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8 AK Variants to Know (That Aren’t the AK-47/74)

Ever wondered what other AK models exist out there in the world? We walk you through the AK family tree and all its important AK variants.

Was the AK-47, or AKM, the most influential weapon in the world? 

I don’t necessarily mean by design, but its influence on culture, military engagements, and the world at large.

Field Stripped AK-47
Field Stripped AK-47

As an affordable and effective assault rifle produced en masse, I think the AKM has certainly made an impact.

Tons of countries adopted the AK, but tons of have also used the Kalashnikov design as the base of their guns.

PSA AK 103 Left Side
PSA AK 103

This includes the usual suspects like the Chinese with the Type 81 to the Finnish with the RK 62. 

Assault rifles are cool, but has the Kalashnikov system been adopted into other roles? Can the system work in designs beyond assault rifles?

Lancaster Arms Rough Rider AK-74 Shooting Rock
Lancaster Arms Rough Rider AK-74

Well, of course, and we’ve gathered them all here so we can back in the glory of Mr. Kalashnikov’s design. 

So keep reading if you’re about that Kalash life and want to know more about this historic platform.

Table of Contents


The Machine Guns 

Who doesn’t love a machine gun? I don’t mean the ATF definition of a machine gun.

ATF has entered the chat.

I mean a real machine gun, a fire support weapon designed to lay down suppressive fire for a maneuver element to do their thing.

The AK series influenced two distinct machine guns… 

1. RPK 

First, we have the RPK series of light machine guns.

These magazine-fed weapons utilize the long-stroke gas piston system and general layout of the AK series rifles.

Shooting an RPK with a bipod

Differences include a reinforced trunnion, a thicker receiver, a longer barrel, an integrated bipod, and 40 round magazines. 

The RPK family includes the original in 7.62×39, the 74 in 5.45x39mm, and the latest RPK 16 — a very modern 5.45 variant that’s more compact and modular.

RPK machine guns are almost direct copies of the AK and cling close to the original design. 

They provided an extremely cheap and readily accessible light machine gun for the individual fireteam.

Since it used the same round and magazine as the AK series rifles, these guns made logistics a fair bit simpler. Additionally, the RPK provides a lightweight support weapon that doesn’t weigh tens of pounds. 

Russians invented the idea of an automatic rifle over a belt-fed machine gun decades before the United States Marine Corps did the same thing.

Clearly, the idea worked because the RPK is still a widely fielded machine gun. 

at Atlantic Firearms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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2. PKM 

On the outside, the PKM doesn’t seem to be related to the AK series at all.

It’s a belt-fed medium machine gun that fires from the open bolt and provides a general-purpose machine gun for numerous military forces around the world. 

PK machine gun
PK machine gun (Photo: Warman)

However, Kalashnikov was directly involved with the production of this gun.

I’m not saying that Kalashnikov had only one trick to build a gun, but he didn’t seem to stray far from the design.

With the PKM, we see the implementation of the AK-style bolt and bolt carrier alongside the long-stroke gas piston system. 

Iraqi soldier shooting a PKM
Iraqi soldier shooting a PKM

However, it got Uno reversed carded and is oriented upside down and beneath the barrel instead of above.

The PKM represents one of the better medium machine guns on the current global small arms market. 

Its fairy light compared to the other medium machine guns and the modern PKM with an integral bipod weighs only 16.5 pounds. For comparison, the M240 weighs 25 pounds.

Like the M240, the PKM fires a full-power rifle round in the form of the 7.62x54R and fills in as a weapon for armor, vehicles, infantry, and even limited close air support. 

“Sniper” or DM Rifles

3. PSL

Pumpkin Spice Latte
No, not that one. (Photo: JimmyStardust)

While the Dragunov looks like a big AK series rifle, it’s a bit far from it and uses a short-stroke gas piston system.

The Romanian PSL is the big AK in the field of sniper rifles. However, calling the PSL a sniper rifle is a bit of a leap. 

It’s more a designated marksman’s rifle.

Russia usually shared its weapons and technology with members of the Warsaw pact, but when Romania refused to help invade Czechoslovakia, things got strained.

PSL sniper rifle
PSL sniper rifle (Photo: Puscaauto)

After that, the Russian’s didn’t want to share the technical details of the Dragunov. 

So, the Romanians decided to make their own — complete with a long-stroke gas system and AK-like ergonomics.

Romania wanted a Dragunov, and they ensured the PSL looked like it. Predictably, they used the 7.62x54mmR cartridge and fed from detachable 10-round magazines. 

PSL sniper rifle
PSL sniper rifle (Photo: pixels)

A side-mounted 4x optic helped push the effective range out to 600 yards or so, but it’s hard to call it a sniper rifle by western standards.

PSLs aren’t exactly known for their exceptional accuracy, and they were essentially AK accurate with a longer effective range. 

