Are AK Recoil Buffers a Necessity or Just Snake Oil?

    AK recoil buffers

    As time has rolled on from the heydays of AK ownership in the US (the mid to late ’80s and the mid-2000s), something that has always been around, whether in the back of a sportsman’s catalog, Gun Rags, or your favorite firearm accessory website, you can find AK recoil buffers for sale. Touted as a solution to the violent recoil (let me just roll my eyes for a moment … there, that’s out of the way) of the AK rifle, as well as its apparent tendency to beat itself to death due to over gassing.  The droves of people new to the AK scene might not know what these are or if they actually work.

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    AK recoil buffers

    An AK recoil buffer installed on a recoil spring assembly (image from AK-Builder)

    What are they though?

    The AK recoil buffer is basically just a hunk of rubber or plastic that slides over the recoil spring and sits between your bolt and the rear trunnion of your AK. Basically, when the bolt carrier group reaches the end of its travel it hits a relatively soft piece of rubber or plastic instead of making steel-to-steel contact with the rear trunnion. Simple, right? Seems like a good idea, right? Well, hold your horses there bucko! Not necessarily.

    AK recoil buffers

    AK recoil buffers can be found in many shapes hardness (image from Arms of America)


    In the 20ish years I’ve owned and shot AKs, I’ll admit to trying them out several times (adjustable gas systems weren’t a common or widespread thing until relatively recently). One of the biggest problems is unless you’re using a rifle or pistol designed with the buffer specifically in mind, they might affect reliability.

    The recoil buffer shortens the overall travel of the bolt carrier group. This can lead to a loss of bolt velocity and therefore momentum and kinetic energy when it comes time to strip the next round from that Korean-made 75 round drum you just shoved into your Micro Draco for laughs. On a related note in some cases, the cycling of the spring might pull the buffer forward a small distance which could slow the bolt prematurely on the backstroke. This could lead to weak ejection or even stove pipes.


    It’s not all bad though. AK recoil buffers can offer a benefit here and there as well. They really do keep the bolt carrier from slamming into the rear of the receiver. This could possibly prolong the overall life of your rifle, and reduce some of the perceived recoil. Lowering that impact as well as the forward momentum of the bolt carrier also could possibly help keep the rifle or pistol on target in strings of rapid fire. If you have a home build that’s a little jank, they also can keep the bolt carrier group from jumping the rails at the end of travel.

    AK recoil buffers

    AK recoil buffer shown in a WBP Classic Milled Mini Jack Pistol (Image from Arms of America)


    Over the years I’ve put these into both 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm rifles. And in Romanian, Chinese, Egyptian, and Bulgarian rifles. And I’ve had some pretty mixed bag results. The short of it is this, if your gun comes with one from the factory, it was designed with it in mind and picking a few up as replacements is never a bad idea. Short pistols and blowback guns are commonly shipped with a recoil buffer installed. If you’re on the fence about if your rifle is too over gassed and don’t want to just blow the money on an adjustable gas piston or gas block right away, AK recoil buffers range from $5 to $15 and aren’t a permanent nor particularly difficult mod to install or remove. My opinion though is to just skip them entirely and save yourself the headache at the range.

    Have you used an AK recoil buffer? What are your thoughts? Comment below!

    Tim C.

    Tim was introduced to shooting at a very young age and ever since then he’s been obsessed with Firearms and target shooting. He’s an active member of the TFBTV Discord and can often be found in the dark corners of small gun stores looking for long forgotten oddities.