How many rounds can an AK fire before it breaks down?

battlefield vegas

Ron from the Las Vegas gun range Battlefield Vegas, where, like many Vegas range’s they only allow their rental guns to be used,  shared some thoughts on how different AK rifles fail after tens after thousands of rounds (the above photo shows 30 days worth of 7.62x39mm steel shot at their range, of which 80% would have been fired by AKs). Ron writes at AR15.com

– The one thing I can say about the AK’s is that they hold up MUCH BETTER than the RPD’s. I thought for sure that RPD’s would last so much longer because of the milled receivers but the receivers only last about half the life (if that) of a Romanian WASR.

– Every single stamped receiver has suffered from a cracked trunion. This includes Saiga, Arsenal (Bulgarian), Norinco (Chinese), Arsenal (Russian stamped), WASR, Hungarian, Polish (vintage kits), Yugo (vintage and PAP-series) and new Polish (from Royal Tiger imports).

– We have every type of AK available to shoot except for Cuban, Vietnamese or North Korean.

– US (Century), Bulgarian and Chinese milled receivers have yet to fail.

– Stamped receivers split at the angle of the upper rail and the side wall. N-PAP’s have literally cracked in half perpendicular to the length of the rifle. The receivers cracked just posterior of the front trunion (between center bushing and the trunion).

– We have yet to shoot out a factory WASR barrel. The barrels on three of our C39’s started to keyhole and were pulled.

– We have WASR’s on the line that have lasted OVER two and half years and the barrels are NOT shot out and they continue to run. We installed new bolts to bring headspace back up to spec but they keep running.

– The Draco-C’s that we converted over three years ago are finally down to the last unit. Most have cracked trunions but one of the barrels right past the gas block literally cracked off. The portion of the barrel with the threads cracked right off while shooting. I will see if I still have pics on my phone.

– This may sound crazy but it’s fair to say that they finally suffer a catastrophic failure (cracked trunion) at 80,000-100,000 rounds. Also, we have WASR’s that have suffered a catastrophic failure and we just pull out the old trunion and barrel, grab one from a parts kit, re-rivet, re-barrel and get them up and running.

– The AK is the most reliable but after seeing how many have broken over the last two and half years on the range, it’s not the indestructible weapon everybody talks about (and I always thought it was). What makes is reliable is it’s simplicity. My guys clean/service 4-5 AK’s for every M4 or MP5. The Uzi it’s just as simple but you wouldn’t believe how often components of the top cover fail. We purchased 75 kits about a year ago and we have gone through so many top covers. We will lose an extractor here and there but not often enough to complain about.

– The three most popular rentals are the AK47, MP5 and Uzi. People want to shoot the AK because they are so popular from the news and movies but then want to shoot the Uzi because of the name and then finally shoot the MP5 because it’s so smooth and no recoil.

Read the full thread here.

Thanks to Jay for the tip.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Jack Morris

    It’s amazing to me that any machine can withstand 100,000 high pressure detonations and violently fast moving internal cycles. Modern metallurgy is fascinating.

    • Your car does it every day.
      But this is fascinating information. It seems like the perfect AK would be a milled gun with a Romanian barrel. I am quite surprised at the stated fragility of the RPD too, as I would have thought it to be at least as durable as a stamped gun.
      Lastly, I would love to see some data on the Galil and Valmet series of rifles.

      • iksnilol

        I was thinking milled receiver with thick RPK barrel… chopped down to 30 cm.

        • Anonymoose

          FUND IT!

          • iksnilol

            What do you mean? To build one? That’ll have to wait a couple of years.

      • CrankyFool

        Your car does this about every 20 minutes, assuming you’re running at around 5000RPM 🙂

      • Chris Richard

        Isn’t a combustion cycle in the cylinder only about 1000 psi for production engines and 1500 psi for race car engines, rifle chamber pressures are upwards of 50,000 psi , quite a huge difference…

        • For sure, firearms generate quite a lot of pressure against in the chamber when fired (the amount of pressure varies greatly depending on what cartridge is being used). A dragster can generate cylinder pressure in the high teens (17,000 PSI of cylinder pressure or so).
          It is no wonder that so many gun guys are car guys and vice versa. The skillsets for working on both are similar, and the principles under which they operate are the same. Torque and recoil make life worth living 🙂

          • Neil

            Drag cars at least high end funny cars and such rebuild the engine after each run. Sometimes several times a day.

