FB Radom: Poland’s Military Arsenal

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The first factory to make an AK outside of Russia, FB Radom is still arming soldiers and civilians in Poland and abroad nearly seventy years later.

 

Current FB Radom AK Imports:

  • Beryl M1 223 S (.223/5.56)
  • Beryl M1 762 S (7.62×39)
  • Mini Beryl Pistol (.223/5.56)

Following WWI, the freshly formed Republic of Poland needed arms. They began construction on a new factory and by the late 1920s the Fabryka Broni plant had begun production. Built in Radom, Poland, it’s commonly called FB Radom and has been producing arms ever since. Like the nation of Poland itself, FB Radom has gone through several changes in management over the years, but regardless of the flag flying outside their walls or the official name on their letterhead, the quality of their arms remained superb.

FB Radom may no longer make sewing machines or typewriters, but their AKs are as good as ever and are one of the few remaining foreign-made Kalashnikovs being imported into the United States.

FB Beryl S 223

History Of AK Production At FB Radom

During the Nazi occupation of Poland in WWII, FB Radom was used to produce Mauser rifles and Vis pistols for the Wehrmacht. Management changed yet again when the Soviets ousted the Germans and absorbed FB Radom into their own logistical supply train, giving the factory its other name you may have heard—”Circle 11″ (⑪). This is when FB Radom first began production of Soviet-designed arms, initially consisting of Mosin-Nagants, TTs and other Soviet WWII weaponry.

In 1957, the first AK rifles to be built outside of Russia rolled off the line at FB, marking a new era for the global proliferation of the Kalashnikov. In Polish designation these were known as the pm K and the pm KS, the fixed and folding-stock variants of the Russian milled AK-47 and AKS-47, respectively. Early FB Radom AKs are nearly indistinguishable from Russian-made ones at a glance, but as time moved forward the two nations’ AK designs grew increasingly different.

Polish pm K.
Polish pm K. Nearly identical to the Russian Type 3 milled AK-47. Photo:Gunbroker User: AK Parts Guy

In the early 1980s, after Poland and the USSR’s relationship had continued to sour, Poland began experimenting with a new AK-based weapon system that they called the Kbk wz. 88 Tantal.

Tantal with Palad
wz. 88 Tantal in 5.45 with Pallad grenade launcher. Photo:Wikipedia

Recognizing the benefits of using lighter, higher velocity cartridges, the wz. 88 Tantal was chambered in 5.45x39mm, the caliber of the Russian AK-74. Relatively few Tantals were ever built by FB Radom, but they served as the foundation for Poland’s current service rifle. When armies choose which weapons and ammo types to procure, the decision is as rooted in logistics as it is in ballistics. So, as Poland began to drift politically closer to NATO than the USSR, they switched their new AK-development efforts away from 5.45 and towards 5.56.

That new 5.56 AK was adopted as Poland’s standard service rifle in 1997 and was known as the wz. 96 Beryl. “Beryl” is pronounced the same as the first part of the word “beryllium”, as Polish military projects are typically codenamed after chemical elements.

There are several small design details that are unique to the Beryl, but at its heart, it’s just an AK chambered in 5.56 NATO.

FB Beryl 556
Early wz. 96 Beryl in 5.56. Photo:Wikipedia

Beryls In Military Service

Since their adoption in 1997, the wz. 96 Beryl has been Poland’s standard issue rifle and has seen service alongside NATO coalition forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They were generally well-liked by the soldiers who used them and were appreciated for combining the reliability of a Kalashnikov with more modern optics and accessory-mounting options.

The standard rifle version has a slightly longer barrel than your typical AKM at 18 inches, lengthened to improve the performance of the velocity-dependent 5.56 cartridge. While these are the most commonly issued variant, another version is made by FB Radom as well.

The Mini Beryl, also chambered in 5.56 but with a barrel length of only 9.3 inches, was developed with special forces and vehicle crews in mind. This model has also been deployed with Polish coalition forces in the Middle East.

Mini Beryl
Polish soldier with Mini Beryl during a training exercise. Notice the blank-adaptor muzzle device. Photo: Polish Ministry of National Defense.

Besides the Polish military, the other largest group to use Beryl-type AKs is Nigeria. These are nearly identical to the Polish-issued Beryls except that they are chambered for 7.62×39 due to the abundance of that round-type in Africa. The rifles were shipped with new production magazines, but they are compatible with any of the millions of surplus 7.62 AK mags that litter the continent. The Nigerian army has put their 7.62 Beryls to use in the fight against Boko Haram.

Nigerians with 7.62 Beryls
Nigerian soldiers with 7.62×39 Beryl rifles. Photo:Defense News Nigeria on Twitter

FB Radom is one of the most reputable AK-producing factories in the world, not only because of their long history of manufacturing Kalashnikovs, but also because their AKs are still trusted for military service today. Semi-auto, civilian versions of the Beryl, Mini Beryl and 7.62 Beryl are currently being imported into the United States, but are they worth looking at? FB’s reputation for quality also comes at a price, Beryl AKs are some of the most expensive AKs on the market, and they import them in very low quantities to boot.

FB Radom AKs offer more modern features right out of the box than most other AKs do, and their manufacturing quality is on par with any other longstanding military arsenal, but their high price and low availability turn many people away from them. They also don’t have the classic AK look that so many Americans want with their Kalashnikov. FB’s guns probably aren’t good starter AKs for people looking to get into the platform, but for those looking for a very functional, modern military rifle, any of the three available Beryls will do you right.

For more information on FB Radom, please visit fabrykabroni.pl.


Other AK Manufacturers To Consider


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