Top 5 AK Variants

The famous Avtomat Kalashnikova has been copied and adapted by many nations and organizations, but some shine above the rest. In this episode of TFBTV, we take a look at our 5 favorites and explain why we chose the ones we did.

Guns featured:

  • Galil
  • AK74M
  • Yugo M70
  • Finnish RK 62 76.
  • Serbian Zastava

Thanks to our Sponsors Ventura Munitions & Grizzly Targets.

The full transcript …

– Hey guys, I’m Alex C.

– And I’m Patrick R.

– We’ve got a really cool video coming at you today, that’s gonna be our picks for the top five best AK variants.

Most people we come across usually have an AK, an AR or both.

– Yep, yeah.

– So it just makes sense to do a video where we kind of explain what we found works the best for us and what we found is what we just kinda cumulatively believe, think is the best.

– Yep – Unfortunately, some of these are off the market right now in the US.

However, you can find used examples, I’ll try and throw some prices at you.

However, realize that these fluctuate because a lot of these are pre 89 ban guns and stuff like that.

So with that said, let’s go ahead and get to it.

– Yeah, I think we’re going to start with the Galil.

– Yeah, we’ll start from our left to your right as usual.

First, is gonna be the Galil.

And this is a Galil ARM.

You know, a lot of people would argue that the Galil is the best variant.

It’s definitely prolific.

It’s Israeli and it’s a development of the Finnish RK series.

It’s got some really cool features on it.

Most notably, it actually does have a bottle opener built-in.

And now that’s gonna be your bi-pod retainer and we can show a close up of that sooner or later.

But it’s also got a wire cutter.

However, wire cutters and bottle openers don’t make for a great gun.

Very unnecessarily.

– No, no.

But just how the gun’s laid out, that’s what makes this one great.

– Absolutely, absolutely.

What I really like is how it’s got the upswept bolt handle so that you can actually work the bolt by just reaching your hand over and it’s very comfortable.

It’s also got a folding stock that’s very rigid and solid.

The sights are also fantastic, it’s got a– – They are, I like the peep-sight.

That’s something I don’t like about the other AK variants so much.

– That’s always been one of the least appealing parts about an AK to me is the sights.

But the RK series and the Galil fix that.

Along with having some cool features like night sights that you flip up, which are nice if you’re fighting at night in the military.

It’s also got a safety lever.

Instead of having to remove your hand from the pistol grip, you just flip the lever with your thumb like you would on an AR which makes it so much more user friendly.

– Now that’s another one of the features of this gun that I really do like.

– Yeah and Patrick, you can kinda show the camera that.

He’s actually moving his thumb.

But you can see the dust cover comes down along with taking the gun into ready-to-fire.

– I’m gonna flip it around.

And the switch is just right here, it goes forwards and backwards.

It’s not like an AR variant where it rotates.

But it does work very, very well.

– The downside of course is weight.

This Galil ARMs especially are very heavy.

– It is the LMG variant – This is the LMG variant.

But even the Galil ARs are still reasonably heavy.

They’re not as light as the stamped gun by any means.

– But really though, it’s not that heavy.

– I probably wouldn’t pick it as my– – Oh no, I wouldn’t want to carry it.

– But it’s none the less not bad.

But at least they gave you a carry handle for the guys that do carry these.

And Israel is phasing them out in favor of the Tavor.

But I personally like the Galil better than the Tavor.

I don’t know why, I just like the fact that it’s a conventionally laid out rifle, maybe.

But that’s a different video.

So with that, I’d say that the Galil is a great AK variant.

It fires a cartridge I’m familiar with and I like.

– I’m not real partial to any particular intermediate cartridge but the fact that it shoots something that I regularly stock, because I’m primarily an AR shooter, it’s nice.

– Absolutely guys and if you’re a primarily an AR guy with a ton of 556, a 556 AK is no joke.

556 is a great cartridge.

So kind of a “why not?” situation.

Now the downside of these is they don’t import Galils any longer.

I know the make the Galil ACE which’ll come in soon.

But these old school Galils, a pre-ban one will run you about 3,000.

You can build one now for probably about 15 hundred I think.

– I think there’s a couple of companies out there that are offering kits that are a little bit cheaper.

