What’s the difference between AKs produced in different countries?

In this article Kalashnikov concern takes the opportunity to answer some of the Frequently Asked Questions about the production and development of Kalashnikov rifles.

There are quite a few details revealed that I had no idea about. For instance, where can I find more details about the Finnish AK bullpup?

It’s understandable that Kalashnikov in the later years has taken greater control of the trademarks and patents.

Here we go:

In addition to the authentic AK produced by the Kalashnikov concern, there are many other versions of the legendary machine. Why did it happen?

Any successful and demanded product necessarily generates copies. In the case of the Kalashnikov rifle, this was exacerbated by the policy of the USSR, which distributed technical documentation and assisted in setting up the production of automatic weapons in the countries of the former socialist camp. At the same time, the original design of AK and AKM was not protected by any international patents, which allowed and allows anyone to copy it and sell it under its own name. At first, the name of the firearm was also not protected in any way as a trademark, and only recently the Kalashnikov concern claimed its rights to the corresponding names, but not to the basic design of the machine, which has long been available for copying by everyone.

How many countries are producing AK, SVD and PM now?

Kalashnikov and their clones are manufactured today in more than 30 countries. After Russia, the largest producer is China, which supplies cheap AK clones in a variety of options around the world. A lot of AKs are produced by Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Serbia. There are also many small producers of civilian clones of the AK in the USA.
As for SVD and PM, the list of manufacturers of their clones is much smaller. Again, in second place after Russia is China, you can also mention Iraq.

What is the difference between production under license from production without a license?

The fact that a licensed production has all the documentation on the technical processes and materials, which allows ensuring the quality, reliability, and resource of products. Unlicensed manufacturers can use a wide variety of materials, both high-quality and not, some of their own variants of the production technology of parts, so that the properties of the final product can be very different from the original.

How different are AK designs?

By itself, the design of the firearm is simple and varies little, but, as they say, “the devil is in the details.” For example, the Chinese are releasing their Type 56 assault rifles with an AK-type impact trigger, without the AKM retarder, which has increased the accuracy of fire in bursts. There may be even smaller differences, which, nevertheless, can affect the properties of the weapon (resource, reliability, etc.).

Are there any deep structural changes and improvements?

Yes. The Kalashnikov concern created on the basis of the “platform AK” smooth-bore shotguns of the family “Saiga”, new army automatic AK-12 and AK-15, a manual machine gun RPK-16 with replaceable trunks. Abroad there is also the evolution of the platform. For example, in Romania and Serbia (former Yugoslavia), the Kalashnikov assault rifle was “stretched” under the rifle cartridge 7.62x54R to make a mix of the SVD and AK rifles. The basic design of the AK was subjected to significant modernization by the Israelis in their family of Galil and Galil ACE automatic machines. Finns, Chinese and Ukrainians tried, albeit without much success, to remake the AK into a Bullpup layout, and so on.

Are royalties paid when using a license?

It depends on the specific details of the commercial agreement with each manufacturer, and, as you understand, is a commercial secret.

Are licenses for the production of civil weapons of the Kalashnikov concern sold?

In principle, no one prevents the interested producers from contacting the Kalashnikov concern with the appropriate request. It is clear that in each specific case the decision will depend on the results of the negotiations of the parties.

Link to source HERE or in Russian.

Below: Kalashnikov AK74M

“A folding butt stock in plastics ensures convenience on march, during transportation and landing operations. The weapon retains ability to fire with folded butt stock.

The forearm, magazine, butt stock, and pistol grip are made of high strength plastic and feature great durability to stress. Protective coatings ensure excellent corrosion resistance of metal parts.”

Below: Vladimir Putin visits Izhmash.

So, get your business plan ready and fly first class to Russia and start your negotiations…





Eric B

Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with an European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatic firearms, optics and sound suppressors. Owning the night would be nice too.


