GUEST POST: A Brief History of the Kalashnikov Magazine Part 2: Synthetic Magazines

Tula long top 2

This is a the second part of a guest article from our reader Brandon covering the development of synthetic magazines for the AK-47 and AKM rifles. You can read the first part, on metallic magazines, at this link. Thanks, Brandon!

Sometime around 1965-1968 Izhevsk developed the AG-4S lightweight magazine also commonly referred to as the Bakelite magazine. While AG-4S is not technically Bakelite, it is similar and has a similar appearance which is likely why the name stuck. The magazines are produced from a thermoset phenol-formaldehyde resin which is glass fiber reinforced. These magazines are much lighter than any steel production magazine and are still quite durable. You’ll hear many stories of them being brittle and breaking, but in reality, they do not chip and break easily thanks to the fiber reinforcement. These generally feature orange, brown, and red tones and have a marbled, almost wood look to them thanks to the lamination process used to produce them. They were molded as two halves and epoxied together. They all feature steel reinforcement along the body of the magazine and later variants had steel reinforced feed lips as well. The reinforcements can be found by looking for the spots of black paint. They continued this tradition to the present and anywhere the steel would be slightly exposed, it’s painted black over.

The arsenal marks are molded into the magazine body on the right and they feature ink as inspection stamps. The left side of the magazine features a mold number. Just as with any modern plastics manufacturing, these were marked with mold numbers for many reasons, like keeping track of when a mag was made and if there was a problem with the mold, it’s easier to identify the affected magazines. Once a mold was used up, the next was put in it’s place and was marked with an incremental, consecutive number. Often times the mold number can be helpful on dating a magazine, but the Soviets tended to restart the mold numbers frequently and sometimes for unknown reasons. Generally the lower the mold number, the older, but not always.

35 long top bakelite reinforcements

Note the black paint protecting exposed steel.

The first variation of these is referred to as the long top due to the top feed lip area mold being elongated and extended further down the body. There are two variation of these. The first having notches on the front closer together while on the second, the notches are much further apart. These do not have steel reinforced feed lips.

Long top variation 34 long top bakelite

The early variations tends to have very unique and attractive marbling. This first photo shows version one on the left, and version two on the middle and right.

27 long top bakelite 28 long top bakelite 30 long top bakelite 32 long top bakelite 33 long top bakelite

The next variation is commonly called the ridgeback and carries over the long tops reinforcement ridge running along the backside, but the feed lip area is shortened. These can be found with or without steel reinforced feed lips. This variation is where the ink stamping becomes more standardized. You’ll find a rectangle with a single Cyrillic character on the top front left side and under that, is the Russian OTK acceptance stamp with a number after. At some point, a small silver stamp with a single Cyrillic character began appearing and stamps on the rear also.

38 ridgeback bakelite 39 ridgeback bakelite 40 ridgeback bakelite

Next came the flat back. The ridge on the rear was eliminated, but otherwise the magazine was nearly identical to the ridgebacks. These all feature steel reinforced feed lips.

41 flat back bakelite 42 flat back bakelite 43 flat back bakelite

The last AG-4S magazine type produced is referred to as a Cyrillic mold number due to mold number featuring Cyrillic characters. These are identical to the flat backs aside from that one detail. The most common is ЦТ and then a number and there are a few that feature a number followed by П.

44 cyrillic bakelite 45 cyrillic bakelite 46 cyrillic bakelite

Tula followed Izhmash production fairly closely in the production of these mags, but have less varation. Tula began production with the long top version one mold and it doesn’t appear that they ever produced a different long top variation. There’s much talk of one, but I have personally never seen any evidence of it’s existence. These mags tend to be very bland as far as texture. A small silver Ч ink stamp is present on these on the lower left side.

Tula long top 1 Tula long top 2 Tula long top 3 Tula long top 4 Tula long top 5

Tula went to the ridgeback just like Izhmash after and aside from the diamond Tula inspection stamp and arsenal mark, they are basically identical.

Tula ridgeback 1 Tula ridgeback 2 Tula ridgeback 3 Tula ridgeback 4 Tula ridgeback 5

They appear to have gone to their first Cyrillic mold magazine before Izhmash did. These still feature the ridge on the rear and have an A as a suffix on the mold numbers.

Tula Cyrillic A 1 Tula Cyrillic A 2 Tula Cyrillic A 3 Tula Cyrillic A 4

From what it appears, the last AG-S4 produced by Tula was a flat back Cyrillic mold number. The ridge was eliminated from their design, just like the Izhmash flat backs, and these feature a B as a suffix on the mold number.

