Friday, January 20, 2012

The Walther PPS

 by Mishaco (Posted on TFR 12-Jan-12)

This is all about the Walther PPS slim compact pistol, chambered for the 9x19mm cartridge. This is one of my favorite newer weapons and one I have owned for four years now.

I decided to do this post after an individual claimed that the Smith & Wesson imported PPSs are not all German. While trying to disprove his claim, I discovered a lot of half-truths and vague statements surrounding this handgun online.  I also have an e-mail dialogue with Earl over at on the subject of where the PPS pistols are made.

The Basics

Lets just shamelessly rip some text off wikipedia to begin with. You can find errors there but for the most part the site gets the general and basic points right when it comes to firearms.

Here is the link to the Wikipedia article.

"Polizei-Pistole Schmal / Police Pistol Slim
Type Semi-automatic pistol
Place of origin: Germany
Designer Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen
Manufacturer Carl Walther GmbH Sportwaffen
Produced 2007—present
Variants PPS, PPS Police, PPS First Edition

Weight 550 g (19.4 oz) (9x19mm Parabellum empty)
560 g (19.8 oz) (.40 S&W empty)
Length 160.5 mm (6.32 in)
Barrel length 81 mm (3.2 in)
Width 27 mm (1.1 in) (including controls)
Height 112 mm (4.4 in) (small magazine)
124 mm (4.9 in) (medium magazine)
134 mm (5.3 in) (large magazine)
Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum, .40 S&W
Action Short recoil operated
Muzzle velocity 350 m/s (1,148 ft/s) (9x19mm Parabellum)
335 m/s (1,099 ft/s) (.40 S&W
Effective range 50 m (55 yd) (9x19mm Parabellum)
Feed system 6, 7 or 8 round detachable box magazine (9x19mm Parabellum)
5, 6, or 7 round detachable box magazine (.40 S&W)
Sights Interchangeable 3-dot iron sights"

The article goes on to state that the PPS is about the same size as Walther's classic PPK design. Even though the PPS is chambered for a full power cartridge, this is surprisingly not far off the mark. The PPS is a bit taller than the PPK and a hair longer, but is actually slimmer, especially in the grip area. The PPS was introduced in Germany, in 2007 and the 9mm was first seen in the USA towards the end of that same year. The .40 cal version appeared some time later, about six months to a year depending on location. That said, the PPS was designed from the very beginning to chamber either round with just minor parts differences in the barrel, slide, recoil spring, and magazines.

Wikipedia says this about the pistol's manufacture:
"In the United States, the PPS is imported exclusively by Smith and Wesson, using pistols made manufactured by the Walther facilities in Ulm, Germany. The PPS pistols are also made under license in Poland by Fabryka Broni Radom."

Some have questioned rather or not S&W marked PPSs are 100% German or not. Later, we will come to a definitive answer.

Back to the gun though, its quite a neat little gun. Its small but does have a bit of weight. This is because the polymer frame is reinforced with a steel internal frame work and the slide rides on full metal rails - not partial metal or polymer rails. The slide itself is also made of all steel, including the sights, so its a bit heavier, but also durable. The pistol is striker fired with a partially charged trigger/striker. The PPS uses the now very standard Browning style of locked breech operating system where in the chamber is enlarged and acts as one massive lug: i.e. like Walther's earlier P99 series or a Glock. A dual recoil spring arrangement is used which both lessens felt recoil and helps improve accuracy. Trigger is similar to a Glock's with the small safety bar in the middle, but it breaks a bit differently. Sights are dovetailed and adjustable and easily removed/replaced if desired.  The magazine release is located under the trigger guard and is the standard German style. Many Americans find this style unusual or awkward, but in a CCW piece it's an asset. It's basically impossible to dump a magazine with this style of mag release while in a pocket or holster. With say, a SIG, one could accidently jar the weapon from the side, depressing the M1911 style release button. That is little concern with the release style found on the Walther though. Once shooters get accustomed to this style of release, they will find it quite user friendly.

Walther makes three different sized magazines for the PPS. The six round magazine is a flush fit and makes the gun very compact. The seven round magazine gives a bit of a finger rest for the shooter and is great for range use or to use when size isn't as big of a concern. The largest sized magazine, the eight rounder, gives the shooter a fullsized grip comparable to the one found on the Walther P99 or the Glock G19. Its actually quite amazing how much the eight round mag changes the feel of the weapon. For the .40 cal. version, the same sized magazines are offered, but hold one less cartridge because of the larger caliber. Finally, the PPS has what Walther/S&W calls the 'Quick Safe' system. As with the P99, the PPS has interchangeable backstraps. Unlike the P99 however, when the backstrap is removed, the weapon is decocked and rendered safe. As soon as a backstrap is reinstalled, its ready to go again. This is the pistol's most controversial feature which we will look at more closely later. The PPS is packaged standard with a large and a small backstrap. Wikipedia mentions a medium strap, but I have never held one myself, so I don't know if they actually exist. Naturally, there is a MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny) rail located under the barrel: pretty much a mandated feature on any new production handgun it seems.

Here is the PPS on Max's ModernFirearms site

Here is S&W's Walther PPS page

Here is the page on Earl's Repair/Carl

My Two PPSs

I have now owned two different Walther PPS pistols in 9mm. The first I bought in late 2007, right after their introduction. It came with one six round and one seven round magazine and two backstraps in a standard, rounded Walther type case. I had it until recently. It was 100% reliable for me - however, my cousin wanted it so I sold it off to him and kept one of the newer ones I had come in last month. The slide stop on my AH code PPS never gave any troubles and so I never had S&W rework it.

Markings are as follows:
Left Side
Walther PPS
Carl Walther Ulm/DO.
Made in GErmany

On right side
Springfield MA
DE with Eagle over N proof and BB date code followed by the Ulm Antlers
Pistol's serial number
Warning Read Safety Manual

On Chamber area of the barrel
Walther 9mmx19
Eagle with N proof mark
Serial Number

The frame is marked with the serial and Walther twice, as well as Made in Germany.
The pistol is pictured above with all 3 magazine sizes.
Magazine is marked Walther PPS and Made in Italy. This is because MEC-GAR has been producing magazines for Walther under license for a number of years now. It is very common for major manufacturers to outsource their magazines.
Both backstraps are also shown with the small one installed on the pistol.
The BB datecode just stands for 11 or 2011.

Both this new PPS and my old PPS came in the same type of box, however, for a time S&W was shipping PPSs in a different style of box. That style was more like an S&W case and square. I have no idea why they changed, and then changed back, sorry. I do like the Walther rounded box better though as it holds the pistol with the eight round mag inserted better, as well as holding two spare mags easier.

I personally have never experienced any problems with either of my PPSs. I find the design thoughtful and easy to both carry and fire. Its about as tall and long as a Glock G26/27 but only 1" thick. The trigger has a relatively crisp and light pull for a defensive weapon.

Reviews & Comparisons

Here is a sampling of online reviews of the pistol to date.

Hickok45's Walther PPS Review on Youtube

Nutnfancy's PPS Review on Youtube

'Walther’s New PPS 9mm Semi-Auto Pocket Gun' (older article from 2007)

The Walther PPS on Concealed Carry Forums

Another PPS Review

"KahrPM vs Walther PPS decision made. best price?"

"Ruger LC9 vs Walther PPS"

'Walther PPS - finaly made my choice, here's my review ' on THR

'Walther PPS' on M14forums

"Available Upgrades for Walther PPS 9MM."

Another PPS discussion

"Walther PPS mag release technique?"
I like the German style of magazine release for a CCW, but others extremely used to the M1911 and others find it difficult to adapt to sometimes.

Issues & Complaints

As with any firearm, hell as with any mechanical design, faults have been found with the PPS since its introduction. Also people find things they dislike on a more personal level.

