Gun Review: CAI M74, Quality, Affordable, and Beautiful!

    CAI is now producing a splendid AK74 clone that they have dubbed the M74 Sporter, and I asked our great editor Phil White if I could review one. Let me tell you, we deal with a lot of companies here at The Firearm Blog, but CAI is really on the ball when it comes to reviewing one of their products. A single email sent by Phil to the manufacturer results in a gun at my FFL, with accessories and all kinds of cool ancillary stuff in about 4 or 5 days! To me this speaks well of their organization as far as the administrative side goes, and to me that is an indicator of a good company overall, and there I must give them some serious credit. That being said, I was very excited to have to opportunity to test their AK74.

    The M74 Sporter is built on a surplus excellent Bulgarian parts kit (many hold the Bulgarian kits to be among the best out there) and it just looks great. The original furniture is retained (not sure what parts they used for 922r compliance aside from the trigger group, receiver, and barrel but this gun looks fantastic!) as well as most other components. The gun came with the original muzzle brake and bayonet too, which is just awesome! The Bakelite bayonet really adds some charm and I would love to have one just because I think it looks neat. Also after some reading, the Bulgarian “Circle 10” magazines seem to be held in high regard by the AK community and they definitely work well in the rifle, as did all other mags tested.

    I got to the range on a chilly afternoon and set the target up at 100 yards to get a feel for the accuracy. As usual I shot five groups of five shots.


    The trigger on the M74 is a single hook Tapco group that breaks extremely well and I was pleasantly surprised by the light trigger pull of the rifle.


    After the accuracy test I walked up and inspected the target. All five groups were consistent 3 to 3.5 inch patterns, which is about what I have come to expect of an AK with iron sights in my hands. I am a good shot with traditional western peep sights and rabbit ears, but I have never been too good with the notch and post sight on the AK platform. That said, I am sure with a scope rail and an optic I could have shot better groups with this rifle. Regardless, a 3 inch group with iron sights and surplus 5.45 ammo is definitely minute of man and I was satisfied with that.

    After the brief accuracy test it was time to beat on this thing with some rapid fire. Luckily I brought out a 45 round RPK magazine and really cranked some rounds out, then tossed in another loaded mag to really get the gun nice and hot!


    The gun throws the spent casings very far to about 2:00, which is away from other shooters. I was also really working the trigger and trying to get a nice “brass rainbow” going:


    All in all I fired about 300 rounds through the gun, and it performed as I expect AK variants to: flawlessly. Recoil is also virtually non-existent due to the low caliber 5.45×39 round and the M74’s extremely effective muzzle brake. I also found the furniture to be comfy and I like the bulge in the front handguard as it gives the shooter a bit more material to grab on to.

    After I got back to my shop, I stripped the M74 down to get a look at how dirty the internals were. Of course I did not fire as many rounds as I did in the VZ2008 test, but I like to see how clean guns run anyways:


    Isn’t that bayonet awesome? It also has a built in can and bottle opener!


    Really the piston is the only part of the gun that had much residue on it, and the inside of the receiver was especially clean:


    So the M74 is a great rifle at a great price. I also saw that JG Sales has them for $569 which makes this rifle a real bargain, especially considering that 5.45×39 ammunition is very affordable. If you are either a die hard AK guy or just someone looking for a nice gun to begin your collection with, in my opinion you cannot go wrong with the M74. Here is something interesting too; I have a 5.45×39 AK made by Arsenal, specifically an SGL 31-61 and if you were to ask me why the Arsenal cost me $830 and this gun is almost $300 less, I would not really have a great answer aside from the fact that the Arsenal uses all new parts and is a real “Russian” gun… but who really cares if you are just buying a shooter? Had I known about these back then or had the opportunity to buy one of these, it would have been a no-brainer!

    Anyways, onto my bullet points:

    The Good:

    • Great price
    • Cheap ammunition
    • Great looking AK
    • Great trigger
    • Low recoil
    • Very fun to shoot!

    The Bad:

    • Not the most accurate AK I have ever shot, but I am not sure if I can entirely blame the gun
    • The 1,080 round cans of 5.45×39 are a little harder to find now, but even new ammo is affordable

    The Ugly:

    • Big builders like CAI have had some trouble with things like canted sights in the past. While the one I got was free of issues, try to look one over before you buy if at all possible.

    So that’s that. This gun is a great option if you are in the market for a fun semi-automatic rifle that shoots affordable ammo, and with Christmas around the corner I may just have to buy one for myself!


    Alex C.

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