Amidst the shadows of geopolitical intrigue and covert operations, a foreign private military group stepped out of the shadows; a group known as the Wagner Group.
Wrapped in secrecy and alliances blurring the line between state and hired guns, the Wagner Group has made its mark on the global stage of conflict.
In the world of covert warfare, the Wagner Group is more than just another PMC (Private Military Company); it’s a symbol of shady covert tactics and powerful weaponry.
This article uncovers some of the small arms and gear that have accompanied them on their global operations.
Get ready to explore the dark corridors of modern warfare, where state interests converge with covert agendas, all under the banner of the Wagner Group.
History of The Wagner Group
The Wagner Group is a Russian mercenary group that has conducted military operations globally on behalf of the Russian government.
Its origins trace back to around 2013-2014, initially emerging during the Russian annexation of Crimea. It was founded by Dmitry Utkin, a former Russian officer, and financier Yevgeny Prigozhin. Wagner’s members were often drawn from Russia’s elite regiments and special forces.
The group’s involvement extended to conflicts such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the war in Syria. While the exact number of members varied, it was estimated to number about 5,000 at one point.
Notably, the group has been known for its controversial and secretive nature, often raising questions about its relationship with the Russian government and Vladimir Putin.
Over time, leadership and composition changes within the group, including instances of internal conflicts and shifts in allegiances, have contributed to its evolving history.
Information about their equipment and weaponry can be limited and secretive due to the nature of their operations.
However, the Wagner Group has been observed using a wide range of weaponry, aircraft, and vehicles commonly employed by military and paramilitary forces. These could include:
- Small Arms: Such as assault rifles (AK-47, AK-74), sniper rifles (SVD Dragunov), machine guns (PKM, RPK), and handguns (Makarov, Glock).
- Heavy Weapons: This may encompass rocket-propelled grenades (RPG-7), anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and mortars.
- Armored Vehicles: Reports have mentioned the use of armored vehicles like the BRDM-2 reconnaissance vehicle and various types of armored personnel carriers (APCs).
- Artillery: The group might utilize towed or self-propelled artillery units, similar to howitzers.
- Aircraft and Drones: There have been allegations of the Wagner Group operating manned and unmanned aircraft for reconnaissance and possibly assassination purposes. Over 2,500 DJI Mavic2 drones were sent from Beijing to Moscow, according to a report by Britain’s Daily Mirror. Contrary to previous statements, there are allegations that China is supporting Russia with military assistance in its operations in Ukraine. These AI-guided drones can create a swarm network for designated missions and have the capability to carry explosive payloads, presenting potential risks to both civilian and military assets.
- Vehicles: Aside from armored vehicles, they might also use up-armored civilian vehicles with various heavy weapon mounts. (similar to the technicals seen in Afghanistan and Iraq)
- Logistical Equipment: This could include the transportation, supply chains, and coordination needed to transport gear necessary for sustained operations.
Although they seem to have all the weaponry we would see in a typical military unit, we’d like to drill down on the small arms and gear that the Wagner Group members use on a regular basis.
Weapons and Gear of the Wagner Group
Not much is really known about the exact weapons they use due to the clandestine nature of their work. But, due to photos emerging of Wagner Group militants in various parts of the world, we’re able to more or less get a glimpse into what they are using.
- Assault Rifles: AK-47, AK-74, and variants
- Sniper Rifles: SVD Dragunov, various designated marksman rifles
- Machine Guns: PKM, RPK
- Handguns: Makarov 9×18 and Yarygin MP-443 Grach
The Wagner Group’s selection of AKM and AK-74 rifles as their battle rifles is likely attributed to the rifles’ renowned reliability and versatility.
The AKM is an upgraded version of the original AK-47 rifle. Known for its ruggedness and simplicity, the AKM’s design allows it to function effectively in various conditions, making it suitable for paramilitary operations.
Its 7.62x39mm cartridge provides sufficient stopping power, and its easy maintenance suits the Wagner Group’s potential need to operate in resource-constrained environments.
A few Wagner Group AKMs have been seen suppressed with the Russian PBS-1 Suppressor.
Designed for the AKM series of rifles and chambered in 7.62x39mm, the PBS-1 suppressor offers significant sound reduction without sacrificing the rifle’s reliability.
The Wagner Group’s choice of the PBS-1 suppressor aligns with their paramilitary activities, where maintaining a low profile and minimizing noise signature is crucial.
By equipping their AKMs with suppressors like the PBS-1, the Wagner Group can operate more discreetly, reducing the risk of detection during covert operations, ambushes, or other tactical exercises.
The AK-74, chambered in 5.45x39mm, offers a more modern variant with reduced recoil and increased accuracy compared to its predecessor. The use of a smaller cartridge allows soldiers to carry more ammunition, enhancing their operational endurance.
The AK-74’s design evolution aligns with the Wagner Group’s potential preference for updated weaponry.
Both rifles have seen extensive global use, making ammunition and spare parts more accessible.
This, coupled with their proven track record in combat situations, makes the AKM and AK-74 logical choices for a paramilitary group like the Wagner Group, which may engage in diverse and dynamic conflict scenarios.