Slide Stop Failure/Lock Up:
The biggest design fault was found with the slide stop/release. Basically the spring was not adequately captured and could in some cases slip out and lock the slide release back permanently. Walther has since repaired the design and newer pistols manufactured since 2010 have an upgraded spring and stop.

"Check your slide stop"
Definitely the best thread online regarding this issue. It has many pages but all you could ever want to know about it is in there. Most pre-2010 pistols still never experienced the failure, but S&W offers a free factory upgrade. Newer PPSs have not experienced the failure since the new design was implemented.

"Buying a Walther PPS 9mm tomorrow - Help - 2010 BA or 2011 BB ?."
Another guy asking about the slide stop issue.

Quick Safe Backstrap Failure:
As I said earlier, the QS backstrap system is without a doubt the most controversial feature of the PPS. Many have correctly pointed out that it is unnecessary and just one more assembly to fail. Actual cases of failure though have been very, very few, if any. The backstrap locks in with a tab, which is then covered by the baseplate of the magazine. On top of that, two teeth on the baseplate go up into the backstrap holding it in place. There is no way for the strap to completely fall off the weapon with a magazine inserted. Still nothing is foolproof.

"Warning! Walther PPS' a discussion about the Quick Safe Backstrap failing"
Page one outlines the problem and pages 2 and 3 kind of breakdown into fighting, but on page 4 some very good points are made. I do note that originally the owner says the backstrap fell off, but later he just says it slipped down a bit. I can tell you from my own gun, his is not behaving properly. Please also note his gun was from 2008, so it was an early one. Its possible it was faulty from the factory. No one is perfect, not even Germans.

"PPS owners beware! I had a total back strap failure today! "
A somewhat less well documented case of a stranger's PPS failing at the range. Still worth reading if you like and they keep a pretty friendly tone.

"Walther PPS 9mm questions(back straps etc…) "
More questions and opinions.

"Walther PPS Fail?" 
And one more to be thorough....

Personally, and this is my opinion naturally, I think the backstrap is not an issue. If it fails on a half dozen guns over a four year time span over thousands of examples, that's about par for any other part's rate of failing. It's no more prone to fail than any other part of any other handgun. I agree its not necessary, but it is good PR for Walther. Also it does make the PPS legal to own in more markets, especially in Europe. Its possible that the Quick Safe system gives the PPS enough 'Points' under the '68 Firearms Owner's Act to make it importable in standard configuration, I am not sure. People will continue to argue over this but I agree with one of the posters in the links above. He said in short that you shouldn't let a lock stop you from buying a handgun that you otherwise like and want to own. The chances of the backstrap failing during a defensive situation are so astronomically slim they aren't worth worrying about. It would be great if Walther offered the PPS with or without the QS system, but the pistol was designed for the EU market first and it does give the weapon some appeal and legal validity there at least. I guess what I am trying to say is the QS system means Walther can sell more guns, at least that is their expert opinion. Why else would they have it in their weapon?
Anyhow, read the threads and make your own decision. The backstrap on mine has never given a problem and I find it far less annoying than other internal safeties such as a magazine disconnect or an internal keylock.

Where is the PPS Really Made?

"where was my PPS manufactured"
A short and basic post regarding where the PPS is manufactured.

"PPS...all German or no?"
A little more in-depth information but still some speculation and conjecture.

There is no real possible definitive answer to the backstrap question, but at least this one I can answer satisfactorily.  According to Earl at, in an email conversation I had with him about the PPS, all PPS pistols are 100% manufactured in Germany.  This coincides with what S&W also says (the exception being the magazines that are contracted out to Italy). They both use exactly the same frames, barrels, recoil springs, and magazines. Both have steel slides but for some reason they seem to use different types of actual steel. No explanation has been given by either Earl or S&W and Earl is not 100% on the exact steel used in the US PPS version. He is clear though that the slide is still made in Germany. He stated that the US version has a heavier trigger. Perhaps this was done for legal reasons on S&W's part? I know they do a Massachusetts version with a 10 lb trigger to comply with that state's laws. The trigger on my PPS is at about 5.5-6.0 lbs after a bit of break-in. If anyone out there has an Earl's/International version and could provide the pull weight of its trigger, I would be very appreciative. In any case, trigger jobs can be performed on the US version. I do know that the first generation of S&W imported PPSs did have grittier feeling triggers when compared to more recent ones. So its possible they have tweaked the trigger assembly on the S&W imports a bit since 2007-2008.

As for the P99s imported by S&W having US made slides and barrels, that appears to be true for some of them, mostly some in .40 caliber. I just checked my P99AS and my P99c QA and both have the standard Ulm proof marks on the barrel and slide as well as German date codes. With the SW99 series, the frames were German and slides and barrels were US. With P99s, you need to check. Some were made with all German parts and others with S&W parts. This wasn't done as a trick or anything. Its just that there was a higher demand for the P99 in .40 cal than expected so to speed up production S&W started manufacturing some parts.

In any case, All PPS pistols are manufactured in Germany, end of story. I am grateful to Earl for his friendly and quick service. He is a knowledgeable and helpful man.


I like the PPS. I make no claim otherwise. That said I have tried to be fair about the weapon and to give rational reasons for why I feel the way I do.

Oh and just to say it here, I also like the P99 and the new PPQ. I've owned a polymer framed Walther of one kind or another for over 10 years now and have still yet to experience any kind of failure. I could say the same for various Glocks I've had or fired, but I just like how Walthers fit my hand more. Personal taste and all that.

Cheers Interweb.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Evolution & Variants of the AK-47: Part IV - Frequently Asked Questions

by Mishaco (Originally posted on The Firing Range 14-Jan-2010)

This article is part of a series:
Part I - Development and History
Part II - Military Variants and Accessories
Part III - Civilian Semi-Automatic Variants

Part IV -  FAQ

Q: Tell me about the differences between milled and stamped receivers?
A: They are made is machined from a block of steel. The other is a single pressed sheet of steel that is then folded into a U shape with rivets and pins. They take the same forearm furniture though its of different shapes. Their buttstocks are not interchangeable.

Q: Will my Yugo Sporter take standard furniture?
A: No, the Yugo's handguards are longer than standard. Its buttstock is held onto the rifle in an entirely different way too. Only pistol grips can interchange.

Q: Will my Tantal Sporter take standard furniture?
A: It will take any standard fixed buttstock for a stamped gun and any right-hand folding stock that uses normal rear trunions. It will also take standard pistol grips and lower handguards. the only part that is unique on the Tantal is the upper handguard.

Q: Can I put one of those K-Var solid side folding stocks on my rifle?
A: Probably not, unless your rifle is say one of the ORF AKS-74 builds. The K-Var stock is a left-side folder, which uses a totally different rear trunnion, separate latching piece, and even a different receiver. To modify say a WASR to use one, you'd need to make quite a few new holes in the receiver and change the angle of the back of it too. Its just not practical. Just by an Arsenal SLR if you really want a rifle with that stock. If you do have an ORF AKS, then go for it. Nothing could be more simple. All you need do is drive out one single pin, take your old stock off, put the K-Var stock in, and drive the pin back in... Done!

Q: Are WASRs made from rejected military parts?
A: No concrete evidence has surfaced to proove this is the case. Rather in recent years they have begun building WASRs from actual military rifles so by definition they can't be of reject parts. If there is a triangle with an arrow in it or just an empty box on your front trunnion, then your WASR was made from a real military gun.

Q: What's the deal with SGLs? Why not just buy a normal Saiga?
A: They were never Saiga Sporters with a pushed back trigger group and hunter furniture. They were made as thumbhole stocked guns with their triggers in the right spot and with normal forearm furniture. Also they have markings that more closely resemble Russian military ones, than the Saiga Hunters do. Finally, their receivers have the dimples on each side of the magwell, to complete the military look. In short, the reason to buy an SGL is to get a rifle that closely memics a real Russian AK-74M/AK-103, but without the folding stock.