But I wanna say that the receivers is the big hurdle.

– The receiver? Yeah, you gotta find someone who makes receivers and they do it in runs.

– Right, yeah.

And some of those are even spotty at best from what I understand.

Now if we had a micro Galil in our collection, I think that might edge out, as my favorite.

– Well, it goes under the umbrella of Galil variants.

– Well yes, yes.

Just in terms of usability and size, what have you..

– For sure. Anyways guys, that’s the Galil.

The Galil is a fantastic rifle.

Israel did a great job with taking the AK platform and adding some bells and whist– Or taking the RK, which is an AK.

But next up we’ve got a true Russian AK variant.

This is a Saiga SGL.

But it’s based on the AK-74M, which is actually the Russian Federation’s current service AK.

So if their using it, that means it’s probably good enough for us to be using it for fun and hunting or whatever.

Tell ’em about some of the features of AK-74 that we like.

– You know, it’s a pretty standard AK.

It’s chambered in 545 by 39.

You have your standard control layout that you’ll find on any AK.

One thing I really do like about the Saiga converted guns is the fit and finish is really nice.

– The arsenal ones I’d like to mention.

– Well yes, yes.

The arsenal guns are very well finished out.

It’s light, it’s handy. It shoulders well.

I’m not particularly fond of the sights but that’s kind of a ding that I give to most– Well, two out of the three that we have remaining.

The furniture is something else.

It does handle heat a little bit better than the wood does.

– Right the 74M marked Russia’s departure from wooden stuff to polymer which is kinda cool.

They also lightened up the bolt to make the recoil impulse feel a little lighter.

As well as did little things like reenforce the top cover there.

– I think they smoothed it out as well.

– They smoothed it out, yeah.

And a few other bells and whistles.

I think they redesigned the muzzle break a little bit.

Don’t quote me on that, I wanna say that’s a thing they did.

But anyways, you’ll notice also the cleaning rod.

You have to remove the muzzle break to access the cleaning rod which is not– I wouldn’t call that desirable but at least they put the cleaning rod on there.

– I think I’ve tried to clean an AK with a cleaning rod a couple of times and it’s not quite long enough in many cases.

So removing the muzzle device…

– It is what it is, however it’s almost endearing because of its no-nonsense simplicity to me.

Which is cool and then when you shoot one of these you’re like, “Huh, so this is what those guys “are using and working with everyday.” That’s cool.

– We’ve said before that the RPK-74 was one of our favorite machine guns and– – Oh! Also guys, Larry Vickers has a really cool video he put out recently about the AK-74 in slow-mo.

Check out that video after this, it’s good stuff.

– But we’ve said that is probably one of our favorite AKs to shoot.

We didn’t include it because it’s basically the White machine gun variant of this.

But 545 is just a wonderful round to shoot.

– It is, and even though the 7 and 6 ban went through, it’s still cheap guys. It’s not like– – No, I think it’s right around $200 a tin.

– Yeah, $200 a tin, which is fine.

Even 750 rounds is something like 200 bucks.

I’d also like to give a shout out to one of our sponsors, that’s gonna be Ventura Munitions.

And Ventura actually saw that we did a video on assault rifles and then we mentioned we wanted to do a burning AK-74 video and they piped up and they said, “Hey, we’ll hook you guys up with some ammo.” So we’d really like to thank those guy for helping.

– Absolutely.

– Check them out too, they’re a great company.

Anyways, on to the next gun here.

We’ve got a Yugo M70 series.

Now the reason I really like the Yugo guns, for one thing Yugo mags are cool because they have a bolt hold open.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t dig to the bottom of the bin and find a Yugo mag but that’s one feature that’s enduring.

Another one is they have a gas cutoff, which is cool for launching rifle grenades.

They also have night sights as well that you flip up just like the Galil but laid out a little differently.

– I actually think that the rear one…

Yeah, the rear one’s there.

– Now these are very old and they don’t glow anymore.

However, they could be made to glow.

But these are great low-cost, I think about 600 buck or so.

– I wanna say they’re under that right now.

– So 600 high end price on one of these.

– Right, yeah.

– Also, my favorite feature is they have an RPK trunion.

Which means it’s reenforced and they can take a whole lot of punishment guys.

