Confused by all the AK variants out there?
Don’t worry…we were too.
We’ll start with AK basics so you can see if the AK platform is for you. Plus, we will cover some common questions, such as milled vs. stamped receivers.
And of course, well will go over AKs across different budgets and even countries of origin.
But first, a sneak peek!
Summary of Our Top Picks
- Editor's Pick
This is the best balance between fit, finish, quality, and price.
- Best Budget AK
All forged internals with solid fit and finish for a reasonable price.
- Best Domestic AK
These are built using the original Russian data packages and are completely forged.
- Best Milled AK
The SAM series have long been regarded as some of the highest quality milled guns money can buy.
- Best AKM Pattern
The Jack is an excellent import gun that accepts standard AKM furniture and accessories.
- Wildcard Pick
This is an AK at heart with a healthy chunk of upgrades.
Table of Contents
Brief AK-47 History
The AK-47 stands for “Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947” and was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It was the main assault rifle of Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War.
There are tons of variants, but the one we think of most when we hear “AK-47” is the AKM.
And there are a lot of AKs…in a 2004 report, it was estimated that 100 million out of 500 million guns worldwide belonged to the Kalashnikov family of rifles.
Why Are AKs Awesome
Kalashnikov built the AK off principles of it being easy to mass-produce, easy to maintain, and easy to operate.
It’s so easy…kids can use it.
Compared to the AR-15, the AK-47 is much easier to train users.
And, of course, there’s its reputation for superb reliability.
The AK achieves this due to its simplicity and use of looser tolerances.
Simplicity comes from the use of a long-stroke piston design that uses the gas from the round to move a piston and bolt carrier.
The gas doesn’t directly contact a lot of things, which keeps things running cleaner.
Everything is also large-and-in-charge so there’s less possibility of small parts breaking.
Some things, like the chamber, have to have tight tolerances to ensure proper headspace, a lot of parts don’t, like the bolt carrier and trigger mechanism. Check out all that space in there!
It can take lots of environmental debris before something stops working.
Next up is the ammo. The AK is natively chambered in 7.62x39mm, which packs a bigger wallop with a larger diameter bullet (.30 caliber) compared to the AR-15’s 5.56x45mm cartridge (.22 caliber).
Check out our picks for the best AK ammo and AR-15 ammo.
Lastly…though it doesn’t have as much upgrade capability as an AR-15, there is still a lot you can do to make an AK your own.
Do AKs Suck?
Common arguments are that the AK has inferior ergonomics compared to more modern rifles, such as the AR-15, increased recoil, and terrible accuracy.
Regarding ergonomics…there is some truth. Some things, such as the safety and magazine release, are harder to manipulate.
But since the charging handle is on the right side, most people can use their dominant hand to rack it more easily compared to the AR’s charging handle.
And because the round is larger…there definitely is increased recoil, but not so much that it is objectionable or makes the gun difficult to use effectively.
Lastly, you will hear people say the AK is inaccurate. When compared to the AR, this may seem true, but that is more due to the inherent accuracy of the AR than the inherent inaccuracy of the AK.
Because of the looser tolerances and piston system… AKs usually are suitable for “minute of man” at 300 yards…meaning you’ll hit a human-sized target if you do your part.
However, some AKs with good (not surplus) ammo, a decent trigger, and a good shooter are capable of 2-3 inch groups at 100 yards.
Milled vs. Stamped Receiver
These terms will come up as soon as you start digging into the world of AKs.
It explains how the main receiver (the metal piece that holds everything) was created.
The original AK-47s were milled. These start as a solid piece of steel, and metal is then removed (milled out) to create the receiver “shell.”
You can most easily tell these apart since they are much heavier and don’t have rivets.
This process was later simplified with the AKM, which utilized a stamped receiver. These receivers use a 1 to 1.5mm thick piece of steel that is bent into the shape.
Rivets (see the bumps) are then used to add the other necessary parts.
Stamped guns are much easier to produce and save a bunch of weight (1-2 pounds).
So what’s the best?
Well, there is no correct answer here.
Battlefield Vegas, which rents out TONS of guns, did a Q&A session that said stamped receivers start to fail at the 100K round count while milled receivers have yet to fail.
Keep in mind, 100,000 rounds is an absurd amount, and chances are you won’t even approach 1/10th of that round count. Milled is technically more durable, but it only matters if you rent guns out.
On the flip side, stamped guns are lighter (and usually cheaper), so it is really down to personal preference here.
Country of Origin
For a long time, AKs made their into the US from former Eastern Bloc countries in the form of build kits. But thanks to the last two presidents, one of the primary sources, Russia, has dried up.
Russian guns will be from factories such as Molot with their VEPR and Izhmash with Saigas. If you can still find them, they fetch a much higher price.
However, there are still plenty of good non-Russian AKs out there. The rest of the guide will focus on AKs you can still readily buy.
So let’s check them out!
1. Zastava ZPAP M70
Zastava has a long history of producing AKs in former Yugoslavia, current-day Serbia.
But in 2019, they decided to cut out the import middleman and opened a US production plant in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Not long after, they rolled out the latest version of their longstanding M70 series — the ZPAP.
The ZPAP M70 features a 1.5mm bulged trunnion receiver for extra strength, and they come standard with chrome-lined barrels, making these guns absolute tanks.
All major components, including the barrel and receiver, are still made in Serbia. The guns are then imported into the US, where the rest of the parts are added to meet 922r compliance.
What you end up getting is a well-priced AK that is still mostly an “import” gun. For the money, the fit and finish are impressive, and the guns are robust.
Remember that these are considered “Yugo pattern” guns, meaning that standard AKM furniture won’t fit. But don’t fret; with the rising popularity of Yugo AKs, there is still plenty of aftermarket out there.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
2. Palmetto State Armory PSAK-47 GF3
A good play on words…the PSAK-47 is 100% made in the USA.
