Whether you love or hate the AK-47, you must admit the rifle is among the most successful designs of all time. Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the rifle for reliable operation in the harshest conditions. The rifle has not failed to meet his expectations. The AK-47, adopted by the Soviet Union in 1947, has been around long enough for many to have an opinion about it.
The Great Points
The AK has many excellent points:
- It is simple and economical to produce
- Easily maintained
- Reliable, above all else
The military rifle is a select-fire version capable of fully-automatic fire. Commercial rifles fire in the semi-auto mode. While the rifle is original in some ways, it uses a gas piston system similar to the American M1 Garand.
As the cartridge propellant ignites, some of the propellant gas produced bleeds off from the barrel and propels a gas piston that actuates the bolt carrier. The bolt carrier ends in an angled cam track that fits into a lug on the bolt. The bolt is forced rearward and cammed counterclockwise. This takes the locking lugs out of contact with the receiver.
During this operation, the bolt flies to the rear, the spent case ejects and the bolt moves forward, stripping a round from the magazine and feeding this cartridge into the chamber.
There is a lot going on when the AK-47 fires, and the bolt is heavy. Some feel the design leads to poor accuracy, but accuracy is relative.
The AK-47 is not a long-range rifle by any means, and it demonstrates adequate combat accuracy to well over 100 yards. There are many types of AK-47 rifles and the type has been built the world over.
Common features include
- Leaf-style rear sights
- Protected front sight
- Curved 30-round box magazine
- Long safety lever on the right side of the receiver
- Characteristic angled muzzle brake and flash hider
- Length of pull with the wooden stock is 14 inches—ideal for the average shooter
I see the value in the AK-47 rifle—primarily for recreation. I have had a strong bent for many years to simply to take a firearm to the range and to discover how it performs.
- Will it function when dirty?
- When overheated?
- How does it handle?
- Is it fast into action?
- How accurate is it with different loads?
I have enjoyed firing the AK-47 and also testing it against different rifles. When all is said and done, here is a rifle that doesn’t jam and handles well.
The Right Loads
The safety—sometimes criticized—is very similar to the safety lever found on the Remington Model 8—and the Model 8 is a classic and much-loved rifle. The AK-47 is so popular that it has seen use in the hunting field. And in the field, against deer-sized game at moderate range or hogs at close range, the cartridge is proven. It handles quickly, which is important in the brush. The cartridge is sometimes compared to the .30-30 Winchester. However, the 7.62 x 39mm is actually a more efficient cartridge.
The 7.62 x 39mm hunting loads such as the Winchester 123-grain JSP send a 123-grain bullet from the AK’s muzzle at 2300 fps or so. The 150-grain .30-30 Winchester averages about 2200 fps. However, if you handload, it is possible to equal, or exceed, the .30-30 WCF by jolting a 150-grain bullet to 2,300 fps. The Cor Bon 150-grain hunting load in 7.62 x 39mm is faster and has more energy than the average .30-30 WCF load, but achieves this from a shorter barrel. The cartridges are closer than most realize. As a 50-yard brush gun, the AK has much merit.
As for accuracy, the average .30-30 lever-action rifle groups three shots into two inches at 100 yards, with the occasional Marlin rifle demonstrating 1.5 MOA. The AK-47 misses absolute accuracy. It is probably best considered a 4.5 MOA rifle.
The Winchester JSP is a good hunting load and often groups three shots into 3.5 inches at 100 yards forming a good tight AK.
It takes attention to detail, a proper rest and avoiding pressure on the forearm to accomplish even 4 MOA with the AK-47. However, that’s OK because it it is best to use it a little closer.
Why Purchase the AK-47
Most of you will probably purchase an AK-47 rifle for critical use or for recreation. That’s fine. Enjoying owning the rifle simply because we can is good enough reason. However, if you are going on a hog hunt, the weather is bad and you do not wish to rust the Winchester… the AK may have merit. And that tough old hog may demand an extra round or two. The AK can deliver.
The more I use the AK-47 rifle, the more I appreciate it. The AK-47’s looks may put you off, but don’t let it keep you from enjoying the rifle. After all, when I was a youngster more than one of the ex-GI’s in the family hunted with the humble .30 M1 carbine.
Maybe it wasn’t accurate enough and, on paper, it didn’t look like it had enough energy and it did bring home the meat. In the woods hunting, it did fine to about 50 yards as long as it was loaded with the Winchester 110-grain JHP.
I am just pointing out that the AK is far from the first military rifle with a 30-round magazine to take deer!
The AK rifle is not as inexpensive as it once was and remains a bargain when the performance is considered. Ammunition is still affordable. Steel cased FMJ loads are excellent recreational loads while the modern JSP loads give the rifle a new lease on life as a sporting gun.
And why not? Only the best rifles are capable of such as crossover. The .351 Winchester was used by lawmen, our allies, prison guards and in the field. The hoary old Remington Model 8 did not see military use as far as I know and it was designed to accept a stripper clipp and was a very popular lawman’s gun and sporting rifle. I can attest to the fact that the Remington was little—if any—more accurate than the AK-47 and, in .30, Remington no more powerful.
If the AK-47 is your rifle and you have the chance to go hunting, choose a good load, practice first and keep the range short.
The rifle will surprise you.
Specifications and Features
- Caliber: 7.62×39 mm
- Action Type: gas-operated, semi-automatic center-fire rifle
- Receiver: 4140 steel
- Barrel Length: 16 1⁄2″
- Rifling: four-groove, 1:10″ RH twist
- Magazine: 30-round box magazine
- Sights: front post adjustable for elevation, rear adjustable for windage and elevation
- Trigger: two-stage, 6-lb., 12-oz. pull
- Stock: polymer: length of pull, 14″; drop at heel, 2″; drop at comb, 11 1⁄16″
- Overall Length: 37 1⁄4″
- Weight: 8 lbs.