Q: I see PSLs but no SVDs. Why isn't someone importing or building an SVD clone?
A: They are banned from import by the 1989 restrictions by name and in 1994, Russia agreed to stop exporting hunting versions of the SVD into the USA. No one is making one here because it would be too damn expensive and a US made SVD would loose its Russian mystique. In short, it's not profitable.

Q: How do I field strip my AK?
A: Like this....
1) First remove magazine and triple check that the chamber is empty:

(Click to Enlarge)

2) Remove the dustcover.  Push the button in all the way, which is located at the rear of the dustcover. While holding it in, pull the dustcover up and off at a slightly tilted angle towards the front of the rifle:

(Click to Enlarge)

3) Remove the recoil spring & rod.  With the dustcover off, you can see the internals of the rifle. Push the same button again and now with the cover off it will move all the way out of its guide grooves and then let go. Spring tension will push it back forward but just make sure it goes above its grooves. Then just pull the spring and rod out of the bolt carrier:

(Click to Enlarge)

4) Remove the bolt carrier, with bolt in it.  Grab the charging handle and pull all the way to the rear of the receiver. You will feel minor resistance as it passes over the hammer. Once in the rear most position, simply lift the bolt carrier out of the receiver. It will take with it the gas piston and bolt:

(Click to Enlarge)

5) Take the bolt out of the bolt carrier.  Push the bolt back until it impacts the rear of the bolt-carrier and then rotate the lugs out of the way. When it is in the correct position you can then push the bolt forward and it will come out of the carrier.

(Click to Enlarge)

6) Remove the gas tube.  Now that the bolt-carrier is out of the rifle, you can remove the gas tube, which houses the upper handguard. Look on the right side of your gun, on the trunion, just below the rear sight. You will see a lever. Move it clockwise to about the 11:00 position. This might require a good amount of force so you might want to use a small hammer. On other guns, this lever can be moved by hand. When the lever is in position, you just lift the gas tube off.
On rifles with the AK-74 style spring-loaded gastube, you will need to push the tube rearwards a small amount, and then lift it off.

(Click to Enlarge)

This is as much as you should take your AK down, for standard cleaning. Do not remove the lower handguard excessively or it could become loose. Buttstock is held in place with 2 screws. Just remove these and pull it out, if you are replacing the stock. Otherwise do not remove it excessively either. Lower handguard is held on with a lever and spring clip.
Removing the barrel is not a good idea either. Only do this if it is100% neccessary.

Q: What's the difference between 'Warsaw' and "NATO' length stocks?
A: Short answer, NATO is longer. The Warsaw stock was the standard length used in most all of those nations during the Cold War. The NATO length is based on the length of the M16A2's stock. The NATO is 1" & 1/4th" longer than Warsaw. There is also an intermediate length stock which is 3/4th" longer than Warsaw and is currently being offered for both milled and stamped receivers by Arsenal USA.

Q: I'm thinking about building a stamped AK and I need a receiver. What do the percentages mean?
A: A 100% receiver is prebuilt and ready to have the trunnions riveted in. These are serialed, and must be transferred through an FFL just like a completed firearm.

An 80% receiver is a length of square steel tubing. While this can ship directly to your door (no FFL), you will need to drill all axis pin and trunnion rivet holes, as well as cut out the magazine well and install the center support and internal rails.

A 0% receiver (or 'flat') is simply a piece of sheet metal that must be bent into a receiver shape. Most flats have the holes predrilled and the magazine well already cut out, but you'll still need to install the internal rails and center support. With good quality 100% receivers available for a reasonable price, there's really no need to invest in the tooling to build up an 80% or less receiver.

Useful Links:

English version of Izhmash's Official site:
(current manufacturers of the AKM, AK-74M, and semi-auto SGL series)

Arsenal USA's Official Site:
(Importer and manufacturer of semi-automatic AK clones)

Arsenal of Bulgaria's Official Site:
(In Bulgarian)

List of USA manufacturers of the AK and AK parts:
(also has links to pictures)

List of foreign manufacturers of the AK:

The Wikipedia homepage for the AK-47/AKM:
(they have a few errors, but not too bad for the AK-47, but when you branch out to the variants, they get worse)

Max's site. He lives in St. Petersburg Russia and has a lot of first-hand AK experience.
(AK-47 & AKM)
(AK-74 & AK-74M)

Links to different field manuals related to the AK.
(donated by Miso Beno )

'The Big Guide to Romanian AKs'
(a great write-up of the Romanian military PM-63 & PA-86)

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The Evolution & Variants of the AK-47: Part III - Civilian Semi-Automatic Variants

by Mishaco (Originally posted on The Firing Range 14-Jan-2010)

This article is part of a series:
Part I - Development and History
Part II - Military Variants and Accessories
Part IV - Frequently Asked Questions

Part III - Civilian Semi-Automatic Variants

Beginning in the 1970s, AK type rifles have been imported into the USA from many different nations and in many different configurations. In 1989, the AK was banned from import by name as it was declared non-sporting. Soon after importers installed thumbhole stocks and limited the rifles to 10 round magazines, in order that they might be allowed in again. In 1994, this loop hole was plugged and after that any AK brought in had to have no more than a set number of foreign made parts. Also in 1994, the Assault Weapons Ban passed which outlawed bayonet lugs, threaded barrels, folding stocks, high-cap magazines, pistol grips, and barrel shrouds. To be exact, what the AWB did was say that no civilian firearm would have more than any 2 of those 'evil' features. In most cases, the two features put on AKs were pistol grips and the ability to accept double stack (high-cap) magazines. If a gun had a thumbhole stock and only could take 10 round magazines, then it would have been ok to have a bayonet lug or flash hider. In 2004, the AWB was allowed to Sunset and once more AKs could be allowed un-nutered, but in 2005, the BATF ruled that barrels of a non-sporting nature were no longer importable. As a result parts kits, created from demilled machineguns by cutting the receiver, now also had to have their barrels cut up.

Today the AK has become a popular civilian platform in America and comes in two general types. The first type is Imported Rifles. These are rifles brought into the country with no bayonet lugs or threaded barrels and with thumbhole stocks. Once in the US they are modified by installation of a normal fixed or folding stock, pistol grip, bayonet lug, and threads on the barrel. These rifles have original foreign made barrels and receivers. The second type is that of Parts Guns. These are built from demilled military assault rifles on US made semi-auto receivers. As mentioned before, in recent years parts guns also have had to be made with US made barrels due to the 2005 BATF ruling. Generally speaking, imported guns are more desirable and collectable because they are all original. On the other hand, parts guns are normally just as reliable and accurate and some times are less expensive by a good bit. for example, you could pay $2,000.00 for an original Zastava M70 imported by Mitchell back in the 1980s, or pay $500 for a parts gun made from a military M70 kit with US made barrel and receiver.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most popular designs in the country today. For the most part i won't talk about pre-89 AK imports because they are not commonly encountered and are of high pricing when found. Most of the time pre-89'ers are just like their military counterparts, only with receivers which can not easily be modified to fire in full-auto.

Arsenal USA
Arsenal USA of Las Vegas is related to but not the same as Arsenal of Bulgaria. For legal reasons each is a separate company, though in reality they use the same machinery, blue prints, materials, and offer much of the same firearms. Arsenal of Bulgaria primarily sells select-fire weapons on the international market, where as Arsenal USA sells semi-auto only models for the civilian market.

