Reportages from the conflict in Ukraine are highlighting the use by local troops of a previously seldom seen bull-pup assault rifle: enter the Malyuk, also known as the "Vulkan", manufactured by the InterProInvest company in Kyiv
The images of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, brought by international media outlets on screens worldwide, recently had the side effect of drawing the attention of gun enthusiasts all around the world towards a seldomm seen bull-pup assault rifle used by the Ukrainian Special Forces and National Guard.
The firearm in question is the IPI "Malyuk" bull-pup assault rifle, also known as the "Vulkan", developed and manufactured by the IPI - InterProInvest company, headquartered in Kyiv. But what is it all about?
The origins of the Malyuk (or "Vulkan") assault rifle date back to the mid-1990s, when the R&D Center for precision engineering of the Ukrainian State Space Agency first introduced a prototype AK-based bull-pup weapon system dubbed the "Vepr" (no correlation with the line of shotguns and rifles of the same name manufactured in Russia by MOLOT), which should have entered service with the Ukrainian Armed Forces as a replacement for aging AK rifles starting in 2003.
Due to budgetary constraints, that never came to pass; interest in the project, from both the Ukrainian military and private investors, didn't disappear overnight however, and starting in 2005 a private company, IPI, launched a new project for an AK-based bull-pup rifle, with support from engineers formerly engaged in the development of the "Vepr".
Initially known as "Vulkan", then "Vulkan-M", the rifle would be showcased in its final and current form at the 2015 edition of the Arms and Security expo in Kyiv, with the name of Malyuk – meaning "Little kid" in Ukrainian. Today the Malyuk is used by Ukrainian Special Forces, by the Ukrainian National Guard, and is available for export to foreign governments through the State-owned SpetsTechnoExport and UkrSpetsExport corporations.
Technically the Malyuk is a bull-pup conversion of the AK platform, and as such it can be obtained either as a completely factory-new, Ukrainian-made rifle or as a conversion kit to be applied to existing Kalashnikov-type assault rifles. The conversion, however, requires extensive modifications to the original rifle, and is thus permanent and not drop-in – essentially a remanufacture.
The IPI Malyuk rifle is available in three calibers – 7.62x39mm M43, 5.45x39mm M74, and 5.56x45mm NATO – and feeds from AK47/AKM magazines, AK-74 magazines, and .223/5.56mm caliber AK100 series magazines respectively.
At the heart of each Malyuk rifle are an original AK receiver, barrel, trigger group and bolt carrier group, extensively modified and enclosed in a polymer shell with a wide trigger guard; all polymer components are hollow and cut to facilitate cooling by convection and thus allow for sustained fire.
The bolt carrier group doesn't feature an integral charging handle anymore; the Malyuk comes instead with a forward cocking handle attached to the op-rod by a sleeve, which can be installed on either the left or right side. A new push-button manual safety is provided, right above the trigger guard; the fire selector lever can either remain the same as on the original AK or be replaced with a smaller switch.
Two transfer bars connect the receiver of the Malyuk rifle to its new polymer lower receiver; one connects the trigger group directly to the new trigger, while the other connects the magazine well to a push-button located behind the trigger itself. What many, at a first glance, could mistake as a "second trigger" is actually the magazine release catch, which allows the empty magazine to drop free when pushed. Magazines are inserted in a "rock-forward" fashion rather than the standard "rock back" technique of the AK.
The ejection port on the IPI Malyuk rifle is located only on the right side, but comes with a full wraparound case deflector for left-handed operation. The new top cover features a full-length MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail for optics and flip-up iron sights, while three shorter Pic rails for accessories are bolted on to the handguard. The AK-74 type flash hider can be replaced with numerous proprietary muzzle devices, including a dedicated sound suppressor.
Described as perfectly center-balanced for superior maneuverability in close quarters combat situations, the IPI Malyuk bull-pup assault rifle stands in at 71 cm / 27.95" of overall length with a 415 mm / 16" barrel in all calibers, fires at a cyclic rate of 660 rounds per minute in full-automatic, and is also available in a select-fire designated marksman version, dubbed the Shepit, with a longer and integrally silenced barrel supported by a polymer railed cradle.
Gun enthusiasts will be pleased to know that two semi-automatic civilian versions of the Malyuk rifle also exist, dubbed respectively the "Malyuk K-01", chambered in 7,62x39mm, and the "Malyuk K-02", chambered in 5.56x45mm/.223 Remington. Reportedly, neither was available for export when the war began.
It would be interesting to see European and north American distributors import conversion kits or full Malyuk K-01 and K-02 for local civilian sales, when the war will be over – if anything, to provide a positive contribution to the reconstruction efforts of the Ukrainian economy.
The IPI Malyuk still definitely maintains some distinctive drawbacks, typical of most if not all bull-pup rifles – first and foremost, the trigger pull and length – but all reports from the field tend to suggest that the Malyuk may just be the best bull-pup of the AK platform to ever hit the global markets to date.
For those who may want to know more, the authoritative Small Arms Defense Journal published a full insight on the IPI Malyuk bull-pup assault rifle in September 2021. Of course, back in the day, nobody could have fathomed that this seldom-seen Ukrainian bull-pup design would play such a pivotal role in an unexpected war that may reshape history as we know it.