          • I know. I have a relative that drives them for a living.

          • billyoblivion

            Friction makes life worth living. Everything else is a means to an end.

      • noob

        That’s a fascinating point.
        And a car does all that without you needing to take it apart and clean it very often.

    • Wetcoaster

      Not even that modern since we’re talking about a nearly 70 year old design and it sounds like many of those guns were manufactured in the middle of the Cold War.

      Mind you, reading through the repairs and parts replacements they’ve gone through, it might be a case of “my grandfather’s axe” as to how much of the original gun still remains

    • MAUSERMAN

      I am surprised century milled gun survived. I assume it is either a c39v1 or v2?
      Looks.like I better stash some saving away for a c39v2.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      They can make this claim all they want, but I will never buy it without seeing proof. Romanians don’t have something special to make their steel never fatigue. 100k rounds on a FA gun at a rental range where they are guaranteed to be abused is just not possible. Don’t get me wrong, I wish this were the truth. I have had plenty of AK kits with shot out barrels/barrel stubs and some of those were Romanian. When I say shot out, they were smooth bore essentially. The wear on the parts were nowhere near what 100k rounds would look like. Obviously, some parts may have likely been replaced, but these were not rearsenaled and had original finishes and matching parts everywhere. 7.62×39 is far gentler on barrels than 5.56 or 5.45 is, but it will still wear them. You’re also getting wear from heat, pressure, and flex. There have been people with documented semi AK’s with 50-60,000 rounds through them and just really starting to notice accuracy degradation, but this is not a gun that is being subjected to FA fire.

      • Riot

        They could have struck lucky on the chrome.
        But 100k seems insane.

      • L

        I think you’re just upset because romanian wasrs are the low tier of aks and outlast others. Do research. Also everyone is forgetting I.O. are absolute bottom of the barrel.

        • BrandonAKsALot

          Lol do research. Thanks for the tip fella.
          Considering I recommend them to just about anyone getting into AKs, I’d say you’re a little off. It’s not that I think they aren’t good quality it’s that I don’t believe any barrel can sustain 100k rounds of full auto fire without being ruined.

      • HSR47

        Keep in mind that rental machineguns aren’t built or rented for accurate shooting: They’re bullet hoses.

        Given the context, I think it’s likely that they define “shot out” to mean “no longer adequately stabilizes bullets for use on a rental range” which in turn seems to be a function of whether or not bullets are obviously keyholing.

        If this is the case, it could be due to a number of factors, anything from how the bores are cut and rifled (including precise dimensions and related processes) to the twist rate used.

    • Kivaari

      Galils in 5.56mm crack at the locking points.
      This is still quit impressive. The only rifles I saw with such long life were the hammer forged polygon G3.
      I suspect it has a lot to do with the hammer forged barrels.
      Bravo Company’s hammer forged AR barrels seem to be top flight.
      Getting over 10,000 rounds through any center fire rifle is pretty good.

      • Nat

        N-PAPs have Cold Hammer Forged Barrels. Non chrome lined… but thicker than an Arsenal when you compare them.

      • Chris Floyd

        You might want to check on the number of rounds a guy named Pat Rogers puts through his stable of AR’s .. their just getting settled in at the 10k mark. 20k+ on a mid level AR barrel is pretty standard these days.

