Choices: AK-47, AK-74… or AK-12?

By Dave Dolbee published on in Firearms, General, Military Surplus

“Besides honey, this isn’t just for fun, this is work.” That was the basic gist of the conversation when my wife caught me browsing sales fliers for new AKs. Unlike a bolt gun or even a black rifle that is easy enough to stash in the back corner of one of our safes among the others of the same ilk, or a handgun that could have been stuffed into one of the many smaller safes we own, an AK would be something she would immediately recognize as new.

Mind you, it is not a matter of whether or not she cares if I get another gun. The problem is two fold. One, she never misses a chance to vex me just because she has the upper hand and takes pleasure in watching me squirm. The second is a matter of the size and value of the new piece of jewelry she is going to buy to pay me back… In the past, she has actually used the argument that the size of the rock should somehow equate to the caliber of the gun. Thank heaven for the .17 HMR!

Anyway, back to the issue. I was in the market for an AK (Avtomat Kalashnikova). The primary reason was that it was one platform that is noticeably absent in my safes; a hole that needs to be plugged. This led to an extensive investigation of AK offerings and a choice between the AK-47 and AK-74.

AK-47 v. AK-74

Generally speaking, most people misuse the AK-47 as a generic term for both weapons. The Avtomat Kalashnikova was originally designed in 1947 hence the designation AK-47. While very similar, there are certainly notable differences. Briefly, the AK-47 is an older design, weighs more and fires a larger cartridge.

Poly Technologies Legend Series AK-47/S

What can I say that has not already been written a million times? The AK-47 is the world’s assault rifle for a reason—it works!

The larger caliber and increased power of the 7.62×39 cartridge accounts for much of the beefed-up design of the AK-47 when compared to the AK-74. The AK-47 has a larger gas piston, operating rod and bolt than the ’74. The inertia of the parts slapping together, muzzle climb, added bulk and recoil all contribute to the AK-47 being a tough gun to control and shoot accurately in rapid-fire modes.

Vietnam was the proving ground for the M-16—a lighter rifle shooting a much smaller cartridge than the standard. The M-16 proved to be easier to carry and the recoil was more manageable in burst or full auto modes. The cartridges were cheaper to manufacture and due to the smaller size and lighter weight, more rounds could be carried without adding weight to the soldier’s load.

The Soviet’s based their decision on studies of the M-16 and its effectiveness in Vietnam. The Soviets thought the American’s might know something they did not, but Kalashnikov was unconvinced and believed the 7.62×39 was all the battlefield needed in a light cartridge. Still, this was undeniably in his mind when he designed AK-74.

The AK-74 (Avtomat Kalashnikova originally designed in 1974) uses the smaller 5.45×39 cartridge. This allowed Kalashnikov to use lighter parts, resulting in lower recoil. Particularly in cases when a muzzle brake is used, this makes recoil from the AK-74 is almost nil—similar to the .223 Remington from an AR-15. Logically, it also follows that the AK-74—shooting a round with lower recoil—would be easier to keep the sights aligned on the target for follow up shots and during rapid-fire scenarios. The AK-74 round, being smaller and quicker 5.45×39 used in the AK-74 is smaller and faster than the 7.62×39 round in AK-47s.

AK-74

Vietnam became the proving ground for a lighter battle rifle and the Soviets took notice. Although somewhat reluctant, Kalashnikov designed the lighter, faster AK-74.

The 5.45×39 also has a flatter trajectory—over the same distances—than the 7.62×39 round. I have had the opportunity to play with both in different configurations. There is an obvious reason why you never see an AK-47 with a scope mounted on it, but a scope is manageable with the AK-74.

The AK-74 has never captured the hearts of American shooters. Why? Some believe there really isn’t any advantage over today’s modern sporting rifle. The gas-operating system on the AK-74 is still based on the older design without any technological upgrades to endear modern shooters. That does not mean it isn’t fun to shoot, a reliable bug out weapon or über worthy of having a home in your gun safe.

AK-12

So what is the modern solution you ask? The AK-12, the replacement to Cold War era AK and AKM weapons. The features are certainly similar to its predecessors, however the AK-12 is in actuality a completely new design.

The idea was to strip the AK down and identify the key parts that made it great. The engineers at Izmash then sat down to address the deficiencies. The result was the inclusion of the long-stroke piston from the past and several new control features.

The AK-12 features an ambidextrous selector switch. The switch can be set from safe to single fire to three-round burst to nirvana (otherwise known as full auto). The switch has also been moved back behind the receiver so it can be actuated with your thumb.

The charging handle still reciprocates, but can now be installed from either side to accommodate southpaws. The AK-12 is furniture-friendly too! And features a full-length top rail over a hinged top cover. Additional Picatinny rails are outfitted on the handguard for left, right and bottom attachments.

Other upgrades include an enhanced grip and a folding and telescoping adjustable buttstock. The AK-12 is chambered in either the traditional 7.62x39mm or 5.45x39mm calibers—and NATO’s 5.56x45mm as well! All AK-47/AKM magazines are supposed to work with the AK-12. The weight should be 3.3 kilograms or 7.33 pounds.

Early testing did not go well for Izmash. The Russian Defense ministry was not in the market for a new national weapon and has millions of AK-74s still in surplus. Regardless, they agreed to go through a testing process. The initial tests revealed several “defects” that worked against the AK-12. Izmash, was not willing to discuss the problems, but later released a statement that all were minor and fixable. That was about nine months ago, so I would expect to hear something over the next few months.

