Tuesday, January 3, 2012

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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