Two basic lines of arsenals are offered (please note that the SLR-95 and SLR-100 series do not hold):

1) SAM series: These are rifles in 7.62x39 or 5.56x45 and have US made milled receivers. These come in any number of configurations: standard AK-47, M1, MA1, AKS-47, even in AK-102 and AKS-74U lengths. Barrels can either have 14mm or 24mm threads and stocks can either be fixed, underfolding, or right-hand side-folding. They can accept all standard double stack magazines. Most models come with polymer furniture, though some limited edition ones have blonde wood.
SA M-7 = 7.62x39 fixed stock
SAS M-7 = 7.62x39 underfolding stock
SA M-5 = 5.56x45 fixed stock

2) SLR series: These rifles are in either 7.62x39, 5.56x45, or 5.45x39 and have stamped imported receivers with Bulgarian made barrels. Most often they are in AK-101/102/103/104 configurations with left-hand side-folding stocks and 24mm threaded barrels. All models come with polymer furniture. Please note that some models come with solid side-folding stocks, while others have metal triangular ones. Most Arsenal rifles come with a sling, cleaning kit, and either a 5,10, or 30 round polymer magazine.

SLR-107 = 7.62x39
SLR-106 = 5.56
SLR-105 = 5.45
FR = AK-101/103 style
CR = AK-102/104 style
UR = AKSU style

Saiga (EAA & RAA)
The Saiga is a wholly Russian made rifle, assembled in the original Izhmash factory and modified into a sporting/hunting configuration. Trigger group is moved rearward and hunting forearm and stock are added. No bayonet lug, no threaded barrel, and rarely with a muzzle brake. For a brief time in 2004, versions were imported with standard military pistol grip, buttstock, and muzzle brake, but no longer. These rifles are commonly chambered in 7.62x39, .223, .308, 12 g, 20 g, and .410. A whole industry has sprang up around converting these rifles into many different layouts and for diverse usages. In the beginning EAA imported the Saiga, but now RAA has taken over the duties. Saigas come with a cleaning kit and low-cap magazine.

Beginning in 2008, a partnership was created between Arsenal and Izhmash to bring Russian Saigas into the USA in military configurations and with proper military rather than sporting markings. These rifles are still wholly made in Russia, with the exception of their required US made parts: stock set (3) trigger group (3) and muzzle brake (1). Receivers are Russian made, as are the chrome-lined barrels, bolts, carriers, trunnions, front sight and gas blocks, and rear sight base. These rifles accept standard furniture and magazines. SGLs come with just a 10 round magazine (in the case of SGL-41, its a 4 round mag).

SGL-20/21 = 7.62x39
SGL-31 = 5.45x39
SGL-41 = .410 shotgun.

Currently no folding stock version or carbine version is offered.

SGL-31 with 30 round magazine and Russian sling. 
(Click to Enlarge)
(Click to Enlarge)

SGL-41 with birdcage flash hider and recoilless stock.
(Click to Enlarge)

So so so very much can be said about these rifles, some good and some bad. Their import began in 2003, after the discontinuation of the SAR series. From the factory the WASR accepts low-cap single stack magazines of 10 rounds. This is why its receiver has no dimples on each side of the magwell. WASRs can be fitted with standard AKM furniture as well as most AK-74 sets. Barrels are chrome-lined and of 16" and are Romanian made, just as the receivers are. Century Arms is the main importer of this series and offers the rifle in many configurations.

After the AWB sunset, the GP-WASR was released. This is a WASR with threaded barrel, slant style brake, and bayonet lug. The WASR comes with 2-30 round magazines, sling, cleaning kit, bayonet (for modles with a lug), and some times a mag pouch.

WASR-10 = 7.62x39
WASR-2 = 5.45x39 (currently not imported)
WASR-3 = .223 (currently not imported)
WASR-22 = .22 LR (limited numbers)

Stock Types: fixed (either of woode or plastic), Galil style side-folder of plastic, Romanian style side-folder of metal, Russian style under folder (either stamped or milled), M4 style collapsible
Handguard Types: Standard wood (with or without palm-swells), Galil style plastic, wooden with vertical pistol grip, tri-rail.

GP-WASR-10/63 with Underfolding stock and wooden handguards.
(Click to Enlarge)

The AES-10 is basically a WASR-10 with 22" barrel and bipod located behind the gasblock. It also has an RPK style buttstock but standard handguards. This rifle generally comes with 2-30 round magazines and has been discontinued.

The AES-10B is almost identical to the military RPK, but with a semi-auto receiver. It has a 22" heavy barrel with bipod located behind the front sight, RPK furniture, windage adjustable rear sight, 1.6mm thick receiver, thicker dustcover, and carry handle. it generally comes with 2-40 round magazines and is currently not being imported.

(Click to Enlarge)

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Draco/Champion 2007 Pistol
The Draco is a semi-auto version of the Romanian M90 Short Rifle, without a forearm pistol grip or buttstock. These changes legally make it a pistol, and thus importable as a complete gun not requiring any US made parts. It is chambered in 7.62x39 and comes with 2-30 round magazines and a cleaning kit. It has a 12" barrel with 14mm threads under a muzzle nut. A rifle version is also available with metal folding stock and extended barrel: the GP-WASR-10/63 KR.

The Champion 2007, is the same gun but in .223 or .22LR. It comes with 2-30 round proprietary magazines. 

 Draco Pistol
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Beginning in the 1990s, Romania started importing the Romak series. This was an AKM limited to semi-automatic fire only and complying with the AWB: NO threaded barrel, bayonet lug, or folding stock. IN 1999, the Romak switched to the SAR. Both types could accept standard magazines and came with 1-10 round mag, 1-30 round mag, sling, and cleaning kit. Importation of the SAR ended in 2003. Generally speaking these rifles have a good reputation for worksmanship and a great one for reliability. All models came with wooden furniture with a plastic pistol grip.

Romak I/1 SAR-1 = 7.62x39
Romak II/2 SAR-2 =5.45x39
SAR-3 = 5.56x45.

PSL-54c/Romak III
The civilian legal PSL is identical to Romania's military version, except that its receiver is missing the 3rd axis pin, which the ATF ruled made it a machinegun, even though all PSLss are limited to semi-auto fire from the factory. For importation the bayonet lug is also ground off, but can be reinstalled once in USA, though then its a question of 922(r).

The rifle has been imported under many names but is the same: Romak III, FPK, SSR-97, and PSL-54c. It comes with 2-10 round magazines, sling, cleaning kit, mag pouch, and 4x scope with cover. furniture is always of wood. No 7.62x51 NATO version is imported.
PSL-54c with LPS scope
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Romie 'G' Kit Builds
What is commonly known as a Romie-G in America today, is actually the Romanian Guarda PM.63. This is a standard PM.63 limited to semi-auto only and intended for their version of the National Guard. Many of these guns have been demilled into kits and imported in recent years.

Century Arms makes a few different rifles from these kits under the name GP-1975. Early ones had original Romanian furniture. Recent ones have US made black plastic furniture with various tactical 'upgrades.'

Another company to build up these kits is I.O. Inc. They use the metal parts from the kits along with a Tapco 'Galil' handguard, pistol grip, and plastic side-folding stock.

Lancaster too uses Romie-G kits to build their stamped AK designs. These rifles usually have better finish than Century's but are still made from used military kits on US made receivers and possibly also barrels. These guns have red stained Romanian furniture, meant to memic the Russian style.

M70B1/AB2 & M72 Sporter
The M70AB2 Sporter was Century's first AK parts kit build up, released immediately after the AWB sunset in 2005. These rifles are built from Zastava military rifles which had their receivers cut. Original barrels were not used because so many of them were dark and pitted from long and hard use. Instead US made barrels have been utilized. Rifle retains all the features of the military rifle, including underfolding stock, grenade launcher sights with gas-cut off, threaded barrel with slant brake or muzzle nut, bayonet lug, and polished steel bolt carrier. The US made barrel and receiver do a very good job of reproducing the original Zastava designs, down to the proper thickness and the reinforced dustcover latch. Handguards can either be of wood or polymer and are not interchangeable with standard AK types. In fact most parts on Yugo rifles are unique and not standard.