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  • Petto

    Guys that “AKM” picture is actually a AK47 – steel milled receiver and the muzzle doesn’t have the slanted brake

    • mmetz

      Stranger still, that’s actually a stamped AK47, one of the originals before they switched to milled because their stamping technology wasn’t good enough to facilitate efficient mass production of the design.

      • Wolfgar

        Actually, they continued manufacturing the stamped receiver along with the milled . They had such a high rejection rate of their stamped lowers do to warped receivers, “do to their heat treatment process of the time” they began manufacturing milled receivers to meet production schedules.

      • BrandonAKsALot

        It also had a lot to do with how time consuming they were to make at the time. There was less precision with the stamping and machining, so there was a lot of fitting involved.

        • Wolfgar

          Interesting, could you give your source? I have never read that before. I’m always looking for new info 🙂

          • BrandonAKsALot

            If I recall correctly, it came from Doug F. aka Tantal on the forums. If you don’t know him, he’s one of the kindest and most knowledgeable individuals on the Kalashnikov family, especially Soviet/Russian ones. He’s visited factories with the KCA and is exceptionally well informed.

    • Will Knight

      It’s actually an AK-47, Type 1, with a combination milled and stamped receiver. It is the first production AK-47 the Russians made, before going to the milled recievers of the Type 2 and Type 3 AK-47s. Then came the AKM.

  • Brett baker

    I.O. Inc bought a full TDP from the Poles, and look how long it took them to start producing decent AKs. (The ones made in the last 5 or 6 months are much better, I hear.)

    • Mr._Exterminatus

      I still don’t think I’d roll the dice with one of their products. Especially after how they reacted to Rob Ski of AK Operators Union.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      Their AKs are still garbage and they are full of crap with that Polish blueprints BS.

  • TDog

    Not too much of a bias there… “After Russia, the largest producer is China, which supplies cheap AK clones in a variety of options around the world.”

    I thought the one of the points of the AK was to be cheap…

    • Wetcoaster

      They’ve got products to sell. The stamped receiver Type 56s also use substantially thicker metal, but aside from the Type 56C ultra short carbine (thinner metal, shortened receiver, etc. etc.), I didn’t think the original AK-47/AKM Type 56 has been made in ages.

    • Tom – UK

      No, I don’t believe it was ever meant to be cheap. It was meant to work to a set of requirements and the design/manufacturing process was tailored to make it as efficient as possible as any sane producer would do.

      It was produced in very large numbers and donated to a wide variety of countries. In addition the rifle was made by people on lower wages that western countries as so from our point of view cost less to make. This does not make it a cheap gun, it makes it a gun made in a cheaper place than where we live. Use exactly the same materials, machines and processes to build an AK in China, Russia and the UK. There will be three different prices for exactly the same gun. The Chinese and Russian AKs will be cheaper even if identical to the British AK.

      • Alex Kevarsky

        It was definitely meant to be cheap. It was designed coming out of lessons of WWII which required massive numbers of arms with minimal resources. For example, SVT was discontinued, among other things, due to the fact that it was more expensive to make than say a DP light machine gun.

      • TDog

        Even a cursory glance at the way the Soviets behaved in the 40’s will reveal that they were lavish in their spending with only one commodity: human life. Everything else was an exercise in cost- and corner cutting.

        • Max Glazer

          Neither did US care for their soldiers during WW2 or Vietnam. After all the M16 was “self-cleaning”…

          Russians NEVER cut corners where it mattered. Especially with arms. Sure they didn’t GAF about aesthetics much.

          • The Russians didn’t care for their soldiers to the tune of 14.5 million dead in WWII. Here is a statistic: Soviets lost over a million second lieutenants in WWII. Who gets to be a 2nd LT in any army? Usually a fit young man, above adequate intelligence, with some promise of being capable of responsibility. And the Soviet leadership poured out such persons like they were water.

          • Max Glazer

            Another stereotype-applying one came out with garbage.

