Kitting Out The Kalashnikov – Part 3, by A.D.C.

(Continued from Part 2.)

Muzzle Devices

There are two sizes of muzzle threading commonly found on AKs. The older 14×1 left-hand thread (LH) is cut directly into the barrel, and the newer M24x1.5 is cut into an extension of the front sight assembly. Both sizes secure the muzzle device with a detent that protrudes from the front of the front sight tower. The older style is commonly associated with 7.62 rifles and the newer style is commonly associated with 5.45 rifles, but it is not unheard-of to find one paired with the other. When buying muzzle devices for an AK, it is critical to make sure you order the correct caliber (7.62 vs. 5.45 vs. 5.56), the correct thread size, and the correct thread direction (RH or LH).  Only a few American-made AK barrels have RH threads.

The Russians have long preferred muzzle brakes to flash hiders. The old-style threading is often seen with a diminutive slant brake, which is better than nothing. The newer style is often seen with a large multi-chamber brake. It is very effective and very, very loud. If you are anywhere close to the side of someone firing a rifle with one of these, you can feel the shockwave. They are widely blamed for high rates of hearing loss among Russian troops.

A wide variety of muzzle devices and adapters are available for both threading types from many reputable manufacturers. My WASR had the slant brake, and it was unremarkable. My Saiga is a special case: it is chambered in 5.56, so I had the muzzle cut with standard 1/2×28 AR-15 threads, and I run an YHM Phantom flash hider with no complaints.

A Word About Section 922(r)

Disclaimer 1 of 2: I am not a lawyer. The following is for information only, and should not be construed as legal advise.

Disclaimer 2 of 2: In my opinion, this law is an idiotic and unconstitutional insult to every American.

U.S. Code Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 44, Section 922 states that no “non-sporting” semiautomatic rifle or shotgun shall be assembled after enactment from more than ten imported parts. Since most AKs (and their parts) are imported, this is relevant to AK owners. What gets confusing is that not every part counts as a “part.” This compliance calculator is helpful.

For the handguard to count as a compliance part, both the top and bottom halves must be made in the U.S.

If you are running foreign magazines and need one more compliance part, magazine floorplates count as a part. Arsenal sells U.S.-made floorplates for their ((10)) polymer magazines and Csspecs sells U.S.-made floorplates for steel magazines. If you choose to use floorplate towards compliance, it would be prudent to replace the floorplates of ALL of your AK magazines.

Two Uncategorized Useless Products to Avoid

Safety levers with a large notch for holding the bolt open are a popular accessory. They are also a terrible idea. Despite the lore, a Kalashnikov WILL malfunction if filled with enough gunk, and the safety lever is designed to keep gunk out of the gaping hole in the side of the receiver when the rifle is not in active use. These notches will not automatically lock the bolt open after firing the last round: you have pull the charging handle back, and then carefully raise the safety lever and ease the charging handle into the notch. These are designed for use on ranges that require bolts to be open when going forward of the firing line. If your range requires this, just use an empty-chamber flag.

The Blackjack Buffer is a rubber pad that keeps the bolt carrier from hitting the rear of the receiver when the rifle cycles. The bolt carrier is supposed to make light contact with the rear of the receiver when cycling. If your rifle seems to be beating itself up excessively, it probably needs a new recoil spring. Besides being the wrong solution to a problem that has a very easy right solution, a buffer will also eventually break down into loose chunks that could jam your rifle.

Considerations for AKs in other Calibers

The 5.45x39mm round, and its AK-74M rifle, has largely replaced the 7.62x39mm round, and its AK-47 and AKM rifles, in Russian service. 5.45 rifles are a bit less common on the U.S. market than 7.62 rifles. Magazines are a bit more expensive and sometimes a bit more difficult to find. Ammunition is problematic, as will be discussed in the next section.

A rarer variant is an AK in 5.56 NATO, such as my own Saiga. 5.56 AKs have been manufactured by many nations, but unlike 7.62 or 5.45 AKs, 5.56 AKs of different national origins do not share a common specification for magazine dimensions. With filing, one nation’s magazines can sometimes be made to fit and function in another nation’s rifle. For example, my Russian Saiga takes Romanian magazines without modification, but requires filing the front top of Bulgarian and Polish magazines, and Israeli (Galil) and Serbian magazines do not work at all. Bulgarian magazines are generally available, Polish magazines less so, and East German magazines much less so. I have not seen a standard-capacity Romanian magazine for sale in several years. Considering this magazine situation and the current crop of excellent and affordable AR-15s, I cannot recommend any 5.56 AK (with the possible exception of the Galil, which is not a “true AK” and which will be discussed in a later section).