The jury is still out as to which one to pick. I am sure that one of each will be the eventual solution. Right now I am leaning heavily toward the AK-74 due to the availability cost of ammo. Father’s Day has passed and Christmas is too long to wait. I think a Labor Day gift is in order…

Type: AK-47 AK-74
Cartridge: 7.62x39mm 5.45x39mm
Designer: Mikhail Kalashnikov Mikhail Kalashnikov
Effective range: 300 metres (330 yd) full automatic, 400 metres (440 yd) semi-automatic 600 m, 100–1,000 m sight adjustments, 350–500 m sight adjustments (AKS-74U)
Weight: 4.3 kg (9.5 lb) with empty magazine AK-74: 3.03 kg (6.7 lb), AKS-74: 2.97 kg (6.5 lb), AKS-74U: 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), AK-74M: 3.4 kg (7.5 lb)
Muzzle velocity: 715 m/s (2,346 ft/s) 900 m/s (2,953 ft/s) (AK-74, AKS-74, AK-74M), 735 m/s (2,411.4 ft/s) (AKS-74U)
Rate of Fire: 600 rounds/min cyclic 650 rounds/min (AK-74, AKS-74, AK-74M), 650-735 rounds/min (AKS-74U)
Feed system: 20 or 30-round detachable box magazine, also compatible with 40-round box or 75-round drum magazines from the RPK 30-round or 45-round RPK-74 detachable box magazine
Barrel Length: 415 mm (16.3 in) AK-74, AKS-74, AK-74M: 415 mm (16.3 in), AKS-74U: 210 mm (8.3 in)
Action: Gas-operated, rotating bolt (Long Stroke Gas Piston) Gas-operated, rotating bolt
Sights: Adjustable iron sights, 100–800 metre adjustments, 378 mm (14.9 in) sight radius Adjustable iron sights, front post and rear notch on a scaled tangent, Flip-up sight and front cylindrical post (AKS-74U)
Variants: AK-47 1948–51, AK-47 1952, AKS-47, RPK, AKM (most ubiquitous variant), AKMS AKS-74, AKS-74U, AKS-74UB, AK-74M, AK-101, AK-102, AK-103, AK-104, AK-105
In service: 1949–present 1974–present
Place of origin: Soviet Union Soviet Union
Designed: 1944–1946 1974
Manufacturer: Izhmash Izhevsk Mechanical Works
Length: 870 mm (34.3 in) fixed woodenstock, 875 mm (34.4 in) foldingstock extended, 645 mm (25.4 in)stock folded AK-74: 943 mm (37.1 in), AKS-74 (stock extended): 943 mm (37.1 in), AKS-74 (stock folded): 690 mm (27.2 in), AKS-74U (stockextended): 735 mm (28.9 in), AKS-74U (stock folded): 490 mm (19.3 in), AK-74M (stock extended): 943 mm (37.1 in), AK-74M (stoc
Number built: approximately 75 million AK-47, 100 million AK-type rifles 5 million+
About: AK-47 stands for Kalashnikov automatic rifle model of 1947. It is a selective fire, gas operated 7.62x39mm assault rifle. Most 47’s are actually the 1959 AKM. AK-74 is a 1974 update of the AKM.
General Purpose: Many applications Many applications
Accuracy (16″ barrel): 2-6 MOA 1-4 MOA
Dependability: Functions well under any conditions Same extreme reliability
Recoil Type: Mild, but easily managed in semiautomatic Barely noticeable; lighter than 5.56 recoil.
History: Developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kaashnikov in the late 1940s. Developed in the 1970’s due to Soviet fears that the American 5.56cartridge was a breakthrough that needed to be imitated.
Wars: It’s easier to name the wars this hasn’t been in. Soviet-Afghan War, various other conflicts in Asia and the Middle East
Produced: 1947-present 1974–present

 

What are your thought between the AK-47 and the AK-74? Give us your recommendation or share an experience in the comment section.

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Comments (41)

  • John

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    I seem to have owned ‘em all at one time or another . AR’s , AK’s , FN’s , H&K’s , Mini 14’s , you get the idea. After 30 years , here’s what I still have . AK’s – an NHM ’91 in 7.62 and a plain Jane Romanian ’74 , both w/ ’74 style brakes .Why ? Because they work .Today , tomorrow , or 10 years down the road. Accurate enuf ( paper plate ) for me @ 300 yards w/ iron sights. H&K 91A4 w/ match barrel . Why? This thing is a beast and will eat anything I feed it + .308 power & accuracy . DPMS M4 w/ quad rail forearm & electronic gadgets as well as flip up iron sights . Why ? Because I’m stupid and really want this thing to work – which it does … if it feels like it . Just like the Oly Arms I sold years ago . I keep it around for the wife and grandkids to shoot .

    Mr. AR Shooter better sell his rifle post haste , ’cause this ” wonder weapon ” / Mattel toy / POS has cost PLENTY of American lives . It is the ” Luger ” of assault rifles . It MUST be kept spotlessly clean . It MUST be properly lubed . Both of mine are ammunition sensative , etc. Stoner’s ” Jammomatic ” has cost a boatload of American lives . Bring yours out to the ranch . We’ll lay ‘em in my driveway , spray ‘em down with a hose , and add one handful each of soil , sand & compost , then spray ‘em down again . The AK’s will still work as will the H&K . The AR , mini 14 , FN , Steyr AUG ,FAMAS , KelTec RFB , etc. will not & I’ll prove it .

    Reply

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