            Military losses of Soviet losses IN BATTLE by the end of WW2 was approximately 8.66 million dead and irreversibly incapacitated. Sounds like a lot. But one thing a lot of people forget that USSR wasn’t fighting Germany alone: there were Austrians, Hungarians, Czhechs Slovaks, Finns, Italians, Romanians and many others. Overall axis battle losses at Eastern Front amounted to roughly 4.3 million dead and incapacitated. So roughly 1:2 the loss ratio to Germans axis.

            So THIS info basically tells us that USSR was most certainly NOT pouring personnel out like water as you state. But hey what would I know. I’m only from Europe after all and use documented literature that happens to reference fundamental German and Soviet studies on battle losses.

            But by all means keep peddling garbage that if it makes you feel good.

          • GarryB

            The Soviets didn’t get a choice in the matter… they could either surrender like the French did, or run away like the British did, but clearly the treatment by the civilised educated Germans left them little choice.

        • Max Glazer

          And if all you have to base your statements on is a cursory glance at what you WERE TOLD about how Russians APPARENTLY behaved in 40s, then no wonder you are so thoroughly unaware of actual facts.

          • TDog

            “Even” in the above sentence is not a synonym for “only.” Before you try to be clever and/or try to prove how vastly superior your intellect is, you might want to read what it is you’re commenting on first. Just sayin’.

          • Max Glazer

            Russians were NOT lavish in spending human life, thats the thing. Read my reply to Don Meaker below.

          • TDog

            On the contrary – they used human wave tactics quite a bit during World War II. That may have been the result of inept or incompetent military leadership, but the end result was some bright boy in the Soviet military thought running at the other guy in massive mobs was a good idea, especially early in the war.

          • Max Glazer

            There were a lot of strong successful campaigns by Axis forces in the beginning of their invasion of USSR and Soviets did lose a lot of soldiers. Many fought a delaying action while outnumbered and outgunned to the last man. In many instances even geography of the battlefield was unfavourable to Soviets which gave Germans advantages. Soviets at the time also had little area to retreat to: Moscow was not far behind them.

            Germans had complete air supremacy in the beginning too which also didn’t help the Soviet forces. Many Soviet top ranking officers in Air Force had paid with their actions which were tantamount to treason. One can find no other explanation to them ordering defuelling and de-armament of fighter aircraft and sending majority of pilots and middle-ranking officers on holidays when orders from General Staff HQ (Russian equivalent to JCS) were to have planes and pilots ready to repel an invasion and for base to be basically on full alert.

            High losses were indeed sustained, but not because they’d just try to smother the German assault with waves of infantry. For such order the officer involved would have been shot on the spot by SMERSH officers or NKVD.

        • GarryB

          Not too much bias there… The Soviets didn’t have an English Channel to hide behind, and they were facing the same German force that pushed the British off the continent and very quickly defeated the French.

          • TDog

            Not biased – the old saying “It is jollier to die in company and Mother Russia has sons enough” was not based upon a deep and abiding value of human life. Not saying they don’t care for life itself, but they had an almost pathological practicality when it came to figuring out that if you have more men than the other guy has bullets, you make him waste his bullets.

      • Jacob Peters

        A British AK is about as possible as World Peace.

    • Awory

      It might depend on how you define ‘cheap’. It is kind of like how you can go to Walmart and get a pack of shirts for five bucks or get a super low price 4k TV. A TV is a TV and a shirt is a shirt but they are made of different materials and the skill of the labor is different. It is why my Sony TV and Blue Ray player have lasted over six years but an off brand may die after a few years, or months.

      The AK is meant to be easy to manufacture and low cost to make. There is a difference between inexpensive, low cost and shoddily made. This is why words have meaning and you need to choose wisely. Here, using ‘cheap’ implies low quality; they probably skimp on labor or materials. Not all steel is created equal, after all.

