The American Kalashnikov

by Zach DunnAK ammo

Not that long ago, the AK series of rifles were something of a rarity in the United States. When I first started shooting, it was common to see an AR-15 or an M1A, but it was seldom when a shooter would show up with a Kalashnikov. Most of the AKs in those days were Norinco or Polytech rifles imported from China, a rare Egyptian Maadi, or a Romanian. Many of the guys on the range would laugh and shake their heads at their shooting brethren with their humble “commie blunderbuss that couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn”.

With the expiration of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban in 2004 the AK series of rifles went from being a somewhat rarer sporting rifle, to mainstream. Not long after the expiration of the ban, I headed to a gun show to celebrate the return of lost liberty to the shooting world. I was debating the purchase of a new AR, when I happened to come across a table full of AK-47 clones, and I could not pass up the price. Needless to say, I didn’t walk out that show with a Colt, Armalite, or Smith and Wesson. And so began my love affair with the AK platform.

My first AK was a Romanian import, the kind that Century Arms at the time assembled late at night, drunk, and with a dremel tool and sledge hammer. It was a functional firearm, but nothing more. For several years I bought a few AKs, most were imports or parts gun. There were few Kalashnikovs that were built in the states that weren’t originally a parts kit, Arsenal being one of them. For many years there was little market, or need for companies to manufacture AKs in the states. Imports from Eastern Europe and the Middle East easily satisfied demand, leaving little market for a company that exclusively produced AKs domestically. All that started to change with the election of Barack Obama.

After a handful of gun ban scares, the demand for AK platform rifles has drastically increased. In 2014 shortly after the beginning of the crisis in Ukraine, the Obama administration greatly cut the imports of Russian firearms and ammunition. All of the events have forced several importers of AK-47 and AK-74 platform rifles to look towards the future and develop (or increase) domestic production. This increase of domestic production, coupled with demand, has started to drive the price of AKs downwards as well as increase availability.

Today there are a number of AK Manufacturers here in the states. Many still build with parts kits however, and cannot be considered a producer of a US made AK. I have listed my three choices of 100% US made AK companies.

IO Inc.1217923_orig

One of the first manufactures of a USA built, economical AK was Inter Ordnance, or IO Inc. IO started out as an importer of firearms. Starting around 2008, IO started domestic production of 100% made in the USA AKs. Teething issues, and problems with their labor force nearly sunk the company. I recall how horrible of a reputation they had, and for many years would not even go near an IO firearm.

To be honest, had I owned IO, I would have thrown in the towel. Uli Wiegand, IOs owner, however did not do that. Wiegand decided to deal with the problem, He packed up all of his manufacturing equipment and headed for Florida. There in 2013, IO rebuilt itself. Nitrided hammer forged barrels, all US made parts, and a highly skilled labor force have brought IO back with a vengeance. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the craftsmanship of their new rifles, or when I saw the nice 1 and 2 inch groups on paper with new the new rifles. They have to be some of the most accurate AKs on the market today. The price is also well below that of an Arsenal rifle, or an Izhmash import. Currently all of their AK line consists of AK-47/AKMs chambered in 7.62x39mm.

Century

Another company that has jumped into domestic production, is Century Arms. Not all that long ago Century had a horrible, and well-deserved reputation for selling crap. Canted sights, horribly constructed WASR rifles, AK-74s that keyholed, etc. all contributed to the well-earned disgust. Around 2012, this started to change. Not only did their imported rifles drastically improve, a domestically produced series of AK Rifles have proven themselves with US shooters.

The Century C39 is a 100% US made rifle built on a milled receiver, while the RAS-47 is built with a stamped receiver. Both rifles feature chrome moly Nitrided barrels and Tapco trigger groups. Accuracy is quite good with 2-3’’ groups average. The construction of both rifles is superb, and I didn’t notice any canted sights or wrong diameter bores that were regular occurrences on Century’s earlier firearms. Both Rifles are chambered in 7.62×39.

Arsenal

 To purchase an US built Arsenal, you will spend as much cash as you would on a higher end AR platform rifle. Most Arsenals hover around the $1000 price point or are slightly north of that number. While Arsenal does still import many rifles from Bulgaria, an increasing number of the firearms are domestically produced. Barrels are chrome hammer forged and chrome lined, and each rifle is built to exacting standards. Arsenal has built a solid reputation for quality, reasonable accuracy and excellent customer service. The company has a well-established, and extremely loyal following in the shooting community which has been well earned. Arsenal offers rifles chambered in 7.62×39, 5.45x39mm and 5.56x45mm.

Into the Future

While I have used up my last crystal ball, I can say in confidence that the future appears to be bright for the AK shooting community. Future AKs to be released on the US market include an AK-47 from Palmetto State Armory, a company well known for solid AR-15s. The Russian Weapons Company, which for years imported Russian built Kalashnikov rifles is about to start production of Russian pattern AKs in the US. These two companies plan on adding reasonably priced, and reliable AK platforms to American shooters.

In Conclusion, what AK would I recommend? For the money and quality, I would say IO Inc. Their 247 series Kalashnikovs are well priced, and more importantly well built. The Nitrided Barrel aids in accuracy and has as long a life as chrome lined. However you won’t go wrong with a Century, and with an Arsenal you will own a gun your great grandchildren will still be shooting.

 

Happy Shooting, and God Bless!

 

Photo credit – I.O. InterOrdinace

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