In the 1950s, the Finnish Defense Forces began searching for a game-changing assault rifle. Along the way, they adopted a variant of the AK-47, a weapon commonly associated with their neighboring country, the Soviet Union. Based on their experiences during the Winter War (1939–1940), when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, Finnish inventors created a revolutionary new type of rifle.
The Birth of the Finnish Assault Rifle
Finnish designers were inspired by the AK-47 and used a license-produced Polish model as their starting point.
They first developed the Valmet M60 design (762 Rk 60), essentially a copy of the AK-47 with minor changes to the appearance. Notably absent from this version was a trigger guard, a design feature that normally helps soldiers fire while wearing bulky winter gloves. Due to concerns over its lack of a trigger guard, the Valmet M60 was rejected after military trials in 1960.
Despite setbacks, the 762 Rk 62 eventually morphed into the M62, an upgraded version that has been an integral part of the Finnish Defense Forces. This gun, which was manufactured by Valmet and SAKO (another Finnish arms company), represented a watershed moment in Finland’s military history.
In the years that followed, the industry shifted to the improved M76 model (762 Rk 62 76), and in 1986–1987, Valmet’s gun manufacturing section was sold to SAKO, effectively ending the company’s involvement in the firearms industry.
The M62 is still used extensively by the Finnish Defense Forces today despite efforts to phase it out and improve it. Estonia became the only known organization outside of Finland to operate an M62 export operator.
Mastering Performance and Design
The M62 uses a gas-operated, selective-fire system. Its internal design is similar to that of the Kalashnikov assault rifle, but it uses a more refined gas system to lessen recoil and improve shooter control significantly. The M62 is known for its durability, dependability, and precision thanks largely to the tighter tolerances and higher requirements made possible by Finnish craftsmanship. The M62’s superiority over the AK-47 and AKM of the Soviet Union is a testament to Finland’s innovative spirit and pursuit of perfection.
Chambered for Excellence
Chambered for Soviet 7.62×39 mm ammunition, the M62 originally aligned with the Soviet Union’s munitions choice to facilitate potential use of captured ammunition during wartime.
Although the Soviet and Russian Armies shifted to the 5.45×39 mm intermediate ammunition in the mid-1970s, Finland’s strategic decision to retain the more potent 7.62×39 mm ammunition rested on logistical considerations. Notably, civilian variants of the M62 accommodated standard NATO 5.56×45 mm ammunition, broadening its utility.
Ergonomics and Functionality
The M62 features a safety and fire mode selector on the right side of the receiver, similar to that of the AK, with three settings: “safe,” “semi-auto,” and “full-auto.” When activated, the safety mechanism prevents discharging while allowing a check of the loaded status of the firearm. However, the usability of the selector has been criticized for being cumbersome.
The M62’s user-friendliness has earned it praise for its low maintenance requirements. No special equipment is needed for a quick field strip, so there’s no need to worry about losing parts as you clean.
Magazines and Attachments
The M62 can use regular Soviet 7.62 mm magazines from the AKM assault rifle and the RPK light machine gun in addition to its own 30-round steel magazines (later improved with polymer counterparts). The usual package for this firearm includes six magazine refills. The polymer foregrip improves grip and control, and the tubular steel buttstock can be used to store cleaning and maintenance equipment.
The M62 boasts diopter-type iron sights, distinct from their Soviet counterparts. Positioned on the gas block, the front sight enhances accuracy with adjustments akin to AK-type sights. While the maximum sighting range reaches 600 meters, the effective firing range hovers around 400 meters.
Versatility in Variants
Diverse variants emerged from the M62 lineage, each tailored to specific needs:
- 762 Rk 62 TP: A version featuring a side-folding buttstock.
- 762 Rk 62 PT: Notable for a perforated polymer foregrip, rounded pistol grip, and modified sights.
- Valmet M62S: A civilian semi-automatic variant, offered with a tubular steel or solid wooden buttstock.
- Valmet M71: An export version reminiscent of the Soviet AKM, complete with tubular steel or underfolding metal buttstocks.
- Valmet M71S: A civilian semi-automatic counterpart chambered for standard NATO 5.56×45 mm ammunition, available with wooden or polymer furniture.
- Valmet M76: An evolved version marked by a distinct foregrip and various enhancements, adopted as the 762 Rk 62 76 by the Finnish Defense Forces in 1976.
- SAKO M95: A further improved iteration introduced in the mid-1990s, featuring a side-folding stock, bayonet and sound suppressor compatibility, and other refinements. This version saw limited production, with around 20,000 units crafted before production ceased in 1997-1998.
- Rk 62M: An upgraded edition of the Rk 62, showcased by a telescopic M4-style buttstock and compatibility with standard Picatinny-type scope mounts alongside the existing side-mounted scope rail.
- Galil: An Israeli counterpart, inspired by the Valmet M62, chambered for NATO 5.56×45 mm ammunition. Widely adopted by the Israel Defense Forces and exported to around 30 countries.