Firearms

13 Frequently Asked Questions about the AK-47

Are you interested in Mikhail Kalashnikov’s design; the most popular rifle in the world or any of the subsequent designs it has spawned? We have drawn up a list of some of the most common questions about the AK-47 and models sharing a common interest.

Make no mistake, we know there is a lot more to be said, and look at this article not as a complete work, but something to get the conversation started. So, give it a read and see if it answers your question. If not, or if you fail to see something you think we should have included, sound off in the comment section and help us build a complete work on the AK-47! Our goal is for the entire Cheaper Than Dirt! community to benefit through your efforts and ours.

Image of Right Side of AK-47

What is the difference between a milled and a stamped receiver?

A milled receiver is machined from a solid block of steel. This type is considered by many to be stronger and more desirable. A stamped receiver is sheet metal bent into shape and riveted together to form the receiver. This type is the most commonly found because it is the cheapest to produce.

Will all AKs accept standard 30-round magazines?

Not all. There are some models that are California legal and will only accept single stack 10-round magazines. These guns have been converted to accept standard AK magazines but it isn’t recommended that you try this at home. For the rest of the AK variants, they should accept all standard AK-47 magazines. There will be tolerance variations that may cause issues in some guns.

I have a Saiga. Can I replace the furniture on it with standard AK-47 furniture?

No. The Saiga will not accept standard AK-47 furniture. The Saiga was designed to incorporate the design reliability of the AK-47 into a more “sporting” firearm that would be less military looking. There are companies such as Tapco that manufacture replacement furniture for the Saiga.

What are the thread dimensions for a standard AK-47 flash suppressor?

Standard thread dimensions are 14mm x 1mm left hand thread.

I have a MAK-90. Can I replace the thumbhole stock with standard replacement AK-47 furniture?

Yes, the MAK-90 will accept standard AK-47 furniture.

Will replacement furniture for a stamped receiver fit my milled receiver?

No. The milled receiver is thicker and furniture designed for stamped receivers will not fit.

What are my options for scope mounting on my AK-47?

There are really two options. The first is to replace the top receiver cover with one that has a built in rail system or rings on it. The second is the receiver side mount. Some AKs come with the side mount plate already installed. If yours doesn’t have the plate, a qualified gunsmith can install one. The side mount is probably the better of the two systems but can cost more when gunsmith fees are factored in. The top cover systems usually don’t require any gunsmithing.

What calibers are commonly found in the AK-47?

The most common caliber is 7.62×39. There are some AKs chambered in 5.56 NATO and 5.45×39. There are also some .22LR training rifles available.

Is it true that I never need to clean my AK-47?

While the AK-47 does have a reputation for reliability in the harshest environments and conditions, it should still be cleaned on a regular basis. This will not only ensure proper function and accuracy, but will also lengthen the service life of the rifle.

What does 922 Compliant mean?

There are certain firearms that are banned from importation into the U.S. These are typically military semi-auto rifles such as the AK-47, FN FAL and others. Parts kits can, however, be imported into the U.S. as long as the receivers are missing or de-milled (cut to be made inoperable). These parts kits can then be assembled in the U.S. using U.S.-made receivers. The 922R compliance law requires that a certain number of other U.S. made parts also be used. The number of parts will vary from model to model. This law also regulates modification of certain existing rifles such as the SKS. If parts are to be replaced on these rifles, a certain number of them must be U.S. made.

How many variations of the AK-47 are there?

There are literally hundreds of variations from countries around the world. The AK-47 is the most massed produced “assault rifle” in the world.

Where did the AK-47 get its name?

Avtomat Kalashnikova

  • A = Automatic – the type of action
  • K = Kalashnikov – the name of the designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • 47 = 1947 – the year the rifle was introduced into service in the Red Army

What is the difference between an AK-47 and an AK-74?

The only difference between the AK-47 and the AK-74 is the caliber. The AK-47 fires the original 7.62×39 round. The AK-74 fires the 5.45×39 round—the current caliber used by the states of the former Soviet Union. Because of the caliber difference, the magazines for the two rifles are different and not interchangeable.

