The conflict in Ukraine is rapidly becoming a showcase of sorts for foreign infantry weapons, especially various shoulder-fired anti-aircraft and anti-armor systems, as you can read more about here. Subsequent discussions about these military aid shipments have largely overshadowed Ukrainian forces' use of domestically developed weapons, many of which are relatively obscure outside of the country. This includes a rifle known commonly as the Malyuk, a so-called "bullpup" design that is being heavily used by Ukrainian special operations forces units, among others.
Malyuk, a Ukrainian word that is translated as "baby" or "youngster" in English, is actually the name given a prototype of this gun, which a company called InterProInvest (IPI) first unveiled in 2015. The company currently markets this assault rifle as the Vulcan or Vulcan-M, but it is still regularly referred to by its original nickname.
#Ukraine: Ukrainian Forces (Likely today) captured a Russian Army BTR-80.— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 2, 2022
One dead soldier can be seen in the images. Possible judging by the Malyuk that these are Ukrainian SOF. pic.twitter.com/XXpNyRpDZJ
The Mayluk is not an entirely new design. It is effectively a standard AK-series rifle repackaged inside a new chassis that produces a weapon that has a 16.3-inch barrel, is around 28 inches overall, and weighs just under 8.4 pounds empty. Like the AK-pattern rifles they are based on, versions are available chambered to fire Soviet-designed 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm ammunition, as well as the NATO standard 5.56x45mm, and they can use any appropriate existing AK magazines. The top of the receiver has a length of U.S.-standard Picatinny rail that allows for the attachment of various optics and there is another one under the forend for vertical grips and other accessories. There are other attachment points on the sides for lasers and lights, and IPI offers a proprietary sound suppressor for these guns.
İmha edilmiş Rus zırhlı aracı ile poz veren Ukrayna Özel Kuvvetleri personeli.Elindeki tüfeği IWI Tavor TAR-21 ile karıştırmamak gerek.Fotoğraftaki silah IPI Malyuk. pic.twitter.com/yqhubwlUSU— Kürşad Berke Güneş (@kursadberke) March 5, 2022
U některých ukrajinských jednotek (SOF) lze vidět zajímavou věc: Малюк/Malyuk.— Jaroslav ☢️Duke Cum☢️ Cerman (@analnirodeo) March 4, 2022
Zní to neuvěřitelně, ale je to klasické AKM. Hlaveň, spoušťový mechanismus a systém závěru jsou původní, jde o polymerovou konverzi, která měla modernizovat zásoby AKM ze sovětské éry. pic.twitter.com/ygogXYL6Ru
The bigger thing about Mayluk's design is that it has a bullpup configuration, wherein the core of the main operating mechanism, along with the magazine that feeds ammunition into it, is positioned behind the pistol grip. Most modern military rifles that feed from detachable magazines put all of that in front of the pistol grip.
Ukraine SOF with his IPI Malyuk w/ Aimpoint Red Dot and a Vertical Grip. pic.twitter.com/e7XIW8jSPN— C Squadron (@c_squadron) March 6, 2022
The main idea behind the bullpup configuration is reducing overall length, making the gun handier in confined spaces, without necessarily sacrificing barrel length. A shorter barrel typically translates to poorer ballistics and lower accuracy since the bullet has less time to build up speed and stabilize itself before flying out of the muzzle.
IPI says that its new 'chassis,' which makes heavy use of polymer material, is also specially designed to ensure that heat radiating from the barrel after firing is sufficiently dissipated. The bullpup configuration means that most of the barrel, which gets hotter as the gun is fired, is right in the center of the weapon.
At the same time, a bullpup design introduces new complexities that can impact performance, mostly due to the need to link the forward-mounted trigger to the action at the rear of gun via some sort of extended mechanical link, and user flexibility. In the latter case, the main issue is that a typical modern rifle ejects spent cartridge cases to one side, generally to right the since most shooters are right-handed. This isn't necessarily a problem for left-handed shooters or individuals switching from their right hand to the left due to operational circumstances, such as a need to fire around a corner, when using a non-bullpup design.
A bullpup, like Malyuk, that doesn't have some kind of specialized ejection mechanism is very likely to spit hot cases right into the face of a user who tries to shoot it from their left shoulder. IPI does say the Malyuk can be configured to eject from the left side, if desired, but this is not a change that it appears possible to make readily in the field and is certainly not one that can be made on the fly.
Debates have raged for years in professional and casual shooting circles about the pros and cons of bullpups. A relatively small number of world militaries have ever actually made guns in this configuration their standard infantry rifle and elite units in some of those countries have still eschewed those guns. Some nations have since reverted back to more conventional designs entirely. For Ukraine, though the country's authorities announced in 2016 that the Malyuk had passed state trials, its use by branches of the military and other government security forces remains limited.