PSA is known for its reliable and super affordable AR-15s. They keep costs low by doing everything in-house — from raw materials to finished rifles.
They applied the same concept to their AKs when they saw foreign build kits drying up.
Initially, they used some cast parts and had some pretty major hiccups, but all of their current rifles are forged for strength and longevity.
PSA has an absolute ton of color, stock, and trim options for their AK series, but their GF3 lineup is probably the best value buy for someone looking to get into AKs without breaking the bank.
Now…the best thing is that the PSAK-47 starts at $599 with their blemished GF3 rifles.
That’s about $150-250 cheaper than the Romanian WASR 10.
You can also spring for versions with upgraded Magpul furniture, including the side-folding Zhukov stock. Even these versions can be had for under $800, still making them a great value buy.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
What’s your take on the US-made PSAKs?
The famous/infamous WASR-10 is manufactured in Romania by Cugir and imported by Century. It has long held the title of the most readily available foreign AK-47.
It’s also the cheapest imported, which has garnered it a reputation for not having the best quality control.
For my personal WASR…that rings true.
The magazine well on mine is rattly. Most WASRs come into the US only being able to accept single-stack magazines as part of import compliance. Century then mills out the magazine well to accept standard mags, but in cases like mine, it isn’t always pretty.
Oh, and my front sight is hilariously canted when zeroed.
But how does it shoot?
My personal WASR has had zero malfunctions, and our test gun was near perfect, even with random steel-cased ammo. As mentioned, it may be a bit picky on magazines depending on how well the magwell was milled out.
I even buried mine in the dirt to test it out.
It worked…however, I would not recommend doing that since, even to this day, I’m still cleaning dust out of the receiver.
At Battlefield Vegas, they said it has been super reliable, and they have yet to shoot out a WASR barrel.
Also, AK Operators Union tests out a bunch of AKs, and his current WASR has over 10K rounds and is still going strong.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
While it might have some external QC issues and a less-than-stellar fit and finish, the WASR remains a reliable and relatively affordable import AK.
You used to be able to find them around the $450-700 range, but now they range anywhere from $750 to beyond $1000.
We got our hands on a Century Arms WASR-10 for review, so check out the video below or read the written article here.
4. KUSA KR-103
Maybe you are looking for the closest thing to a Russian AK you can get without paying outrageous prices for a used one.
Enter, Kalashnikov USA (KUSA) and the KR-103.
KUSA is an American-based AK manufacturer, but they have the secret sauce — the actual technical data packages for the AKM from Russia’s own Kalashnikov Concern.
With this information in hand, KUSA is producing high-quality AKM pattern rifles here in the US using all forged trunnions and carriers and chrome-lined barrels.
Made to the exact Russian specifications, the KR-103 is a great buy, with most base-model rifles typically coming in around $1100-1300.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
5. Arsenal SAM Series
What about those milled guns we talked about earlier?
For that, you will want to check out the Arsenal SAM series.
Arsenal of Bulgaria is regarded as one of the premier AK manufacturers in the world, and the SAM series represents their top-shelf offerings.
The SAM series uses a milled and forged receiver, a forged bolt and trunnion, and cold hammer-forged chrome-lined barrels.
Fit and finish on these is outstanding, and these are some of the nicest production AKs you can buy today. However, all that comes at a hefty cost of around $1800-2000, depending on the specific trim.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
6. WBP Jack
Maybe you wanted a standard stamped AKM pattern AK that isn’t made in the US, but you want something a step up from the WASR.
That is where the WBP Jack comes in.
Made in Radom, Poland, the WBP guns have gained popularity in recent years for their high build quality.
The Jack is no exception, featuring Polish-made hammer-forged trunnion and bolts and cold-hammer-forged barrels that are chrome-lined.
These are exceptional firearms and are worth a look if you want a step up in quality while still having a true imported stamped AK.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
7. Palmetto State Armory AK-103
PSA makes our list again, this time for its AK-103 platform.
Though the AK-103 occupies space in the AK-100 series, it adopts more modern features commonly seen in the AK-74M.
The base model sports a 4150 nitride barrel, an AK-74 style gas 90-degree gas block, an AK-74 front-sight, and the iconic AK-74 muzzle brake.
Why all the buzz about something like a muzzle brake? It really helps mitigate some of that 7.62x39mm recoil.
In addition to some nice features, the AK-103 is pretty affordable and comes in either a fixed stock or folding stock option. A premium version with an FN cold hammer forged chrome lined barrel is also available.
We did a full review that you can read up on here.
Or, if you prefer to kick back and watch, check out the video review below.
This is an excellent middle-ground if you want to step up a little past the base PSAK GF3 but don’t want to quite shell out the cash for something like a KR-103.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
8. IWI Galil ACE Gen 2
I know, I know, some of you are ready to come after me here.
Yes, the Galil ACE Gen 2 from IWI is not technically “a real Galil or a real AK,”… but it’s pretty similar.
The Galil ACE gives you the same mechanics as the original Galil ARM but in a lighter platform with a polymer lower receiver.
For those that don’t know, the Galil was based on the AK-47/Valmet, using the same type of long-stroke piston, dust cover, and rock-n-lock magazines.
With the ACE, you get a milled gun that is available in 7.62x39mm. IWI also offers the gun in other calibers.
The Galil ACE Gen 2 brings a nice look and feel and works great at the range.
It accepts standard AK magazines, has a non-reciprocating left-side charging handle, and comes standard with a folding buffer tube that can accommodate any AR-15 stock.
Johnny took it for a spin and really liked it. You can read his full review here or watch the video below.