Do you have any additional AK-47 information or trivia to add to this article? Share it with other readers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (50)

  1. Before ya’ll get too twitterpated about ole “Gen. Kalashnikov the genius”, you might want to look at the fact that the AK-47 is a direct descendant of the NAZI Sturmgehwer ’44, the very first “assault weapon” Sturmgehwer means “assault weapon” in German. Hugo Schmeisser who headed the design team that developed the Stg’44, was captured by the Russians and worked with Kalashnikov until his eventual release. The Russians have a habit of copying western technology. (Anyone remember the French Concorde SST supersonic airliner and the subsequent Russian copy known as “The Concordski”???). This is not to say that the AK-47 is a bad weapon, but let’s be real about history. It is the most widely produced weapon world wide because it is cheap to manufacture and filled a demand gap. It was widely distributed around the world by the USSR and China to advance their influence and not because it is necessarily better than any other weapon or those vast numbers are somehow solely due to “popularity”.BTW your Semi auto AK or AR-15 are not “Assault Weapons” as they would have to be full auto (machine gun) to qualify. The Stg ’44 was the first lightweight, single-man-carried, fully automatic weapon in a rifle caliber.

    1. But where does the Browning Automatic Rifle -BAR- fall in that production history for the first “ightweight, single-man-carried, fully automatic weapon in a rifle caliber” ?

    2. @ Charles.

      World War I “The Great War”
      1907: Fusil Mitrailleur Modele 1915 “Chauchat” CSRG, (8x50mmR/Lebel)
      1911: Birmingham Service Arms (BSA) Mk. I “Lewis Gun”, .303 SSA (7.92×56.44mmR/SSA)
      1917: Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) M1918 .30-06 (7.62×63.3mmR/Springfield)…

    3. Charles;
      1. The BAR was essentially a “squad automatic weapon. Generally, only one soldier in the squad carried one.
      2. The BAR was offered in a full power rifle cartridge (.30-’06) unlike the shortened 7.92mm X 39mm Kurz (or “short”) cartridge in the StG’44.
      3. The BAR was long and heavy compared to the StG ’44 which is not conducive to parachute assault operations.
      4. The Sturmgehwer (which means “assault weapon”) filled the gap between submachine guns and heavier rifle caliber machine guns.

  2. Pingback: Ode to the AK
  3. I have bought a Chinese AK47 (SMG Type 56) from Poly technologies Inc.Two of my friends have also bought similar rifles from Poly Technologies inc.
    The problem is that it fires two rounds at semi auto setting and one similar rifle of my friend also has the same problem. Poly Technologies have not responded to my queries. As far as I understand this is because of the Disconnector but I do not know what to do with this component. Probably I may be able to overcome the problem with some adjustments. I request I may please be advised the reason and also how I could rectify this defect.I shall remain grateful.

    1. @ Kaiser.

      Several years back, in or around 1999/2000. A friend of mine bought a Norinco Type-56 (AK-47, ChiCom clone copy). The parts are interchangeable with the original AK-47 Soviet standard. Your’s sounds like a design modification of the original design. If this is true, the entire inner working of the rifle may have been modified as well. Your probably going too have to go to a Gun Smithy, and have that particular part modified or replaced so your rifle operates like the original design model. Try Red Jackets of New Orleans, LA. They do gunsmithing on site, at there location. Your probably also going to have the rifle. Your State, re-certified after completion. Or, you can go online and find a Gun Smithy near where you live.

    2. @ Kaiser: On the humorous side, just engrave the word “BURST” next to the safety and be happy you now own a $6,000 automatic weapon under the BATFE radar.

    3. If you don’t get that thing straightened out and functioning as a semi-automatic ONLY operating firearm you CAN BE CHARGED with possession of an unregistered machine gun.
      And, it can NOT be registered because of the 1986 federal law banning any further machine guns being produced (except for military/law enforcement use and/or produced by an FFL with an SOT as a sample for sale to law enforcement ONLY).
      Get it fixed. You are in possession of contraband otherwise, no excuses.
      The folks “with no sense of humor” WILL ruin your day (week/month/year) with the federal charges and accompanying astronomical fines associated with the trouble your malfunctioning firearm will cause you when/if it comes to the attention of law enforcement.

    4. @ Charles.

