Field Guide to Reading Kalashnikov Markings

Conflict Armament Research is a company that works with the European Union to identify and trace weapons used in conflict zones around the world. They use small field teams to identify specific small arms, with the goal of figuring out how the equipment made its way to that particular battlefield.

That means working with lots of Kalashnikovs. They’ve published a field guide which gives a pretty good run down on how to interpret the various markings on AK pattern rifles.

These photos are published with the permission of Conflict Armament Research, who holds the copyright. Click on any of them to get an enlarged view.

First: Where to find your markings…



Second: What the markings mean…





You can find their other field guides and reports here: They include articles on the distribution of Iranian ammunition in Africa, what calibers ISIS is using, and run downs of Russian Man-Pad AA systems.

For the love of God: please don’t spam the comments about how these guys are UN-backed gun-grabbers who are going to invade Texas. Firearms not politics lads.

Edward O

Edward is a Canadian gun owner and target shooter with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Crawling over mountains with tactical gear is his idea of fun. He blogs at TV-Presspass and tweets @TV_PressPass.


  • noob

    why do chinese type 56 rifles have a 66 in a triangle no matter what year or model? is it the factory number?

    • Ken

      Yes, Factory 66 is one of the state run factories in China.

      China had probably over 100 state run arms production centers, ranging from small provincial workshops to large factories. Each province is a military district that was supposed to be self reliant, so they each had some small arms production capability in case they were cut off by in invasion or something.

      • noob

        whoa, 100 independent mini-countries to fight as you penetrated deeper into their landmass.

        mental note: do not invade china.

  • Roger V. Tranfaglia

    Thank you for the info,be careful out there Ed!!!

  • USMC03Vet


    Good info.

  • Blake

    This is truly excellent. I was familiar with the Russian & Chinese proof marks (from researching our SKSs) but certainly not the rest.

  • Blake

    They’re right there in section 4…

  • Ken

    There are other ways of identifying AK’s if the markings aren’t getting you anywhere or they’re defaced. You can look at rivet pattern, stamped receiver thickness, milling patterns, barrel diameter, furniture style, etc.

    The Albanian AK’s are very close clones of the Chinese ones, down to the hooded front sight, rivet pattern, barrel diameter, receiver thickness, and sometimes even the spike bayonet. Interestingly enough, they even copied the Chinese L-D selector markings. L stands for “lian” which means successive, and D for “dan” which means single.

  • Doom

    Too Bad they capture them and then 99% likely destroy them ;-;

  • E Wolfe

    Do the Albanian’s also have the perforated cover over the gas piston, between the upper forearm and the gas block? I believe that all 56s do.