These guns are all milled, forged, and heavy-duty. Everything about these is robust, and the accuracy is typically better than your standard AKM. Many consider the Galil ACE to be the ultimate refinement of the AK platform.
Prices accurate at time of writing
Prices accurate at time of writing
Do Not Buy List
Century Arms C39V2
For a while, this was one of the highest recommended AKs fully made in the USA, but it has come to light that there are significant design defects in the rifle that now place it firmly on the “don’t buy” list.
If you want to hear the long version, I highly recommend this Military Arms Channel video that was made in collaboration with Rob Ski from Ak Operators Union, Local 47-74.
The short written version: after about 3,000 rounds, the rifle has a high possibility of becoming unsafe to fire. This happened with both of their C39V2 AKs right around the same round count. Much of this is due to the use of cast trunnions instead of forged ones.
If you already have a C39V2, you should inspect it closely (or have a gunsmith inspect it) to see if your rifle shares the flaw.
Pioneer Arms AKs
While the prospect of a sub $600 AK may sound pleasing, they usually come with some caveats.
In the case of Pioneer Arms AKs, that caveat is the same as the C39V2 mentioned above.
These were made primarily using cast trunnions up until very recently. They are supposedly forging their trunnions now, but the jury is still out on them, and expectations are low.
Don’t be fooled by the place of manufacture, either. These “Radom” AKs are technically made in Radom, Poland, but they have no association with the highly regarded and historied FB Radom factory.
For safety reasons, it is best to avoid these guns.
We’re at the end…and hopefully, you will have a slightly better understanding of AKs and which one suits you best.
Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below! Already got an AK? Check out our Best AK-47 Upgrades to fully accessorize your gun. Also, be sure to check out our article on the 7 Best AK Pistols!
139 Leave a Reply
Pretty nicely done. I missed the discussion about ease of cleaning. I have well over 5K rounds through an Arsenal SAM7SF-84, which was bore-cleaned upon arrival, then again a couple of years later. Dirty, yes. Malfunctions: ZERO. I love an M4/AR, but when my life depends on it, I'll always choose the Arsenal. Why? No-Brainer ease of operation, perfectly acceptable battlefield accuracy (it's not intended to be a benchrest rifle), easy to shoot (my 8 year old loves it), ease of cleaning, with simplicity and reliability at the heart of it all. Excessive cleaning is overrated, and this firearm proves it. I'll be able to pass this down to him, and likely he, to his offspring.
JD, you have a nice rifle there in that SAM. Those things are absolute tanks!
VEPR, SAIGA, ? Great Comprehensive Article ! Thanks !
Dave, we gave a little shoutout to both the both the VEPR and the Saiga, it's just a shame they aren't being imported anymore. Thanks for checking the article out!
Arsenal SLR-101S... awesome AK. Just remember to be careful with cleaning solvents. The "bluing" will come off. I use lanolin based products, no distillates. My WASR is no slouch. I got lucky. Seems to be just about perfect. Paid $350.00 for each. That is money in the bank.
Bill, you are absolutely right about the finish on the SLRs, especially the newer one. They are great rifles; the only reason they didn't make the list is because at the moment, it looks like Arsenal is only importing the SAM series. Not sure if the SLRs are on hold or what. Awesome pickups on the WASRs though. Boy do I miss the days of $350 WASRS and $550 PSLs.
Meridian defense didn't make the list??? You might wanna review the meridian defense volk and update your list
Meridian, like Rifle Dynamics, makes some ultra-nice stuff, but with a price to match. Unfortunately we haven't been able to get our hands on one yet. I'd love to get a hold of a UCR-74S at some point and give it a good burn down.
I still have an Arsenal SLR-95 that was made in 1995. They put a thumb hole grip on it to get past the 95 ban. I have put a lot of rounds thru it with no problems and it is very accurate. I did have to modify older steel mags to make them fit the milled receiver.
Not a fan of the AK. To get a really decent one, you end up spending more than you would for a mid tier AR. I'm sorry, but I have this inbuilt aversion, being a Cold War Child to anything the Communists had a hand in, and so I'll pass and stick with my Made in the USA ARs.
I will however, forward this review to some buddies that lean towards the platform. All in the Iinterests of fairness.
Chuck, the market does indeed shift in strange ways. 15 years ago a WASR was half the price of a reasonable AR-15, now its double the price of an entry level one. It is definitely a buyers market for AR-15 fans right now!
No Beryl? That’s the best AK on the market.
The Beryl is definitely an awesome piece from FB Radom. To keep the list a reasonable length, I picked the Jack just because the rear trunnion is standard and easy to get furniture for. It is hard to go wrong with any gun from FB though!
It’s so easy…chimps can use it.
There, I fixed it.
Proof: You Tube AK-47 chimp (can't hyperlink)
I'm amazed the Riley Defense AKs weren't reviewed, or even honorably mentioned. I have the Tactical &Rosewood laminate versions, and both are excellent shooters! Riley AKs have several design enhancements that make it a superior US made AK in every way: 1.5mm thick receiver, oversized forged trunnions and a barrel that's actually concentric to the trunnion & receiver. The manual bolt hold open safety notch & 2nd rear release perch are nice features you won't find on a Zastava or Kalashnikov. Both of those AKs are nice as well, but the Z requires Yugo pattern accessories, and I won't give my $ to a Russian origin/named company.
You have to be joking, it's time to take a class in AK'S 101,, If you had ever held a Polytech in your hands, you would know the difference between one of the best and the junk you praise ,, 99% of American & Romanian, AK are junk !!!,, I hope this helps.
As Abraham Lincoln said… “don’t believe everything you read on the internet “
Where's Zastava? Rifles and pistols. I realize you had the M92 pictured, but I will say that my M85 is the nicest AK I own. My WASR10 has been 100% so far, love it too.
