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AK 47 - Rifles

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AK-47 Frequent Asked Questions

AK-47 stands for “Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947,” the Russian name of the rifle developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the Soviet Union and largely completed in the year 1947.

The “Avtomat” refers to the rifle’s capability of firing fully automatic. One trigger depress allows for continuous fire until the magazine is empty.

People often use the term AK-47 to refer to all AK-pattern rifles, but most AKs today are actually modernized versions of the AK-47. They’re referred to as AKMs. One of the biggest differences is that the receiver of an AKM is made with stamped metal as opposed to milled.

The invention of the AK-47 was attributed to Mikhail Kalashnikov, a Soviet tank commander wounded in combat during World War 2. The weapon’s design clearly borrows from the American M1 Garand and the German Sturmgewehr.

Historians differ on exactly how much of the AK design is directly attributable to Kalashnikov as opposed to his colleagues. But the gun bearing Kalashnikov’s name went on to become the most popular intermediate-caliber automatic rifle in the world, cementing his legacy in the history of firearms design.

The AK 47 was first developed and manufactured from 1946 to 1947, hence the ‘47’ in AK 47. Soviet military trialed the rifle in 1948, and the AK entered service in 1949.

Of course, when people talk about AK 47s today, most refer to AKM-47s, an updated variant introduced in 1959. Designed for efficiency, the new AKMs featured a stamped sheet metal receiver, rivets instead of welds, a new muzzle brake, gas port enhancements, barrel improvements, and other upgrades. Overall, AKMs were lighter and more reliable than their predecessor, which is why AKMs remain one of the most prolific weapons in human history.

Years later, the AK-74 introduced a 5.45x39 option to the AKM design. 5.45x39 offered a flatter trajectory and higher velocity than the AKM’s heavyweight 7.62x39 cartridge.

To this day, 5.45 remains the standard cartridge for Russian armed forces. In 1991, the Russian Army updated their rifle with the AK-74M, and in 2018, the Russian Army announced another update with the adoption of the AK-12.

Most AKs are chambered in 7.62x39, a rimless, bottlenecked cartridge developed by the Soviet Union during World War 2. The original Soviet M43 rounds use projectiles that weigh 123 grains and travel around 2,400 feet per second.

The AK-74, developed in the early 1970s, fires a 5.45×39 round. The Soviet Union developed the cartridge to compete with the NATO standard 5.56x45.

The bullet in a 5.45x39 round travels longer and faster, shoots flatter and recoils less than 7.62x39. The newer cartridge lacks the penetrating power of the original AK round. But it can be much more devastating on a living target because its higher velocity creates hydro shock wave in flesh. The bullet also fragments and rotates or “yaws” inside the target.

Some AK pattern rifles such as the IMI Galil are chambered in the popular U.S. round 5.56x45.

Over the last few years, 9mm AKs have become a lot more common. Pistol-caliber carbines from Century Arms are a popular choice among competitors and target shooters, who enjoy the reliability and simplicity of an AK with the mild recoil of a pistol cartridge.

The price of an AK 47 will vary heavily depending on the manufacturer. Like the AR15, AK prices stem from the component quality and any included enhancements.

The most popular budget-friendly AKs come from Century Arms, whose rifles cost often between $600 and $1000. They offer a wide variety of configurations and furniture setups, so you can almost always find a rifle in that price range to suit your needs.

Zastava is another manufacturer that offers quality, reliable rifles at a relatively affordable pricing. Their ZPAP M70s run between $800-1000, which is comparable to many Century rifles.

If you want a premium AK, consider shopping the Arsenal Inc. brand. Arsenal is the premier ‘premium’ AK brand in the US, and their rifles are renowned for their quality and craftsmanship. If you’re looking for the best performance, Arsenal AKs are a great place to start your search.

The AK 47’s popularity draws from its widespread usage worldwide and exposure in popular media. The Soviet Union distributed AK rifles worldwide, and it has seen usage in almost every conflict since the onset of the Cold War.

Even though popular media often depicts AKs as a quintessential ‘bad guy’ gun, American gun-owners respect the rifle’s simplicity and reliability. From desert dust to arctic frost, the AK can operate in the most demanding environments on earth—even with minimal maintenance.

Americans also appreciate the fun and affordability associated with AKs. 7.62x39 and 5.45x39 are both fun to shoot, and steel case Russian ammunition is usually quite affordable. Even in panics, the prevalence of AKs means that ammo is usually available at relatively fair prices.

If you’re only going to own one semi-automatic rifle, an AK can do just about anything. You can hunt with it, compete with it, and defend yourself with one of the most proven combat systems in the world. Combine that with the affordable pricing, and you have a rifle that has earned its popularity.

The main global manufacturer of AK rifles would be Kalashnikov Concern, but the real answer to this question is a little more complicated.

Since the end of the Soviet Union, there have been many new manufacturers of AK variants from former communist states. WASRs are Romanian, Zastava M70s are formerly a Yugoslavian design, and Arsenal’s SAM7 series is Bulgarian.

Due to import laws and the ATF’s 922r ‘Sporting Purpose’ restrictions, sourcing an original AK from overseas is very difficult—if not impossible. All the AKs you see on the market are ‘sporting’ variants or variants modified by the importer to meet the 922r limitations.

There are also a few American-Made AKs on the market nowadays, but most enthusiasts favor the proven weapon systems manufactured on original Eastern European tooling.

The front trunnion of the AK is what contains the pressure of a cartridge being fired. If you’re familiar with AR-15s, you might think of it as a barrel extension. The front trunion is a heavy steel part inside the receiver. The barrel mounts to it.

