Is a Russian SF AK really an AK?

I will admit, the title of this post is somewhat provocative. But I think it’s an important question to ask if you are looking at getting into the AK game. Especially here in the US. Let me explain.

The gun community has a bad habit. It will sometimes use two different terms interchangeably that aren’t so: A perfect example of this phenomena is the use of the 1911 and 45 interchangeably. They aren’t. The next time you see someone arguing about what the next US Military service pistol should be, especially if someone is advocating for a return to a 45, are they actually talking about the 45ACP or a 1911 pattern pistol? It’s an important distinction.

The AK is no different. First of all, let me be intellectually honest. When it comes to Russian military units, an AK rifle is whatever they say it is. 5.45, 7.62, AK-47,AK-74, Ak-12. But is that true in the United States? I would say no.

Here, the AK rifle tends to be mostly a stripped down, bare-bones 7.62×39 caliber rifle. And sometimes a 5.45. In the US, it is becoming more and more common to see AK’s in NATO standard 5.56. Is a 5.56 AK actually an AK? Many of the purists here in the US would say no. But I wonder if those same purists would argue that a 7.62×39 AR isn’t an AR? Well then, how about a 6.8 AR? Or a 308 AR? Or a 9mm AR? Or a 300 Blackout AR? Are they AR’s or not? Only you can decide that. Let’s put that aside for a minute.

Upgraded modern Russian Style AK

Upgraded modern Russian Style AK. There seems to be more US than Russian equipment on it.

Back to the Russian, high-speed, low-drag, Tier 1, Ninjinski rifle that was captured in Syria. It’s got AR furniture, A US Made Top-Cover, almost 2 feet of rails, suppressor, American made and upgraded safety. And that is just this individual rifle. If you look at other Russian AK rifles from various SF units, you will see Aim-Point and EOTech RDS, white lights, visual or IR lasers, tape-switches, (BUIS) backup iron sights, and almost every one of them is a AK-74 in 5.45. Not 7.62.

So what is going on here? Bottom line, desirable features and ergonomics are desirable features and ergonomics. Be it Russian or American rifles. There has been a trend by the US gun community to try and pickup some of the best features of the AK design and incorporate them in an AR format. But what gets almost no discussion in the US, is the migration by Russian gun designers towards better ergos and features like those we take for granted in the AR series of rifles!

The pictures don’t lie.

So…if you are an American gun owner who wants to buy an AK, you are living in the golden age of AK’s stateside. Because if you want to go the old-school, weapons familiarization route, quality made “basic” AK’s are easy to find. If you wish to build a cutting edge, modern working-gun variant of the AK, you can do that as well.

Modernized AK looks more and more like an AR.

Modernized AK looks more and more like an AR. Rails, Laser, Red Dot, AR stock and grip, Notice the Front and rear irons?

But I will leave you with this. If I was looking for a modern AK caliber/variant that I could shoot a lot, I would be taking a hard look at the Galil Ace with it’s upgraded sights, folding stock, charging-handle and safety. Why reinvent the wheel since someone has already done the work? If I wished to run a “traditional format” AK hard and heavy to achieve Musashi level, Kalashnikov enlightenment, I would be thinking long and hard about getting one in 5.56! Yes really. Why? Because mastery takes practice. And practice takes ammo. And in the US the standard ammo is 5.56.

The collectors may disagree.

 

Marky
www.tacticaltshirts.com
www.john1911.com
“Shooting Guns & Having Fun”

Marky Mark

Marky Mark

Writer at John1911.com
Writer for john1911.com. Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

Latest posts by Marky Mark (see all)

  • Mikial

    Great post, Marky.

    The Ace is a beautiful weapon, as are most things Israeli made. But that’s another discussion.

    I would love to have a Galil someday, and so I’m sure I will. In the meantime, I have a WASR (cue the laughter) decked out nicely with rails and lots of goodies. It is a 7.62 because I wanted a 7.62 AK variant just because I wanted a 7.62 to keep all my AR patterns company, and it works great. Having carried several AKM in the past, it is well above most of them. I saw a great many PSD team guys with AKs tricked out with what used to be considered AR hardware in Iraq.

    And you’re right about the AR still being an AR no matter the caliber. I have three 5.56 and a .45 ACP. All very cool.

    • Thanks, Daniel.

      Your post is kinda making my point. These are confirmed Russian AK74’s. But an American affaciando immediatly questions it.

      Since it doesn’t meet your notion of a 1975 Com-Bloc AK. Why? Because the American AK community is kinda stuck in a moment of time.

      Marky

    • Thanks, Daniel.

      Your post is kinda making my point. These are confirmed Russian AK74’s. But an American affaciando immediatly questions it.

      Since it doesn’t meet your notion of a 1975 Com-Bloc AK. Why? Because the American AK community is kinda stuck in a moment of time.

      Marky
      Tacticaltshirts

      • Mikial

        I think this was meant as a reply to Daniel and not to Mikial.

        Oops. 😉

  • Daniel, God is my judge

    These appear to be ak’s that somebody threw together with aftermarket parts for the most part, although one does have a night vision scope. I can’t see the Spetsnaz using something like this when they have the AK12. I have a Romanian AK47 that was built from a parts kit and an Hungarian AMD 63, since I’m no purist both are heavily modified. The main problem with the Kalishnakovs is the dust cover design, it makes it hard to put any kind of optic on the rifle. I added a Krebs rail on the Romanian rifle and while it works good it wasn’t cheap. I put an ultimak rail on the gas tube on the AMD that works good and is much cheaper. These two rifles make great CQB weapons. From what I can see of the AK12 the dust cover has a rail and hinges at the trunion block, there are probably other means to make the dust cover solid with the receiver.