      Try Arsenal, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada. They “Scratch” Build Fully-Automatic capable AK-47’s. For A Price $$$$$…

  4. One of your FAQ was “I have a MAK-90 with the thumbhole wood stock. Can I replace it with standard AK furniture”. And the answer was “Yes”. Well there is more to the story depending on the stamped receiver being straight cut or angle cut. If it is angle cut, like mine, I only found two stocks that will fit it. One was the wood stock from Ironwood which comes in a kit with wood pistol grip and wood forend grips for around $160. The pistol grip puts you into 922r compliance issues (and US made parts cost). The other stock that fits the angle cut receiver is the ATI Fiberforce Stock and Grips (glass filled nylon). This is a Draganov style that is technically still a thumbhole stock and therefore no 922r issues. The stock is good and solid, easy to install and affordable at around $60.00. But the forend grips that come with the stock are cheap and poorly designed. I purchased the Hogue Overmolded Grips which are great and have Pick rails included. I also added the ATI Recoil Pad ($9.00) which extends the length of the stock and protects the end of the nylon stock. There is not a lot of recoil with an AK so you get a hard rubber recoil pad.

  5. If you plan to thread the barrel yourself. You can get Electric Pipe Threader through Harbor Freight Tools. But before you apply threads to the barrel, get some bar stock metal rods, and practice make thread on them. Until you are comfortable enough too apply threads to the barrel. Also consider getting a deburring tool, too deburr the end of the barrel after threading it, This will help enhance the performance of the rifle and enhance its appearance too.

  6. the best thing 2 do is cut off the muzzle shroud and thread it yourself. U can get dies from carolina shooter supply. they R saiga specilists. That way U can put on what what ever U want. There R how 2 links also you tube vids 4 helpful tricks. allinment tools is a must. I have done it 2 all 4 of my rifles. good luck take your time. dont get me started on the AK agument. I ran the M-16 in the sevice had chance 2 run an AK loved it.

  7. A question . . . How can you put a muzzle brake on a Saiga AK47. The front site goes to the end of the barrel and without completely removing it there is no muzzle brake made (that I can find) with that type of diameter, if you’d even consider doing it that way? Please help!

    1. Vandal, try a Google search for “saiga muzzle brake”.

      There appear to be several available that clam to the barrel “around” the front sight.

  8. I read this post a few days ago and was on my mind when I saw an episode of Tales of The Gun featuring the AK-47. When low and behold, who do I see in March 31, 1998 demonizing the AK-47 as a ‘weapon of mass destruction’? None other than Dianne Fiendstein (misspelled on purpose). It does indeed appear that history repeats itself. Also, it seems that time delay between similar occurrences is shortening with ever increasing regularity.

  9. Guys who’ve been in combat have all told me that most shots are taken at less than 100 yards. Most of them admit to being a little unsteady at the time, from fear, fatigue, surprise, awkward positions, etc. The Kalashnikov is as accurate as you will be in the situations it was designed for. Americans like accurate rifles because of our marksmanship tradition, but not all rifles need to shoot half-MOA to do their jobs, just as not all cars need to hit 200 mph. Mr. Kalashnikov traded accuracy for reliability and economy, and you can’t argue with the rifle’s massive success among people who’ve shot a lot more enemies than any of us.

  10. I have a AK-74 rifle in bullpup configuration, because I’m in a wheelchair the bullpud design is much easier to control. I’d like to accessorize it with either a ATN Thermal Scope or a PULSAR Digital Scope. Any suggestions.

    1. Secundius, I looked up those scopes you mentioned, and the bullpup, and those are some cool looking high tech pieces of equipment. That ATN is pretty pricey, but I’m sure it’s worth it if you can afford it.

      But I have an issue with the AK-74 cartridge. Just now I saw a photo of an AK-74 cartridge lined up side by side with a 5.56 and a 7.62×39. Basically it’s short and stubby like a 7.62×39, yet with a smaller diameter caliber than the taller 5.56. So my question is why? Why does someone want to shoot this cartridge over 5.56? If your answer has everything to do with how the Russians built the gun, then I may understand. As Dave K said above, there are some technical nuances and improvements. I don’t normally worry about weight and recoil reduction, yet maybe if I was bump-firing then I would see the light and realize why people like yourself love the AK-74. My WASR-10 has a slide-fire stock which I’ve learned to use, so yes I would be interested in hearing what you have to say about Dave K’s post.