        As a proud WASR owner, it warms my heart to read the WASR is more than holding its own against the other name brand AKs

        • Kivaari

          I’d like to see a real report where bore gasges and optical viewing were used. Except for handgun and MP5 SMGs I found most rifles giving up by 5.000 on sporting rifles. The MP5s I watched got close to 50,000 rounds. One needed replacement, after we loaned it to a neighboring agency. They had a commercial reload with a squib load. It took 6-7 months to get it fixed, regardless of HKs one week turn around. Glock go for ever. .38 Special seem to last forever. .357 with some loads really gave up fast with obvious throat erosion. Early in my life I saw quite a bit of experimenting with the then new .264 Win and 7mm Rem Mag. Except for a few having stainless barrels, dumping surplus H4831 in them, ate them in under 1000.
          I had exceptional good luck with a Valmet M62S and US Carbine .30 M1. I abused the carbine by using the hottest loads in the books, nothing like you see today. I ruined a commercial M1 carbine made by Universal. My GI M2 went for ever. Those were the days, $45 for a nice M2 carbine. $45 for s Colt Government commercial and $40 for used Commanders.

          • Chris Floyd

            Anicdodal information along with hard run data from several reputable firearms trainers are showing the average mid teir AR running through barrels at the 20-30K mark. I have little doubt that several other platforms would sustain the 20K interval.

            Unfortunately I’m on a mobile device and don’t have range and class review links at hand. But as I suggested, check out the data from Pat Rogers.. talk about used and abused high volume rifles. Pat has maticulously tracked his weapons data actoss several mid and upper teir.platfotms.

            In short, we as consumers are able to acquire cold hammer forged barrels of an excellent matierial quality for a fraction of the cost compared to just a few years ago. I honestly think that the mediocre quality reputation of the AR and AK platforms has dr8ven the market to significantly improve the platforms through improvements in the base matierials used in manufacturing those systems…at least in US and western European markets.

          • Kivaari

            Good advice. I am surprised at the extended bore life. On the 3 ARs I have I put BCM uppers on two of them. Even replacing a Colt M4 with a BFH 16″ light weight mid-length. It shoots under MOA.
            My HBAR has the Bushmaster original 1:9 twist. It shoots well.

  • Orion Quach

    Surprising results, and I am interested in other of their weapons like ARs and sub machine guns.

    • Sam Schifo

      I’d really like to know about ARs. There are so many different variations I’m curious as to what holds up the best.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Not that there isn’t room for improvement (and different steels excell at different firing applications & environments), but cold-hammer forged 4150 steel that has QPQ nitriding or chrome lining are considered the most durable that can be acquired through standard industrial means. I’d give the nitriding a slight edge over chrome, though there aren’t any truly rigorous scientific studies to prove anything one way or the other.

    • Matt

      10K out of an AR barrel, see my comments above

  • Best quote from that thread:
    “We have three M-134’s just to make sure if one goes down, we have a back-up and then another back-up.”
    Greatness.

    • Giolli Joker

      Everybody should have at least 3 M-134…

      • iksnilol

        No, just no. I couldn’t afford to feed one. Let alone three of them.

        • Giolli Joker

          They aren’t kids, they can survive without food in the living room and still make you immensely proud. 🙂

          • noob

            Wait, I thought I was supposed to keep my babies in a safe?

    • whskee

      My unit employs Miniguns (We call them Mk 44’s). Excellent guns, but the feeder-delinker sprocket is the weak point by design (sacrificial part). I don’t put them in the field without a spare feeder at minimum, and like them, prefer 2 spare. They run great when a good operator is on them, otherwise, some yahoo will not set the gun up correctly, and when he goes to shoot will get an instant jam which usually kills the feeder sprocket in the process. Don’t need whole guns for spare, just the feeder.

  • ValleyForge77

    Man, that was some awesome info. Can only get that type of data from hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of rounds and years of observation – making that data rather valuable when you think about it. Certainly some interesting and surprising revelations there for sure. Does seem to show the benefits of a good milled receiver – IF you ever get to 80-100 K round count that is 😉

  • S&W Matt

    I ran an “mil-spec” AR semi auto with a melonite barrel to
    10,000 rounds. At that point, I observed from the bore that the gas port had
    severely eroded away. I noticed my case ejections were dramatically changing
    angle and concluded that the gas port had opened up an extra .003”.

    So I would say life expectancy of an AR is 8-10k before
    changing major components.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      A hammer forged barrel would get more life, but with these high velocity cartridges, they just tear up barrels faster. It’s an inevitable part of their design. Arsenal rates their barrels at ~10k rounds FA fire I think. For 5.45 that is.