M70AB2 Sporter with wooden handguards and Yugo magazine.
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Three different versions are available. The M70B1 is built from a fixed stock kit, the M70AB2 from a folding stock kit, and the M72 from an LMG heavy barrel kit. All are very accurate reproductions and are some of the best products that Century has ever offered. They normaly come with just 2-30 round magazines, though some early M70AB2s also came with sling, cleaning kit, bayonet, and mag pouch.

Please note: no M70 type Yugo either military or sporter ever had a chrome-lined barrel.

M72 Sporter
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M76 Sporter
Like the PSL, the M76 in military service is not a select-fire weapon, nevertheless it is not allowed into the country because it has too many evil features such as pistol grip, flash hider, and bayonet lug. Thus Century contracted with Ohio Rapid Fire to manufacture receivers for the M76 kits which became available a few years back. The receivers are milled, just like the originals, minus the 3rd axis pin. Barrels are US made and of a heavy contour. Scopes are original though, as are many of the other parts including all of the furniture, flash hider, sights, bolt and carrier, and adjustable gas system.
Early ORF M76 receivers had issues with having had been improperly heat-treated, but ORF promises that the latest generation (5th if you were wondering) has resolved this issues and is Zastava milspec. The rifle comes with 2-10 round magazines, bayonet, military scope, and hard case.

M76 Sporter with original military scope
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AMD-65 Sporter
These rifles are built from demilled Hungarian AMD-65 kits, using a USA made receiver and barrel. Because the original gun had a 12" barrel with a 2" snake-brake, to make these Sporters legal Century used a 14" barrel and welded the brake on to have an overall length of 16". Features include a wire folding stock with rubber buttplate, wooden or plastic twin pistol grips, and compact light design. This is one of those designs that some people love and others find extremely ugly. Judge for yourself. AMD-65 Sporter comes with 2-30 round magazines, mag pouch (usually a nice 5-cell one), cleaning kit, and rarely a leather sling. No major problems have ever been associated with this model.

AMD-65 Sporter with original Hungarian sling and 20 round short magazine. Note the extended barrel.
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Tantal Sporter
The infamous Century Arms Tantal Sporter. It is true that Inter-Ordnance did make some Tantals, but the majority of them out there today were made by CAI. These use specialized receivers with a spot for the left-side safety lever and demilled Polish WZ.88 Tantal kits. The kits themselves are of a high quality and saw light to medium use. They all come with a right-hand side folding buttstock of wire design with a reinforced locking system. Handguards are of the now well known multicolored pattern. Lower handguard is standard AKM/AK-74 but upper handguard is unique to the Tantal. There is a lug in front of the gas block where a bipod can be attached. The muzzle device is a combination flash hider and grenade launcher. Even though the Tantal has 14mm threads, it can't accept any other muzzle device currently available because the barrel goes past the threads about 3/4ths of an inch.
The Tantal sporter would have been a great design, firing the now cheap 5.45x39 cartridge; except Century had a cock-up on the barrel front. They got the twist rate wrong and even used some barrels with 5.56 diameters instead of 5.45. Despite internet rumor, there are no specific serial blocks with improper barrels as they just used whatever barrel was at hand at the moment. Additionally, the bullet test has also proven to be unreliable. Why is this all a problem? Because without the proper twist rate or bore diameter, the 5.45 bullet tends to keyhole part of the time. For many shooters this is unacceptable.

The Tantal Sporter comes with 2-30 round magazines and detachable bipod. Magazines can either be polymer or steel.

Ohio Rapid Fire has built up manyAK-74s and AKS-74s from demilled Bulgarian kits, on US receivers and using original Bulgarian barrels. Both fixed stock and left-hand side folding stock variants have been offered. Handguards can either be of wood or polymer. The kits that are being used are medium to heavily used but still quite accurate. These rifles consistently get good reviews and come with 1-30 round magazine, sling, cleaning kit, and bayonet.

Golani Sporter
These are semi-auto clones of the IMI Galil AR built from original parts kits on ORF made milled receivers and using green Mountain 20" barrels. They retain the Galil's folding metal stock, birdcage flash hider, polymer handguard and pistol grip, and ambidextrous safety. As with the M76, ORF did not properly heat-treat early Golani receivers. This problem was resolved by 2007 they claim. And why Golani Sporter and not Galil Sporter? Actually the first batch of rifles were marked Galil and then IMI/IWI threatened Century with legal action because the name had been patterned. Therefore CAI had to change the name to satisfy the original manufacturers. The Golani comes with 2-35 round magazines. Bayonet lug is an optional feature.

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The Evolution & Variants of the AK-47: Part II - Military Variants and Accessories

by Mishaco (Originally posted on The Firing Range 14-Jan-2010)

This article is part of a series:
Part I - Development and History
Part III - Civilian Semi-Automatic Variants
Part IV - Frequently Asked Questions

Part II - Military Variants & Accessories

This is not a complete list by no means. The AK has been produced officially and otherwise in dozens of nations and used in hundreds. Here are only the European nations, and by no means all the models they have created over the years.

Type 56: Used Chinese made Type-56-1s and later produced its own. Ironically, China first acquired the design for AK-47 Type III from Russia, but never AKM. As a result stamped Chinese guns are partly based on original AK-47 and partly on reversed engineered AKMs.

AK-47: First received parts from Russia and Poland and then produced a copy of the original Russian design. When the AKM was developed, Bulgaria stuck with the milled receiver but simplified production and manufacture by switching from a barrel held in by threads, to one held in by a large pin, very similar to the way the AKM's barrel is held in place.AK-47 M1: modern milled AK in 7.62x39 with polymer furniture, vertical gas block, and plastic magazines. Ambidextrous safety optional.
AK-74/AKS-74/RPK-74: produced virtual clones of the first Russian styles, but with subtle differences such as not having a rubber butt plate.
AK-47 MA1/AR M1: milled receiver modern firearm firing the 5.56 NATO cartridge used in the Bulgarian Army today. Fixed and folding stock versions available.
Arsenal of Bulgaria also produces many models with both stamped and milled receivers in both select and semi-auto only fire, for the world market. 

Arsenal SA M-5R, semi-auto version of Bulgarian AK-47 MA1, with side-rail and Warsaw buttstock.
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SA Vz.58P/58V: Not actually an AK-47 design at all or in any way similar aside from the fact it fires the 7.62x39 cartridge; nevertheless, many mislabel the Vz.58 as an AK clone. No parts can interchange between the two designs. The Vz uses a gas piston like the one found in FN FAL or SKS, not anything like the AK's. Bolt is of tilting block design and weapon is striker fired, not hammer. Receiver is milled but surprisingly light weight. Barrel is of 15" and magazines are of 30 rounds with bolt-hold open lever located in the gun. Stock can either be of fixed type (58P) or side-folding type (58V). This is still the main small arm of the Czech Republic and Slovakia today.

Vz.58 Sporter made by CZ with military furniture and 30 round magazine. 
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East Germany
AK-47: Issued but did not manufacture complete rifles.
MPI AKM: built domestic version with either fixed buttstock or metal side-folding stock. Furniture could either be of wood or brown plastic, including buttstock. Grey furniture sets were also created.
MPI AK-74/AKS-74/AKS-74K: Beginning in 1983, and until the reunification of West and East Germany, E.G. manufactured a series of rifles in 5.45x39. Basic model was very similar to Soviet AK-74, but most likely would have had plastic furniture. The folding stock version had a right-hand metal folding stock, and a carbine (Kurz) version was also created with shorter barrel and combination front sight and gas block.

