The Complete Buyer’s Guide to AK Rifles

The AK-47 is one of those weapons most people want to own and for a very good reason. It is reliable, powerful and highly customizable, making it perfect for rookies and veterans alike. The legal version for civilians of the AK-47 is designed after the soviet Automatic Kalashnikov 47 and is a semi-automatic weapon. When you search the market for a good AK-47 you have to beware because not all weapon sold are of the same quality. In this article we will give you hints and tips on how to shop for an AK-47, which can be just as useful for the experiences weapon buyer as well as the first time shopper.

The most important factors to look at when searching for your perfect AK-47 are your budget and the use for which you want this weapon. In this article we will help both the rich and those who are on tighter budgets find the AK-47 of their dreams.

General Information

Arguably the most popular weapon in the world, the AK-47 and AK-74 rifles are considered to make up one fifth of all small arms in the world. Even though we can’t be certain we know that around 100 million copies have been crafted all over the world. There is plenty of bad press about this weapon out there. The bad reputation has nothing to do with bad quality though. On the contrary it is the deadliness and efficiency of the weapon, which comes at a low price for an automatic one, which has earned it its “bad” name.

American military have fought against wielders of AK-47s from Vietnam till today. The black market sells cheap automatic version of the AK-47 to drug dealers and other ruffians, making it also a popular weapon among criminals. Some simply dislike the AK rifles just because they aren’t an US invention. This is quite a pity, because giving up quality for fear of foreign creations can be a dangerous choice.

The AK-47 has been around since 1947 and the AK-74 since 1974. One can tell by this that the name was chosen because of the date they were created in, which is a common way in Europe to name weapons.

When buying your first AK rifle you should stick to the typical 7.62x39mm rounds. For those who’d still want to try something else there are plenty of other versions available, including a NATO 5.56. 5.45 is also available recently even though it is a rare type of rounds.

There’s millions of AK-47 magazines around ready to be bought. The basic 30 round “banana clip” isn’t available at cheap prices anymore, unless you buy a used one which can come at less than 20$. Thankfully the popularity of the AK-47 has caused manufacturers to create new magazines right here in the US. These are usually made from polymer, but are most often of good quality. Polymer magazines don’t rust and are quite strong. The best ones to buy are made in Bulgaria, where they create the typical waffle mag with the circle 10 arsenal mark on the bottom. Magazines created in Poland and Germany are of top quality as well. Certainly the first recommendation is to buy a 30mm round steel magazine from the military surplus.

When it comes to receivers it is time to decide how expensive you want your weapon to be. There are two different types of receiver you can buy: the stamped and the milled variety. The difference between the two is that the milled receiver is crafted from a solid chunk of high quality steel that is formed by a lot of machinery into a receiver. The stamped version is made in a cheaper way by folding steel sheets. Both works just fine, with the milled version being a bit smoother sometimes as far as the action is concerned. Milled guns will be much more expensive and you should let your budget decide on whether you really want a milled receiver or not. The stamped version will work just fine if you can’t spare the money. If it accepts the standard double stack hi-capacity magazines, then a Romanian model at around 500$ will be just perfect for you.

Choosing the Manufacturer

Since G.H.W. Bush created the executive order to ban 43 different types of firearms from being imported into the US in 1999, it has become almost impossible to import a whole AK rifle from abroad. A weapon that was imported pre-ban can be worth its money, but beware that the price will be very high. These pre-ban rifles come at as high as 1000-1200 dollar a piece and can be even more expensive if they are still in their original packaging and unused.

This does not mean that you can’t get a very decent AK without having to pay a fortune. You can order parts from abroad and buy the missing parts from USA manufacturers. Whole kits are no longer being imported, so there is no use looking for them. Certain “Bulgarian” AKS which are actually crafted Las Vegas can be worth 500-600$ and do their job just fine, if you don’t have the money to create a higher quality AK rifle.