Because it’s containing the pressure of the blast, the front trunnion is an integral part of the AK that is highly subject to wear.

Forged trunnions are the highest quality trunnions. Machines hammer metal into dies to create an extremely dense and strong metal. These are the most expensive trunnions. They are common on many surplus AKs.

Billet trunnions are literally carved out of large rectangular chunks of steel using CNC machines. They are considered weaker than forged trunnions but stronger than cast trunnions.

Cast trunnions are made by pouring molten steel into a mold. They’re much less expensive than forged trunnions. They’re also significantly weaker and may be more subject to breakage.

Part of the appeal of owning an AK is the nostalgia of shooting it with the original iron sights. But you still might want to pair your Soviet-era technology with the latest developments in modern optics.

If your AK lacks a mounting surface, we can help you add one. It all depends on your optic, your rifle and your needs.

Side rail mounts are one of the most popular options. They are easy to install. Side rails attach to a riveted piece of steel on the side of the AK. They put the optic closer to the shooters face. Scope users will have an easier time finding their eye box.

Railed dust covers are mounted directly on the receiver. They replace the original dust cover. These are easy to install. Usually, no special tools required.

Railed handguards replace the standard AK handguards. These often install easily without a gun smith, although they may require minor fitting. An advantage of railed handguards is that the bottom and sides are often outfitted with Picatinny rail, MLOK or KeyMod slots. You can mount even more accessories that way.

Gas tube rails replace the normal gas tube and upper handguard on an AK. Some, like the UltiMAK M2B, have such a low profile that you can see your iron sights through a red dot mounted on the gas tube rail. That way, if your red dot goes out, you’ll always have a backup sighting system.

Gas tube rails are a bit harder to install, but provide a rock solid optics mounting system while adding very little weight to the rifle.

So you want to upgrade your AK? A wide variety of AK accessories are available from Primary Arms. Take time to find what’s right for you in the online store. Here’s just a small sample of what’s available.

You might start by adding M-LOK, KeyMod or Picatinny rail. These rail systems will add more surface area to attach accessories such as red dots, scopes, lights and lasers.

One of the advantages of the AK over the AR platform is the ease with which you can add a folding stock. Your firearm can fold up in to a more compact package for travel or to throw in a large backpack.

Adjustable gas pistons let you tune your AK's gas system for better controllability. If your rifle throws spent shell casings more than 15 feet, you might want to consider an adjustable gas system to reduce recoil, improve controllability and reduce wear and tear.

An enhanced AK safety includes a cut in the stamped steel so you can finally lock open your bolt!

A wide range of muzzle devices can help reduce recoil, muzzle flash or muzzle rise, depending on your needs. Some will come ready to attach a suppressor to your AK.

An easy-to-install match grade trigger for your AK could help you shoot better by decreasing the trigger pull weight and giving you a glass-smooth break.

A vertical forward grip on your AK's handguard will give you a solid reference point for your support hand. It might help you get a better grip of the firearm.

Generally speaking, both weapon systems are outstanding in their own respects. But the AK is by far the most widely used combat rifle worldwide. That’s in no small part because of its ease of use and low maintenance requirements.

The AK was developed after World War 2 to serve as an infantry battle rifle that straddled the gap between a small, compact submachine gun and a full power machine gun. The German Sturmgewehr no doubt served as inspiration as did America’s M1 Garand.

The AK uses a long stroke gas piston system. A small amount of gas from each cartridge you fire is sent through a hole in the barrel to a tube that contains the gas piston. The gas pushes the piston backwards. The piston is attached to the bolt. The rearward motion sends the bolt back to eject the cartridge and strip a new one off the magazine.

An AR-15 is similar, except the “piston” in this case is the actual bolt. Gases from the propellent travel into the action of the gun. That makes it dirtier than an AK. The system is not necessarily less reliable, but may require more cleaning.

AR parts are easy to swap out. Some AK parts may require custom fitment.

AKs can easily be equipped with folding stocks. ARs require an expensive adapter because important moving parts are contained within the stock.

AKs fire 7.62x39 ammunition, which is heavier to carry but has more barrier penetration capabilities than the AR’s 5.56 or .223 ammo. You can also get an AK-74, which fires 5.45x45 ammo that is more similar to 5.56. Some AK pattern rifles, like the IMI Galil, fire the 5.56/.223 rounds popular in the United States.

Milled AK receivers start as a block of steel. A receiver is machined or “milled” out of the block. Milled receivers are heavier than stamped. Fewer parts are available for milled receivers.

Stamped receivers are lighter weight and more common. A thin piece of flat steel, typically 1mm or 1.5mm thick, is pressed or “stamped” into the shape of the receiver.

Most AKs sold by Primary Arms have stamped receivers. Both milled and stamped are similar in durability and reliability. You’ll have more options for parts — generally speaking — with stamped receivers over milled.

Most AKs will have a 14X1mm LH thread pitch. Make sure whatever you buy matches the thread pitch and cartridge caliber of your weapon.

Primary Arms has a wide range of muzzle devices, including some that can accommodate suppressors.

Replacing the trigger is actually relatively easy with an AK. Primary Arms offers a range of aftermarket triggers that reduce the pull weight and help you achieve greater accuracy.

The short answer: federal law.

Technically, foreign-made AKs are prohibited from import into the United States because, according to the government, they do not fulfill a “sporting purpose.” However, an AK is considered U.S. made if it uses only 10 or fewer foreign parts.

This is known as being “922R compliant,” because a the law is contained in section of U.S. Code known as 18 USC 922(r).

If you have any questions, don't hesitate to send us a message at info@primaryarms.com or call us at 713-344-9600.



AK-47 FAQ's