I'm surprised you don't even mention Kalashnikov USA. Where do their products fall on the Century-to-Arsenal spectrum?
I wouldn't trade with PSA if they had the last toilet roll on Earth. Sold me a Carcano with a (is a 3/4 sight-picture along the bore bad?) bent barrel, and called it 'fully serviceable'. Then lied, and then lied again! But I screamed loud enough and got my hard-earned cash back.
Another Do Not Buy AK is IO, Inc. I know from experience that it's junk.
I have a PSA AR and it works very well. It's also very accurate.
Maybe I'm crazy but it seems obvious pewpew is in bed with psa.
Can't begin to tell you how many good experiences me h my friends have had with PSA. We all keep buying from them - online & in person. Never had a bad experience once.
Holy cow I'm glad I bought my Norinco MAK 90 back in 1999. I got it from a gun show for I think around 400. I think I was getting a low quality version since it was made in China. I didn't have a clue back then.
Yeah....got mine in 89'....still have it and totally love it...
Go back to reddit, Eric.
So easy a kid can use it. Can’t believe you print those words after all the mass shootings kids have have done. So irresponsible.
No thought police . Israel defends their schools so no school shootings in Israel and their surrounded by terrorist that want to kill the innocent . We're done with the communist propaganda and their thought police . I can't believe you said that
I find it hilarious you exclude ZPAPs and Zastava in general. They are less expensive than Arsenals (overpriced anyway) and are top notch.
Most of your top picks are always PSA or AERO when there are always better picks. Especially for AK's. Do you guys get paid by either company to market for them?
No, we do not get paid to include either company in this article. The models listed are what our team prefers. We can't include everything so we have to limit what makes it into the list. That said, we're constantly updating and adding/removing models from our lists.
Your team prefers hot garbage then, congrats.
I remember going hunting with my dad and we stopped at a Dunhams sporting goods that had WASR 10s for 189.99 I turned 18 that week and picked one up, it was the first gun I purchased for myself. Came with bayonet and 2 steel 30 round mags that rattle around. My grandpa was the son of two Romanian immigrants so it’s always had a special place in my heart. Still have it and will never sell it. Even then I remember thinking “I can’t believe these things are only 200$” the only failure I’ve had in it was from brass cased higher end ammo. It’s eaten thousands of rounds of surplus, wolf, Tula, and red army standard without issue.
Zastava ZPAP M70 not only the list, Eric needs to go back to airsoft, or paintball or whatever the fuck he was doing before writing for pew pew.
I wonder how much they got paid for PSA to be on this list XD.
We don't get paid by any company to include any model of gun on our lists.
Bruh, where my Yugos at?! They are my favorite to shoot. Never shot one but also no mention of Kalashnikov USA?
So many people asking "Where's Zastava? Where's Yugo? Where's KalashnikovUS?"..
You people shoot?? Please do not touch a gun again until you see your optometrist, get some glasses, and then come back and read this article again. They're in there.
the 2 best ak add ons:
1 ar15 complete upper receiver
2 ar 15 complete lower receiver
It wasn’t that long ago that gun shows and dealer shelves were stuffed with the MAK-90 (stamped) and MAK-91 (milled) 7.62x39 Chinese variants. While these are no longer imported they were great shooters. I’m a bit offended that 3 PSA guns were included with no mention of the many great examples from countries of origin not mentioned.
I’d take a 30+ yr old Norinco MAK-91 National Match chrome lined barrel over anything PSA makes.
I bought my MAK 90 in 1999. They are very rare and expensive now. That's why they went featured here.
I have pioneer random Poland AK47 500 rounds so far,No misfires,No jamming,No bent casings,No exsessive wear on parts just runs like a sewing machine so why the bad Rapp on You Tube!
because they explode. Yours might not yet but 500rds is not a lot. Try 2000 and hope your face doesn't get blown off. Pioneer has stolen the radom factory and uses its name to build shitty guns
Both my 2021 production Sporter and Hellpup are good to go too. 2k+ of Tulammo to top shelf, all without a hitch.
Three psa AKs on here and Not even a mention of the zpap wow, how could you throw zestava under the bus like that? The zestava zpap m70 and m82 are amazing shooters and affordable mid tier price range!
I have a IWI galial ace pistol runs great, milled. Does anyone have experience with this platform?
Kell, I have a large firearms collection but don’t have a AK pistol and was actually looking at the Galil due to their quality.
I take it you recommend the ace?
Would you buy it again now that you own one?
What about the century vska? Curious as to it's reputation
I have one and it’s been flawless, about 2000 rounds
I bought a C39v2 in July 2016, after watching this MAC guy and the russian guys 2015 video on this weapon. At that time, the C39v2 was given a big thumbs up, and nothing but praise. Then, three years later, these same two people retest the weapon and trash it. What happened in those three years that would make them retest it? In the video, they claim its not safe and might blow up in their faces. Really!!! You think Century would keep a flawed weapon that could hurt a person on the market? Hell No!! Remember when Robinson Arms recalled the M96 rifle? That was a true danger. Century would have done the same thing. And I have yet to have read or heard of anyone who has been hurt by this weapon. Funny that all the youtube vids on this weapon are good. Its just these two guys say its shit and everyone SWOLLOWED it!!!!
wow IWI galil not on the list huh
The Galil is based on the Ak47 but it is a very different rifle
What is a good price for 7.62 these days? Also do you prefer steel cased non corrosive or hollow points?
How does the Galil Ace fall in the line up?
This. Also the Romarm/Cugir RH10. Would be nice to know more about both of those in detail.
How is this a complete guide? How are Meridian Defense/Rifle Dynamics/Lee Armory/Definitive Arms/WBP/Zastava not on this list? But PSA is? Is this website owned by PSA?