Just as a precaution check the front sight tower of your weapon before buying it. They are sometimes misaligned and need fixing. If by any chance you buy a weapon with a canted FST you can have a gunsmith fix that up for you.

What Barrel length to choose?

This is a very good question indeed when you are looking to buy an AK-47 or AK-74 rifle. Most Kalashnikov rifles have a typical barrel length of 16.1 inches. This is the way they were made since 1947 and still is the most popular length as well as the most common. Anything shorter than 16.1 inches is restricted to the NFA only as you need a BATFE tax stamp and the correct paperwork from the NFA to own one. This is certainly not worth the trouble for a civilian. What you can do is buy yourself a Krinkov, which is a rifle originally, designed to have a 10 inches long barrel, but has a fake added length with a suppressor. This way you can have both the power of a short length barrel and the legal right to use it. The only thing that has to be right is that the barrel plus the attachments are over 16 inches long and then you can legally own the weapon as a civilian.

AKs with longer than 16 inch barrels are considered “sniper” rifle usually like the Romanian PSL, the Russian SVD Dragunov and similar guns to that. While these types of rifles are amazing you have to be prepared to pay a small fortune for then if you choose Chinese and Russian manufacturers. The price can be as high as 4000$ and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything cheaper than 2500$ on the market legally. This is why many prefer to buy the Romanian Romak III or otherwise known as the PSL. These cost about 1000$, which isn’t cheap, but certainly cheaper than any other good quality, long barrel AK rifle you’ll find.

Being a “sniper” rifle does not make these long barreled AKs as accurate as we in the US would expect. Anywhere in the chest or head area is considered a valid shot and there isn’t any bellow 1 MOA accuracy to gain. Anything between 1 and 1.5 MOA is probably the best you can achieve. You can expect an accuracy of 2 to 3 MOA from the Romak III and an accuracy of 4 MOA from the standard 16.1 inch barreled AKs.

Buttstock types

There are more types of AK-47 stocks out there aside from the typical fixed position one. As far as folding stocks are concerned you can get yourself a right side folder, a left side folder or an under folder. These stocks are mostly useful when you have to carry your rifle in small spaces like a car, or if you have to trek through foliage. Most people buy folding stocks as a novelty, since they aren’t as useful to someone who simply goes to practice on a shooting range as they are to a paratrooper or L.E. officer.

You can always be a bit modern and buy yourself a collapsible buttstock instead.

Most folding stocks acquired are of the under folding type. There is also the “crutch” type, which is a single rod that extends to a buttpad. Folding stocks are sturdier than they seem and can come in handy when you need your weapon’s size to be able to change while you carry it.

AK Furniture Choices

All parts of your AK rifle with the exception of the barrel and receiver are called furniture. These include the stock, the pistol grip and the handguards. There are two major groups of furniture available for the AK and these are the wooden and the synthetic furniture, which are both just as good. You don’t have to worry too much about regretting your decision on this one. It is easy to change from synthetic to wood furniture or vice versa. This means that your choice won’t be permanent unless you want it to be.

  • Wood furniture is the way an original AK rifle is built. Laminated wood is certainly the best choice to go for if you care for durability, but there are plenty of other choices out there as well. You can buy these kits of furniture in different colors and with different finishes on the wood. You can get your furniture without a finish so that you can add a coat yourself.
  • Synthetic furniture comes in different colors and quality of plastic as well. You might like the look of the typical German “pebble finish” or you might be like most other people and prefer the Bulgarian black and sturdy look. It is easy to change furniture and colors types as well, so this choice should not worry you too much.

The Muzzle Attachments

Since almost all AKs have a threaded barrel to accept a muzzle attachment, most people get one. One of the most popular choices is the slant brake, which compensates for the weapon’s tendency to move upwards and to the right, by making to move downwards and to the left when you shoot. This makes the rifle more stable. You can get an AR-15 flash hider threaded to fit the AK rifle. The AK-74 rifles have a flash hider of their own you can purchase, which is also quite popular. It does however make a very loud noise and blackblast.