Hell, they’d even beat themselves to death if you utilized some of the heavier 7.62x54mmR rounds.

Although, fun fact, the PSL has a last-round bolt hold-open device, which is a bit of a weird addition to an AK series rifle. 

at Gunprime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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4. Tabuk 

Tabuk sniper rifle
Tabuk sniper rifle (Photo: ShkoHazhar)

Unlike the PSL, no one considered the Tabuk to be a sniper rifle.

From the day an Iraqi engineer first put the blue in blueprint, this was always meant to be a DMR rifle.

This Iraq-take on the AK series rifle is just an AK with a long barrel but it’s not select fire. 

The 23.6-inch barrel adds about 100 feet per second to the round and doesn’t necessarily do anything crazy for accuracy. Its rigid reinforced trunnion adds some rigidity to the barrel and allows it to maintain better accuracy.

A long barrel might help with accuracy when the rate of fire is high, but it’s not that much more accurate than the standard AK series rifle. 

Tabuk with a shorter barrel
Tabuk with a shorter barrel

Iraqi Tabuk rifles will rock and roll with a magnified optic of the typical Russian style design. It mounts to the side of the file and provides four or six power magnification.

The Tabuk does rock a fixed stock with a cheek rest to make using the optic a little comfier. 

It’s not uncommon to see Tabuks running with 20-round magazines to allow the shooter to get closer to the ground for a more stable position.

It may not be fancy, but it certainly falls within our parameters. 


5. Saiga 12 (And Variants) 

Saiga 12 Shotgun
Saiga 12 Shotgun (Photo: SpetsnazAlpha)

I imagine the conversation at Saiga went like this. “Hey, Ivan, can we make an AK in 12-gauge?” 

“Yes, of course.” Thus, the chunky AK was born in 12-gauge — and later .410 bore and 20-gauge.

In Russia, the weapon is popular for sporting use. Shotguns are easier to get than rifles, so it’s quite trendy. It’s also seen quite often with Russian police and security forces. 

Saiga 12 with dust cover removed
A Saiga 12 with the dust cover removed so you can see the internal bits (Photo: Beerslurpy)

Only minor changes needed to be made to turn the AK system into a shotgun.

It’s impressive that the system only needed to be beefed up with minimal changes to run 12-gauge loads.

As such, it’s a long-stroke gas piston gun that feeds from a box magazine. 

Users can choose between 5- to 10-round magazines, or you know, go big with 20-round drums. The Saiga don’t care.

Saiga 12 shotguns mimic AK controls to a T, and it turns out that this makes one very ergonomic shotgun. 

Modified Saiga 12
Modified Saiga 12

After the Saiga 12 was banned for importation, we began seeing a wide variety of clones from Turkey, China, and the like.

I’m kind of including all of them under this banner because it would take too long to catalog each and every one of them. (Albeit I’m partial to the Citadel and Komrade guns.) 

at Guns.com

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

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Submachine Guns (and PCCs)

6. PP-19 Bizon and PP-19 Vityaz 

PP-19 Bizon
PP-19 Bizon

The ever adaptable AK platform first saw life as a submachine gun in the form of the PP-19 Bizon.

This fascinating little gun directed the long-stroke gas piston for a more 9mm friendly blowback-operated system.

Other than that, the gun utilized almost everything else AK. 

We got the big AK safety, the crappy AK sights, the AK pistol grip, and rock in magazine design.

The Bizon used a very cool helical magazine that the gun became known for. This magazine held 64 rounds of 9mm Makarov and certainly provided plenty of lead disbursement at 700 rounds per minute. 

PP-19 Vityaz
PP-19 Vityaz

Albeit, I’d imagine the magazine made the little Bizon a bit unwieldy. Little guns for CQB work best when they are lightweight and simple.

Also, I imagine these drums are expensive and complicated. That’s where the more modern PP-19 Vityaz comes in. 

The latest Russian AK-based SMG utilizes the 9mm Parabellum round alongside a simplified standard box magazine.

Additionally, the gun opts for a railed dust cover for optics to keep things a bit more 2005. It’s a simple upgrade to the ole Bizon to make it friendlier for production and easier to sell abroad. 

7. KP and KR 9 Series 

Kalashnikov KP-9

Back in the land of heart disease and moon landings, we have the KP-9 and KR-9 series from Kalashnikov USA.

These are the closest we get to true Vityaz clones in the states.

The KP-9 is the pistol variant with a 9.25-inch barrel, while the KR-9 is the 16-inch rifle variant. 

These are semi-auto-only clones that use the same straight blowback system, AK controls and ergonomics, and the proprietary magazines.

Those mags are quite pricey, as are the weapons. They are for true Kalashnikov fans who don’t want a high-priced AK PCC. 

at Gunprime

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

We recently reviewed the KP-9 so be sure to head over to the full review or check out the video below.

8. Palmetto State Armory AK-V 

If you want a Kalashnikov PCC without the super high price tag and the expensive magazines, then PSA has you covered.