I hate to be so negative but the amount of misinformation and garbage in this article is misleading. The list is a joke to people who have shot high end AK riffles.
Thats what I was thinking lol
Yea that was funny.
Since you were 25??? How old are you now? Maybe 35? I've been into firearms since I was about 10 years old, starting with helping my parents reload ammunition. I had my first bb-gun at age 8. I started hunting as soon as the law allowed, at age 13. That was in 1976, before the Bay Area turned anti gun and anti hunting. If you really want to learn about firearms, widen your horizons and study up on all varieties of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Get back issues of Shooter's Digest back as far as you can, at least to the pre '64 years, when gunmakers started turning to Japan for their manufacturing. There is a lot to be learned from the older hunting mags, and in particular those who did wildcatting, because those wildcat rounds became some of our most accurate long range ammo.
Lots of crankiness. Do you actually have an issue with what he wrote or have something to contribute, or are you just yelling at young whippersnappers?
So let me get this right:
Vincent states that an author who claims o be an authority w/ only maybe a decade of experience - consisting of apparently limited breadth and depth of experience (w/ all due respect, based on the articles' lack of breadth and depth within the constraints of this topic - as noted by many commentors) might benefit from reading the wealth of available pre-internet, pre-per-click ad-monetized writings, or possibly from some 1st or at least second-hand experience with wildcatting, and you label him an "old crank?"
People like you are why this industry and this country keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, despite the lessons history can teach more open-minded, less bigoted people than you appear to be.
You sound just like the "young whipper-snapper" every generation has had... until they (hopefully, eventually) got enough experience to realize they used to criticize things they knew far too little about - and at some point subsequently regretfully admit to themselves they could have learned a *ton* more much sooner if they'd just had an ounce or two of humility...
I've wildcatted 13 rounds... including 10 suitable for the AR, and 2 of 13 which Hornady and or Federal later brought to market *extremely* close versions of - exceptI was shooting them for my own pleasure and hunting as much as 11 years earlier. 2 others were mimic'd by Wilson pretty closely. And I still don't consider myself anexpert by any stretch btw.
But FYI: wildcatting taught me more about firearms, as well as internal and terminal ballistics both, than any other firearms related activity in which I've taken part the last 30+ years or gun use. 1 of the other great sources btw being: pre-internet writings such as Sinclair's journal and many, many books, etc.
FYI here simply is a well-known principle at work:
When someone can't just go back and instantly correct something they wrote in haste or lack of study (and have their mistakes simply dissapear as though they never existed, too); when reputation used to matter much more as a part of society; when people had MUCH longer attention spans & memories both; and when you didn't get virtually any of your reviewed products for free... people were much, much, much more careful for these and other reasons to only publish high quality content. Moreover, they were much more careful about representing themselves as "knowledgeable" on a topic when they actually were one of the *most knowledgeable folks around* - because reputation was everything back then. And these factors all contributed to the average article, etc being of drastically higher quality.
Lastly, Vincent is right about something else, too: if you don't yet realize that the moving of the actual design and production of firearms to overseas also took with it a significant amount of our detailed, in-depth practical knowledge (aka brain trust), then I'd submit perhaps there is even more that you could learn from reading earlier writings that you think. A lot more.
The biggest detriment to learning something important is thinking you already know it.
Vinnie, please post your home address so I can mail you your cookie ASAP.
Excellent read. Thanks for the great info.
ak and accuracy...
you dont do it right to poor old assault rifle
we used to shoot it in army at human size target in motion at 400 metters and hit it without special problems
ammo can be a problem here, but also, ammo that is less precise is usually those known as "tumblers", which have other advantages, when used on live force
This was a great read! If I ever come across an AK, I at least have some knowledge to identify what kind and some of it’s features and potential flaws. Thanks!
Hey Eric. This whole article is about the best
Ak-47s, and RIFLE DYNAMICS isn’t even mentioned. RD rifles are better than any rifle including the Krebs you mentioned. Better in every way. I honestly do not understand how they weren’t in the article. You should check them out. Pretty dang amazing rifle.
Steve is a 100% right. Jim Fuller is an AK legend.
Accuracy and AKs... In my experience the quality of ammunition plays a huge part is the accuracy of your AK. I have a bunch of AKs and they all have their own favorite brand. A quality optic and mount will also help tighten up your groups considerably. Most folks that can't shoot well with an AK are not familiar with it's irons, are using a god awful trigger, Tula ammo, and no optics of any sort.
Hey about AKs, you never mentioned Occam Defense Solution's ODS-1775, which is like a space age AK, with incredible craftsmanship. Can you please review it?
Hi Eric and Pew Pew team,
Nice article. Especially the US made Kalashs info. But you have quite a lot of facts original Soviet propaganda there. If you are interested, I could translate from Russian few recent articles about AK history and some facts about reliability.
Gentlemen, respectfully, why would anyone buy a budget WASR AK for $778.00 when you can build 2 very decent AR15’s from PSA for about the same money? Don’t like the 5.56/.223 round? Fine build it in .300 blk, 6.8 or 6.5 Grendel or a half dozen other loadings.
I totally get the AK from 10 yrs ago where you could buy a WASR for $300.00 all day long and ammo for cheap... but now?
I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.
Now people get excited over an AK if it will hold 1 MOA. The crappiest of my AR’s will do that. Hell some of the AR pistols will do that or better. With the right ammo and shot from a lead sled my competition AR will shoot .25 MOA (thats no wind, from the sled with a remote plunger activating the trigger- I can’t shoot anywhere near that well) that costs way less than a Krebs Custom. Also I don’t see even the ultra high end AK’s like a Krebs being more reliable than either my POF or my LWRC which we’re both way cheaper.