Making a rifle from US parts

Since there is the 1990s law that prohibits certain parts and weapons to be imported, you can’t just choose whatever parts you want and create the perfect AK rifle. You have to follow the guidelines of the 922r. This means you can only get up to 10 parts from a foreign country and the rest has to be bought in the US. In the end you need to have at least 6 parts on the rifle made in the US have you have 10 foreign parts.

It can be a total headache when you have to choose which parts should be US made and which should be imported. This is why we’ll give you a list of which parts people usually order from the US. These parts are:

  • the trigger
  • the hammer
  • the buttstock
  • the disconnector
  • the gas piston
  • the upper handguard
  • the magazine follower
  • the lower handguard
  • the pistol grip
  • the magazine floor plate
  • the slant brake or plain muzzle nut

You are also forced to use the magazines that have the US parts you bought or else you have another illegal configuration in your hands. While there are plenty of parts that would contribute 3 US parts to the build through the magazine, not many buy these since most operators will prefer to use imported mags.

Any reputable manufacturer will sell you an AK rifle that will be within the 922r guidelines. Many AK rifles that were assembled or made in the US will have their own certificate that will state that they have been legally made according to the 922r guidelines.

Note that if you get a milled receiver instead of a stamped one you only need 5 US parts to be within 922r guidelines.

What type of finish is preferable?

While polymer furniture needs no additional finish, metal and wood furniture does. The finish isn’t just a matter of looks, even though some certainly look better than others. It is also important to note that you can change the finish if your taste or mood changes. The blued finish of the Chinese, Polish and original Yugoslavian AKs is probably the most beautiful and great. Metal parkerized finishes are quite popular and are very sturdy. This is why most military grade weapons have them. Wooden finishes are usually some kind of lacquer or oil. The shellac lacquer with which wooden furniture often is covered is very sturdy, but since it is a thick layer you can see drops and crevices on it. This is why people in the US often change the finish on wooden furniture, to make it look better. Linseed oil or polyurethane are often used to finish wooden furniture. As mentioned above, you don’t need to worry too much about the finish, since you can easily change it later on.

Post-ban models of the AK

Buying a weapon that remained from after the ban period of 1994 can be quite cheaper than creating a new rifle that follows the 922r regulations. These rifles aren’t many anymore, since most of them were returned to the factory to be changed. These might miss the muzzle attachment or have it permanently attached to the barrel. They usually have the folding stock welded in a fixed position, or miss one all together. Since many want all the good points of the pre ban AKs, these post-ban weapons can be quite cheap and still be great to shoot with.

While some features of these rifles might not be upgraded, they mostly are a matter of looks and preference, not utility.

Trying out your new weapon

Remember that you can’t shoot with steel jacketed or ammo that has two metals in it in certain ranges. Make sure that if you use the typical steel casing ammo you should make sure your shooting range’s rules allow it.

Ammunition is getting more and more expensive sadly. You used to be able to shoot with as little a cost as 9 cents per shot.

Before you go to the range clean out the barrel in case there is any grease in it. Usually US made AKs are quite clean, but do a quick swab with some soft textile nonetheless. If there is only some type of thin oil in it you should not worry about it, as it will simply burn away after a couple of shots.

Remember to take your sight adjustment tool with you, because a new rifle needs to get sighted in. Getting a sturdy little tool for Keng’s Firearms Specialties can be very cost efficient, since it only costs 35 $ and is built a sturdy as an ox. If you use anything flimsier or older, make sure you are gentle the first time, because they can easily break on new rifles.

While we won’t discuss the sighting in detail you should remember to move the front sight away from the direction you want to shoot at or towards the wayward grouping. This is the opposite than in most standard US weapons with a rear sight. If you place your rear sight into “battle setting” you should be able to shoot at a target at 100 yards somewhere on the torso when you rifle is sighted in properly. Remember rifles aren’t about precision shooting, but about quick and massive shooting.

