AK-47 / AKM / AK-74

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“This is the AK-47 assault rifle, the preferred weapon of your enemy.

It makes a very distinctive sound when fired at you, so remember it.”

-Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway — From the motion picture Heartbreak Ridge-


Kalashnikov Essentials:

Kalashnikov Magazines:

Kalashnikov Sights:

Kalashnikov Cleaning, Maintenance, Repairs, & Upgrades:

Weapon Manipulation:


Final Recommendations:

Introduction To The AK-47 / AK-74:

AK-47 & AKM:

ak47_3aMagazine fed, semi automatic, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov (pictured right). It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova. It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an “AK”, or, in Russian slang, Kalash.  Military versions feature select fire operation.

In the mid 1950s developement was underway to solve the warping problem encountered with the initial stamped receiver of the T1 version of the AK-47.  In 1959 the problem was solved when a stamped receiver AK47 was adopted by the Soviet military as the AKM (the Modernizirovanniy Avtomat Kalashnikova) which was a lighter weapon and easier to produce.



The AK74 was introduced in 1974 in response to the United States having adopted the M193 NATO 5.56mm ball cartridge a decade earlier. The AK74 fired the lighter 5.54x39mm cartridge, about half the weight of the AK47’s 7.62x39mm round. It was not until the Soviet-Afganistan War (1978-1988) that the West first got a look at the AK74.  The weapon has now been adopted by over two dozen countries.

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How the Kalashnikov Rifle Functions:

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Kalashnikov Accuracy:

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AK-47 / AK-74 Identification:

You only have to know three basic parts to differentiate Kalashnikov rifles:

  • Magazines: AK style rifles comes in three basic calibers. 7.62x39mm Soviet, 5.45x39mm Soviet, and a few have even been manufactured in 5.56×45 NATO. You can tell the caliber by the shape of the magazine.
  • Stocks: You can recognize the AK-47 vs. the AKM vs. the AK-74 by the shape of the stock.
  • Barrel / Gas Tube Assembly:

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Kalashnikov Rifle Variants and Countries of Origin:

Below is a series of photos collected from Pinterest that show different Kalashnikov style rifles and their countries of origin.

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“AK-47, the very best there is.  When you absolutely, positively, got to kill every motherfucker in the room; accept no substitutes.”

-Ordell Robbie — From the motion picture Jackie Brown-

AK-47 Parts Diagrams:

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Milled vs. Stamped Receiver Identification:

If you decide to replace the stock on your AK, it is very important to be able to recognize the type of receiver on your rifle so that you can order the right part.

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Receiver Markings Identification:

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“Today I didn’t even have to use my A.K.

I got to say it was a good day.”

-Ice Cube-

Levels of Quality and How To Shop For An AK-47:

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Ammunition and Caliber Choices:

AK-47 Assault Rifle CalibersPictured right are the three most common Kalashnikov calibers.  The round pictured on the top is the 7.62x39mm Soviet used in the traditional AK-47.  The round in the middle is the 5.45x39mm Soviet round used in the AK-74 weapon systems.  The round pictured on the bottom is the 5.56x45mm NATO round (used by the USA in the M-16 and the weapons of other NATO forces) which is the least popular of the Kaliashnikov rifle calibers.


7.62x39mm Soviet:

Russian Ammunition

Pictured far left in the photo on the right, it was initially designed during World War II for use in the SKS Carbine. Today, 7.62×39 rounds are most commonly fired by AK-47 shooters at the range, used by some North American hunters in the field, and still relied upon for military use in China, North Korea, Venzuela, and Finland.


5.45x39mm Soviet:

Pictured in the middle of the photo on the right is a bottlenecked cartridge without a rim that was developed in the mid-1970’s by the Soviet Union. Looking for a light-weight, fast projectile, 5.45x39mm became a favorite among militaries in the former Eastern Bloc. Today’s shooters will find most 5.45×39 is produced in the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, and other former communist nations.

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“He’s got an AK-47 for his best friend.  Business the American way.”