    • Mikial

      Sorry, but please share your qualification as an expert on Russian SOCOM equipment. I think that would be helpful.

      • Daniel, God is my judge

        No expert here. Just sent a few rounds downrange and have an inquiring mind.

        • And I respect that. Always question. –Marky

        • Mikial

          Fair enough and no offense intended. I just get so tired of the typical keyboard ninjas (not that I’m saying you are) that I tend to call people out on things. Thank you for your mature and serious answer.

      • Easy, Mikial. Daniel is fine. It’s a legitimate question, but it also proves out a point. Americans tend to look at everything from “their” world view and the subject of AK’s is a good example. The AK’s being made and outfitted today don’t look anything like the AK’s from the past. But the people really pushing the AK technology are both the United States and Russia. It’s just the American gun consumer needs to recognize that Russia is taking the AK to a new level. I don’t kick Daniel for not knowing that. Most don’t. Which is the point. –Marky

        • Mikial

          Agreed and thanks for you sensitive response.

    • Thanks, Daniel.

      Your post is kinda making my point. These are confirmed Russian AK74’s. But an American affaciando immediatly questions it.

      Since it doesn’t meet your notion of a 1975 Com-Bloc AK. Why? Because the American AK community is kinda stuck in a moment of time.

      Marky

      Tacticaltshirts

  • Daniel, God is my judge

    Thanks for standing up for me Marky. If I had it to do over I would have went with something like a Pallmetto State Armory upper in 7.62×39 and built the lower my way. PSA has the longer firing pin and from what I read their setup works better than most. At least I could stay with the same AR platform, parts interchangeable, to a point, a flat top with rails and still have the heavier 30 cal punch. I really like the ergonomics of the AR and the ones I have now have had zero problems, they run great. Again, no expert, but for all people who love the AK I found them a little akward, the range I primarily use is a cold range and all weapons must be unloaded and the bolts open until you step up to the firing line, I had to add the notched safety/dust cover to comply, and really did not like the original sights. It’s a love-hate thing, I love the AMD with the Ace folding stock, with the stock folded to the left the rifle is a quarter inch over legal and is still operational, lower rail and short vertical grip, the upper ultimak rail and vortex spark 2. The solid stock Romanian, not so much love.

    • I think some of the appeal of the AK in the US was the inexpensive ammo. Now that some of that has been stopped, I wonder what the US AK market will look like in 10 years? For example, but I suspect the 5.45 / AK-74 rifles have fallen out of favor with the recent AP ammo reclassification.

      Marky

  • James

    The pictures may not lie, but the interpretation of them could be misleading. Was this AK pictured actually taken from the hands of a captured Spetsnaz soldier or was it found lying around in Syria? There is all sorts of stuff lying around in Syria these days.
    As for civilian options for AKs here in the US, there are many options. I like to break this down into two categories of weapons: AK rifles and Kakashnikov design rifles. An AK would be any AK47, AK74, Chinese, East European, or Mid-East variant regardless of caliber. (a 5.56 AK is still an AK). But there are other rifles that are not “true AKs” but are based on the Kalashnikov design: Galil, Valmet, SIG 550, etc. These are more evolutionary weapons. I lover the Kalashnikov design and I own a Galil and a SIG 556. I prefer both of them to a more traditional AL because they are both more accurate and have nicer features than the traditional AK. I also own a traditional AK because I just love them. I do not feel complete without having an actual AK47 in the collection but when it comes to serious work, which would be dispatching coyotes and other critters, I prefer the more modern SIG 556 or Galil.

    • The weapon is confirmed in Syria. It also matches what others have reported as being the current format / feature list from units in Russia. I intentionally stayed away from the term “Spetsnaz” since that tends unnecessarily box us in on individual MOS/ unit ID.

      As for the not an AK, but internally an AK, that gets us down a rabbit hole very quickly. We could easily include the AR-70 from Beretta and the FNC / AK5 from FNH. The FNC being so much a copy that one could have made a case of patent infringement except for that pesky thing known as the Cold War.

      We have a FNC and SIG 55X series rifle in the armory. One day I will have to pull them out and maybe shoot some videos.

      Thanks for stopping by James.

      Marky
      http://www.tacticaltshirts.com
      http://www.john1911.com

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  • Scot Prehn

    We have sent so much ammo to that region, it’s natural for 5.56 rifles to become more common, no matter who made them…I’d bet that lots of the ammo that goes through them was paid for by US taxpayers and lost/abandoned by the “moderates” we gave it to. I think its simply a function of supply and practicality… the people involved in the fighting probably don’t spend a lot of time on the semantics. But who knows? Maybe they have gun wonks too who like the rigorous debate…

    • There are quite a few M16A2’s running around Syria and Iraq with, “Made in the USA” on the receiver. Some M4’s as well.

      Sadly.

      Marky

      • Scot Prehn

        Very true i’m sure… we didn’t send them ammo without something to shoot it. Perhaps it’s telling that we don’t see ARs in 7.62 but we do see AKs in 5.56. Maybe the ratio of US vs. Russian supplied ammo is heavily tipped in our “favor”. No matter the ratio, i’m sure we sent too much to too many groups of questionable intentions. If it were up to me only the Israelis and Kurds would get much of anything…

        • Ok. I wasn’t sure if it was a typo on your part initially, but now I’m sure you are mistaken.

          The AK in this post is NOT 5.56 NATO. It is in Russian 5.45.

          And yes, there are 7.62×51 NATO weapons in use in Syria. Namely the upgraded M14/M1A DM stuff.

          Marky

    • Mikial

      There are a lot of US weapons in the region. Every time I went to Jordan, the military there were using US weapons, and along with that we gave Iraq quite a few as well. Then there’s always the black market trade. Weapons are pretty much a world economy item.