  11. I like many others started out with a Wasr 10. From ther my ak-addiction began. Milled receivers are the way to go. It’s just something about the way they feel when you shoot them. The action is smoother and it is built like a tank. I actually ran one over with my quad without even a dent. One downside is they are heavier than stamped receivers. I build and own mostly Yugo M64/M70 models because they are even beefier than standard AK’s. They have a 1.5mm stamped receiver vs the 1mm standard ak receiver. All Yugo’s (Stamped and Milled) use the thicker milled style barrels. There are also some cool Yugo variants like the M76 which is an 8mm and the M77 which is a .308 (7.52 x 51mm). I also own a Vepr .308 ak, which out groups my buddies AR-10, and a Saiga 12 guage (The most fun to shoot).
    There are so many different calibers that there is an ak for everyone’s taste: .22lr, 5.45×39, 5.56×45 / .223, 7.62×39, 7.62×51 / .308, 7.62×54, 8mm, 9mm acp, 30-06, .460 cal, -50 cal, 12 ga, 20 ga, .410 ga,

  12. I realize this is meant to be an entry-level article, but saying the only difference between an AK-47 and a -74 is the caliber is straight out false. Off the top of my head:
    – 90 degree vs 45 degree gas port for increased reliability
    – specially designed compensator for added recoil reduction in full auto
    – lightening cuts in the stock to reduce weight

  13. I prefer an AK, where I live 125 yards is a long shot because you normally can’t see that far. So in my opinion it’s where you live & what you want it for. It makes a great hog gun around here & fun to shoot.

    1. The M1 Garand, accuracy was better 1,200-meters using iron sights, and even further when scoped.

  14. I also have a Romanian WASR 10. I have upgraded the furniture and have a red dot/green dot scope on it. It is extremely accurate out to 100 yards (anything more you’re kidding yourself). Also, in over 7,500 rounds, I have never had a failure of any kind. People complain about the WASR trigger and replace it. I can’t see why. The break is so pronounced that it leads to better accuracy. I’ve shot a hare trigger AK, it’s almost dangerous. By the way, I ran for U.S. Congress in 2010 with a 3 felony strikes and you’re out policy. Many felons should be allowed to own guns.

    1. Scott I’m glad to see more WASR-10 fans are posting. I have not shot as many rounds as you have, so I’m happy to hear it has held up well for you.

      I like your trigger comments. People mess with their triggers too much. I had a Glock armorer reduce my Model 29 to 3 pounds in hopes of improving accuracy, and now I’m regretting it because it’s dangerous to carry with a bullet in the chamber.

      Speaking of triggers, I saw a photo of an AK with a DOUBLE loop trigger yesterday, like a 2 finger trigger, and I was wondering what that’s all about?….in case any people here have experience with that.

  15. I own the cheapest AK-47 one can buy… the Romanian WASR-10, and I enjoy this rifle immensely. There is just something about this gun that is so addicting. The power and feel behind every shot is just something any gun lover can appreciate. I am an expert marksman with iron sights so when firing my AK at long ranges it is fun to hear the bystanders get off on the sound as each round strikes a metal target they can barely see with the naked eye. I’ve heard and read it be called the ugliest gun ever made, which I don’t understand because I find it appealing. Prices have dropped lately now that the Obama gun-scare is dormant; so if anyone has considered getting one, I’d highly recommend taking the plunge. You won’t regret it.

    1. G-Man I also have a WASR-10. I bought a front sight adjusting tool and made sure those iron sights were hitting the 200 yard target, then I bought a sturdy scope mount from CTD that slides over the bracket on the left side of the receiver. I can take my scope off in 2 minutes by removing the whole mount, and the scope stays zeroed in when I put it back on. It’s really nice to have those iron sights as a backup though.

    2. One of the first things I did was buy the UTG AK/SKS Sight Tool as well. That vise action for the windage adjustment is interesting.

      Like you, I also picked up a scope mount (UTG 5th Gen Quick Detachable Double Rail AK Side Mount). I currently have a cheap red dot mounted but have not had time to test it yet. First chance I get I plan on testing the red dot and a scope, so it’s good to know it should hold a zero (assuming the build quality is as good as yours).