Tula Cyrillic B 1 Tula Cyrillic B 2 Tula Cyrillic B 3 Tula Cyrillic B 4

At this point its getting close to the 1980’s and the AK-74 is in full production and the AKM is being slowly phased out. Izhevsk produced two other small production magazines before 7.62×39 stopped being general issue. One looks very similar to the AG-4S magazines, but also resembles the Czech VZ-58 furniture that’s commonly called beaver barf. There is much speculation on the material from which this magazine is made, but without getting one in my hands, it’s hard to say. There were many versions made of this material including the 20-round 5.45×39 magazine. The other is the elusive plum waffle. Made of a deep purple, glass-reinforced polyamide; around 5,000 of these were made and issued and seem to be the last general issue 7.62×39 mag produced, although they may or may not have been issued by the Russians. The how, why, and when they were used, doesn’t seem to be well known, but most examples come from the middle east via soldiers bringing them back. I’ll discuss more on the make-up and development of the plum magazines once I get to the AK-74 magazines.

The following photos are courtesy of Justin B. And gregsthe1:

Plum waffle 1 Plum waffle 2 Plum waffle 3 Plum waffle 4

The final and most recent 7.62×39 magazines produced by the Russians were solely made by Izhevsk and were made mostly for export. Around the early 90’s the AK-100 program came to fruition beginning with the AK-74M and on to the AK-101 through 105. The magazines were produced for the AK-103 and 104 and are generally called AK-103 magazines, and are comprised of a black glass fiber reinforced polyamide. The first variation featured a ribbed side and the second was smooth and thusly called the slab side 103 mag. The slab side is marked “7,62×39” on the side which denotes it for export. Special ops do still used 7.62×39 and can been seen with the mags, but neither of these were ever standard military issue.

47 ak-103 48 ak-103

 



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • KestrelBike

    Very cool, thanks and can’t wait for the AK-74 article!

  • Bob Simpson

    Very interesting…and informative! Thanks!

  • VF 1777

    Wow that was pretty awesome, thanks!

    Note: I think it’s actually AG-S4, not AG-4S.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      You are correct. That’s a typo.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    Great article thanks for brandon to sending it. Never knew they made a 20rd 5.45 magazine. I really wish I could get ahold of a couple of those.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      There are less than 5 here in the US and they typically bring in $1000 or better.

      • Harry’s Holsters

        Wow! I had no idea there were that few. I’m surprised their were not more.

        • BrandonAKsALot

          It was a prototype thing they did for the AKS-74u. They never went into actual production, so to say they are scarce is an understatement.

          • iksnilol

            There are 15 rounders tho, they aren’t that rare. 🙂

          • What are you talking about? the shorter bakes are 20 round, This is info given from owners of them.

            If you have evidence 15 rounders please offer up proof.

          • iksnilol

            I dunno, remember seeing them. Think they were made for the AKS-74U or something. Mighta only been prototypes

    • roguetechie

      Harry,

      There’s a magazine modification outfit in California that will alter your 30’s to 20’s for you for a reasonable price.

      They’re pretty well trusted and do lots of mods to essentially turn 30’s into 20’s for people. If your interest is in pure shooter grade magazines that also look nice, it’s a reasonable option.

      • Harry’s Holsters

        Do you have their name?

        • roguetechie

          badelementco DOT com

          I’d have to check but I also bet that magpul is or will be doing 20 round 74 magazines to match their 20 round 47 magazines.

          20 rounders are certainly useful especially for SBR’s and krink pistols.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    Great series. I really like the authors writing style.

    I would be interested in seeing a part 3 about aftermarket mags like the pmag and such and innovations that came along with them.

  • lowell houser

    This is relevant to my interests…..

  • Josh V

    Excellent article series, I would love to see more!

  • Robert Rodriguez

    Needs more coffin mags! Great articles, by the way. I really love the technical stuff that you do, Nathaniel!

  • claymore

    Nice work on this subject.

  • codfilet

    A very interesting series!

  • @brandonaksalot:disqus The reason the Soviets epoxied the two halves of the “Bakelite” magazines was because they were compression molded, not injection molded. They reason they switched to the polyamide plastic injection molded magazine was for cost reduction. I also was aware that the magazine was made of “АГ-4В” or AG-4V glass reinforced plastic.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      Thus my reason for using the term thermoset. It’s a high heat and pressure molding process that creates a much stronger product similar to how forged metals are stronger than cast. Everything I’ve read had called it AG-4S and there’s still a Ukrainian company producing it, but I do know there were several version of this material produced for many uses.

      • @brandonaksalot:disqus Thermoset just means that the plastic can’t be remelted to be recycled/reused. The compression molding or injection molding is a plastic forming process. That’s the difference.