This isn’t to knock the AK. It’s a great platform and I rather shoot a good AK than a crap AR like an Omni all day long. I’m not knocking the round either. I have a Mini 30 and a PSA KS47. My issue is the explosion in price that’s happened since Obama blocked the imports. I just don’t see the AK being worth the price now.
If money’s not an issue who cares about the price that’s why!
Under best high-end Ak. Wouldn’t the Arsenal Sam series rifle be the pick and not the SLR? Sense the Sam series rifles are more $, and milled.
As far as reliability goes. The company rifle dynamics makes the very best Aks on the planet. And I would bet any amount of $, their rifles beat your pof and Lwrc in reliability any day. And that’s a fact. In fact their rifles would most likely beat any ar15 in reliability. And that does come at a pretty high cost, as a RD rifle is even higher end than a Krebs, and worth every penny. Some people just like Aks more than ar15s. And if $ isn’t an issue wtf not have what you want.
Hey, great article I stumbled upon. As a owner of a Krebs Custom kv-13 mod 2 and a pd-18 pistol, no one will be disappointed by this company. I also have a pap92 converted by Meridian Defense into a bad ass get busy tool. And I have a RAS47 I purchased right before all the bad came out about it. My next AK will be from Tactical Edge(ZAYTSEV 12.5" PISTOL W/ SBA3 BRACE) IN 5.45X39. Plenty of AK choices at a price point most won't get to. But, for me, an AK modernized be these American companies are far better than any AR. I'm biased of course, but would put my Krebs up against any AR. The only penalty is weight and that is up to the shooter if they are fit or not. A pistol AK is all you need, but this is America, we have everything a shooter could want in any caliber you could ask for. Great article again, keep on shooting!
Gentlemen: I suggest you consider the SAM 7R. 7.62x39mm caliber rifle, forged and milled
receiver, chrome lined hammer forged barrel, 14mm muzzle threads,
muzzle brake, cleaning rod, bayonet lug, black polymer furniture,
intermediate length buttstock, scope rail, one 10-round premium magazine (Circle 10), sling, oil
bottle, and cleaning kit.
• 100% new-production parts and components.
• Bulgarian hot-die hammer forged receiver, bolt, and bolt carrier
• Cold hammer-forged 16.3 barrel from Arsenals Bulgarian factory,
built on Steyr manufacturing technology
• Hard-chrome plated bore and chamber
• Removable 4-port muzzle brake with 14x1mm left-hand threads.
• Intermediate length US-made 10 trapdoor buttstock. (Total length of
• Substantially extended service life over other types of assemblies.
• 922(r) compliant with US or imported magazines.
• AK scope rail.
K-Var Corp. in Las Vegas, NV, is distributor with excellent service and assistance. Combine that with the quality of the SAM 7R and I believe it is the best AK available for the money. The weapons you mentioned are noteworthy; but the SAM 7 is well worth the slight additional cost of approximately $1,260.00 as of Spring 2019. K-Var also has a modest LE/MIL discount.
I remember unloading the AK out of cargo containers all bought and paid for by the US out of a slush fund from the sales of kilos of pot. The price of a key was $210 the price of an AK $210. This price came about from 1976 and held until about 1992. The Americans banned the AK in order to Americanize it. That is remake it for profit. They now have their proprietary parts where before each part interchanged with every other gun no matter where it came from. They've been neutered and profitized where if you knew the original AK you wouldn't buy (or trade) one today.
Nice article. I think original AK's were stamped though. You gave three contrasting examples but should have mentioned more.
On your "Do Not Buy" list you neglected to mention the infamous IO,Inc AKM247. That thing is an unsafe disaster!
It's rough not knowing enough or nearly as much as I would like to know about guns. minutemanreview.com's list of best or recommended AKs lists the IO,Inc AKM247C as best for Mil-Spec as if it's great. Is that the same gun and or do you think it too is trash? Thanks.
IO has long-running safety and durability issues. They've come out with multiple iterations of AKs each claiming to have fixed their problems with this latest and greatest generation, all for that to prove untrue. AKOU is a great resource for all things AK and their testing really blew IO out of the running. You can take a look at their IO Tags here.
What about Zastava?
What about BOB?
I would not dismiss the C39v2 out of hand.
A year and a half ago as I write this (January ‘18), Small Arms Defense Review did a comprehensive test on the C39v2 and the RAS47. The C39v2 did quite well and even the RAS47 wasn’t bad. Century has made incremental improvements over the years and the ones they are producing now have addressed most if not all of the earlier issues they were having.
I have an earlier production C39v2 that I modified with East German internals (recoil spring assembly, bolt carrier/piston, bolt). I have about 2500 rounds through mine thus far, and it passes the go/no-go gauge just fine. I don’t beat up my rifle Rob Ski-style, but it shoots very well thus far.
Only wear problem I experienced was slight chipping at the upper edge of the right receiver lug, and that same part acted like a “chisel”, gouging into the rear face of the secondary locking lug on the bolt (since replaced). This was solved by having a gunsmith slightly soften the edge of the right receiver lug; no more chipping and no more bolt gouging. In ‘18 Century started rounding off that edge at the factory. They have also introduced an improved recoil spring assembly (“Gen 2”) and the bolt is now machined out of 4140 steel. Bolt carrier is still cast but that is common in many commercially available AKs, including the vaunted Polish WPB offering (my East German forged bolt carrier is a thing of beauty, tho’). RAK1 trigger is very good (even most Century critics admit that), and the barrel they use now is a 4150 chrome moly vanadium from Green Mountain; this is the same grade of steel used in military issue M4s and M16s.
Bottom line is that if you want a milled receiver AK and don’t want to spend half the GDP of Peru on an Arsenal (I haven’t seen a new SAM7 for less than $1800), the current production C39v2 is worth considering. A friend of a friend got one eight months ago and he just loves it.