We’ve done mag dump after mag dump after mag dump– – Admittedly, this is the AK that kind of beats us up a little bit if you’ve heard us refer to it in the past.

– Yeah, this is the punishment stick.

But you’ll also notice our friends TJ redid the wood and he put a cool hammer and sickle.

Now obviously, Yugoslavia was a kind of a strange enigma, not technically a Soviet satellite state but kind of a– That’s a weird situation.

But is an inherently Russian design, of course, so that’s kinda paying homage to that.

If anybody asks why’s a Serb AK have it.

– Now something we’ve done in the past, is we’ve– One thing I do think is pretty cool about this particular variant is whenever you flip the grenade launcher sight up you can slow the cyclic grade down a little bit.

– That’s not intentional obviously, but it’s cool.

– It is and it brings it down to a very chugga, chugga, chugga kind of rate of fire.

Which I do like.

– That’s a great bargain gun honestly and the Serb stuff is probably, in my opinion, the best value right now on the market.

– Yes, I’ll agree with you.

– But we’ll get to that in a second.

This is probably going to be my personal favorite, next.

It’s gonna be the Finnish RK series.

This is an RK-6276.

The Finnish RK series were some of the first western AK variants.

They’re very cool guns.

They were some of the first AK variants to be imported into the US even.

Aside from guns brought back by GIs less than legally during Vietnam and what not.

But these and the Chinese guns came in roughly the same time.

These are just fantastic rifles.

Where I have to pay lip service on this gun is going to be the sights.

The sights and the way the dust cover locks just holds zero, remarkably.

And it’s a feature that even the Israelis borrowed on the Galil.

– On the backside it’s kind of like a double thickness type of situation where it fits in really neatly.

– And now they have an advanced variant of this called the RK-95.

The RK-95 is this with more bells and whistles and it’s 760 by 39.

This as a civilian gun is just a Jim Dandy riffle to shoot.

It actually won our trigger-pull test we did a while back.

– It did, it did.

Yeah, the trigger on it is pretty fantastic.

– Even the hand guards are nice and comfy.

Where I feel nice and comfortable with them.

– I’m not too much of a fan of it.

It’s a unique arrangement.

It’s not uncomfortable but it’s not quite as traditional as I would like.

– Also, one more weird thing I’d like to hit on, is this does have a wire cutter but it’s much different than the Galil.

For this the wire cutter, you’ll notice the flash hider is in the shape of a trident.

You basically put it into the wire, twist the gun up and then fire the gun.

And that’s a built-in, actual feature that they included in this gun.

– It’s kinda strange but I guess if it works…

– Yeah.

– Until you shoot your buddy in the rear end.

– Yeah, which would be bad.

But anyways, the worst thing about these, is they don’t come with an adjustable front sight.

So what I did is I took off the factory front sight and put an adjustable Galil front sight on there.

I did not like that all the adjustment had to be done with the rear with a little screwdriver instead of an AK sight tool.

That’s the one bad thing I had to say about it.

– Now, one thing I do want to touch on is the mag release on this.

I do actually like it quite a lot.

I like it more so than I do your standard AK mag release.

It’s got a little bit of a thumb paddle that sticks off to the right-hand side.

So if you’re right-handed, it fits in real nice in your hand.

It fits really well.

– And I wanna say I paid about 15 hundred for this gun.

This is also another gun that was banned by import in ’89.

Which isn’t bad considering that you get really quality AK variant in 223.

– And I have to say, this is probably one of the best AK variants that I’ve shot.

It’s not my favorite but it is really well– – Just a well built gun. – Well built gun, yes.

I liken it to a higher end AR-15 if you’re going to go ahead and say, compare the two.

Now I wanna say there was some interesting trivia about this gun.

Maybe to do with a movie.

– Well I know that in Hollywood, before we could get other AKs from China and stuff they were used in lieu of…

– Right, I wanna say it was Red Dawn where they bought a bunch of them, converted them to look like Russian AKs, or something.

– They might have used some Vlamonts but I think most of those were Chinese.

– Were they? – Could be, who knows? But yeah, check out IMFDB, I know that– – There’s a pretty extensive page on the Valmont.

– Anyways, so last, we’ve got one of Patrick’s personal and favorite guns I believe.

