Valmet Weapons History
Reprinted Duncan Long’s “AK47 The Complete Kalashnikov Family of Assault Rifles” published in 1988 (before Valmet stopped making the Valmet line of rifles):
Because of pressure from the USSR following World War II, the allies required Finland to dismantle its arms industry. This ban continued until the late 1950s; at that time, Finland started work on a modified AK47. A government owned combine, Valmet, was created to do the development and production of the new rifle.
Between 1958 and 1960, a number of Kalashnikov based experimental rifles were chosen for field tests by the Finnish army; these were designated the M60 rifles. The two models differed most markedly in their triggers; one had a trigger guard and winter trigger while the other lacked a trigger guard of any sort. (Other differences were in flash hiders, bayonet mounts and etc.)
By 1962 a version of one of the rifles was adopted. Designated the Ryannakkokivaari Malli 62 (or M62), it was found in two models, the standard stock M62 and the folding stock M62T.
One of the most distinctive features of the Valmet rifles, including the M62 and all subsequent variations, is the open-ended, three prong flash suppressor with a bayonet lug on its lower side. In addition to the flash suppression, the end can quickly cut barbed wire by pushing the muzzle onto a strand of wire and firing a round - noisy but effective.
Full scale production of the M62 started in 1965; most of the work was done by Valmet, although the Finnish SAKO plant handled some of the extra capacity which Valmet couldn’t handle due to the large number of rifles needed by the military. The basic M62 military rifle was modified slightly in 1969 with flip-up luminous dot sights added for nighttime use, these in turn were replaced with tritium night sights in 1972. Other minor changes have included a better shaped pistol grip and a strengthened stock.
In 1976, the M62-76 was fielded. This stamped steel receiver rifle is similar in concept to the Soviet AKM. Three models were created: the wooden stock M62-76P, the plastic stock M62-76M, and the M62-76T with a metal tubular stock which folds to the left of the receiver. As on subsequent Valmet rifles, a sheet-metal stamping protects the magazine release from accidental engagement in heavy brush.
Several variations of the M62-76 are made for export; Valmet designates these as the M71 series. The M71 series has the sheet-metal receiver of the M62-76 rifles but slightly different furniture; the firearms are offered in both .223 Remington and 7.62x39mm. Strangely enough, the rear sight position varies on these models; on some, the sight is placed just in front and above the receiver on the barrel, while on others it is mounted at the rear of the receiver cover (which is usually fitted tightly to prevent the zero from drifting). The receiver cover mounting of the rear sight gives a much better sight picture. A semi-auto version of the M71 was developed for U.S. civilian sales; it was designated the M71S.
In 1976, the M76 family of rifles was created for the export market; the firearms are offered in both selective-fire versions (for the military buyers) and the semi-auto only (for civilian sales). The M76 rifles are offered in 5.56mm NATO/.223 Remington , Soviet 7.62x39 and .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO, and are quite similar in layout to the M71 family. A welcome change in the M76 series is the moving of the rear sight to the receiver cover on all models; this reversible rear sight gives the shooter a choice of either a peephole (for a faster sight picture) or a square notch. The M76 rifles also have a reshaped fore-end and pistol grip; these are closer to the conventional Kalashnikov shapes and are readily distinguished from the conical fore-ends and round ribbed pistol grips of the early M62-76 and the M71 firearms.
Valmet added a LMG (light machine gun), the M78, to its export offerings in 1978. In 1982, a rather futuristic bullpup design was added to the lineup as the M82, though it now appears to be discontinued. In 1983, a slightly modified version of the M78, the M78/83S, was offered as a sniper rifle (it, too, appears to be discontinued). The principle difference between this weapon and the M78 was its Dragunov-style stock.
Like the Finnish military rifles, the export models have three styles of stocks. The “T” in an M76 rifle’s designation stands for tubular stock; “F”, for folding stock; “W”, for wood stock; and “P”, for plastic stock. A version of each of the following rifles is offered in either .223 or 7.62x39mm: the M82 Bullpup rifle; the M76F, T, W and P rifles; the M78/83S sniper rifle (with scope mount and plastic stock); and the M78 LMG (more or less the Finnish equivalent of the RPK). The M78 LMG and the M78/83S are also chambered in .308 Winchester/7.76mm NATO chambering.
The M82’s bullpup design would appear to be the next stage in the development of the Kalashnikov rifles, but its poor sales would suggest that the demand for such a rifle may not be too great. Too, rumors continue to circulate about bullpups firing rounds prematurely or exploding from barrel obstructions; since the bullpup shooter’s face is very close to where the action is in such an occurrence, severe injury would likely result. These rumors may have hurt sales. No actual cases of such blowups were discovered while researching this book. The semi auto M82 bullpups seem to have their following in the United States; their design may still prove to be the wave of the future.
The M82 bullpup was created by placing a one piece plastic stock over a standard M76 rifle with an abbreviated trigger group. A rod inside the stock connects the forward trigger to the rifles trigger group. The stock is enlarged on the left side for the shooter’s cheek and the sights are canted to the left as well. This keeps the shooter’s from using a left handed hold, since the reciprocating bolt would be dangerous if held in that manner.
The 1980s also saw the introduction of the Valmet Hunter, which is a Kalashnikov rifle in hunting garb with a checkered wooden hunting stock and a wooden fore grip which encloses the gas tube and the barrel below it. Although the Hunter still has a bit of military look to it, it is a rather attractive firearm; the lower than usual barrel makes follow-up shots quicker than with most hunting rifles. The rifle is available in .243, .223 and .308 chambering, making it ideal for many hunting purposes. Limited-capacity magazines are also available for use in hunting. Like other Valmet Kalashnikov rifles, the Hunter comes with an optional ejection buffer for reloaders.
Though the field stripping of the Hunter is nearly identical to that of other Kalashnikov rifles, it is necessary to first remove the retaining screw at the rear of the receiver cover.
The choice of three different chamberings and the excellent finish of the Valmet firearms set them above the standard Kalashnikovs. The rifles are every bit as reliable as other versions of the Kalashnikov and often a bit more accurate; only the Galil rifles rival them in this area.
In 1988, the American-based arm of Valmet, Inc., was closed. Valmet rifles imported into the United States are now handled by Stoeger Industries.