By Rob Kay and Luke Williams
Will this be the year the AK goes mainstream? We guess that depends how you define “mainstream”. In the MSR space the AR is still the king when it comes to sales but the AK niche is growing. A solid indicator is that AKs are beginning to be manufactured in this country. The demand is there and given the ban on Russian firearms and the vagaries of legislation, it makes sense to produce Made-in-the-USA AKs.
As we mentioned in an earlier column, RWC, the importer of the Kalashnikov will be producing rifles in America by the second quarter of this year. We heard similar news from Radom, the highly regarded Polish manufacturer. Palmetto State Armory which produces good quality, reasonably priced AR 15s displayed their first USA made AKs at SHOT as well.
Century Arms, formerly known as Century International, also reflects this trend.
They are now focusing on US made weapons as well as imports.
Their flagship model is the C39v2 “milled” AK which they advertise as 100% made in the USA. We had our doubts until we spoke to one if their reps at their booth. He proceeded to name every part, and its origin.
The C39v2 purportedly has no imported parts. This begins with a milled receiver which is machined from a solid 11lb block of 4140 ordnance grade steel. Enhancements include a T shaped magazine catch, compatibility with standard AKM furniture (including stock), a bolt hold open notched safety, an enhanced dust cover and standard AK sights. The C39v2 is coated with black nitride and uses a new enhanced trigger group. The barrel has a concentric left hand 14×1 metric thread compatible with standard AKM muzzle devices. Caliber is 7.62x39mm with no plans for a 5.45x39mm version.
The second major model in the Century Arms catalog is the new, stamped RAS47. Like the C39v2 the RAS47 is 100% US made. All similar features like the C39v2, the RAS47 will only weigh 7.8 pounds compared to the 8.2 pounds of the C39v2 and cost roughly $100 less. Caliber is 7.62x39mm and it comes with two Magpul AK PMAGS.
We believe the C39v2 and RAS47 will be huge sellers for the company.
What we would have liked to have seen was a flagship 7.62x51mm AK model but alas, it does not exist. The Yugo M77 is still being imported by them but they have decided to feature the C308 ahead of the M77. We would have preferred that they further their AK line by offering a 308 AK instead of the “C308” which is a CETME-like 308 that includes a Picatinny scope rail permanently mounted to the receiver. (Price is under $800). G3/HK 91 magazines are plentiful and inexpensive but it would be preferable if the gun was fitted with a magwell to accept the 308 PMAG as they tend to me more reliable then the older HK91/G3 magazines.
Over at Las Vegas-based Rifle Dynamics, founder Jim Fuller has several projects in the works. First off in keeping with the theme of this story, he is working on true US-made AK parts including a bolt, a bolt carrier and a trunion. Fuller says these will be truly US-manufactured as opposed “80%” parts that are brought in from overseas and machined or refinished in this country. Look for them this summer.
RD is also collaborating with SilencerCo on a suppressor package designed expressly for AKs. (FYI Marc Krebs at Krebs Custom has his own new AK suppressor which we reported in an earlier story). As this story goes to press, Fuller is working hard to perfect the new technology. He says the new product will eliminate earlier problems such as bullet strikes and other issues. No prices available yet. Look for this new product after April.
Fuller says that Rifle Dynamics also intends to launch a series of rifles at a lower price point starting north of $1000—probably in the $1000 to $1500 range. These will be more basic weapons without the bells and whistles of the more expensive RD builds but nonetheless will have the same quality of parts and manufacture. He is already working on prototypes and will launch the new line in coming months.
Finally, he’s moving into a new workshop that will expand his base by nearly four-fold.
As we mentioned in an earlier piece, the new AK accessories offerings from Magpul (hanguards and stocks) has generated a lot of interest in the AK community. The new offerings include the Zhukov-S folding stock, Zhukov handguard (long) with M-LOK, the MOE AK fixed stock and the MOE AK/AKM (short) handguard also with M-LOK. The MOE AK is for AKs without the front sling loop on the handguard retainer. The MOE AKM preserves the function of the handguard retainer sling loop. All the new AK furniture will be offered in the standard Magpul colors with an addition of a new PLUM color. We are big fans of Plum for the traditional AK look. A disappointing note at SHOT was that Magpul didn’t have any furniture or even a sample of their plum color. The leads us to believe the plum color is not even in production yet.
Another notable product is the new AK PMAG Gen 2 with reinforced locking lugs and front spine. Colors include black and the new “dyeable” sand color. Expect for the magazines to ship starting summer. The reps at the Magpul booth were extremely tight lipped about anything new but we heard an industry rumor that they will introduce the AK PMAG in 5.45x39mm at SHOT 2016.
Our favorite optic for many years has been the Meprolight M21 (also standard equipment on the Tavors). Meprolight is coming out with replacement front and rear sights night sights for the AKM and Chinese pattern AKs. Unfortunately were unable to speak to anybody at the Meprolight booth. Mako Group is handling distribution in the US and we will be contacting them for information.
We are extremely excited about the new AK trigger offerings from ALG ALG Defense, which are being manufactured by Geissele.
One of the biggest downsides on the AK platform is the stock factory trigger. Who can forget bloody fingers after a couple of thousand rounds at the range due to the harsh “trigger slap”. ALG fixed this with one of the sweetest AK triggers we have ever experienced.
We were only able to test the AKT as the AKT enhanced was out of the booth. While it was only the prototype it had an extremely smooth break and an estimated trigger pull of 2.8 lbs. Very light, almost scary light. We could only imagine how the enhanced version felt. Both the AKT and AKT enhanced are single stage and machined from S7 tool steel. Both have the manganese phosphated finish. The Enhanced model is hard lubed, which creates a permanent self-lubricating surface which enhances the smoothness of the trigger pull and the hammer is Black “Nitrided” for maximum abrasion and corrison resistance. The AKT retails for $49 and the AKT enhanced retails for $75.
We in the AK community are very pleased to see the new offerings relating to this platform. Perhaps it’s because the AR market is over saturated, but our surveys show there are more new AK owners than in any other platform. As manufacturers gear up, we wait in anticipation of new offerings.
Rob Kay is the editor of On Target Hawaii and can be reached at email@example.com
Luke Williams is an industry analyst and the owner of Circle 10 AK.