RK.62: Essentially an AK-47 with different furniture, a flash hider, new sights, and a high degree of fit and finish. The RK.62 and its later variants were and still are made by first Valmet and now Sako. Early versions had plastic handguards and pistol grips along with a steel buttstock. Later rifles could be fitted with a side-folding stock. All RKs have night-sights and use 30 round magazines.
M.76: Stamped receiver version of the RK.62
RK.78: LMG version of theRK.62 with folding bipod and heavier barrel.
RK.95TP: A modernized and improved version of the RK.62 with longer and better vented handguard, enlarged trigger guard for the use of gloves, standard folding stock, and the addition of rails for various tactical devices. The RK.95TP is manufactured exclusively by Sako.
(additional info on RK.95 supplied by Sormus )

AK-47: Type III rifles, most likely built from parts received from Russia, with domestically manufactured furniture.
AMD-63: domestic modified AKM with vertical pistol grip under a skeletonized front handguard, with exposed gas tube, and wooden buttstock. Also had a unique ported muzzle brake known unofficially as the 'snake' brake.
AMD-65: carbine version of the 63 with barrel shortened to 12" and slightly shortened gas-system. Fitted with wire folding stock with rubber buttplate. Typically was issued with 20 round magazines instead of 30 for easier operation and maneuvering in armored vehicles.
AK-63: A close clone of the AKM first fielded in 1977 and still in use today.

Galil AR/ARM: licensed produced copy of the Finnish RK.62 with FN style metal side-folding stock, M16A1 style sights, birdcage flash hider, 20" barrel, and chambered in 5.56 NATO. The Galil is not considered an AK but it was directly developed from an AK-47 copy. It uses 35 round steel magazines, themselves based off the AK-74's magazine. An LMG version with bipod and extended magazine is known as the ARM.
Galil SAR/MAR: carbine versions of the AR.
Galil Sniper: Israel chambered some Galils in 7.62x51 NATO for long range machine gun fire (ARM style) and others for sniper duty. These have heavier barrels and fixed or folding stocks. Magazines are of 25 rounds only.

Golani Sporter made from IMI parts on US made barrel and receiver, with original IMI sling and magazine. 

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WZ.1960: Polish produced copy of the original AK-47. Had a high degree of fit and finish.
WZ.1961: same as 1960 model, but with the addition of a grenade launching feature and gas-cutoff lever.
WZ.1988: Commonly known as the Tantal. the 88 was a heavily modified AK-74 design with combination flash hider/grenade launcher muzzle device on 14mm threads. It had multicolored plastic furniture, except very final versions had black polymer sets. All models had a wire folding stock. Rifles were issued with a bipod which clipped onto the barrel, just forward of the gas block. The Tantal had a separate safety lever on the right side, and fire selector on the left.
WZ.1991: same as WZ.88 but chambered in 5.56 NATO. This was a temporary measure until new rifle could be developed for Poland, after the end of the Warsaw Pact.
WZ.1996: Commonly called the Beryl, this rifle has a 18" barrel, fires the 5.56 NATO cartridge, and can be fitted with a railed forearm for accessories. It uses a buttstock some what like the one found on IMI's Galil and accepts unique clear plastic magazines, which are not interchangeable with early 5.45 mags. Otherwise, the Beryl is very similar to Tantal.
WZ.1996 'Mini': a shortened beryl with 9.5" barrel.

Tantal Sporter,semi-auto version of WZ.88 on US receiver, with Polish sling (a goon gift) and steel 30 round magazine.
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AK-47: received rifles from Russia
PM-63: a close copy of the AKM but with wooden vertical pistol grip located on the lower handguard.
PM-65: a close copy of the AKMS, but again with forearm pistol grip added.
PM-64: copy of the RPK, but with a carry handle added to later models.
PA-86: not a true AK-74, but rather an AKM re-chambered for 5.45x39. All models had a folding wire stock and used a unique 22mm threaded barrel with AK-74 style brake. Handguards most often were bakelite, though some were produced with wood. One unusual thing about the PA was it was capable of 3-round burst mode, not just full auto. This model is still in use today with Romanian forces. An LMG version has also been produced.
PM-90: a modernized version of the PM-63 with folding stock and slant style muzzle brake, instead of a muzzle nut.
PM-90 Short Rifle: similar in concept to the AK-104, this carbine has a 12" barrel, folding stock, 14mm threaded barrel and slightly shortened gas-system. Original ones came with a conical flash hider, later ones come with either a birdcage one or just a muzzle nut. This carbine comes in all three common AK calibers and may or may not have a vertical pistol grip. Handguards seem to always be made of wood. Some buttstocks fold to the left, though most are standard right-hand wire folders.
PM-97: a commercial version of the PA-86 chambered in 5.56 NATO and intended exclusively for international sales.
PSL-54: Often mis-labeled as a Dragunov, the PSL is a scaled up RPK type firing the 7.62x54R cartridge. It features longer wooden handguards, an SVD style buttstock, AK bolt and carrier, bayonet lug, and muzzle brake. For export the PSL is also offered with a 14mm threaded barrel and removable muzzle brake, though this could have a negative impact on accuracy; some nations request it for the ability to attach a blank fire adapter. All rifles have a side-rail mount and are issued with either a 4x or 8x scope. Magazines are steel and hold 10 rounds. All versions are semi-automatic only.
PL-54: Same as PSL but chambered in 7.62x51 NATO and with a new magazine type.

SAR-2, civilian version of PA-86 with Romanian side-folding stock and muzzle brake.
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Saiga 12: In addition to its standard AK line, Izhmash of Russia also produces a series of combat shotguns intended for military and law-enforcement sales. The most popular is the Saiga 12k-s, a 17" barreled 12g shotgun with an AK-74M style folding stock and handguards. It features a birdcage style flash hider and either a 5 or 8 round magazine. A version with a 23" barrel is known as the Saiga 12-s. Poland has been Russia's biggest military contract for these shotguns to date, but many other nations and private security firms have also placed orders.

Russian Saiga 12k-s with 19" barrel, flash hider, and original Izhmash folding stock/pistol grip set.
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AP M64/M70: altered versions of the AK-47 Type III with various features such as different kinds of bolt hold open mechanisms and lengthened handguards. None of these were officially adopted by Yugoslavia, but were used in combat.
AP M70B1: Production model of a fixed stocked AK with a 1.6mm thick stamped receiver. The M70B1 is less an AKM copy, than it is a AK-47 with a stamped receiver. It retains the AK-47s heavier barrel, sling swivel placements, and overall heavier design. Buttstock attaches in a unique way unlike any other AK design. Buttplate is of rubber and gas block has a gas cut-off for launching of grenades. The magazine serves as the last-round bolt hold open.
AP M70AB2: same as B1 but with an underfolding buttstock.
M72: loosely, an RPK version of the M70 with heavy and longer barrel, fixed buttstock and windage adjustable rear sights.
M72A: same as M72 but with an underfolding buttstock
M92: An AKSU type in 7.62x39 with a 9.5" barrel and other minor differences, such as an underfolding stock, instead of side folding.
M95: A 5.56 NATO Yugo AK with underfolding stock, grenade launcher, and night sights. Produced for commercial sales.
M21: Latest Zastava offering, intended to be Serbia's new standard issue rifle.
M76: Like the PSL, the M76 is a scaled up AK design for designated marksman use. The M76 fires the 7.92x57 Mauser (8mm) cartridge, out of 10 round steel magazines. It has a milled receiver, heavy barrel, flash hider with interrupted threads for the use of a suppressor, and can mount a bayonet. Furniture is totally of wood with a pistol grip and military stock.
M77: Same as M76 but chambered in 7.62x51 NATO and I believe magazines are made from a polymer material.

