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Correcting 5 Common Misconceptions About AK Rifles

I have a deep appreciation for the AK platform. Kalashnikovs are probably my favorite modern rifles to shoot, customize, and pick apart. I certainly can’t claim to be an expert, but in the past several years I like to think I’ve learned a lot through my [mis]adventures with a number of different AKs.

Part of the gun-learnin’ I’ve been subject to (whether I liked it or not) consisted of correcting misconceptions I had about AKs and what they’re capable of. Inspired by a recent thread on a subreddit dedicated to the AK platform, I decided to collect five of what I feel are the most common falsehoods about Kalashnikovs and address them in one place.

1. American-made = better than

Many gun owners consider American and Western European guns to be superior to their Eastern European and Asian counterparts. When it comes to AKs, that’s simply not true.

American-made AK rifles—meaning guns that use American-made “important bits” like receivers, bolt carrier groups, and barrels—tend to, well, suck. Many of those parts have been reverse engineered from their foreign originals, and the results leave a bit to be desired. When you combine poorly-made parts with lazy builds and lax quality control, you end up with a pretty crappy gun. Unfortunately, many American AKs are exactly that.

Broadly speaking, foreign-made AKs are superior to their American counterparts. Seen here is a Serbian NPAP DF, which only uses a small number of American parts. The receiver, bolt, bolt carrier, and barrel are all made overseas.

Many of the countries in Eastern Europe and Asia that produce AKs do so using original AK tooling provided to them by the Soviet Union—or had extensive state-run enterprises dedicated to working out the kinks in their own clones. Experienced AK enthusiasts and gunsmiths almost always recommend foreign-made (or mostly-foreign-made, as some American parts are necessary in unneutered, new production AKs to ensure they’re 922(r) compliant) guns over their American counterparts.

American AKs as a whole have made significant strides toward being on par with their foreign cousins (as is illustrated by the differences between Century Arms International’s C39 first and second iterations and DDI’s offerings) and certain American AK parts manufacturers do great work, but there’s still a ways to go.

In the meantime, if you want a good AK, buy foreign.