    • MAUSERMAN

      “Not too much of a bias there… “After Russia, the largest producer is China, which supplies cheap AK clones in a variety of options around the world.”

      I own 2 Mak90 1 milled 1 stamped. They are still the best AKs for under $1000 if you can find them.

      • TDog

        I’ve heard both good and bad things about Chinese M14’s – they’re either garbage or totally awesome. I think their biggest problem is QC rather than the process.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      That wasn’t really the main idea behind it. It’s much more complicated than that if you follow the design of it.

      It was first and foremost designed to be simple, easy to operate, and rugged. After the initial design, continual efforts were first made to simplify production, reduce weight, and refund the overall design. Some of that reduced cost of the weapon.

      Going from the type 1 to 2 increased material cost and machining time, but reduced labor time. The cost reduction was an end game eventually, but not what sparked the creation.

      • TDog

        Somehow I don’t think the term “simple and easy” ever also meant “outlandishly expensive.” The Soviets were renowned for cutting corners and costs. I don’t think the AK was any different.

        • BrandonAKsALot

          Never said it was outlandishly expensive. My point is the cost was not the main priority of the project. Cost reduction came later after the design was proven. Simplicity of operation, durability, and the ability to mass produce were the main aspects of focus on the Kalashnikov rifles.

          If you think the AK was built with cut corners production, you have obviously never seen an authentic Russian one. Every single part of it was built to last. Every single piece went through testing and proofing before assembly. You can even see small peen marks on the trigger guards and mag catches where they were tested for hardness and stamped with the inspectors approval proof. The bolt, carrier, and trunnion are all forged and proofed. The attention to detail was absolutely necessary during production of the AK, AKM, and earlier AK-74’s because they didn’t have MPI and other advanced methods of testing parts.

          They may not have valued the soldiers, but they did produce firearms that would last. I would imagine the extensive amount of labor that went into them didn’t matter because that was most likely the cheapest part of all of it back then.

        • GarryB

          When your ass is on the line you don’t waste time putting 6 coats of paint on your tanks turret so it looks pretty.
          Cutting corners makes sense if you are making wheels, they don’t cut corners when the corners are needed like on nuts and bolts.

          A German Tiger was a marvel of engineering, but that wasted energy and time and money.

          The Soviets were making tools.

          Simple and easy means easy to use and easy to fix if it gets damaged.

  • Mr._Exterminatus

    I was lucky enough to have family who have been collecting various firearms for a long time. I inherited 2 polytech Legend AK47/s and a Norinco RPK, and I have to say that the quality of the Chinese AKs is superb.

    • MAUSERMAN

      Totally agree. Never had a single issue with them. Built like a tank too.

    • Foma Klimov

      Norinco’s 80s production guns for the US market were good… they really wanted a foothold in the US market. However, Chinese AKs are inferior to the Russian ones. Russian 1 mm receiver is just as strong and rigid as heavy Chinese 1.5 mm receiver, because Chinese steel contains a lot of impurities, such as sulfur. Their metallurgy always sucked and they had to compensate for that. Russian AK uses 25 different combinations of materials and treatment processes, Chinese – 6. Chinese springs, firing pins and extractors are designed as disposable. Current Norinco AKs are the cheapest AKs available in countries like Switzerland and the fit and finish on them is really bad… worse than Romanian, which has gotten much better since 2010. Middle East militias pay 2x as much for a Soviet AKM over a Chinese AK. One daesh arsehole even made a video about how much Chinese AKs suck.

      • Mr._Exterminatus

        The Polytech Legend is a bit different from the run of the mill Chinese AK, at the time they were one of the best you could get on the market. Keep in mind that the legend AK’s were milled receivers too. I fully understand that some of their steel wasn’t as good, but they really went above and beyond on the Legends.

      • iksnilol

        Firing pins, springs and extractors are disposable… they wear out.

