Your Avtomat Kalashnikova and you. (Part 1)
To me there is just something magical about the AK, yes it's not the prettiest girl at the prom, but it puts out when you want it to.
I have been researching and collecting for about 5 years now. I have done a ton of research on just about every kit or variant out there. That brings up another point. Never, and I mean NEVER call it a platform. That is reserved for the more modular type weapons out there.
In general AKs from ComBloc nations are the way to go. Chrome lined barrels and material hardness are key factors in construction. Now chrome lined barrels are not only for ease of cleaning, a common myth, but were also designed for use in a full auto. The heat these generate can get intense. Without the chrome lining your barrel life will be greatly diminished. Accuracy is affected you say? OK, but for most of us it won't be noticeable. So what does that mean for you and me? Not much for the casual shooter, but to me it's worth the extra expense.
The term AK is for the "original" form, technically the ones you see now a days are AKM where the M stands for modernized. There are sometimes a forth letter for different options etc. like AKMS for a folder.
AK's receivers come in a few varieties, below I will tell you which way I went but they either come in milled, stamped (1mm thick.) or milled (1.5/6 mm thick) there are also some stamped RPK receivers that are 1.5/6mm thick also. Original AKs where milled. The stamped ones came along when they were modernized. You can still get milled and they are offered on the higher end models per manufacturer.
Most AKs that I know of are imported into the country today as single stacks and converted by the importer by opening up the mag well. These also will have enough 922r compliant parts to make the legal here in the states. The Magic number is 10. That means up to 10 Foreign made parts of the 20 possible they have listed. For an AK that means 6 US parts, unless you don't have a threaded barrel then it means 5. Here is a great little webpage to help:
Every country has their little twist on the AK, and this is where this little article comes in. I'm going to share with you everything I have learned through hours upon hours of reading and research (and some shooting mixed in just a little). My goal for now is to get one AK from every country that manufactured them and is actually available.
I'm going to start off with the ones I have acquired and/or actually tested (or once owned), broken down and re-assembled. At least one from the countries I have listed. These I can definitely speak from hands on experience, broken out by country of origin. If I find the time I will make do another write up on the ones I have left to acquire and what I have learned about them through endless reading.
So without further ado, here is my guide to the AK-47.
Hungarian AKs share a lot with the original Russian design but are not your standard AKM. They do have some very noticeable differences though; the biggest thing you will notice is the lack of an upper handguard. The gas tubes are smaller on these and will not accept standard AKM furniture without modification. Also the grips are not standard AKM design and use smaller bolts to attach to the receiver. You can add a standard AK wood grip but you will have to get a longer AK pistol grip screw. One other point of interest before we break down the models, these were designed to work with 20 round magazines. The 30 round do fit but the front pistol grip will get in the way. If you are looking for Bayonet lugs, you're out of luck, at least on the newer offerings from Clearview Investments. But don't worry there are aftermarket ways of accomplishing this that I'll mention later.
The original AMD-63 (fixed stock version) and the newer imports that yousee for sale are basically the same configuration except. Normal gas tube but no handguard mounts on the original and the shortened gas tube on the newer ones you see. Also the newer ones come with the AMD-65 break. They come with an FEG stamped receiver but use US made non-chrome lined barrels. They do use Hungarian parts kits so everything is good there but no side rail.
As for the AMD-65 (side folder version, there are some differences between the original design and the newer ones you see for sale today. Besides having the same handguard configuration as the AMD-63 the original AMD-65 was designed with a 12.5" barrel and a fixed (tacked) long break to get it to the 16" minimum. If you see one of these, grab it, it has the chrome lined barrel. The newer ones you see are 16" barrels with a 14x1LH break (not tacked). These are a bit longer and also utilize US made, non-chrome lined barrels. Otherwise it shares everything else from the AMD-63, well besides the stock. Once again these are built from Hungarian parts kits on a stamped FEG receiver with no side rail. This is one of my favorite rifles to shoot. The only bad that I have learned about these are the US made barrels. The hardness is not up to snuff, very soft metal. So what does that mean to you and me? Expect a short barrel life, maybe 5,000 rounds, which to me is short when you consider the barrel life of a good Combloc barrel.
All in all these are great firearms and a must have for the AK enthusiast. FEG was the primary manufacturer. There are some aftermarket parts for these but not as customizable as a standard AKM. AMD65tech.com probably has the best name when you're talking aftermarket parts for these.
The WASR - Everyone knows or has heard of this AK variant. There have been a few types that have come in over the years. They all look the same and are fairly close to the original Russian AKM design. They come in fixed stock and folder types, but the fixed stock is the most popular and easiest to find. They share furniture and parts with any country of origin that is a standard AKM. You will notice one difference though... no dimple on the receiver. The dimple is there on stamped receivers to assist with magazine fit. RomArm/Cugir, the main manufacturer, actually has welded plates inside to assist with this instead of the dimple on the WASR. Also most WASRs from what I have seen do come with a side rail.
The newer models also do come with the bayonet lugs in place, not sure on the 3-4 other releases they had, but most likely the AWB era will not have them.
Aftermarket parts are plentiful for these, as it is a standard AKM.
Now here is something totally different. Yes we are talking about the VZ-58 or the VZ-2008 as imported by Century. The Czech's went a different route, they copied the basic look of an AK but they refused to make a clone. The VZ-58/VZ-2008 are striker fired, yup I said striker fired. While it shares the looks of an AK the similarities end there. The internals and the magazines will not work with a standard AKM or vice versa. It also does not share furniture. These are one of the most dependable of the AKs in my opinion (think Glock).They are made on milled receivers and come in fixed or folding stock varieties. The folders are the most prevalent. These do not come with side rails on the VZ-2008. The magazines are also Aluminum, making these lighter than your standard AKM even though it does have a milled receiver. Also get this, the muzzle break is a 14x1 RH thread, this is where the Century model will differ as they used standard AK barrels with the 14x1 LH thread. These also have the bayonet lug intact if you would like to grab one.
There is decent aftermarket support for these and you can customize them to fit your needs. Zahal.org is full of mods and mags for these. You can also find milsurp mags on the various auction sites.
Here is a Zahal converted one I have:
The only concern with the VZ-2008 version of these is the "gremlin". When these were modified by Century for semi-auto, the way the bolt carrier rides may not always reset the trigger as the fire control group was either modified or a Tapco FCG installed. This problem is very hit or miss though. Some have it at the start, some develop it after a few thousand rounds and some never get it. Century did install stronger springs to help with this issue which does work a majority of the time. The only sure fire way to fix it or make sure it never happens is to get your bolt carrier "tabbed". A small piece of metal welded into place. Czeckpoint USA does sell the tab or you can make it yourself but they do not sell the fully corrected bolt carrier. The VZ-58 versions manufactured by Czeckpoint USA have had a "tab" welded on to the bolt carrier to make sure the trigger resets.
Polish AKMs are one of the Cadillacs when you're talking AKs. Polish AKs are just flat out great. I have a friend from Bulgaria and served in their military, he puts them up there with Bulgarian and Russian. That's a ringing endorsement to me. These come in a few variants and are AKMs through and through. These are manufactured at Radom at the famous factory 11. Side rails are available but most I have seen lately do not have them.
This is the closest to the original Russian AKM, fixed stock.
These are also the closest to the original Russian AKMS, under folder.
Aftermarket parts are plentiful for these, as it is a standard AKM.