– Yes, I like it quite a lot.

Admittedly, it’s kind of a Frankenstein but more or less, it is a Zastava M92.

But we said that the Serbian guns are some of the best values for money out there right now.

And that’s entirely accurate.

Now, mine’s not really correct.

I added a little picatinny rail on top of the dust cover, which, to be honest, doesn’t work very well and I wish I hadn’t done it.

And then I– Don’t even remember who makes the buttstock.

– It might be an Ace, I think or something.

– No, it’s not. It’s a…

The name eludes me, I’ll annotate it.

– But this started out life as an N-PAP, I believe.

– Yeah, actually it started out as a M92 PAP.

– Ok – And we had to break it down, build it on a new receiver as a result of how they cut it.

But it’s been reliable.

It’s very handy gun, very light.

I really enjoy shooting it.

– All the PAP series guns guys, are just fantastic.

Affordable, reliable. Great guns.

– I think the PAP pistols are going for right around 400 to 450 right now online.

These also have a night sight arrangement that they ship with.

Or low light sights.

But mine has since fallen off ’cause the recoil is fairly brutal with a little tiny AK pistol.

– Oh yeah, big time.

Anyways guys, I think this about covers our list for the top five AK variants.

We have a lot of fun with these and we really should shoot them more.

Patrick shoots this a lot but you’ll notice we haven’t actually done a video on any of these yet.

– No – Kind of a sin really.

But we’ll get out there and we’ll do that guys.

– If there’s one in particular you’d like to see, go ahead and drop a comment.

– Absolutely.

Anyways, we’d like to take this time to ask you to subscribe to TFB TV.

We have a lot of cool stuff coming.

Hopefully featuring some of this stuff.

And if there’s anything else you’d like to see us do, we’d be more than happy to do it.

– Absolutely.

– Anyways, thanks again guys.

Hit that Subscribe button and we hope to see you next time.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


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  • MrEllis

    Enjoyed the vid, thanks.

  • Nicks87

    Man, I don’t even like AKs but I know enough about them to know that you guys just barely scratched the surface. So much more could be said about these rifles and the popular AK variants that were left out.

    • For sure. It is very hard to pick just a few of something when you have so many options!

    • A friend of mine is writing a book on them and that’s what it would take to cover it all!

  • Iksnilol

    Uh, hate to be that guy but Yugoslavia was never “kind of” a Soviet satelite state. We were never part of the Soviet Union.

    Also, good call on the Valmet. Some of the best AKs you can get.

    • That is why I said “not technically a Soviet satellite state but kind of a… That’s a weird situation.”
      I wanted to make sure I did not say it was a satellite state. But of course the leaders were commies and I could have bored the viewers with the complexities of Yugoslavian Cold War history.

      • Iksnilol

        Commies? You mean socialist? Because Yugoslavia was socialist.

        Conmunism=/=socialism

  • Darrell

    VEPR (RPK) AK is best AK.

  • Vitsaus

    I love how Finland seems to be fond of taking crude and mediocre russian rifles and making them into respectable fighting impliments.

    • ostiariusalpha

      And taking Russian soldiers and turning them into stew… Okay, that’s actually not so lovable.

      • Vitsaus

        I’m fine with that too.

        • Pete Sheppard

          “HAKKAA PAALLE”

          • Fegelein

            “CHEEKI BREEKI”

  • Pete Sheppard

    You two must LOVE abuse!! 😀

    • Scott Tuttle

      wasr 10 is great out of the box and cheap enough to mod up too.

    • Patrick R.

      This wasn’t a list of the best value AKs. We picked the 5 best ones we had at our disposal.

      • Pete Sheppard

        Understood–you’d have been there for HOURS, trying to cover every variant. Keep it up!

  • ManBear

    Damnit … Now I have to buy one of these

  • Tassiebush

    I think Albania opting for Maoism was another shrewd move avoiding Soviet dominance but being a non threatening buffer.

  • kregano

    Can’t wait to see this revisted a few years down the line if Kalashnikov USA manages to get its hands on the rights to some of the more modern AKs, like the AK-12 and AK-103.