M70B1 Sporter built from original Zastava rifle with removable grenade launcher on barrel. Note longer handguards and grenade sights on the gas block.
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AK-47 Milled Type

This is the original type of bayonet used on the Type II and Type III AK-47s. It has a longer, thinner blade and scabbard has no wire-cutting feature. This particular one is Polish.
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AKM Bayonet

A later style Romanian AKM bayonet.  Note the wire-cutting feature and that the blade is shorter and thicker.
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AK-74 Bayonet

This is the type of bayonet issued with AK-74 rifles. Note the different shape to the grip and plastic sheath. This one was made in Bulgaria.
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AK-74M/AK-103 Bayonet

This is the latest style of AK bayonet with black polymer grip and sheath. This one is a circle 10 Arsenal Bulgaria make.
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Magazine Pouches

2 Pocket for 30 round magazines
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3 Pocket for 30 round magazines
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4 Pocket for 20 round magazines
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4 Pocket for 30 round magazines
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4 Pocket for 40 round magazines
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5 Pocket for 30 round magazines
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The Evolution & Variants of the AK-47: Part I - Development History

by Mishaco (Originally posted on The Firing Range 14-Jan-2010)

This article is part of a series:
Part II - Military Variants and Accessories
Part III - Civilian Semi-Automatic Variants
Part IV - Frequently Asked Questions

Part I - Development History

Probably the single most recognizable military firearm today is the AK-47. In fact this is not a single type of rifle developed in 1947, and there after mass produced unaltered; but rather an entire family of rifles and light machineguns in several calibers. In recent years semi-automatic sporting versions of the AK have become popular in the United States. In this thread i will do my best to answer the most common questions asked and give a brief account of the development of this series.


The AK didn't spring out of the void, in fact it was designer Mikhail Kalashnikov's third design and a highly modified one at that. During the Great Patriotic War, he first attempted to win a competition to create a self-loading carbine, using an intermediate cartridge. His design went nowhere and the Soviet Union adopted the SKS-45 rifle. After the war, he sought to produce an assault rifle, after Russian troops saw first-hand the effectiveness of the German STG-44 carbine in 8mm Kurz. This second design did much better in trials and was designated AK-46. Nevertheless, improvements were suggested and a major redesign resulted in the now famous AK-47 assault rifle.

Semi-auto version of Polish WZ.1960 AK-47 type III, with early style steel slab-sided magazine.
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AK-47s built between 1946 and 1948, featured a sheet steel receiver folded and welded into shape. The Type I receiver proved to be too difficult to produce for that era in Soviet Russia. As a result, in late 1948, the original receiver was replaced by a more traditional machined one, out of steel forgings. The Type II was actually more costly than the sheet steel receiver, but since Russia already had tooling and the expertise from building millions of Mosin-Nagants and thousands of SKSs, it was quicker and easier given that new machinery didn't have to be created at that time. After full scale production of the AK had begun, the 3rd and final receiver appeared. The Type III receiver was very similar to the Type II, but was machined from steel barstock. This measure decreased the cost some what and sped up the assembly process. Type II and III receivers can be told apart by differently shaped lightening cuts on each side, above the magazine; and the Type II has a lip on which the dustcover rests and the Type III does not.

The AK-47 was a selective fire assault rifle capable of either single shot or fully automatic fire. It chambered the 7.62x39 M43 cartridge, which fed from 30 round slab-sided heavy sheet steel magazines. Its barrel was 16.25" and it utilized a two-lug rotating bolt with a long-stroke gas-pistin system. The first AKs had fixed wooden buttstocks with a downward sweep, intended to compensate for muzzle climb during full-auto fire. Soon after, a version was unveiled with a metal underfolding stock, which was based on the German MP-40 submachinegun's stock. This version known as the AKS-47, was intended for airborne troops and others needing a more compact small arm. Muzzle had 14mm threads on it and came from the factory with both a muzzle nut and blank fire adapter. At this time no flash hider or compensator was issued with the AK-47. Bayonet attached on a lug directly underneath the front sight block. AK-47s produced in the 1950s featured a surprisingly high level of workmanship, fit and finish, especially those made in Russia and Poland.

Arsenal SAS M-7, a modern production AKS-47 in semi-auto by Bulgaria. Milled receiver but with new style gas-block and muzzle brake.
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The rifle was officially adopted in Soviet service in 1949, but due to the various changes made in the receiver and the complexity of setting up assembly lines, it was not to reach the majority of Russian soldiers until well into the 1950s. After Russia fielded the AK-47 and AKS-47, most Warsaw Pact nations followed suit, including: Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and East Germany. At first all nations received either completed rifles or parts to be assembled into such, from Russia; but later Poland and Bulgaria began domestic production. All of Romania's AK-47s were of Russian origin and it is unclear if Hungary ever produced whole rifles, or merely furniture and other minor components. At any rate, by the 1960s, most of East Europe was armed with Kalashnikov's rifle.


SAR-1: Civilian version of Romanian PM.63-almost an exact copy of Russian AKM, but with different handguards.
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In 1959, the second generation of the rifle was announced and began being issued to Russian troops. This new design wasn't really anything new at all. The AKM's Type IV receiver was a return to the stamped steel idea with then modern manufacturing techniques. The receiver was a stamped sheet of metal folded and riveted together, with two machined trunnions at each end. The front trunnion held the barrel, gas tube and front sight base, while the rear one held the stock in place and served as a backstop for the recoiling bolt and carrier. This switch from machined receiver to stamped took 3 lbs off the total weight of the rifle. One new mechanical element of the AKM was its rate-reducer. This device was actually put into place as an out-of-battery safety, not allowing the gun to fire until the round was fully seated and the bolt closed. It also had the effect of slowing down the rifle's firing rate a bit. The AKM's furniture was lightened and scaled down slightly. The buttstock lost much of its swept angle and the pistol grip and lower handguard became slimmer. Finally, the AKM's barrel was lighter and thinner than the one found on the original AK-47. Instead of having a muzzle nut, this design most often came with a slant style muzzle brake intended to help with muzzle climb and direct gases away from the ground. This is why the stock's angle was reduced. The operating system of the new design remained the same, though magazines were changed to a ribbed style made of thinner but more durable sheet metal. The AKM could still accept older AK-47 magazines and vice-versa. The bayonet lug was shifted from the front sight base, to a new type located under the gas block. As you can see, the driving idea behind the new design was 'lighter-lighter-lighter. The AKM didn't show as high a degree of refinement as the aK-47, but nevertheless was just as reliable and durable.
The AKM proved to be even more popular than the original. In the 1960s, most East European nations began manufacturing a variant. With its light-weight and inexpensive manufacturing costs, the AKM rapidly spread around the world and was used in virtually every conflict beginning in the 1960s, through today.


AES-10B Civilian version of Romanian PM-64 which is almost an identical copy of original Russian RPK.
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The RPK is essentually an AK modified for sustained fire to fulfill the role of a light machinegun. In the 1950s, Soviet Russia was using the RPD belt-fed LMG in 7.62x39, which was both felt to be too costly to produce and unreliable. Indeed, the 7.62x39 cartridge had minimal power to operate a belt and if the gas system lost power due to fowling or poor containment the RPD could fail to cycle properly. As a result, the AKM design was upgraded to replace the RPD.

