Bullet Trajectories From The Kalashnikov AK-74 Rifle:
Here is some information and some numbers that I have generated to help you to zero and then effectively employ your AK-74 rifle (5.45x39mm Soviet).
Spoiler: It looks like the 300 meter trajectory will provide the best set-it-and-forget-it zero for combat shooting out to 350 meters (328 yards).
I used the iPad application “Ballistic” (pictured right) to generate the data to create ballistic trajectory graphs for Wolf brand, 59-grain FMJ fired from a rifle with sights 2.0″ above center of bore, and a muzzle velocity of 2900 FPS.”
I used “standard weather” (15ºC/59ºF, 29.92″ barometric pressure, sea level altitude), and zero wind direction/velocity.
If you use a different type of ammunition (manufacturer, weight, bullet type), barrel length, sight height over bore, or shoot at a different altitude with a different temperature, barometric pressure, and with wind you can expect deviations from the ballistic solutions that I have provided.
Please keep in mind that I have not shot any of this to prove or disprove it. These are numbers that are simply generated from a ballistics calculations. Reports from real world shooting to help validate the data would be appreciated.
100 Meter Zero:
This caliber is VERY flat shooting. For a 100 meter point-of-aim = point-of-impact with the “1” setting the near zero is going to be 72 meters (78.7 yards). This isn’t going to be a very good setting to initially zero the rifle because the near zero is so far away.
Expected 100 Meter Zero Trajectory:
- After 72 meters the bullet rises only a few 100ths of an inch until falling back through point-of-aim at 100 meters (109) yards.
- 125 meters (137 yards): – .40″
- 150 meters (164 yards): – 1.24″
- 175 meters (191 yards): – 2.48″
- 200 meters (218 yards): – 4.17″
- 225 meters (246 yards): – 6.4″
- 250 meters (273 yards): – 9.1″
- 275 meters (301 yards): – 12.4″
- 300 meters (328 yards): – 16.3″
Summary: The caliber shoots too flat to zero with the “1” setting because the near zero is too far away. Use another sight setting / near zero combination. After your rifle is zeroed, when shooting with the “1” setting you can expect your round to touch point-of-aim at 72 meters and ride along it until reaching roughly 105 meters. It will pass down through 2 inches below point-of-aim at 167 meters. Expect hits within +/- the height of the front sight (2″) from the muzzle out to 167 meters (183 yards). Use the “1” sight setting when target shooting on a 100 yard range.
200 Meter Zero:
This will be a little easier to zero the with the “2” setting as the near zero will be 34 meters (37.2 yards). You can set up a target at 34 meters, set your sights to “2”, and zero the rifle. You can then verify zero buy moving the sight to the “1” setting and then shoot a target 100 meters (109 yards) away.
With a properly zeroed rifle and the sights set to “2” you can expect the round to first pass through the point-of-aim at 34 meters (37.2 yards).
Expected 200 Meter Zero Trajectory:
- 50 meters (54.7 yards): + .7″
- 100 meters (109 yards): + 2.0″
- 150 meters (164 yards): + 1.9″
- 175 meters (191 yards): + 1.2″
- 200 meters (218 yards): POA = POI
- 225 meters (246 yards): – 1.7″
- 250 meters (273 yards): – 3.9″
- 275 meters (301 yards): – 6.6″
- 300 meters (328 yards): – 10.1″
- 325 meters (355 yards): – 14.0″
- 350 meters (383 yards): – 18.6″
- 375 meters (410 yards): – 24.1″
- 400 meters (437 yards): – 30.2″
Summary: The 200 meter has a much better near zero to initially set up the rifle. Also a great “battle setting”. Once the rifle is zeroed, the “2” setting will provide a very flat trajectory that passes within +/- 2.2″ of point-of-aim from the muzzle out to a little past 230 meters (252 yards).
300 Meter Zero:
The 300 meter zero looks like a great way to zero the rifle as the near zero is an easy to shoot 21 meters (23 yards). Simply set up a target at 21 meters, set your sights to “3”, and zero the rifle. You can then verify zero buy moving the sight to the “1” setting and shoot a target 100 meters (109 yards) away.