-Queensryche — From the album Empire-

Kalashnikov Magazines:


Factors To Consider When Choosing Kalashnikov Magazines:

Reliability:  There isn’t much to say on the subject of reliability except that if the equipment isn’t reliable then it has no place in your prepper inventory.

Capacity: Depending on country of origin or manufacturer, double stack AK magazines are made in several different capacities including 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, and 45 rounds.  The 5 and 10-round magazines are intended for shooting from a bench rest on the range, hunting, or for use in liberal controlled states that don’t allow standard capacity magazines.  The 20-round magazines were originally intended for use in tight confines of an armored vehicle while shooting from a port.  30-round magazines are the most popular with 7.62x39mm rifles, while there are 40-round magazines that were intended to be used by RPK machine guns.  Most AK-74 magazines have a 30 or 45-round capacity.

Metal vs. Polymer/Plastic:  This is going to be a personal preference after weighing the pros and cons of each.  Metal magazines are very durable, and depending on the country of origin and the manufacturer, they are extremely reliable.  They can take abuse that will destroy most polymer magazines.  The downside is that they are much heavier than polymer magazines.  Remember:  Ounces = pounds, and pounds = pain.  Polymer magazines are going to be much lighter.  There are polymer magazines that have metal reinforcements built in to strengthen parts that would normally be easy to break or deform, such as feed lips and locking lugs.


Loading Magazines with Stripper Clips:

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Rear Loading Drum Magazines:


How To Load The Rear Loading Drum Magazine:


  • Unlatch and open the rear cover. Depress the spring-loaded button in the center of the drum and turn the spindle clockwise until the magazine follower is returned to the beginning of the spiral track.
  • Insert five (5) rounds into the slots located nearest the top (column) section of the magazine.
  • With five rounds loaded, hold the spindle firmly in place with one hand. With the other hand, wind the spring tensioning key (located under the spring-loaded button) CLOCKWISE three (3) clicks.  CAUTION: Hold the spindle securely while applying tension in order to prevent it from slipping and catching your fingers.
  • With the spring tensioned, quickly release the spindle. The five rounds loaded previously will be pushed to the top of the magazine, and the last round will hold the spindle in place.
  • At this point you have the option as to how to load the magazine. If cartridges are dropped in the remaining slots, the total magazine capacity will be seventy-three (73) rounds. Alternately, if the procedure described as follows is used, the total capacity will be seventy-five (75) rounds.
  • Tilt the column portion of the drum at a slight downward angle and turn the spindle clockwise just slightly. Remove the last two rounds.
  • Keep the drum tilted downwards, and rotate the spindle so that the follower is returned to the beginning of the spiral track (as in step 1).
  • Insert two rounds in the top section and release the spindle. Complete loading the magazine by dropping cartridges into the remaining slots.
  • With the drum fully loaded, close the rear cover and secure with both latches. Wind the mainspring with the key located on the rear cover. Wind the key seven (7) revolutions (360 degrees). If the magazine is loaded to only thirty (30) rounds, then the tension should be reduced to five (5) revolutions.
  • With step six completed, the magazine is ready to use.

Warning: The above procedures should only be used when loading the magazine to it full capacity of 73 or 75 rounds.  If the user intends to load only a partial magazine, then the magazine follower must be directly behind the last cartridge.  If there is a gap between the last cartridge and the magazine follower, the drum may be damaged during firing.

Do not exceed the recommended number of revolutions, as this will cause undue wear or breakage to the mainspring.

Prolonged Storage of the Drum Magazine:

Open the rear cover and depress the spring-loaded button at the center of the drum. Do not tilt the drum, as the cartridges might fall out. Close and latch the back cover and re-tension the spring three (3) clicks. The drum magazine can be stored in this manner indefinitely.

To Unload The Drum Magazine:

Open the rear cover and depress the spring loaded button at the center of the drum. Dump the cartridges out. The rounds in the column will need to be removed individually.

Maintenance of the Drum Magazine:

Periodically, the magazine should be cleaned with solvent to prevent the build-up of unburned powder and grit in the spiral track. A significant amount of residue in the track may hinder the functioning of the drum.