Sweet bang for the buck think I’m gonna grab one thanks
You completely forgot the Finnish SAKO/Valmet RK-62, which is/has been made in different shapes and forms, even as a (very good) full-stock hunting rifle. The Finnish Defence Force uses it as the main service weapon.
It is a highly refined version of the AK design, reliable, durable and accurate: we have a mandatory 6-12 month service and most of our fresh-out-of-highschool average young men can shoot 2-3 inch groups at 100-150 meters within a few days of practice.
The Israeli Galil is based on the RK, not AK as many believe.
The RK is widely considered as one of, if not even the best AK variant. Not easy to get hold of, though civilian versions are made and sold to USA among other countries. It's also not cheap, but you should definitely try it out and add it to your list.
We didn't forget it, but since it is such a rare rifle in the USA and it is impossible to find a consistent source for them - it isn't included in our Buyer's Guide. Maybe someday :)
I think he left the Valmet out because it is no longer imported in the U.S just like the Vepr and Saiga. A Valmet in .223 is still my personal favorite though.
I would never get rid of my Valmet M-71s, it is so accurate it's pathetic. I bought it in 1982 in North Hollywood kalifornia before the state went socialist. It outshoots my capabilities any day of the week. Only problem is parts but in thirty seven years only one firing pin has broken.
Too bad they are so expensive also.
You didn't mention the M92 PAP SBR option, but I do understand it's not a rifle to begin with until you convert it.
So where is the best of the best aka Finnish Valmet and Sako RKs?
Point taken on the c39v2...………..and discarded.
Why does your wasr 10 have the mag dimples?
Im not expert but as far as i know all wasrs come in with flat sided recievers with mag well reinforced with a piece of sheet metal welded in place.
Decent article but the original AKs were stamped. The Soviet Union went to milled due to an issue with the rivet process. Once that was solved, they went back to a stamped design with the AKM. Also AK rifles are not “inaccurate due to looser tolerances”. That is a common myth. Watch some videos from The AK Guy on YouTube and he will explain it for you.
Thank you for straightening that out there sparky.
Hey Guys, love your articles, but I would really like to see a reattack on the Century C39V2. I ask because my wife just won one in a local gun store raffle so I immediately turned to you guys for a review. Ended up going down the Youtube rabbit hole and found that the two year old videos pretty much trash it but the newer seem to give a fair to positive review of it. Would really love to see where you guys would stand on a "two years later look". VR, Richard
Rob Ski is one of the definitive voices on AKs, he did a video only last year showing that both his C39V2 and another YouTuber's C39V2 are both defective to the point of being unsafe after several thousand rounds. I would highly recommend watching that video.
Based on his work, I wouldn't buy or keep a C39V2. If it was my wife that had won one, I'd tell her to sell it and buy a WASR-10 or PSA AK-47.
See my post above. I have to respectfully disagree with the editor below.
As I pointed out above, Small Arms Defense Journal performed a comprehensive test on the C39v2 and Century’s stamped receiver RAS47. The C39v2 did quite well; even the RAS47 was okay.
Main thing, first, I’d check the serial number, and call Century to find out when it was made. If it came off their production line February ‘18 or later, it’s probably fine.
If it is older, a ten buck gunsmith job can soften the edge of that right receiver lug and you should be good to go. If it’s a lot older (‘15-‘16 production), before they were willing to say what the bolt was made from (now they clearly say it is machined from 4140 steel), you might look at having an after market bolt fitted (e.g., Polish WPB), which runs about $100 plus gunsmithing costs if it doesn’t headspace properly out of the box.
The bolt carrier is cast, but so are a lot of other AK’s. If you want to go all the way and get a primo after market bolt carrier, then you’ll need a recoil spring assembly from the same manufacturer as they are designed to work together; an after-market bolt carrier with the OEM recoil spring assembly can cause hang ups.
The mods I recommend here, if it is an earlier production C39v2 (you shouldn’t have to do any of that to a recent one) may sound like a lot of trouble and expense, but given how much people trash Century on the ‘net (most of whom have never owned or even fired one), you may not get enough money to buy a new WASR or PSA AK. I would also caution that quality control for these latter two is uneven; if you get one made on a good day you are getting a real bargain, but you could also get a piece of junk, and you are rolling the dice. Also, the WASR and PSA have stamped, not milled receivers. The milled receiver on the C39v2 (or an Arsenal SAM7, for that matter), adds nearly two pounds in weight, but it is extremely tough and also doesn’t flex while firing, so it contributes to accuracy.
Ask Battlefield Vegas how the Century garbage held up in comparison to the WASR. Somewhere around 100,000 rounds and the WASR receiver finally fails. Not sure the Century made it to 5,000 before the had to pull off the option list. They couldn’t afford to have a rental customer get injured. OK “sparky”?
Another great AK, in the Arsenal price range, is the new WBP Fox. You can buy them not converted from Arms of America or buy them converted to an AKM through Atlantic Firearms. I received mine from Atlantic and it's absolutely beautiful. Rivets look great, front sight is very straight, mags are tight, and all seems in order.
What are your thoughts on C39V1’s? Just as bad as version 2’s or a better buy? Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
I would stay away from them. They've also had problems and one of the videos above even says you'd think they'd have fixed those problems... You'll be better off with a WASR 10. If you get it through Lee's Armory they'll even inspect it for you prior to shipping so that you know someone good at what they do has had eyes on.
What did trump do to stop the importing of these AK’s? I was unaware of something he might have done?
There is a link to a news article on the subject: here is the link!
I have 2 AK47’s. One WSAR 10/63 Romanian and a SAIGA AK 762. I love both of them. They show well, ammo’s cheap, and they take the punishment with no problem. I don’t use the SAIGA much, since u can’t find them anywhere because of Russian sanctions. Not sure what they’re worth right now.
