Practical Accuracy of the AK in 7.62 and 5.56 by 9-Hole Reviews

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy

Over the years, conducting trials in different countries, I had countless opportunities to test the accuracy of an AK in multiple calibers. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions regarding AK accuracy, and despite people putting out good information out there, a lot of folks still think that Kalashnikov rifle can’t hit the broad side of a barn past 100 yards.

The Russian military accuracy requirement for an AK is 15 centimeters (about 5 MOA). I’ve never seen an AK that would shoot worse than 4 MOA, and some guns are capable of consistent 1.5-2 MOA groups, with the majority of weapons demonstrating 3-4 MOA groups. For anyone who is into Kalashnikovs, this is just common knowledge, but it was not always like that.

Check out this video of Special Forces foreign weapon demonstration from the early 70s, where a demonstrator gives his expert opinion on AK accuracy:

Quote from the video: “The AK, for example, it’s maximum effective range in a hands of a really good marksman, and I don’t care about you people in Vietnam who said you saw somebody hit at 500 yards, is about 200 meters. You really can’t hit anybody beyond 200 meters with an AK. The Soviets never intended it to be used beyond that range.”

First time I watched this video, this part just left me speechless. The demonstrator clearly has no idea about the ballistics of 7.62×39 and very little idea about Soviet firearms training doctrine. In practice, Soviet soldiers routinely shot out to 450-550 meters (at so-called “group targets”), but still, a soldier was expected to hit a human size target at 300 meters.

Also, he states that he is going to ignore the opinions of SF veterans with actual combat experience. I met some guys like him, and since I am not in a military myself, sometimes I could get away with more.

For example, once upon a time, during a weapon demonstration, a colonel of the Russian army, who was not familiar with the concept of “red dot”, blatantly stated that it is impossible to hit anything at 200 yards if you’re using the red dot. After I unsuccessfully tried to explain to him how the red dot works, I suggested that we can cease fire, he can walk to the 200 meters and I will just fire a few shots at him. If he comes back alive – I was wrong.

Surprisingly it worked, and after he knocked down some targets using an AK12 with a red dot, he finally changed his mind. Unfortunately, not everyone has an opportunity to try and find out for themselves, that is why I was really glad when found this awesome video.

In this video, crew from 9-Hole Reviews youtube channel tests Saiga chambered in 7.62×39 rebuilt to look like AK103. They shoot targets at different ranges from 150 to 500 meters.

Back in the day, I had to do it pretty often, but never had a camera crew to film the entire thing. This video reflects my personal experience – with 7.62 you can hit a target at 300 meters and closer without much effort. Beyond 300 meters it becomes more of a trick shooting. When I asked one Russian SF firearms instructor about his opinion on the performance of 7.62×39 at extended ranges he said: “It feels more like shooting a mortar”.

Another video that they made is about 5.56 AK102 clone (original AK102 has 12.4-inch barrel).

Results are quite similar – from 150 to 300 meters they had a 100% hit probability, but at longer ranges getting hits on target was significantly more challenging.

My personal opinion is this – if your targets are generally inside 300 meters range – no worries, AK will get the job done. If targets can be expected at further ranges – perhaps, you should choose a different weapon platform, and make sure it has a good optic on it.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: Instagram: YouTube:

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2 of 47 comments
  • BryanS BryanS on Aug 09, 2018

    My M70 has been consistent out to 200 yards since I built it, with the spec heavier receiver, 15 years ago. Followup shots are a lot better with anything other than the slant brake though.

    With a good barrel (and crown) and a decent action, its hard not to hit 200 yards with a cartridge capable of it.

  • Nyglockowner Nyglockowner on Aug 09, 2018

    So what do you guys consider good AK ammo, that's readily available? I've been shooting Wolf and Brown Bear and can keep them in the black on a 200 yd. rifle target from the bench, iron sights, but I wouldn't consider the groups small - about 12 to 15 inches. I'm curious what my Arsenal SGL 7.62X39 is capable of.