To disassemble the drum magazine, open the real cover and depress the spring loaded button. Turn the spring tensioning key COUNTER-CLOCKWISE and remove it. Next, lift the spindle out of the magazine. DO NOT DISASSEMBLE THE MAGAZINE ANY FURTHER.

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“AK-47 is the tool. Don’t make me act the motherfucking fool.”

 -Ice Cube, Straight Outta Compton-

AK Sights, How To Zero The AK, & AK Ballistic Trajectories:

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Cleaning, Maintenance, and Repairs:

How To Fieldstrip The AK Rifle:


How To Clean and Lube The AK Rifle:


How To Clean The AK Rifle After Shooting Corrosive Ammunition:


How To Remove Wood Handgrip From The AK Gas Tube:

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Modifications & Improvements:


How To Install An AK-47/74 Sling On A Folding Stock:

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How To Install A New Trigger:

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Slide-Fire Bumpfiring Device:

Youtube, in all of their infinite wisdom, has removed all of the videos pertaining to Slide-Fire products after the Las Vegas shooting. I’ll leave the following two dead video links up as a memorial to the United States Constitution’s 1st Amendment.

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AK Parts and Accessories:

Kalashnikov Parts Websites:

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Kalashniov Related Websites, Blogs, and Articles:

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Weapon Manipulation:

How To Hold The Kalashnikov:

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How To Use The Kalashnikov Safety Lever:

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Running With The Kalashnikov:

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Kalashnikov Shooting Positions:

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Reloading The Kalashnikov:

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Kalashnikov Malfunction Clearing:

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Savannah Arsenal Related Pages:

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Final Recommendations:

Purchase a quality rifle.

Purchase a quality carrying case.

Equip the rifle with a quality sling, weapon’s light, and red-dot optic (in that order of importance).  See Savannah Arsenal’s Tactical Rifle Accessories page.

Purchase 8-10 quality 30-round magazines and some type of load bearing gear to carry at least 4 of those magazines.  See Savannah Arsenal’s Defensive Loadout (2nd Gear) page.

Purchase at least one short, 5 or 10 round magazine for shooting from a rested position, such as when zeroing the rifle.

Purchase an AK sight adjustment tool.  It is almost impossible to adjust the front sight without it.

Zero the rifle as discussed above.  Afterwards, use the settings suggested above for shooting at known distances, and use the “battle setting” for “combat” shooting out to 250-275 meters.

Seek out proper training.

Practice, practice, practice.

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2 comments on “AK-47 / AKM / AK-74

  1. Check out this ammo review for golden tiger ammo. they make it for 7.62×39, 5.45×39, .223 and 9×19. Soon they will be making it for 40SW and others.

    At about the 8:50 mark he test fires GT and Wolf. There is a MASSIVE difference in velocity, between 200 and 300 fps for the same grain bullet.

    The only negatives seem to be from guys with cheap AK’s or old SKS’s with light primer strikes. No one using a quality AK or any other platform has had an issue with that. The price seems very similar with wolf/tula/barnul and with less flash, dramatically higher velocity, boat tail and better case and primer sealing, this seems like a top shelf choice to plink and stock up on especially while its fairly cheap.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great site here, I have yet to check it out fully, and there seems to be an absolute TON of information, but I wanted to comment on this page in particular because I have seen a few similar “AK ID guides” and this has got to be the best of them, it’s kept simple. Yet it’s pretty comprehensive in terms of base model AK’s, that simplicity is what makes it pretty great, because it’s so simple that after just reading it over a couple times someone who isn’t even familiar with AK’s could probably identify a good few of them. I gave my brother (who is NOT a gun guy) ten minutes to look at it and then quizzed him with a few rifles and pics, he got almost all of them right, with the exception of being confused by a Mini Draco, but I threw that in there just to be an ass. Anyway, this is a really good rundown on identifying AK’s, thanks for taking the time to make it. Now to look at some of the rest of the crazy amount of info that seems to be on this page.


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