  • Grindstone50k

    When I hold an AK in my hands…

  • myndbender

    I can’t believe you would put 2 yugo/serb models in your group, but no mention of the the Bulgarian AK100 series clones. I understand you can’t mention all good AKs and but Bulgarian AKs are right @ the Valmet/Galil in terms of quality, just don’t have the ergos of the Val/Gal.

    • ostiariusalpha

      I’ve pretty much given up on trying to understand Alex & Patrick’s persistently idiosyncratic choices on their lists. I can’t shake the suspicion that they’re trolling the lot of us.

    • Phil Hsueh

      As explained in the comments and in previous list videos, they only cover what they can actually get their hands on and/or personally own.

  • The Galil ARM is way too damn heavy. The Galil SAR, on the other hand, is a superb rifle. Balances nicely, and has a sweet-spot barrel length of ~13″.

    The ACE rifles should be pretty awesome, albeit the MSRPs on them are a bit high.

  • G0rdon_Fr33man

    No VZ58? 🙁

    • Lol.

      • G0rdon_Fr33man

        It´s only AK is styling, I know, but along those lines, it is a very well made rifle. Bolt hold open and milled receiver.

        • It is not an AK by any stretch of the imagination. It is completely different in every possible way aside from caliber.

          • Dillon

            I want one. Or two. Or three…

          • G0rdon_Fr33man

            My point was, comblock rifle with AK styling. I know the inner workings are different. I would imagine this one to run through more ammo than any Century AK…

        • Iksnilol

          By that logic the most accurate AK variant is a 7.62×39 AR 15 withwooden furniture. It is after all the same styling.

  • smartacus

    The best AK i ever owned was the Hungarian SA-85M by FÉG.
    -fabulous, smooth, the Cadillac of AK’s

  • Lance

    Id say AK-74, the AKM (Romanian East German Type) ,the Yugo M-70, Type 56, and the SA85M. I prefer the pure Com Bock AKs if you want a AK the history and the ease of action tells all.

    • Lance

      As per caliber 5.45×39 is my opinion is the best AK round in mass use.

      • Lance

        @ Alex C

        The AKs used in Red Dawn where Egyptian Maadis and where given a Bakelite mag and a milled Muzzle brake to look like AKMs and AK-74s in Soviet service at the time. The Finnish Valmet was used in the film the Survivors with Robin Williams.

        • dansquad

          Patrick Swayze carried a Valmet “RPK” in “Red Dawn”. It´s the same gun that is first seen and shot in the movie in the hands of a russian paratrooper.

  • Kivaari

    Excellent choices. Except for not having an AK74, I’ve had many AKMs in 7.62×39, A mirchell Arms 7,62mm NATO w. Yugo scope, Galils in .5.56nn and 7.62mm, Valmets in 762×39 (my first), Egyptian AKR (Maadi) and dozens of Chinese and Russian.
    I really like AKs, and I no longer own any. The grade of guns varies. Polytec delivered some fine rifles. What I use now are AR15-variants. The AR15/M4 16″ Mid-length are superior.

  • Jakynox

    What’s about Beryl Archer?

    • Patrick R.

      We only include guns that we have at our disposal.

      • Consequently we only buy what we think is “the best”. I like the Beryls quite a lot, but I would not consider them the best. In hindsight we probably should have included a Chinese AK but I am not dissatisfied with our choices.

  • Anton Gray Basson

    I’ve had the chance to shoot an R4 and Galil ARM side by side one. The Galil is shorter by like 15mm the rear sight aperture seems to be slightly bigger on the ARM.

    • Tom

      South African soldiers tend to be a bit taller than Israeli soldiers so it makes sense the South Africans made it a little longer.

  • Iksnilol

    Not quite, Yugoslavia was never part of Soviet Union. Part of Cominform but kicked out in 1948.

    • Mario AK

      You’re right

  • mechamaster

    Hopefully TFB TV crew can review and show the internal parts, and how to field striped RK-series rifle and Galil more detailed and advanced. They are unique hi-quality AK and the information are little bit scarce. Maybe it’s inspired people to reproduce and demanding the RK / Galil with 100% made-in-USA parts.

  • MAUSERMAN

    Hard to trust a NPap AK after seeing the AK4774 union guys broke one. What do you guys think bad quality all around or just unlucky and get a bad gun?

