The AK-47 TYPE ONE: Still Working After All These Years

    Photos © claymore. Commercial use is forbidden.

    This article was written by Claymore.

    Hold onto your seats TFB readers you are about to see something that I’m 99.9% sure has NEVER been seen before.

    Like most people interested in firearms I was working under the incorrect impression that the first AK-47s came with a “milled” receiver. I was an NFA and FFL firearms dealer and had researched this subject just to learn more about my passion “NFA firearms.

    I was soon to learn just how wrong that impression was.

    In the late 80s my partner and me had just returned from the Pakistan/Afghan border region where we were working for an NGO, doing training and administration chores for Afghan freedom fighters, when we got “the call” To see if we would be interested in doing the same thing for Hmong freedom fighters.

    We, being the “adventurous” types, we agreed and we were soon on our way to the area where we would be working on our new adventure in South East Asia.

    It turns out we would be working with General Vang Pao (who died earlier this year, RIP). To learn more about General Vang Pao¬†and his Hmong fighters search the web for something along the lines of “the secret war in LAOS“.

    Our training course was soon set up and while one of us was teaching the other was free to wander around the area doing our “other” jobs. One of my jobs was weapon evaluation and repair, so I was always looking at the vast hodgepodge of weapons used by the Hmong.

    One afternoon I came across this AK-47 looking weapon (see title photo above) and it had me scratching my head as to just what it was.

    It sure looked like an AK-47 model of some type but I had never seen one with half sheet metal and half milled receiver before. If you look closely at the photo above just forward and above the magazine well there is a portion of milled receiver bulging out and that is what had me puzzled.

    I asked the Hmong owner of the firearm if he knew anything about and and the only thing he knew was “OLD”. He will never know just how accurate that description is.

    I took a couple more photos so when we went home I could investigate it a bit more to try and find out just what is was.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    In the photo above the milled bulge can be seen in greater detail. This strange weapon had a straight wooden stock which would become more interesting later in this article.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    To me personally the most interesting thing about this “mystery firearm” was the serial number that was stamped into the bulge. 729 was my police badge number at the time and that is the serial number on this firearm.

    If you look very closely at the selector lever you will notice small “holes” or dimples instead of the more recent “slots” that you normally see on AK family of weapons. These holes would help me identify it later.

    We went about our training and evaluation mission and soon were back in the USA and I started looking through my big pile of firearms reference books and military field manuals to see if I could identify this “mystery firearm”.

    I came on a very few mentions of the TYPE ONE AK-47 and began to think I had come across a VERY rare weapon still being used in active service about 50 years after production.

    The few mentions I came on were very short but at that time in the early 90’s the web wasn’t yet the stock pile of info that it is now so I had to rely on reference books in my quest.

    Finally I found a mention with a line drawing, if I remember correctly, was somewhere buried in the “Smithsonian museum” material somewhere. So there it was the very first version of the infamous AK-47 and it did indeed have a sheet metal receiver and this was the same type firearm still being used a long long time after it’s manufacture. This reference made mention of the dimples for selector position.

    I was amazed that I had taken photos of a firearm that had never shown up in any reference I could find anywhere, at the time, including the famous Jane’s firearms references.

    Cased closed as one would say in “Cop Talk” but I was soon to be given another chance to see another TYPE ONE in person. I passed this information along to the “appropriate agencies” that might be interested and no one had seen one also.

    My partner and I ran a few more missions with VP and his people but got a call from “someone” who asked if we wanted to do the same thing with another group of Hmong Freedom fighters.

    Our introduction to the “Chow FA” (sky soldiers in Hmong) was “interesting” to say the least.

    We were advised that the leader of this group of Laotian Hmong PA Kow Her ( he was assassinated in 1993) had worked for the USA in Vietnam but had been abandoned there like many of “our” people had been in our rush to get out.

    Pa Kow walked from Vietnam back to Laos and the name Chow FA came to him when it was just him and the sky when we was making the very long on foot trip back to Laos.

    We would be the very first “Americans” to make contact since his abandonment, at our hands, and it was unknown what kind of welcome we would get would he still be holding a grudge or not was the question we had on our minds while making the trip into his area of operations.

    After a long hump through the mountains we got to the area where they were fighting with the Lao government and our welcome couldn’t have gone better much to our relief.

    Like our other missions we soon got down to business of training and evaluating the Chow Fa and as usual I was walking around looking at weapons when I came upon this ANOTHER TYPE ONE AK-47 in the hands of Hmong fighters.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    I couldn’t believe my luck here was another one right here in my hands and it had a folding stock. I was ready this time because I already knew what I was looking at and I took a bunch of photos this time.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    This photo of the early “open top” butt plate shows it is a very early version. The sheet metal extension of the lower section of the receiver that comes upward and closes the rear of the receiver shows that this is a true folding stock model not a straight stock cut off modification.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    Here is a much better shot of the small “holes” or dimples that stop the selector lever in the correct spot rather than the familiar “slots” in later models.

    This photo also shows much more detail of the milled bulge.

    It also has some weird looking hieroglyphics for the selector makings. They are faint but the top one looks like a 6 or a “G” clef used in music.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    Anyone out there reading willing to hazard a guess why this one is “different” than the straight stock one?

    Give up? “Look ma no serial number” on this one where the other one is marked.

    So which is correct or is this one a clandestine “sterile” model given to the Hmong.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    But the commies forgot the serial numbered parts inside. It looks like these two are from the same run because the first one is 729 and this one is marked 769 on the bolt.

    It’s internal surfaces show very little wear even after about 50 years of service. And the Hmong is keeping his firearm nice and clean.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    These photos were taken with a good old fashioned 35mm then scanned so in this one I was concentrating on the springs and working parts. Unfortunately that puts the markings near the chamber out of focus. But you can make out the very optimistic 800 meter marking on the rear site.

    AK-47 Type One TFB

    We are at the end of our journey with this one showing the internal parts still looking shiny and clean after 50 years of service.

    So that is the story on how you readers of The Firearms Blog got to be in on the first ever public showing of these very rare photos of not one but two type one AK-47s.

    All photos the property/copyright of claymore and any commercial use other than this site is forbidden.

    Steve Johnson

    I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!