      • Joshua

        They do. Arsenal 5.45 barrels are rated for 10,000 rounds.

        Our M4A1’s have a 10,000 round maintenance schedule for the bolt and barrel as well, and these are guns seeing 1,600 rounds weekly through them.

        Supposedly these AK’s have better barrel life than any other firearm ever. Better than the all belt feds, all rifles, all handguns.

      • Kivaari

        Soviet designers wanted that long, but tough bullet, and they developed the special rifling to withstand the high velocity, pressures and torque. I think they made a huge error. They did improve the hits by 2.5 times over the AKM. They would have a better round, had they not gone for the overly long 5.45mm bullet. A slightly heavier M193-style bullet would not need that crazy bore “buttressed” high-rate of twist.

    • ostiariusalpha

      That is severely dependant on your firing schedule. If you’re taking your time lining up shots & giving your barrel a little cool down time between mags, instead of regular sessions of double taps & mag dumps, your gas port should last well beyond 10,000 rounds. You just measure your expectations of barrel life according to how hard you’re running your weapon.

    • Westin

      Just adding to ostiariusalpha’s points .. it can also depend upon the tier/quality of your AR .. the level of current materials science utilized. Mil-spec is fine, but there are material densities available for barrels that are 100% harder than mil-spec, and far more polished as well. Plus advanced coatings from NASA/Aerospace for the carrier etc.

      Not only do they make AR versions that will easily go over 10,000 rounds but they’ll also do twice that without ever being cleaned .. and as a stunt without even having any lubrication. AK’s are known for their hardiness, (and they could benefit from 50 years worth of new know-how as well) but I’ve yet to see anyone try to run one 20,000 rounds without cleaning or lubrication.

    • If the gun is accurate, just up the weight of the buffer until reliable ejection returns.

      That is what Crane does to the Mk18s as the gas port erode. Once the barrel is shot out, they are replaced.

      Now I would like to see a side by side test of chrome lined vs melonited guns. Tracking the gas port in addition to things like head space, and accuracy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a test that includes gas port erosion. My gut tells me that perhaps the chrome lined is superior there.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Interesting info but the descriptions of their shooting packages is hilarious.

    “Gear up with the latest and greatest weapons used by Seal Team Six on that famous May night in Pakistan where an Al Qaeda compound was raided and Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice Navy Seal style!”

    • Anomanom

      Certainly an eyecatch for someone that’s into that kind of thing. And there are plenty of those.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        Agreed, whatever keeps the customers rolling in.

    • ASterisk

      They are based in Vegas. Not exactly the capital of tasteful understatement

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I hate Vegas.

  • Vitsaus

    In before Nathaniel F posts a DoD report detailing how in 1968 an M16 barrel went through 2 million round without loss of accuracy.

    • Don Ward

      If you’re going to write bad parody. At least make it somewhat believable. Or did you conveniently forget his April 16 article on a Few Reasons he likes the Kalashnikov better than the AR?

  • Joshua

    This guy also says he has AK-47’s with 100,000 rounds through them on the original barrels and still holding decent groups.

    I’m not saying he’s lying about everything, but his post came after multiple Army SoF soldiers were discussing issues with the AK’s they had been training soldiers with in Afghanistan.

    Frankly, he is lying about a AK barrel not being shot out after 100,000 rounds. No barrel known to man can last 100,000 rounds and even the best are rated for 20,000 rounds maximum(HK416 which has by far the best barrel ever designed).

    • n0truscotsman

      AK barrels, like AR barrels, typically have a life of 10k for accuracy. I find the “accuracy at 100k” unbelievable.

      • I think it’s also a function of what accuracy is defined at. Minute of angle, minute of man, minute of barn, etc.

        For a full auto rental range, with completely new shooters representing 50%+ of the clientele, firing at 2’x3′ targets 5-7 yards away, I suspect that there is a very generous definition of accuracy here.

        • Mark77

          Actually they have barrels with 60K through them at Radom Arenal that still hold 4MOA. So getting pie sized groups at ten yards with 100K rounds down the pipe might be achievable.

