THE CLASS OF ‘74! John Milewski stud­ies the lat­est all-ac­tion replica from The Shoot­ing Party

Airgun World - - Pellet Testing -

The leg­endary AK-47 plat­form, or Av­tomat Kalash­nikova of 1947, needs lit­tle in­tro­duc­tion, even to those with­out any rudi­men­tary in­ter­est in firearms. Put sim­ply, it is the most pro­lific, some may say in­fa­mous firearm the world has ever seen. Of­ten associated with rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and the for­mer Soviet Union, the AK has re­mained pop­u­lar be­cause it works, and with an es­ti­mated 100 mil­lion made, it is the most abun­dant firearm in his­tory.

AK HIS­TORY

The AK has evolved over time and nu­mer­ous books have been writ­ten on the vari­ant types of Kalash­nikov since the first model was adopted by the Sovi­ets in 1949. The AK-47 des­ig­na­tion loosely trans­lates to Kalash­nikov’s Au­to­matic of 1947, and whilst this term is of­ten used when re­fer­ring to the Kalash­nikov, tech­ni­cally, this model was only made un­til 1959, when the AKM or AK Mod­ernised went into pro­duc­tion. The AKM is the most abun­dant vari­ant of the AK and is gen­er­ally the firearm most associated with the Kalash­nikov name. It dif­fered in mi­nor de­tail from the orig­i­nal AK-47 un­til it too was up­dated by the 5.45mm cal­i­bre AK-74, which was in wide­spread use with

Soviet forces by the late 1970s.

A num­ber of mod­i­fi­ca­tions were made to the orig­i­nal de­sign, that can be used to tell the two mod­els apart, such as a long muz­zle brake, a lon­gi­tu­di­nal stock groove to dis­tin­guish the AK-74 from ear­lier 7.62mm ri­fles in the dark, and a re­duced curve to the mag­a­zine. It was the AK-74 the Soviet army took with them to Afghanista­n dur­ing the 1980s and this is the

“the mag­a­zine is very well made and built to last. It is ac­tu­ally the heart of the sys­tem”

model The Shoot­ing Party have in­tro­duced as an airgun replica to com­ple­ment their Mosin Na­gant and SMLE ‘ri­fles’.

RE­AL­ISM

This 6½lb replica is made from wood and me­tal, so the heft of the airgun is close to the orig­i­nal. It will field-strip like an orig­i­nal, but The Shoot­ing Party are not all that keen on own­ers do­ing so ex­ces­sively be­cause it can cause dam­age if an owner is ham-fisted with the replica. One fea­ture that im­me­di­ately be­comes ap­par­ent is the sturdy me­tal mag­a­zine, which is of the pro­file associated with the ear­lier AK-47 rather than the ‘74, which has a less pro­nounced curve to it and is made from poly­mer. This anorak-re­lated crit­i­cism aside, the mag­a­zine is very well made and built to last. It is ac­tu­ally the heart of the sys­tem, in that the ‘in­ner’ mag­a­zine con­tains the valve mech­a­nism, CO2 pow­er­plant and an 18-round BB/ball mag­a­zine.

PRE­PARE TO FIRE

The mag­a­zine has a lug at its front, which should be entered into the mag­a­zine well first, and the rear can then be raised to en­gage with the mag’ re­lease catch. En­sure that the catch fully en­gages be­cause oth­er­wise the gun will not fire. The ‘fire’ se­lec­tor lever on the right side of the re­ceiver can then be moved down to take the AK off ‘safe’. You can rack the cock­ing han­dle back if you wish, but there is no rea­son to do so be­yond the ac­tion ‘look­ing re­al­is­tic’.

ON TO THE RANGE

Be­ing a replica of a 1980’s as­sault ri­fle, open sights are stan­dard, al­though there is a side rail for op­tics on the left side of the AK-74. Mounts and sights are avail­able for air­soft use and would also suit this model, so might be worth ex­plor­ing if you wanted to cus­tomise your AK. The rear sight is ramp ad­justable for el­e­va­tion and I was able to zero it with room to spare. On the AK firearm and some other clones, it is pos­si­ble to drift the fore sight lat­er­ally, but I was un­able to do this on the test ri­fle and did not want to force it. Lat­eral ad­just­ment would have been use­ful be­cause the test ri­fle shot to the left for me and I had to aim off.

LOAD­ING AND LOOS­ING-OFF

I started by load­ing 15 of The Shoot­ing Party’s BBs and fired them into a padded box. At 6 yards, I was pleased to find that most landed within an inch. Fly­ers were not that wide of the mark and were down to me rush­ing shots rather than any in­her­ent in­ac­cu­racy is­sues with the AK. Such is the ap­peal of the AK’s pro­file that I loosed off shots rapidly rather than ac­cu­rately, but they still grouped well. Switch­ing to H&N cop­per-coated lead ball en­abled me to hit re­ac­tive tar­gets safely on my in­door range, such as a Cros­man bell tar­get, a spoon and pel­let tins sus­pended in front of a back-stop.

CON­SIS­TENTLY CLOSE

The trig­ger has a long pull and feels like a dou­ble-ac­tion trig­ger in use. Re­lease weight was just over 5lbs and I found it an easy airgun to shoot. Such air­guns tend to get used reg­u­larly be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ence is en­joy­able and the over­all pro­file of a clas­sic 1980s Kalash­nikov adds pos­i­tively to the shoot­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I man­aged around 90 shots from each CO2 car­tridge with ve­loc­i­ties con­sis­tently close to the ad­ver­tised 400 fps.

So if you want to add a CO2 vari­ant of the world’s most pro­lific firearm to your col­lec­tion, check out this model. In the not too dis­tant fu­ture, I in­tend to con­tinue with the

Kalash­nikov theme through a re­view of Rus­sian mod­els that were made in the same fac­tory as the firearms, so watch this space. I

The AK-74 was the ri­fle the Sovi­ets took with them to Afghanista­n dur­ing the 1980s, and this is a very re­al­is­tic replica.

The heart of this airgun is in its mag­a­zine or rather its ‘in­ner’ mag­a­zine.

The hol­low mag­a­zine body (left), in­ner mech­a­nism (cen­tre) and a gen­uine AK-74 mag­a­zine (right). Note the dif­fer­ence in mag­a­zine pro­files. Push for­ward on the mag­a­zine re­lease catch to re­lease the mag­a­zine and en­sure that it springs back to this po­si­tion when a mag­a­zine is rein­serted.

Move the fire se­lec­tor lever down to take the AK off ‘safe’ – just like an orig­i­nal.

A mag­a­zine’s worth of shots fired rapidly at 6 yards, to­gether with the in­struc­tion man­ual – I found the trans­la­tions hi­lar­i­ous!

This replica can even ac­cept a gen­uine Kalash­nikov bay­o­net for fur­ther re­al­ism.

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