Over the past 60-odd-years, if you needed a reliable rifle for open warfare, the AK has often been the go-to choice. Well things have changed since 1946, there’s no doubt about that, and in recognition of—errr, progress?—the Russians rebooted the line and came up with the AK12.
With its stamped sheet metal receiver, thirty round detachable magazine, brutal good looks, and undeniable effectiveness in combat situations, the AK is arguably the king of the assault rifles. More than a 100 million of these guns have been made around the world, leaving satisfied customers on almost every continent (we haven’t seen penguins with AKs yet, that’s why we say almost).
The old school AK
The thing is, even purists acknowledge the design of “the gun” is pretty darn old school. Easy to learn but tough to master, a full auto AK is unapologetically gritty with more thought put into the efficient functioning of the gun in a rain puddle than on its ease of use by the shooter. Let’s put it this way for you gearheads—while a car made in 1946 is a classic, would you want it as the car you drive everyday?
The same concept caught up to the AK47 not too long after its introduction really. It was improved as the lighter and simplified AKM in
1959. Then by 1978, the AK74 came out chambered in the smaller 5.45x39mm M74 round, replacing the old school 7.62x39mm.
Nevertheless, if you take an AK47, AKM, and AK74 and break them down, they all still use the same gas-operated action for firing and reloading built around a rotating bolt. They all have a similar layout; similar sights, the same field strip procedure, and require the same manipulation. Even the wooden stocks are nearly identical. Sure, the AKM uses a slanted muzzle break, and the AK74 is a completely different caliber with orange looking plastic magazines, but this is just nit picking.
Then in the 1990s, the Cold War ended and the AK 74 itself needed some modernization. Besides the retro look, it was the last new production combat rifle in the world that used wooden furniture. This led to the plastic stocked AK74M in 1991, which in turn was reworked and cloned as a host of export rifles. These ’100-series’ guns (the AK101, 102, et al) were produced in NATO’s 5.56mm, classic 7.62×39, as well as 5.45mm not to defend the Motherland but to sell abroad for hard cash. In their embrace of capitalism, Russians had discovered their venerable AKs would sell very, very well overseas.
This lesson led to the gun we today call the AK12…
Read the rest in my column at Guns.com