          • Yeah the more I think of it the more doable it seems. A smooth bore paintball gun, firing a flexible, gelatinous ball that is not perfectly spherical and doesn’t even fully fit the bore, can maintain pie plate groups at 10 yards.

            So I think that within the indoor range setting on full auto, these very well could be staying functionally accurate at 100k rounds.

        • n0truscotsman

          Yep 🙂 I was being generous and loose with the term “accuracy” as well in my comment.

    • wysoft

      His definition of accuracy seems to be whether it keyholes or not, and hits the paper target. I imagine that’s not the same as you or I considering a barrel not holding less than 5MOA to be shot out.

      Also 7.62×39 is a fairly low pressure round and is not very hard on barrels.. 100K rounds on a CHF/CL barrel is probably possible shooting nothing but non-corrosive commercial 7.62×39, especially if your expectations are as above: Does bullet hit the target? Y/N

  • Riot

    Trunnions failing seems in line with kalashnikov designs – they tend to batter them.

    • Westin

      ^^ Some of their reliability ( ” ” ) is that they’re overgassed. If they would concomitantly beef-up the recoil system to properly arrest (or endure) that energy it’d be a balanced system .. with even higher longevity to go with that reliability.

      • ostiariusalpha

        LOL! You can go ahead and put the quotation marks around the actual word, man. When operating in the winter conditions of northern Russia, that overgassed condition gets dialed back to just the right amount for reliably cycling the action. If it was dual-setting adjustable, it would be that much better.

  • toms

    Remember these places put targets up 20 feet from the shooter (noobs) and have absolutely no accuracy criteria. Those conditions may extend the barrel another 20K or so but 100000 is just not in the realm of possibility. I might buy 50K with keyholing but 100K, auto, no way.

  • n0truscotsman

    “The AK is the most reliable but after seeing how many have broken over the last two and half years on the range, it’s not the indestructible weapon everybody talks about”

    Um, compared to other rifles, cracked trunnions at 100k is pretty much indestructible. 😉 no really. That is day in, day out usage. If you own a AK, you should be pretty satisfied with what you have.

    On a serious note, these are also WASRs, which are well-known to be among the lower tier of AKs available for purchase (and they seem to be better than they were in 2007). IF you own a WASR, or N-pap, or anything else in between, you will be fine.

  • sam

    I’m surprised. I would have bet on stamped to outlast milled. I know milled is generally seen as more baller. But with stamping, if choice overhead is used the grain structure can really be controlled. I don’t know what the overhead is like at Izhmash or wherever else.

    • iksnilol

      Didn’t the original thread say that they have yet to see a Bulgarian or Chinese milled receiver fail?

      Did I misread?

      • Wetcoaster

        I wonder what the cause of the receiver failure is. The Chinese Type 56 stamped receivers use 1.5mm steel for whatever reason*

        *Except for the Type 56C shorty – those have 1.2mm… along with a shortened receiver

        • iksnilol

          I don’t know. I was surprised the RPDs failed so quickly (RPD, belt fed 7.62×39 MG by the way, so we aren’t confusing it with the RPK). Probably bad design/architecture which led to the rapid RPD failure. Sorta explains why they were so quickly replaced too.

          1.5mm steel is for increased durability and to streamline production (RPK, the LMG version of the AK uses a 1.5 mm receiver).

          • Wetcoaster

            Yeah, I figured as much. Interesting that the short Type-56C which in some ways is part way to a new design goes with 1.2mm instead of all the way down to 1mm like other stamped AKs, but there’s a lot odd about the -56C – IIRC, it was designed because the Type 81’s design couldn’t be shortened that far. I wonder if the PLA will be replacing them with bullpups at some point.

      • Wetcoaster

        I wonder what the cause of the receiver failure is. The Chinese Type 56 stamped receivers use 1.5mm steel for whatever reason*

        *Except for the Type 56C shorty – those have 1.2mm… along with a shortened receiver

      • Wetcoaster

        I wonder what the cause of the receiver failure is. The Chinese Type 56 stamped receivers use 1.5mm steel for whatever reason*

        *Except for the Type 56C shorty – those have 1.2mm… along with a shortened receiver

      • sam

        Yep, that’s what I got out of it, that the milled ones didn’t fail while stamped did fail. I would have thought the opposite would happen; that stamped would outlast milled. Maybe my first comment was unclear.

