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