  16. I have a AMD 65, I would like to replace the stock with a fixed wood or laminate stock. Can anyone advise me what or where. Thanks in advance.

  17. If I had to choose an AK design, it would be the AK-74 5.45x39mm rifle. It’s far more accurate then the AK-47 7.62x39mm rifle, which is essentially a Fire-Hose, The reason it was produced in such large numbers is because the people peasantry that fielded them couldn’t group carefully aimed shots at 10-feet, let-alone 100-yards. A skilled and qualified person could possibly shoot accurately to about 200-yards, beyond that if’y at best.

    But going back to your original question, I would definitely go milled.
    Just because it’s more solidly built, but if money constraints wasn’t a problem. I would go for billeted steel reciever, which is even stronger.

    1. Secundius I like your comments and respect your opinions. The fire hose comment was kinda funny and put a smile on my face. The peasantry comment was interesting.

      My WASR-10 can easily hit the 200 yard target when I push the button on the vertical post and use it’s bipod. My Zastava AK pistol can easily hit the 100 yard target and kicks all my other pistol’s butts at 100 yards, even my coveted Ruger 7.5″ Super Redhawk 44Mag. That Zastava is extremely fun and versatile, and now I have made it even more versatile with laser, a stubby vertical post (so the 40 round mag fits), and an optional 8 O’clock post.

      I agree with your 200 yard max comment. I realize that the 7.62×39 doesn’t have the best ballistic coefficient (LOL). All you gotta do is look at the cartridge and know that it’s not gonna be long range, and then when you factor in the loose specs on an AK, then yes, you gotta know what you have and what it’s limitations are. It’s just like with my Ruger LCP 380. I know if I fire that thing past 10 yards I’m seriously endangering anyone in the background.

    2. Richard, I am sure you meant to day “I want to make it more versatile with laser, a stubby vertical post (so the 40 round mag fits)…”. Because if you put a vertical grip on a pistol, it is no longer considered a pistol but a short barreled rifle or an AOW at best according to the BATFE. That is an NFA violation. If you have registered your pistol as AOW or an SBR then you’d be fine to do so. But forward vertical grips on pistols is an NFA no no and I am pretty sure a felony. You’ll want to check out almost any source about NFA items for more info. For the record I have a Hungarian underfolder with a milled receiver and it is accurate enough at 100 yards with a small red dot/triangle sight. I have lots of rifles and I have come to appreciate the AK design.

    3. Steve thanks for the heads-up. I will look into this because I don’t want to break the law. Until such time, as my Zastava sits in it’s case, there will NOT be any post attached to it or next to it.

      If you are an expert in this area, is it an NFA violation to have a horizontal 9 O’Clock grip? Either way, I will look into this.

    4. Richard, I am no expert but I have read quite a bit about this topic, especially in light of the new SigTac arm brace for AR’s and AK’s. My understanding is that the definition is around “vertical”. So many have seen this as meaning a 90 degree grip in any orientation. So much so that there is much agreement that the Magpul AFG in 45 degree format is not a vertical grip and is suitable for these applications. I have an AR pistol with the SigTac arm brace and a Magpul AFG and it is completely legal according to everything I have read on the topic. The ATF has issued letters specifically saying the SigTac brace doesn’t make a pistol a rifle…even when used “incorrectly”. They have also issued letters stating that an Angled Fore Grip is not the same as a vertical foregrip and doesn’t make a pistol an AOW. I would shy away from any 90 degree forward grip on a pistol regardless of its orientation and go with either hand stops (super safe, no question) or an AFG (there may be people that tell you that is illegal). I personally run both hand stops and AFGs on my AR pistol rigs. My .01988323

    5. Steve, first of all thanks for taking the time to warn me and to reply again. I really appreciate it.

      I already have a 45 degree adapter attached, and a post in my carry case to attach to it. I said “8 O’Clock” in my June 8th post, but it’s just a 45 degree mount. I will stick with this AFG. According to your statement about the ATF issuing AFG letters, I’m good-to-go and I won’t be looking into this issue too much.

      Also, I looked up photos of your Hungarian Underfolder, and it looks pretty versatile.