      • E Wolfe

        I have a Norinco MAK-90, purchased in the early ’90s. I’ve stripped it down to essentials several times and was pretty impressed with the over all, apparent quality. It is a stamped receiver, but IMO quality. You mention the quality of their metal, which I have no knowledge off. But that leads me to wonder about my rifles front trunnion, which part of the left locking lug blew off of. I’m wondering now if those trunnions were cast, rather than forged?

        Anyway the gun’s useless in its present state.

      • Dietrich

        Interesting. Where did you come by the info about the newest Norincos? I’d like to expand my knowledge about AKs as I’m taking an AK builders class soon.

  • Taylor Hardin

    /r/ak47. Huge resource on the different variants.

  • Not-Blind

    “AKM below” ? – wodden grip instead of polymer? angled stock instead of straight? non slanted muzzle brake? longer front site? diffrently placed gas ports?

    Seems more like an AK47… HOW should i take this article ANY bit serious…?! Im no bit an AK fan but this is one of the most simple an basic knowledge on firearms to have. For an TFB writer thats an absolute shame.

    • Allan

      it’s actually a stamped receiver type 1 AK-47 . Not an AKM at all.

  • forrest1985

    Isn’t the Finnish AK the Valmet M82, a rifle based off of the Valmet M76 (which in itself is an improved AK)

    • Kaban

      Yep, that’s it. And a bastard of weapon design, if I may say so, with those ridiculous offset sights. The irony of generally meticulous Finns doing it, just as AUG went to production, no less!

  • gunsandrockets

    “…a manual machine gun RPK-16 with replaceable trunks…”

    WTH?

    • Chatterbot

      A, wonders of machine translation.
      “Light machine gun RPK-16 with interchangeable barrels”

      • gunsandrockets

        Ah, okay, I get it. Ruchnoy = hand-carried = “manual”

    • Kaban

      Google-chan was having bad day and did not especially care, yeah.

    • Samuel Millwright

      Magazine fed LMG with replaceable barrels.

      The RPK-16 has a bbl change mechanism integrated that allows a swap in a minute or two and even in the field.

  • Kivaari

    Try reading Ezell’s “The AK47 Story”.

    • If you can, pick up Ezell’s updated edition: “Kalashnikov – The Arms and the Man.”

  • Maxim Popenker

    hey, Eric, it would be nice if you’ll provide a link to the original text you translated here
    Thanks

  • Bill Strickland

    i know of several, made in different countries,,,magazines are not interchangeable,,,,if you buy one,,,be sure to get all the magazines you need at that time,,,your others may not fit,,,

    • E Wolfe

      I purchased an IO AKM247 in January. Seemed like a decent piece and price. Two gripes. I have several metal Norinco mags, work fine in the IO, all of my TAPCO’s will not. I could probably Dremel them to fit but am not inclined to do that. So I grabbed some new, in the cosmoline metal ones from online. Second gripe; fitted a .30 cal suppressor to the IO, placed a precision rod in the bore to verify alignment, it is off center enough to indicate either the bbl threading is poorly done or the bore’s off line. Anyway, I’ll not chance that a 1/16″ is enough to guarantee no baffle strike.

  • E Wolfe

    First, let me state that every link in this article goes to a Brownells parts page, entirely unrelated to this article. Boo.

    Second, I’d like to add a bit of info–since this article seems to be, in all, a total nothing-burger.

    Fact: Russian/Euro AKs front trunnions are nominally 23 mm inner-diameter at the barrel end, thus those barrels are also 23 mm. Whereas Chinese (Norinco) Type 56 AKs have a 19 mm inner-diameter and require a Chinese barrel.

    At least one company in the U.S. has begun mfg high quality Russian spec front trunnions and Cheaper then Dirt is vending one also. An ATF compliant part, per the site.

    If anyone knows of someone offering the Type 56 front trunnions, I desperately need one, as a lug has blown off of my MAK-90’s.

  • That is a singularly bad post.