  • SirOliverHumperdink

    Nice video, but I’d put the Sig 551 at #1 in the AK platform..

  • Phil Hsueh

    Speaking of AK variants, does anyone know if anybody offers a 74M variant but chambered for x39? I’m thinking of eventually getting an AK but I want one in x39 because I already own and SKS which will allow me to just buy more ammo for my money since I also have an AR and M1A that I have to feed, the last thing I want is a 4th ammo type to have to buy. Of course, I could simply just buy a 47 but I really like the way the 74s look, especially that muzzle brake. I also don’t want to pay $1,000+ for it either, I’d be happy with a $600 – $700 (or less) just so long as it’s not a total piece of junk that will fall apart after only 100 rounds.

    • Iksnilol

      You could go for a 5.56 AK if you don’t mind the mags. Arsenal makes one, the SLR-106FR. Comes with a folding solid stock and all the AK-100 series bells and whistles.

      Other option is the SLR-107FR. Which is the same only in x39.

      • Phil Hsueh

        I just checked your recommendations out and while they’re nice, Arsenals are out of my budget. I don’t know what other options are out there but when/if I do decide to actually get an AK I might just have to stick with a 47 variant.

        • iksnilol

          You could also just check what improvements the AK74M has and add them to a regular AK. A Saiga would probably be a good starting point.

  • Just say’n

    As always, great job guys. Lights the fire to find a RK.
    Still no love for the SIG 556 eh?

  • Wolfgar

    The Galil is one of the best AK variants made. The fit and finish is second to none. My Chinese AK looks like a piece of junk laying next to my Galil. The newer ones made with U.S. receivers have been problematic as my friend has unfortunately found out. The ARM is way too heavy for a 5.56 rifle but the AR variant does help with the weight by deleting the bi-pod and carry handle. The night sights have lost their glow many moons ago. The Galil did not have a chrome lined bore which helped with accuracy as mine shot better groups than most of my AR rifles. The piston rod has a star behind the piston to help center it, which may be of dubious value but is another unique feature of the Galil. The 1983 movie staring the late Robin Williams, “The Survivors” used a Valimant rifle.

  • Brian M

    The list is not bad. However, Zastava is a company (they make the “Yugo” AK’s) and the M70 is a LINE of weapons. I have in my lap a Zastava M57 pistol, while in my mind I await the day I can scrounge up for a Zastava M70B Kalashnikov.

  • Rock A

    My favorite (and only) is the Romanian PSL. It’s big and ugly but shoots smooth and accurately. It’s one of the smoothest 30 caliber rifles I’ve ever had the pleasure to shoot. With surplus sniper ammo it shoots as well as a typical sporter barreled bolt gun with good hunting ammo. That’s plenty good enough for me. Ergonomically it just fits.

  • asoro

    what a crock those 5 are not the top 5 gun’s if anything there the 5 cheapest ones out there, And the most problematic,

    • Leigh Rich

      Mine are not problematic. Are yours?

      • asoro

        I do not own any of those but know people that do, I own an Arsenal
        for 10 yrs never had one problem also had a sagia and that work fine for many yrs, I just know there are beter made ones out there but when it comes to AK’s the cheapest one can be the best shooting one, i know people with Arsenals that had a problem or 2,
        you never know, if you own one or 2 of those and they work fine good for you hang on to them, lol you might just need it one day, things sure are not getting better

        • Leigh Rich

          I also have a 12 ga Sagia that took a lot of aftermarket parts to get it working. I really don’t believe a lot of stuff people say on the internet. I don’t have any of the new USA made AK’s. Most are twice what I paid for mine a decade or so ago..

          • asoro

            I had a sagia 12g in my hands some yrs ago when they cost 350.00 and just did not buy it , Boy do I regret it today……
            I was going to buy it but there was something else I was looking for and past on it, Dam if only I knew, Same with the Arsenal, there was a time I could of bought a milled one back when they first came out on the scene, Today you cant find them they are all stamped. And Arsenal and sagia are the same company today.

  • Leigh Rich

    Ive got 4 WASR in different variations/ configurations, Yugo folder. , Valmet Sportster, VZ 58 and a couple more I cant recall. Got a piss load of AR’s too, I accumulated mine from 1990’s to 2009. That is what there was then.