I liked your article. It was....interesting.
Eh ok but the century arms aks are really bad. There has been videos documenting the wear and tear from the bolt being cockeyed blowing chunks out of the reciever and other crazy damage. Not just one bad apple but the multiple guns doing the same shit. By 3000 or so rpunds it ends up closeing ona no go gauge and soon after itll close on the feild gauge as well.
Thanks Matt, we've recently changed up our recommendation of them to Do Not Buy.
Great artical great information
Hello, great article and I wanna say I appreciate the informative content. I just wanted to know if I wanted to go SBR route for an AK of the brands you mentioned who has that comes with the wood grain? I've only seen solid black variations of that weapon.
Also, other than the fact they shoot louder than longer AKs and convenience for close combat what is the differences?
Thanks in advance
I look at ak’s like a range toy and I’ll never take them seriously. It’s like a Honda Civic. It’ll get you where you need to go but you never want to be seen in one. It’ll do the job but who cares and as for 2000 dollar ak’s and up? Give me a break. That’s custom ar15 money. Anyone who thinks 556 isn’t enough of a round hasn’t shot 70+ grain ammo and I can slam any size steel at 800+ yards out of a 16 inch barrel. Ammo is lighter, more accurate and shot being hit with any rifle round sucks so it doesn’t matter not to mention when your past 300 yards it’s a moot point. Have a short barreled at and use better ammo. Worried about taking someone down? Point where you want to shoot with a 556 and it’s done. “AkS aRe MoRE rELiaBlE” have never heard of bravo companies rifle 14. Google it. Your at is having issues and you don’t have time to clean it? Oil. Every time.
Dang man, people are salty on the AR! Haha. I only like an AK in the hands of a Wolverine. Otherwise it’s a bad guy gun! ;)
How can you be so tone deaf as to use the atrocity of child soldiers to make a "cutesy" "funny" point for the greatness of the AK platform? Why not just say that's it's easy to get used to without making light of something so terrible? What the hell is your problem?
Wah wah wah snowflake.
I see it as a good thing honestly. No, I don’t want my child going to battle but if they have to, I’d like them to not experience any issues because of the tool I left them.
People on r/ak47 say gen 2 PSAK front trunnions and bolts are still cast instead forged. Ya'll wanna double-check that?
No mention of Rifle Dynamics? Yes, they are expensive, on par with Kreb's, but they can't be left out of a list of Best AK's. I recently got a AK74 from them and am ready to set aside my AR. Shoots beautifully! Good people there too. I live in Vegas so I got to order and pick up in person and meet Jim Fuller. Check them out if you are looking at higher end AK's.
Thanks for the rec, JC!
I have had my Ak47 for years. I have put tens of thousands of rounds thru it, never, not once has it failed to fire, eject or anything. SAR-1 baby! German steel bananas and Chinese drums. The only problem I ever had was having to replace the furniture up front because i keep setting it on fire. Will she drive tacks? nope. Will she hit center mass at whatever distance i need her to? Yup. and what most people dont know is there is not a nickels worth of difference between what happens when a 7.62x39mm projectile impacts compared to what happens when a 30-30 round impacts.... dirt nap time. There are some more accurate ak47s out there but mine has been a good hog gun for me.
You understand that you are saying you value psa over cv29v2 Lol I can tell ya. From being a class 3 gun builder you might wanna take another look at the century arms. Lol. Cause from guns I’ve had and have psa is ok but century’s aj is better
Not to mention I own over 23 different calibers of weapons and multiple of each lol as far as ak go there indestructible “ almost “ and I’ll bet my century rifle it will out last the psa anyday on its worst day but I’m going to watch your links you have papered but my c39v2 ain’t wood and is a “pistol “
If I was looking at an AK-47 due to the larger 7.62 caliber vs 5.56 I would stick with the AR-15 platform and go with a 6.8 SPC.. Better accuracy and about 200 FPS faster! As far as an AK running cleaner than an AR that argument is nullified when you go to a piston AR...apples-to-apples.
Yup, 6.8 SPC or I'd go with .300 Blackout if you're going short or suppressed.
ABSOLUTELY! The SEALs jaded me; after shooting mp5s suppressed I can’t for the life of me see the purpose of a semi-auto pistol (sub machine gun in semi). It’s an oversized pistol!!!! If you’re going to go small (frame) grab a .300 blk out and shoot thumb sized rounds.
Anyone suggesting a Century built AK can’t be taken seriously. Those things are garbage with sub spec trunions on their stamped models and soft bolt carriers across the board. Search century AK failure and see how many hits you get. They are completely unsafe.
How can you condemn The many different Century AKMs built in different factorys all across the globe with one blanket statement. Seems to me that in order to produce universally $hitty rifles in this manner would require the worlds best reverse QC! I’ll call it SC!
Did a search. Considering how many have been sold I did not get many hits. Not a lot of bad reviews out there.
Thanks for the info on the AK. A nice history and explanation of the weapon. My question is which woul you have if you had only one. A good AK or the AR 15?
AR-15 is quantifiably better in every way. That said, I would choose based on what ammo was easier and more widely available. Here in the US, that means the AR-15.
If the question were you can only have one and go to war in an unknown place...AK. Otherwise for range and competition use...AR.
Bought an sar 1 from a friend a few years back for 150 bucks .what I know about these that the were a century arms import during the ban era . Had a 2001 build date stamped on the lower .this thing was well traveled .acuracy was a joke and it had terrible trigger slap .was not a pleasure to shoot sold it 6 months later for 325 and never looked back.Love my ar's
Any idea when the PSA AKP will become available and for how much?
It should be along the same timeframe as the AKV...so it's scheduled to be ready for the end of this year. I'm hoping about the same price as their regular AKs.