Super reliability, low cost and old age: 5 myths about the AK assault rifle

This post was published in Warhead by Russian author Maxim Popenker. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – 70 years in the ranks, tens of millions of machine guns issued worldwide – truly legendary weapons! And from legends, as you know, and not far from myths. We have collected the five most popular of them.

AK – super reliable

Well, in general, yes. According to the requirements of the military, the number of delays in testing machines should not exceed 0.2 percent. That is, for every thousand shots – no more than two delays due to the fault of weapons.

This is a very good result, but we must understand that it is achieved only with the appropriate use of weapons. Yes, AK is less demanding on cleaning, lubrication, cartridge quality and environmental conditions than many foreign counterparts, but you still need to clean and lubricate it.

As for the resource, AKM assault rifles with a caliber of 7.62 mm, when used correctly, easily shoot a resource of 25 or even more than thousand shots. In 5.45 mm submachine guns, this is more difficult – a small-caliber high-speed cartridge with a bullet in a bimetallic shell handles rifles much more “hard”, and noticeable barrel wear can already occur in 15 thousand shots, and if you shoot a lot with “tracers”, then that before.

However, not all AKs are equally useful, and all of the above applies primarily to domestic automatic machines, as well as to a number of its highest-quality clones produced in the countries of the former Warsaw Pact.

Today, commercial copies of the Kalashnikov assault rifle are being created all over the world, from Africa to the USA and both Koreas, and far from all of them are of good quality. In particular, the crafts of the American company Century Arms, which often fail after several hundred or even tens of shots, got a very bad reputation.

AK is a cheap weapon

Yes, but no. The opinion about the cheapness of Kalashnikov assault rifles came mainly from the fact that the USSR and its satellites handed out these assault rifles to just about anyone, and often for free.

In the future, the reputation of inexpensive weapons was reinforced by the appearance of civilian clones of AK made in Russia, known under the common family name “Saiga”. Both rifles and carbines of this family in Russia really cost – and still cost – much cheaper than similar foreign cars, but this is explained by the fact that all the main investments in development, rigging, equipment, technology development were repelled over the past decades of military supplies.

An attempt to make a high-quality AK from scratch today leads to the fact that such an assault rifle (or rather, as a rule, a self-loading carbine based on it) costs no less than similar civilian versions of such well-known foreign assault rifles as the M16 or Beretta ARX.

For comparison, the Kalashoids of Rifle Dynamics, considered one of the leading AK clone manufacturers in the United States, cost between $ 1,500 and $ 2,200. At the same time, the civil clone of the M4 carbine from the Colt company costs about a thousand bucks, and the Beretta ARX 100 self-loading carbine – $ 1950.

What is it – the usual Russian “Saiga” under the cartridge .223, in the configuration “a la AK74” on the secondary market in the United States costs about a thousand dollars, or even more.

AK – this is an inaccurate weapon for firing “that way”

One of the favorite topics when discussing the Kalashnikov assault rifle is firing accuracy. Say, it is suitable only for shooting “in that steppe”, to create a density of fire. As usual, such generalizations can be quite far from the truth.

What AK are we talking about? What about the classical, or, as they say with irony now, “Orthodox” AKM of 7.62 mm caliber? About the more modern army AK74M? About one of the clones (military and civilian) released in one of the dozens of countries in the world?

At the same time, the second, no less important part of the question is forgotten – and with what cartridge? A gross army with a PS bullet? Chinese times of not very cultural revolution, Finnish Lapua or civilian hunting?

Well, purely from personal experience – the same carbine (in the case of the author – a civilian version of the AK-12 chambered for 5.45 mm) with different commercial cartridges at one hundred meters gives ten hits from about eight centimeters (BPS with a shell bullet) 4.2 g) to nearly 25 (APZ).

For simplicity, we restrict ourselves to purely military samples, and so as not to be accused of partiality, we take American results from the 1990 AMSAA Technical report No.461 (who are interested – a full report for download).