Feeding Problems of the AK

You should not have as many feeding problems with an AK as you’d expect from such a weapon. The AK was designed to be able to take most rounds without problems and this makes any trouble rare. This does not mean that you will be absolutely trouble free. Usually the most problems happen at the start, when you haven’t “broken in” your weapon yet.

If your AK has a gas setting with three different positions to choose make sure yours is in the middle one. The other two aren’t for regular use as they are designed for very dirty rifles or very hot loads. You should not let your rifle get dirty enough to need that setting anyway. A bad magazine follower or bent magazine bodies can be a common problem but are easy to spot. If you can’t run the bolt carrier to the rear then you should block the space between the gas tube and the bore. This will mean the end of your shooting for that day, since you will have to clean out your rifle properly after that.

No need to worry too much beforehand though. AKs are extremely sturdy and reliable and trouble is rare and manageable.

How to clean your AK

All AK rifles come with instructions on how to disassemble them. This can be quite a simple job most times and is absolutely necessary so that you can clean your weapon. You should always clean your weapon as if you were using corrosive ammunition. While you know that Wolf and TulAmmo are none corrosive you should not take any chance with any other type of ammo. Not cleaning your weapon properly after using corrosive ammo will cause your bore and bolt carrier to rust. This will really ruin your AK’s look, but won’t ruin its utility.

Of course if you let your weapon rust through and through without cleaning it or stopping the rust, you will in the end have a ruined weapon. Be generous when using a cleaner for your corrosive ammo use. Hoppe’s no9 is a good choice. Be sure you do a thorough job and your precious AK will be just fine.

How to accessorize for your AK

An AK rifle doesn’t really need many AK-47 accessories, with the one exception of needing a sling.

If you are thinking of having a scope on your rifle (especially if you choose long barreled versions, you should make sure you buy it with a scope mount already attached. You can of course attach one yourself, but it is a very troublesome thing to find the right mount and place it correctly on the AK. Just order it with a mount already attached and you will spare yourself some serious trouble.

Mounts will be placed on the side since there simply isn’t enough grip to place the on the top rear as with most rifles. This does have the bonus that the scope will not lose zero.

You can also replace the handguard with a Picatinny rail on which you can mount a plentitude of different optics accessories. Only remember that the AK produces a lot of heat that can ruin your scope. You will need a zero magnification sight or a scope with a long eye relief when you mount your optics this far in the front of the weapon. For some people this method appeals to them. Remember that the aluminum Picatinny rails do get very hot and can burn your hands as well.

You won’t be hard pressed to find some AK scopes. There are plenty types to choose from. Typically the mount is on the left side of the AK, so you will have to get a scope with an integral mount or a left sided mount to place your scope on. If you want something that is up to the original military specifications of the AK then you might want to go for a PSO-1 or any similar scope. Sadly Russian scopes aren’t exactly up to par with US scopes, but they do their job just well if you get some experience with them. It is a whole different situation when trying to sight in your Russian scope since the elevation and windage adjustment is not like that of the western models. You can find any information on how to sight in a Russian scope online and in various guides.

If you use the side scope mount as is, you can pretty much add any scope you like, including the one you probably already own. This can save you a lot of money. It is up to you if you want to place AK scopes on your AK, or if you want to use something different.

Remember that the AK was designed as a sturdy weapon that can survive any war. It determined the Vietnam War with its sturdiness in moist tropical weather. Adding too many accessories and gadgets can take away that edge that makes the AK the weapon everyone wants it to be. The AK is that strong, simple and practical weapon any man wants to own, so be sure you preserve its strong points when customizing it.

This concludes out guide on how to buy your first AK weapon. Laws, imports and customization might seem confusing at first, but with this guide you will be able to get yourself a brand new as cheaply or expensive as you’d like it to be. Follow the 922r guidelines, choose quality over fanciness and be prepared to own an excellent weapon!