It’s been said that the best protection against sharks is a good dive knife – you can always stab your buddy and let him deal with the shark while making a clean getaway.

Those interested in taking it to the next level may consider a Russian or Chinese-made underwater rifle. But you’re not likely to find either of them on the shelves at your local dive shop.

In the mid-20th century, the increasing threat of attacks by frogmen in naval bases caused various anti-frogman techniques to be developed. At first these guard frogmen were armed only with knives and AK-type rifles.

The AK-47 was carried in a waterproof case and could only be used on the surface, so the only effective underwater weapon against enemy frogmen was the knife. The SPP-1 underwater pistol was accepted in 1971, but soon proved to be useful for close-up self-defense rather than in attacking more distant targets. Vladimir Simonov undertook the job of developing an underwater assault rifle. To allow the rifle’s mechanism to work underwater, there had to be room for the flow of the water pushed aside by moving parts and by the gas produced by the propellant explosive in the cartridge. He further developed on this concept and the APS rifle was accepted for use in the mid-1970s.

The APS fires a steel bolt calibre 5.66 mm and 120 mm (4.75 in) long, with a magazine capacity of 26 cartridges. The APS’s barrel is not rifled – the fired projectile is kept in line by hydrodynamic effects. As a result, it has a much greater lethal range under water than conventional projectiles. Out of water the APS can shoot, but its effective range does not exceed 50 metres, and the rifle’s lifetime drops to 180 shots in air from 2,000 shots underwater.

The Chinese QBS-06

The Chinese-made QBS-06 underwater assault rifle is patterned after older Soviet APS underwater assault rifle and used by Chinese frogmen (combat divers of Chinese Navy). The QBS-06 underwater assault rifle uses specially developed 5.8mm DBS-06 ammunition, which is built using lacquered steel cases of the PLA’s general issue 5.8×42 ammunition, loaded with long, needle-like projectiles intended for submersible use. These hydrodynamically stabilized projectiles have no stabilization when fired above the water (in the air).

The QBS-06 underwater assault rifle is gas operated, rotary bolt weapon. It’s fed using specially developed detachable plastic magazines with 25-round capacity. The rifle is equipped with simple fixed iron sights and retractable shoulder stock, made of steel wire.The pistol grip and forend is made from plastic. The magazine has a capacity of 25 rounds.

Image courtesy xilu.com

Image courtesy xilu.com

The QBS-06 is similar to the APS, but clearly not a direct clone. Unlike the APS, it uses water-sealed 5.8x42mm cartridge cases, but loaded with similar over-long fin-stabilized projectiles. The middle projectile is made of steel, while the projectile on the right is made of much denser and heavier tungsten.


The QBS-06, like the APS, features a very open receiver architecture, as it operates in an environment where debris cannot be adequately kept out of the rifle, and where drainage is a priority.

Of course, the Russsians have since countered, showing off their next generation underwater assault rifle at the Interpolitex-2013 arms show in Moscow in 2013. Here’s a look:

Of course, these are the weapons that are known publicly – you never know what else is being used by their respective militaries. Regardless, none of these items will likely ever be available at a dive shop near you!