The 7.62-mm machine gun with single shots really shows noticeably worse results than the “Americans” – its standard deviation (SD, Sigma) is 0.45 mrad at a distance of up to 300 meters. For “American women” this parameter ranges from 0.25 to 0.28, while for AK-74 it is 0.33.

With a normal distribution, six sigma values ​​cover all the values ​​of the random function, that is, in our case, the total dispersion at 200 meters for M16A2 will be 1.56 mrad, or about 32 centimeters, for AK-74 – 1.98 mrad, or about 40 centimeters.

If we talk about applied aspects, then most Kalashoids more or less decent rounds shoot better than their owners. Again, based on personal experience, the already mentioned civilian AK-12 caliber of 5.45 mm with a ten-ruble barnaul cartridge is capable of stacking five rounds in a circle of five to six centimeters, which is approximately equivalent to two angular minutes (MOA).

According to American data, the Daniel Defense civilian arch at the price of about $ 1800 with an M855 army cartridge shows accuracy of three to four MOA, and the notorious “minute” or less can be given out only with an expensive match cartridge or even a “cigarette”.

The question is, why does the “assault rifle” at all need the “minute” accuracy at all, we will leave behind the scenes, as well as the extremely interesting dispersion results when firing in bursts.

AK – weapons of recruits and “peasants”

The fact that a relatively poorly trained “user” can use weapons does not mean that a more trained user, including a specially trained professional — a contractor or even a special forces soldier — cannot use it effectively.

As for the accuracy of shooting – see above. If you need to hit the enemy in the forehead for half a kilometer, then for this the professionals will most likely have something more suitable, like a sniper rifle.

AK is morally obsolete!

What does it mean “out of date”? With physical obsolescence, it’s understandable – let’s say, Fedorov’s assault rifle is outdated, because you won’t find cartridges for it either, and its reliability is so-so by today’s standards. What about AK?

From the point of view of ballistic properties, the 5.45 × 39 mm cartridge as a whole is no worse than the standard 5.56 × 45 NATO in the West, and taking into account the latest developments in the field of armor-piercing bullets (7N24, 7N39) – in places it will be better. We have already talked about accuracy and reliability. What remains? Ergonomics and body kit.

In terms of convenience, the main complaints against AKs are usually addressed to the fuse (not double-sided, they say, and not very convenient), as well as to the lack of a mine shaft and slide gate. According to the author’s personal experience, the modern version of the fuse with a “shelf” for the index finger, used on the AK 200 series and AK-12, is quite convenient.

Shutter lag – a good thing, but it will require new stores, but a mine, so beloved by athletes, in real life can create unnecessary problems when dirt gets into it. Yes, and fixing the store “in Kalashnikov” is much more reliable than “in the Stoner style.”

One main point remains – how to securely and conveniently mount modern day and night sights, taking into account the branded removable receiver cover?

There are a lot of options of varying degrees of controversy: from the old Soviet side bar, which requires rather bulky brackets, to various options for “opicate” covers, both from the group of the same name and from a bunch of third-party manufacturers.

There are also palliative solutions – with the installation of brackets on the gas tube or instead of the pillar. Each item has its pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. But in general, there are enough options for how to equip the AK with a modern scope, the main thing is to know exactly what you want to get as a result.

By the way, both the good old AKM and its more modern heirs under the 7.62 mm cartridge should not be considered hopelessly outdated. This cartridge is an excellent compromise when in one sample you need to combine a conventional machine gun and silent weapons for special forces.

All that is needed: a spare magazine with “US” cartridges with subsonic bullet speed and a silencer – and you can solve things “without noise and dust”. And if you need to make some noise – just adjoin the store with the usual 7.62-mm cartridges (or with not very ordinary ones – for example, armor-piercing 7N23) and solve the problem in the traditional army way.

Say, an outdated concept, the 60s of the last century? Right now, the Americans with their newfangled “special forces” cartridge .300 “Blackout” (7.62 × 35) became a little annoying.

So, with obsolescence, it’s not very good yet – veterans do not age with their souls. In the end, the main rival of Kalash, the American emka, is only ten years younger.


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