        • iksnilol

          Ah, I must have misread a bit.

  • Lets keep it civil guys—

  • Mark77

    But Arfcom Operators told me that AK’s fail right out of the crate, fall apart, and only go in the trash can.

    That posting by Las Vegas Guns confirmed what I have known all along, AK’s will go the distance and likely the ones seen in the field that are falling apart- have been in the field longer than most of the operators have been alive.

    • wysoft

      lol, there is always one member who seems to have his pager set to go off on every AK thread so he can come in and post about how every AK he ever saw in the ME was broken, even straight out of the box from contract runs with Arsenal Bulgaria or FEG.

  • Jon

    To make fair comparisons, they have to pass other rifles from the same abuse. It would be great to see an AK vs VZ-58 test.

  • n0truscotsman

    I have heard of some lemons coming from the PAP series, although Im not sure how common those problems are. If they are spot heat treating receivers, then that would explain the durability issues.

    • Kivaari

      They were pretty poor. I had two that I had to open the crude magazine port, so I could get all my magazines to fit. QC was non-existent. I recently looked at a couple Century Arms with milled receivers. They were very impressive in fit and finish.
      I don’t have any desire to buy another AK. I had about 25 variants over 40 years. Stating first with a M62S Valmet, the top quality AK.
      Even an early and $1200 Maadi was the closest to a Soviet AKM one could find. Most worked very well. Except for sights on Finn and Israeli variants, all the others are too crude for older eyes. The 7.62x39mm is not suitable for longer ranges – beyond 200m.
      After having just about all the semi-auto versions available from 1965 to 2005, I’ve settled on AR15s.

      • n0truscotsman

        I have heard good things about the new century AKs. Everybody freaked out and threw a tantrum over nitrided barrels, although, they seem to be in proper working order for practical AK use. To properly compare it to chrome, there needs to be more history and more research IMO.

  • MPWS

    In absence of more detailed pictures (I looked at source), it might be fair to say that metal fibre interrupted by machining operation is the locality of failure (“trunion” is mentioned as the failed part without specific area denotation) .

    This would be conceivable even if you forged them; there is still interruption although fibre is packed tightly and follows form of die. In addition to fibre interruption, tool marks are stress risers; you cannot avoid them. Also, lack of homogeneity in heat treatment and resulting transfer of microstructure, that all counts in. You would be shocked if you saw this in 100x enlargement.

    One notable ‘detail’ is that action parts were not involved which sounds that they held the pressure as long as part of trunion supported them. I’d call it “fail-safe” design.
    Here also reduced pressure of M43 round helps.

    • MPWS

      To add what is said above:
      I read that outwardly it was “receiver in joint area” that cracked, but that likely happened as result of stretch and shift of part it is connected to, which is trunion. I’d love to see actual parts though.

      • wysoft

        If you read the arfcom thread, most of the trunnions crack at the upper locking lug, which also serves as the stop surface for the bolt carrier. It gets stressed in both directions in a very short period of time.

  • Nat

    I am going to guess you own an Arsenal, right?

  • Kivaari

    Before 1998 I bought several Mitchell Arms variants. They were nicely built, shot well, but had too long of a butt stock. The extra weight, like used on the RPK, well, it was heavy. But the rifles performed. Mitchell sold a .308 model with original scope. It shot very well.

  • jonspencer

    Those worn out AK’s are getting close to where a Vickers might be starting to get broken-in and ready for sustained firing.

  • Shane

    The pic is just a bit misleading…give it a close look. There’s quote a few 54r cases in the mix. Not discounting that this is still a huge heap of “brass”…

  • Alejandro M Fener

    Any similar figures on autoloaders and revolvers?

  • jb

    If only Jim fuller from rifle dynamics could have some inputs on these findings would be interesting for sure..