    No surprises from KC of course, nobody expects them to suddenly drop an international scandal bomb or make controversial remarks. But simply reposting a Google translate of their non-answer to the question is, I don’t know, just a filler I guess? (Oops, I followed the link and it’s their translation. So it’s a copy-pasted text without any context.)

  • The suites worn by Russian businessmen are just sad. Really, can’t someone with Putin’s resources find a tailor?

  • LouisianaJoe

    In 2006, I bought an Arsenal SLR 95. It has a Steyr Chrome lined barrel and a milled receiver. At the time, I paid 2 times the price of a Romanian AK. It is still one of the best shooters that I own, Several years ago I shot a nutria in the head at over 100 yds with it.

  • William May

    I can’t understand why American manufacturers, military, and politicians fail to see the MANY benefits of the weapons our enemies bear against us. I have owned and operated AK47s, AK74s and AR15 type rifles for many years now. I find myself, during normal operation, replacing and repairing the many tiny small parts of the AR15 rifle and it’s magazines. In operating the AK47 and AK74 type rifles, cartridges and magazines, the main thing I find true of the AK versions of weapons is that they work EVERY TIME. They have NO tiny small parts that fail or get lost, the magazines, regardless of what country manufactured them, work and feed flawlessly any brand of cartridge be it 7.62×39 or 5.45×39. I have researched extensively the effectiveness of the AK type cartridges and the AR cartridges fired from their respective rifles…my conclusions lead me to believe the AR cartridge 5.56×45, continues to be less dependable in a one shot kill scenario when compared to the “commie” AK type rifles…So why do we not copy and incorporate the simplicity and effectiveness of the features found in the AK series of rifles and cartridges and employ it in our military weapons? Are we so arrogant and proud that we continue to support our AR series of rifles and cartridges that we are blinded by any OTHER weapons that the rest of the world seems to endorse and use in combat? Many of the AR pundits default to the accuracy of the AR platform rifles and this is true to some extent, but the differences are marginal at best. If our AR platform rifles are so great, why has the rest of the world failed to copy the rifle and/or it’s cartridges?

    • Max Glazer

      Replacing AR-based rifles and the associated ammo in US military will cost not just in terms of actual weapons and ammo, but also in terms of changing the training in its entirety. From physical operation of the weapons to marksmanship. Yes it’s doable but will take many years. They’ll have to build up the weapon and ammunition stocks before beginning to issue new rifles with the whole associated back-end logistics.

      Manufacturers would be more than happy to come up with a brand new rifle design to sell to US military. Make no mistake. They’d stand to make insane amount of money. But to do that will cost them a lot to start with. Especially when US government hasn’t issued a technical specification for a new service rifle that is GUARANTEED to be adopted at the end of the tender. Same goes for the ammunition manufacturers. It takes a while to develop both, especially when it’s a Rifle+Round combination that is adopted. So what they want is for US government to fund both the development and adoption. I also recon that if that were to take place many would come up with little more than a modified AR platform unless the Technical Requirement will specifically state that AR-based platforms will be rejected at the door.

      Plenty of different types of ammo had been developed in USA. Choose to your hearts content: 6.8SPC, 6.5 Grendel, 300Blackout and heaps of others. Afterwards all one needs is to develop a rifle to fire the ammo and have the required ballistics at the required range.

      You can’t copy the effectiveness and simplicity. You can only design something and try to make it simple. But as Mihail Kalashnikov, god rest his soul, once said, it’s easier to make something complex then something simple. When AK was being designed it had 2-3 consecutive prototypes before AK-47 prototype was made. Each rather different from previous one. Effectiveness comes from a long-term fundamental research and testing. But one needs a fresh-minded approach to develop new things. Experience can be a barrier in many respects.

  • Eric B.

    So the title of this piece may lead one to think it will explain differences in the QUALITY of AKs produced in various countries and by various arms fabricators. It flat out avoids this question. Me? I’d take one from a Czech or Finish manufacturer first.