Want to add an AK-74 to your personal collection? Guns.com has a few for sale.
The SVD Dragunov, a Soviet-designed semi-automatic sniper rifle, was likely chosen by the Wagner Group due to its historical reliability and effectiveness.
With origins dating back to the late 1950s, the SVD offers a balance of accuracy and rapid follow-up shots through its semi-automatic action. This feature suits the dynamic nature of modern conflicts, allowing snipers to engage targets quickly and maintain situational awareness. Its 7.62x54mmR cartridge provides good stopping power and range.
While the SVD Dragunov may not be the most modern option available, its proven performance and rugged design make it suitable for various combat environments. The Wagner Group’s involvement in conflicts across different regions could necessitate a weapon with wide adaptability.
Despite its aging design, the SVD remains a viable choice for designated marksmen and snipers, aligning with the Wagner Group’s operational needs.
The Wagner Group’s adoption of the RPK-74 and PKM machine guns is likely based on their effectiveness, firepower, and adaptability in various combat environments.
The RPK-74 is a light machine gun chambered in 5.45x39mm, sharing ammunition with the AK-74 rifles. This commonality simplifies logistics and ammunition supply for the Wagner Group. The RPK-74’s intermediate cartridge balances controllable recoil with increased effective range compared to larger caliber machine guns.
Its bipod and extended barrel enhance accuracy during sustained fire, making it suitable for both suppressing enemy positions and providing supporting fire for maneuvering units.
The PKM is a general-purpose machine gun chambered in 7.62x54mmR. Renowned for its reliability and firepower, the PKM offers a higher caliber round that delivers greater stopping power at the cost of increased recoil.
The weapon’s design allows for accurate fire at longer ranges, making it effective in engaging both enemy personnel and light vehicles. The PKM’s versatility, from sustained fire roles to mobile engagements, aligns with the Wagner Group’s operational diversity.
Both machine guns are widely used and recognized, ensuring the availability of ammunition and spare parts in conflict zones.
Their combination of firepower, portability, and adaptability to different combat scenarios makes the RPK-74 and PKM logical choices for the Wagner Group, which may require effective suppression and support capabilities in its operations.
The Wagner Group’s potential use of the Makarov pistol and Yarygin pistol as sidearms could be attributed to their reliability, compactness, and familiarity. Most of Wanger Group’s ranks come from Russian Special Forces where they get extensive use on both platforms. It only makes sense that they would use them.
The Makarov pistol, chambered in 9x18mm, is a Soviet-era design known for its simplicity and durability. Its compact size makes it easy to carry, and its design ensures functionality even in adverse conditions.
The Makarov’s widespread use across various armed forces and paramilitary groups means that ammunition and spare parts are widely available, which is crucial for a group like the Wagner Group operating in diverse regions.
Guns.com has a few Makarov pistols for sale for ~$598.99.
The Yarygin pistol, formally known as the MP-443 Grach, is a modern Russian handgun designed for law enforcement and military use. Available in various calibers, including 9x19mm, it offers enhanced ergonomics and a higher magazine capacity compared to the Makarov.
The Yarygin’s modern design features, ambidextrous controls, and accessory rail make it a versatile choice for operatives who might need to carry concealed on low-vis operations or on a battle belt in overt tactical engagements.
Both pistols share a reputation for reliability, critical for a sidearm in combat scenarios. The choice between the Makarov and Yarygin might depend on the Wagner Group’s preference for modern features, ammunition compatibility, and the specific operational context.
According to an officer in the Russian Military, the Spetznaz SSO (Special Operation Forces) have Glock 17s in their inventory.
The Russian Spetsnaz SSO (Special Operations Forces) is a specialized branch of the Russian military focused on conducting high-level covert operations, counter-terrorism activities, and unconventional warfare.
Established in 2013, the Spetsnaz SSO brings together personnel from various branches of the Russian armed forces, including ground forces, navy, and airborne troops.
Identifying what body armor the Wagner Group is using is pretty difficult, but we were able to nail down the body armor that the Russian Spetznaz and FSB teams use; Fort Defender-1 and Defender-2 body armor (The FORT Defender-2 body armor, sometimes shortened to D2, is a heavy armor vest of Russian origin).
And since many of the ranks within Wagner come from these units, it’s highly likely that they use the D2 body armor.
In the following video, we see Wagner Group members testing their rifles against Ukrainian body armor. They are dumbfounded by how well it performs.
What’s Next For The Wagner Group
Following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s (Wagner Group Leader) reported death, the future of the Wagner Group, a private military company, remains uncertain.
Prigozhin transformed the group from mercenaries into a formidable military force. Speculation surrounds who will succeed his leadership. There’s a possibility that someone with ties to Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, might assume control.
While Prigozhin’s death marks a significant development, the group’s activities and role in international conflicts will likely continue, albeit potentially with leadership changes and strategic adjustments.
The Wagner Group’s next steps will depend on internal dynamics and more importantly, what Putin wants to do.
For more information on what’s next for the Wagner Group, check out this article from ForeignPolicy.com.
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