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

Eric B
by Eric B

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
Eric B

Ex-Arctic Ranger. Competitive practical shooter and hunter with a European focus. Always ready to increase my collection of modern semi-automatics, optics, thermals and suppressors. TCCC Certified. Occasionaly seen in a 6x6 Bug Out Vehicle, always with a big smile.

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  • William May William May on Oct 01, 2017

    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 7.62x39 or 5.45x39. 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 5.56x45, 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 G Max G on Oct 01, 2017

      @William May 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. Eric B. on Oct 03, 2017

    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.