        • BrandonAKsALot

          I see that. For some reason, I thought the compression was a part of thermoset.

  • Swarf

    Noob question for the experts here: where can I find some of the “Bakelite” magazines these days?

    I recently got a Sporter (not sporter. They were built by the Chinese specifically for import to the US… for about two years and then the Clinton import ban happened) model SKS that takes AK mags and those would look great.

    The photo is not of mine, but it’s similar.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      Aim surplus just had some. Otherwise forums are the best place.

  • PK

    Do the same variations as far as features/revisions appear in the resin 45rd RPK mags? All of those I’ve ever bought seem to be nearly the same except for the date/factory codes.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      Besides the few Izhmash made initially, they are mostly the same. I’m going to try to do an RPK mag article our tack it on to 5.45.

      • PK

        Interesting, thank you. I had wondered about that, as I noticed the various small changes in the other mags but only came across seemingly the same type for the RPK.

        • BrandonAKsALot

          The only real difference you’ll find is the arsenal mark. It’s not present on some.

          • The Molot “Star in shield” is not present on the vast majority. The Logo’s mags are mold numbers 1 & 2 and have all metal parts.

            Many non-logo’d mags have polymer followers and have 3 & 4 mold numbers

          • BrandonAKsALot

            Are you referring to the 7.62 mags? If so, only mold 1 and only some mold 1’s have the arsenal mark. I had one and they are very difficult to find. The 5.45’s are about split on the amount. They produced a lot for the RPK-74 and produced a lot of blank ones for Bulgarian use.

          • 7.62 40 round. Yes you are correct about the RPK74 mags. There are Izvesk made examples.. but scarce also

          • BrandonAKsALot

            These marked 40’s are pretty hard to come by. There weren’t many made and even fewer made there way out of Russia. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5e32c4ac3db554feedd086a2a2ac6ea84535a2546d16abd0269578f02d9b0ae7.jpg

          • You are right.. I brokered a deal for one in the early years for $1,600.

  • JR

    Great article! So where do the smooth plums fit in? Part 3?
    Oh…yeah….they are 5.45×39.
    Will be looking forward to the AK74 magazine articles

  • Elvis

    You forgot the 40 round bakelight 7.62 😉

    • BrandonAKsALot

      I intentionally left it out. I may try to do RPK mags/drums if I can get around to it. Just dealing with Russian 30 round 7.62 mags was a lot to tackle.

  • YZAS

    See you’re saving the best for last! (queue drum roll….) “Part 3: Modern AK Mags!” Everyone knows the Bulgies make the best AK Mags. Part 1 and 2 have just getting all of the other crap out of the way for the climax! 😉

  • Sasquatch

    Sweet pics! Also very well written article.

  • Paladin

    The “A” suffix on the early Tula “Bakelite” mags is actually a Д, the Cyrillic “D”.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      I’ve always had a hard time telling with that. The top is flat like that, but the legs on it don’t curl out.

      • Граф Хрущёв

        Please correct, the letter on mag is “д”, not “A”. Thanks for article!

    • Граф Хрущёв

      As a native russian, I definitely say – it is “д”, not “A”.

  • Bigbigpoopi

    THIS is elusive.

    And I wish someone would.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      There is one in the US. Don’t know how it got here, but it’s here.

      • JoelM

        Someone came home from vacation with a suspiciously green bakelite prosthetic leg I assume.

  • Anton

    Does anyone know if you can fly out of Russia with them? I saw some at a swap meet but wanted to know the legalities. I would assume that bringing them into the US is legal if they are allowed to be possessed, but I know Russia has some funky export laws.

    • JoelM

      You need to bring them into the US on an import form. You can have them shipped here if you have one. They’re not difficult or expensive to get. It’s the ATF Form 6.

      • Anton

        Thanks. Thats quite a bit of trouble just to save a few bucks. Plus I don’t know what the Russian customs will say on the way out.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      There are a lot of grey areas with this. They are technically an article of war, so that makes the whole thing dicey. Generally, if what you are bringing in is less than $100 in value, it won’t fall under ITAR, but there are still vague laws that may prohibit it.

  • JoelM

    I’d love to see a history of non-Russian AK magazines as well. Like the Finnish and Bulgarian versions, etc..

    • BrandonAKsALot

      That may potentially happen. I have thousands of photos of most of them, but edited them and writing up this stuff takes a considerable amount of time. These articles took me about 2 months.

  • Padmmegh Ambrela

    Drum and extended mags please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    How about north korean helical magzines.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      I will hopefully be adding an RPK mag and drum article down the road.

  • Cmex

    Awesome work, Nat!

  • Doom

    wish they would ship in a bunch of those AK 103 mags to go with my SGL 21.