    6. “….ATF has issued letters specifically saying the SigTac brace doesn’t make a pistol a rifle…even when used “incorrectly”….”
      The folks “with no sense of humor” changed thier mind about this late last year.
      Don’t get your self arrested using your arm brace “incorrectly” because that is now a violation and could cost a bundle to get past that “change in opinion”.

  18. Hey Secundius, that sounds like a cool show. I will look for it. Maybe I actually need to watch the Military Channel 1 time. I’m always watching Investigation ID, educating myself about the aspect of this gun hobby that applies more to me, which is preparing for criminals and seeing how they think.

    Back to AK’s, and trying to get this thread back on track, if there really are hundreds of variations as the author says, I wish that other people would reply and describe their AK’s.

    There’s a guy who shows up at my local gun show who apparently produces his own AK’s with milled receivers. They are pricier. I’ve been turned off because I wanted to buy genuine AK’s produced in the Eastern Block countries, made in the way they were meant to be made in 1947, so I could experience that realism. I’d like to know if anyone disagrees with me on ignoring the guy who builds his own. Hey I’m just writing fast and brainstorming here.

    1. If you can find a Maadi Ak47, that is pretty much as close as the original Ak. They are Egyptian made from all genuine Russian ak47 parts. They are hard to find new but you can find good used ones

    2. Thanks much Asher. The Maadi sounds like something worth looking into, and I will do some research and be on the lookout for one.

  19. The television show where the Ak47 vs. M1 Garand face-off took place is called Triggers and it’s on the Military Channel.

  20. I certainly mentioned no disrespect, just a clarification issue. My brother has an AR10 and feels the same way you do. It is a very fine rifle. It basically comes down to preferences between he and I, as all three rifles are dependable, durable, and extremely accurate. I am a former USMC Expert with the M14 and a current NRA Certified Expert with a M1A. I cannot say, due to ignorance, that any AK or AR can match that level of performance. I have not seen or heard of one that can anyway… just the opposite in fact
    With All Due Respect.

    1. Larry thanks for your service in the USMC. I respect your opinions about the M14 and M1A that you’re an expert with. I’m interested in learning about any 30+ caliber semi-auto that has a magazine with more than 10 rounds. Right now I have zero knowledge about your guns.

      My only regrets with my AR-10 is that I didn’t buy the DPMS 18″ bull barrel. I bought the normal 16″ barrel.

  21. Secundius when I saw “7.62×63” it surprised me. I did some image checking on Google, and I honestly didn’t know that 30-06 was bigger than .308 (7.62×51). I think the M1A Garand would be interesting to look into and maybe add to my collection some day.

    Back to AK’s, both of mine have stamped receivers. My WASR-10 also has a side mount plate which works excellently for mounting and demounting my scope quickly. But I’d like to see any posts regarding serious advantages of milled receivers, like real stories. Who knows, if I buy a 3rd AK it could be an interesting variation.

    1. Richard, You got your wires crossed a bit… The M1A is a civilian version of the military M14 which chambers the 7.62×51 (308) cartridge. The Garrand is designated M1 and chambers the 30-06. Some Garrands have been re chambered to accept the 308 cartridge.
      With All Due Respect… I own both M1A and M1 Garrand and would not trade either for any variation of any AK.

    2. Larry I did not get MY wires crossed. I was simply repeating the definition of the “M1A Garand” from the previous post. If your definition is more accurate than his, then thanks. I will be looking into whichever Garand shoots the 30-06.

      As far as your comment about AK’s goes, I have an AR-10 with a smokin scope and super-power laser that I would not trade for any Garand.

      I’m fascinated by AK’s, they have unique attributes and advantages, and they fit my personality just like some people (ME) prefer Glocks over 1911’s.

  22. Fun that your appraisal of the AK-47, doesn’t. mention that the said weapon lost in a categories, with exception of one which was ammunition storage. In a weapon-to-weapon shoot-off competition with
    the .30-06 (7.62/63mm) M1A GARAND semi-automatic rifle.

  23. Oh boy this is my favorite topic because I own 2 of them and may buy more. My first quick comment after reading the article is YES if you take a weapon that is low maintenance to begin with, and then you CLEAN IT REGULARLY, then you have an even more reliable weapon. I’m cleaning mine after each use.

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