Expected 300 meter zero trajectory:
- 50 meters (54.7 yards): + 2.4″
- 100 meters (109 yards): + 5.4″
- 150 meters (164 yards): + 7.0″
- 175 meters (191 yards): + 7.0″
- 200 meters (218 yards): + 6.7″
- 225 meters (246 yards): + 5.8″
- 250 meters (273 yards): + 4.5″
- 275 meters (301 yards): + 2.6″
- 300 meters (328 yards): POA = POI
- 325 meters (355 yards): – 3.12″
- 350 meters (382 yards): – 6.9″
Summary: This zero has a great near zero to use for setting up the rifle. The trajectory looks like it is probably the best set-it-and-forget it “battle sight zero” to use. The 200 meter zero drops off to quickly after 250 meters, and the 400 meter zero trajectory launches the bullet like a rocket. The 300 meter zero trajectory will provide you hits +/- 7″ all the way out to 350 meters. This is not too far different from the US Army’s 25/300 meter trajectory with M855 5.56x45mm 62-grain FMJ ammo fired from a M4 carbine, or the 18/247 meter “Battle Setting” trajectory from a 7.62x39mm AK-47. Use the Soviet method of aiming “belt buckle” level on a humanoid target and to achieve abdomen and chest hits out to 300 meters. Wow.
Battle Setting vs. 400 Meter Setting:
There are internet rumors that the battle setting on the AK-74 represents a 400 meter zero. This may or may not be true. I have doubts because many people on the internet erroneously state that the battle setting on the AK-47 is a 300 meter setting. Though experimentation I proved that the Battle Setting is actually an 18/247 meter zero. As with the claims that the AK-47 battle setting is the same as the 300 meter setting, I would ask why would the Battle Setting be the same as one of the other settings? It isn’t the case with the AK-47, so I question if it is actually a 400 meter zero with the AK-74.
There are also internet rumors that the AK-74 Battle Setting has a 15 meter near zero. This might be possible, however when you run a ballistic analysis you find that the far zero roughly 395 meters. This is too close to the 400 meter rumor to be coincidence.
Own An AK-74? You Have A Homework Assignment!
Once you set up your rifle it would be great if you could take the time to prove or disprove the 15/400 meter trajectory for the battle setting and report back to us. Your assignment is to find out whether or not the Battle Setting is the same as the “4” setting, or see if it is a 15/395 meter zero.
Once you properly zeroed your AK-74 so that it hits point-of-aim = point-of-impact at 100 meters with the “1” setting, you can set up a target at 15 meters (16.4 yards), place your rear sight on the battle setting, and fire four or five carefully aimed shots from a rested shooting position and see if your rounds impact exactly at your point-of-aim. If they do, then you know that the Battle Setting is a 15/395 meter zero. You can verify this trajectory by shooting four or five carefully aimed shots at a target 100 meters (109 yards) away. At that distance your rounds should impact 9.4″ above your aiming point.
For comparison, move your sight to the “4” setting and fire four or five more carefully aimed shots. If the bullets strike in the exact same spot, then this will prove that they are the same trajectory. If they strike in two different groups then this will prove that they are different.
If the battle setting shots do not impact exactly where you aim, move your target a little closer or farther away and shoot a few more shots. Continue until you hit exactly where you aim. This will be your near zero for the battle sight. Then carefully shoot at 100 meters with the battle setting and measure the distance of the shot group from the point-of-aim. Using the newly discovered near zero and the distance between the point-of-aim and the point-of-impact, we can make some calculations and establish the true trajectory of the battle setting. You can become an internet sensation for proving everyone wrong. If you are lucky then you might end up being interviewed on the Oprah or Ellen TV shows. Measure precisely for your report. It matters. Thanks!
If the battle setting is the same as the “4” setting the you can expect a roller coaster trajectory from both:
- 50 meters (54.7 yards): + 4.4″
- 100 meters (109 yards): + 9.6″
- 150 meters (164 yards): + 13.25″
- 175 meters (191 yards): + 14.4″
- 200 meters (218 yards): + 15.1″
- 225 meters (246 yards): + 15.3″
- 250 meters (273 yards): + 15.0″
- 275 meters (301 yards): + 14.1″
- 300 meters (328 yards): + 12.6
- 325 meters (355 yards): + 10.6″
- 350 meters (382 yards): + 7.8″
- 375 meters (410 yards): + 4.2″
- 400 meters (437 yards): POA = POI
- 425 meters (465 yards): – 5.0″
- 450 meters (492 yards): – 11.2″
- 475 meters (519 yards): – 18.0″
- 500 meters (547 yards): – 26.0″
Good luck, and please let us know how this works out for you.
Chet @ Savannah Arsenal