  assault rifle has a simple side-folding wire stock. The concept behind such stock was that the same basic weapon could be used by all kinds of forces, including infantry, airborne troops, special forces, and non-frontline troops, who typically need a more compact weapon. The stock is identical to that of the East German MPi-KMS assault rifle.

   The Tantal comes with a Bakelite foregrip. It has a slightly different shape than that of the Soviet AK-74.

   This Polish assault rifle has got a simple iron sights. Sighting range can be set from 100 to 1 000 m in 100 m increments. However the maximum range of 1 000 is too optimistic. Effective range of this weapon is limited to 500 meters. The AIMS-74 has inferior accuracy to most Western designs due to poor balance and other specific design features. Some of these Polish assault rifles have a standard Eastern block side-mounting rail for various scopes and night vision sights.

   The Tantal has a different flash hider than that of the AK-74 and can launch rifle grenades. These rifle grenades are launched using standard live ammunition and have a range of 150 to 250 meters. Grenades are effective against enemy troops, soft skin and lightly armored vehicles. The Tantal assault rifle can also mount a Polish wz.1974 or wz.96 Pallad 40 mm underbarel grenade launcher. A knife-bayonet can be also mounted.




   wz.1989 Onyks is a compact assault rifle. In concept the Onyks is similar to the Soviet AKS-74U. It was specially developed for military and police special operations units and vehicle crews. The Onyks is based on the Tantal, but has a much shorter barrel. Front sight post was relocated on the gas chamber. The rear sight post is also different. Maximum sighting range is 400 meters. Initial pre-production batch was manufactured in 1993. However it was not approved for production. Some sources report that only 200 of these compact assault rifles were ever built.

   Kbs wz.1996 Beryl is a version of the Tantal, chambered for a standard NATO 5.56x45 mm ammunition. During the mid 1990s Poland was moving towards joining NATO. The country needed to completely re-arm its military with new weapons, compatible with standard NATO ammunition. First prototypes of the Beryl were completed in 1995. It was adopted by the Polish armed forces in 1997 and became a standard-issue infantry rifle. It replaced both the PMK (license-produced version of the AK-47)(7.62x39 mm) and Tantal (5.45x39 mm) assault rifles. This weapon has some improvements over the Tantal.


Kbk wz.88 Tantal assault rifle

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Kbk wz.88 Tantal assault rifle

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