Ah, the AK. A testament to the ability of a totalitarian military industrial complex to create the most prolific rifle design in history through sheer bureaucratic inertia. Despite the protestations of its most ardent western admirers, Kalashnikov’s baby is adequate at best. Its dire ergonomics, coupled with a short sight radius and indifferent rear sight, result in the user being handicapped when compared to other small arms on the world market. Additionally, its cartridge is ballistically inefficient, with a light-for-caliber projectile that quickly runs out of gas, compounding aiming errors due to a rainbow trajectory.
Despite its drawbacks, the Soviets learned early on that quantity has a quality of its own. Making the best of what they had following the destruction wrought during the Second World War, the AK was conceived, designed, trialed, and settled upon as the service rifle for what was then the biggest standing army in the world. From that point on, the industrial might of a command economy was thrown behind it. Were it not for the collapse of the Evil Empire in 1991, it’s likely that abominations such as the Hungarian AMD-65 would still be in production, proving that yes, it’s possible to make a mediocre design worse, so long as you assign enough government employees to the task.
There’s only so much you can do to rehash the subject of a 70-year-old rifle, no matter how widely issued it might be. Instead, this issue focuses on some modernized, refined AK variants; we examine the issues involved with suppressing a platform that doesn’t lend itself to silencer use, and take trips to both the streets of Kabul and mother Russia to see the AK in its natural environment. Look for more AKcentric content on RECOILtv later this summer, as we have an exclusive invitation to visit one of the most respected producers in existence, located in a war-torn Soviet satellite state. Stay tuned ...