Like the KP-9, the AK-V is a 9mm, straight blowback-operated weapon that comes in both rifle and pistol variants.

The AK-V also comes with a variety of configurations that invoke Magpul MOE gear, various wood options, and more. 

Its optic’s ready and comes with or without a brace or the other numerous AK stock options.

AKV up hill
AKV up hill

PSA makes use of CZ Scorpion magazines to preserve the curve of the AK mag without spending close to $50 per magazine. 

Magpul also makes a CZ Scorpion drum, and let’s just say it’s the perfect companion to the AK-V. 

at Palmetto State Armory

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Available Coupons

Johnny took the AK-V for a spin so check out his review or peep his video below.


I doubt Kalashnikov knew what he was getting into when he designed the ole AK-47 series.

AKV on rocks

Like Eugene Stoner, his rifle would go on to serve his homeland well and proudly so. Also, like the AR-15, the Kalashnikov has been adapted, built upon, and morphed into a variety of roles. 

I’ve had to have missed one, right? So head to the comments section and name drop other AK derivatives I’ve missed. For more on the AK platform, check out our Best AK-47 Guide.

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18 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar

    Man I can't stand reading articles on the kalashnikov where the authors and commentators are always saying "the ak47" or such...THERE WAS NEVER ANY PRODUCTION GUN MADE BY THE SOVIETS CALLED THE AK47.. THERE WAS ABOUT 10 PROTOTYPES AND 200 PRE PRODUCTION EXAMPLES THAT WERE CALLED "AK-47" BUT THAT IS IT......ABSOLUTELY NO GUN EDP IN THE US IS THE "AK-47"



    AK-74 WAS REAL


    March 10, 2023 1:43 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ak guy

    Rpk and tabuk are aks period. They are IDENTICAL inside and outside just a barrel length. Receivers are the same.

    December 2, 2022 5:21 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Dan Murphy

    If I use the Scorpion mag in my AK-V , the last round bolt hold open does not work. No problem with the supplied PSAMagazine.

    January 12, 2022 2:16 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    I have always wanted one of them there AK74s? But i do want to do a bit more research into the round to see what kind of overall max kill range is with one of them? But I also want a basic AK47? I was looking at either Century Arms or maybe Zastava. What do you think of these manufacturer brands?

    January 10, 2022 8:18 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      You will NEVER own an AK47 as....... NO AK47 WAS EVER PUT INTO PRODUCTION...only AK......Soviets gave the Gun the 47 (once 46) numerical index for trials ALONE... just like the RPD44 and SKS45 more commonly known today as the RPD and SKS respectively.

      March 10, 2023 1:46 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Douglas L Dicketts

    I thought the ak47 was an improved version of the Nazi sturmewehr
    Stg 44.

    January 9, 2022 6:47 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      stg 44 looks more related to ak but is internally more related to american Ar's and M4's

      January 11, 2022 7:27 am
      • Commenter Avatar

        You have that ASS BACKWARDS..
        STG doesn't look related to ARs... ARS LOOK RELATED TO STG..

        March 10, 2023 1:48 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Ah one of the ignorant who use the racist slur "nazi"

      AK is not related to STG in anything but concept and layout..


      March 10, 2023 1:47 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Related in concept and layout.... glad we agree.
        Sorry if the term Nazi triggered you, it was not Done to demean the gun. The gun was a good idea except not chambered for the original cartridge.

        March 16, 2023 8:50 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Lyndon B Jernigan

    $1k+ for an AR?!?! Are we missing the real point of this weapon?

    January 9, 2022 4:48 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Johnny Bullington

    The Yugoslavian Zastava M-76 Sniper Rifle is also a worthy variant. As I recall, it is more like the PSL than the SVD but chambered in 7.92x57.

    January 9, 2022 4:01 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    John Johnson

    Um...the Galil? The best AK-47 variant on the planet...

    January 9, 2022 3:35 pm
    • Commenter Avatar


      January 9, 2022 6:04 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      No it's not.. the galil is an overweight underpowered AK.. you want an AK that kicks ass GET AN AK74 OR A TANTAL

      The jews managed to add weight, complexity to the AK while taking away its lethality (7.62 will always be a veteran round than 5.56)

      March 10, 2023 1:50 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Al Emrick

    And before the Ruskis has the RPK,.the Marines had the BAR.

    January 9, 2022 3:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Hmm.. that's not a bragging point... considering that while the western all-lies kept automatic rifles with limited capacity such as BR.EN, 24/29, AND BAR the rest of the eorld had belt feds.... MG34, MG42, SG43..

      Before the muhrines had the BAR the soviets had the Federov

      March 10, 2023 1:55 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        Belt fed is more Machine gun than Automatic rifles. Plus, the US had a few different Browning .30 cal machine guns.

        March 16, 2023 9:06 am
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