Changes from the AKM to the RPK are many. First and foremost, the barrel was made much heavier and extended to 22" long. The receiver was slightly lengthened and increased from 1.0mm thickness to 1.6mm. Likewise the dustcover was stretched and made 50% heavier. The front trunnion was bulged outwards to accommodate the heavier barrel and itself was reinforced. The rear sight was altered to allow it to be adjustable for windage via a knob on the right side, as well as still being able to be set for elevation, like on the AK-47/AKM. The RPK received new furniture with a thicker wooden handguard and a buttstock designed very much like the paddle one found on the RPD. Most recognizably, the RPK had a bipod attached just behind the front sight, which could fold under the barrel. This LMG was issued with either a 75 round top-loading drum magazine, or more commonly a set of 40 round box magazines, identical to the ones used in the AKM, only larger. Due to the longer receiver, the RPK's rate of fire was slightly lower than that of the AKM, which allowed for longer fire-sessions with fewer magazine changes and less heat build up. A side folding stock version was created for airborne troops, named the RPKS.  


ORF assembled AK-74 from Bulgarian parts on US made receiver. 
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After viewing the effectiveness of the American M16 and its 5.56x45 intermediate cartridge in the Vietnam War, the Soviet Union felt it was time for a redesign of its traditional AKM rifle. Ironically it seems that the M16 earned a better reputation in Russia than it did back in its homeland. Anyway, in the 1970s work began concurrently on a new cartridge and rifle to become the new standard issue small arm in the Red Army. The 5.45x39 cartridge was created to match or out-perform the American 5.56, while still remaining the same basic length as the previous AK cartridge. This was important because it meant radical measures would not be required in the redesign of the AKM. First prototypes of the new rifle appeared in the mid-1970s, and by 1977, selected units of the Army received the very first AK-74s. The new caliber and rifle began to be issued on mass in 1979 and saw extensive service in Russia's war with Afghanistan.

Mechanically, the AK-74 is little different from the AKM. The biggest difference is of course the new caliber and smaller bore diameter. The AK-74's gas block was changed from the AKM's slanted 45 degrees gas port, to a vertical 90 degree one. This was done to reduce bullet shear. The gas block was also reinforced with brackets so a grenade launcher could be mounted underneath on a lug of the same type as the AKM's bayonet lug. Another major change was the front sight block. The AK-74's had a sleeve which covered the end of the barrel and added 24mm threads. This meant the AK-74's barrel itself was not threaded, but rather the front sight block supported the muzzle brake. The brake itself was probably the rifle's most interesting and creative aspect. It compensated for recoil by redirecting the gases backwards, as well as decreasing muzzle rise and right-drift through a series of ports. It was not; however, a flash hider. The new front sight block also supported the bayonet. Lug was located under the sight and the ring of the bayonet fit around the end of the muzzle brake.

The AK-74 originally featured wooden laminated furniture with palm swells on the handguards and lightening cuts of an ovular design on each side of its buttstock. Original butt plates were of a ribbed design with a rubber coating over metal, but quickly this changed to simply a ribbed metal plate. Handguards were reinforced with spring brackets, to insure a tighter fit and less play. The first type of magazine was of the now famous red or 'rust' color, held 30 rounds, and was made of a glass reinforced plastic. Magazines made in the 1980s, switched to a brown plastic, the better for concealment. A new feature of the 5.45 magazine was that unlike the 7.62 one, it could be loaded from 15 round stripper clips by using a special guide which fit into grooves on each side of the magazine, at its rear. The AK-74 used many of the same pins and springs as the AKM, furniture was even interchangeable. Naturally bolts, carriers, and gas pistons were not, but trigger groups were. A version of the AK-74, known as the AK-74N was produced with a side-rail mount, intended for the addition of night optics.

The first variant of the AK-74 to appear was the AKS-74. This was simply a standard rifle, which had a side folding stock and new rear trunnion, instead of the traditional fixed stock and trunnion. The stock was made from stamped and folded steel of a triangular shape. It folded to the left side and when folded was locked in place with a strong spring-loaded hook. When opened the stock was also held firmly in place by another large spring-loaded catch. These rifles were designed for airborne units and replaced the AKMS. They were felt to have a stronger and more durable folding stock.

Arsenal built clone of the AKSU, with polymer handguards.
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The AKS-74U was the next variant of the AK-74 to appear and it was a much more extensive modification of the original design. First, the stock from the AKS-74 and rear trunion were taken. Then the barrel was shortened from 16.25" to just under 8.5". This meant the entire gas system had to be shortened accordingly. The gas block and front sight block were combined into a single unit to conserve space and the handguards also had to be shortened. The rear sight was changed to a flip-style with two settings and was moved back to be on top of the dustcover. The dustcover itself was also redesigned to have a henge at the front so that during disassembly, instead of being removed, it was simply folded forward. When dustcover was open like a car hood, a spring-loaded pin retracted, allowing the gas tube to be lifted off. Finally, the AKS-74U had a new muzzle device, on the same 24mm threads. This was a conical flash hider combined with a gas-expansion chamber, which was necessary to insure reliable cycling with such a short barrel. This carbine could not accept a bayonet and took a specialized sling as well. It was primarily intended for special operations forces and mechanized units, but also was sometimes requested by airborn troops. It was extremely small and easy to handle, but for these attributes, it traded range and had a tendency to overheat. Nevertheless, the AKS-74U was popular among certain circles as it was an intermediate step between an assault rifle and submachinegun - very similar to the role the Colt CAR-15/XM-177 filled.

Zastava M92 AKSU, built into a pistol. It has no buttstock and a 9.5" barrel.
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The RPK was also re-chambered for the new 5.45x39 cartridge and renamed the RPK-74. This new model was very similar to the original LMG but instead of having a muzzle nut on its 14mm threads, it had a 5 slot birdcage flash hider. An RPKS-74 appeared at the same time. This model used 45 round magazines. First generation ones were made of the same reddish plastic as the AK-74's and later generations were black or plum polymer. No drum was ever mass produced. Overall though, the new RPK was the same as the original.

AK-74M & the Century Series

In the 1980s, Russia turned its attention to developing a new line of AKs, intended for the World market. They took their AKS-74 and began modernizing and upgrading it. Furniture was changed to rugged polymer and buttstock became a solid body style that could still fold just like the one on the AKS-74. This new stock could even house a cleaning kit, a feature previously only available on fixed stocked models. Next, the side-rail mount became standard on all rifles and magazines were made of polymer with metal reinforcement in a 'waffle' pattern. The muzzle brake was also changed to both be more effective and cheaper to produce. Dustcovers were changed from a ribbed style to a smooth style, at least on some models. Many other small changes also occurred both in design and manufacturing techniques. This new generation became known as the AK-74M. 

At the same time, the RPK-74 also received a facelift. Its laminated furniture was changed to the same black or plum polymer style as the AK-74M and its magazines were made from black polymer. This new model became known as the RPK-74M and came standard with a side-rail mount.
Russia released an AK-74M chambered in 5.56 NATO for commercial sales designated the AK-101. Next out the door was the AK-103, the same design but in 7.62x39 M43. This model was both for world sales and was requested by certain groups inside Russia, who felt the 5.45 caliber was not best suited for their needs.

Bulgarian RPK-74M parts kit built on US receiver with modern magazine and LMG sling.
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To replace the AKS-74U and address some of its issues, the AK-102/104/105 carbine series was developed. These were of the same class weapon as the later Colt M-4 carbine. This series has a 12" barrel, conical style flash hider, combination front sight and gas block; but retains a standard length gas system and sight picture. AK-102 = 5.56 NATO, AK-104 = 7.62x39, and AK-105 = 5.45x39. All versions are in production today, along with the AK-74M, which is now the Russian federation's general issue small arm. The most recent AK designs are the AK-107 and AK-108. These have a counter-weight system to cancel out most felt recoil during automatic fire, but have not been adopted by any military in large numbers yet. 

Arsenal SLR-106CR with removable muzzle device and 'smoke' waffle magazine of 30 rounds.
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And there you have a brief history of the AK as a military firearm. 

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