Several companies make adapters that will allow 5.56 AKs to use AR-15 magazines, but I have no experience with them. I also just don’t like the idea of AR magazines in an AK. It is undeniable that, from a reliability standpoint, the magazine is the weak link in the AR-15 design. The original aluminum USGI magazines were built like beer cans because they were meant to be used like beer cans: cycled once, dropped, and never seen again. (Of course, they have never actually been used this way.) Fifty years of refinement has made the situation much better, but the AK magazine has never needed such improvement.

Ammunition Selection

Tunnel Rabbit recently contributed a fantastic article in SurvivalBlog on 7.62x39mm ammunition selection.

Surplus 5.45x39mm ammunition was once imported in great quantities. So great, in fact, that several companies offered AR-15 uppers and magazines in 5.45. The military 7N6 loading (which is corrosive) has a reputation for inflicting horrific wounds thanks to a steel penetrator at the tip of the bullet, which shifts the center of gravity rearward and makes the bullet yaw and tumble aggressively in flesh. (This is the same principle behind the wounding capability of 5.56 Mk 262 loads, as well as the much older .303 British Mk VII load.)

Unfortunately, the ATF has used that penetrator as a pretense to ban the importation of 7N6 ammunition since 2014. 7N6 can still be found for sale occasionally, and basic FMJ and soft point ammunition is still imported. Hornady also offers several V-MAX loadings of 5.45, but there is not a huge domestic manufacturing base for 5.45. Hornady and Graf & Sons make 5.45 cases here, but they are available on a limited basis and can be relatively expensive compared to 5.56. Hornady even uses imported steel cases for several of its V-MAX loads. This dependence on imports makes a 5.45 AK only a slightly less-bad option than a 5.56 AK.

Information to inform .223/5.56x45mm ammunition selection is widely available elsewhere. I will simply add that most 5.56 AK barrels have 1-in-9 or slower twist rates, so they may not stabilize heavy bullets.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 4.)




7 Comments

  1. Last year, I was wanting a more traditional muzzle device for a PSAK-47 GF3, this is what worked for me:

    14-1LH to 24mm x 1.5mm Thread Adapter, CODE: C7-31
    https://ak-builder.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=30068

    Compensator 7.62 US 24×1.5 Right-Hand Threads [AK47 muzzle break AK74 style], SKU: AK-140US
    https://www.k-var.com/compensator-us-made-with-24x15mm-right-hand-threads-for-762×39-caliber

    Make sure to put the thread adapter on the right way, or it won’t lock in place… [just reverse it] It is a tight fit…

  2. Another comment on muzzle devices, if you want something that produces less of a flash than the slant brakes, you can get A2 flash hiders to fit AK’s, often for under $10. They’re inexpensive and they work well.

    1. Innovative Industries has low cost flash hiders in the various thread patterns, and for the 14x1LH for the older AK’s. The pickle fork variety is possibly better, but this is the least expensive and would provide some reduction in muzzle flash. The best flash hider is worth it’s high price, the Vortex from Smith Industries, but 90 bucks can be hard to find these days. Something is better than nothing, otherwise the huge flash from an Ak will complete blind the shooter and make him are target.

      https://innovativeindustriesllc.com/flash-hider-a2-bird-cage/

  3. Thanks for the mention. There was one very important caveat to using ammunition other than FMJ that should have been covered in that article that I can briefly cover this morning. If using any ammunition other than FMJ, it should be tested in all the rifles that might share magazines loaded with it. If testing all the rifles in an arsenal is not possible, it would be best to only supply FMJ. Otherwise, should magazines need to be shared, as one rifleman may need to be resupplied during a lull in a battle, ammunition that does not use a FMJ bullet could potentially cause that rifle to malfunction. FMJ is the most reliable type of bullet in terms of feeding in all rifle types. It would be best to test all magazines with any ammunition in the inventory, including FMJ ammuntion, that would be supplied, in all rifles in the inventory. As it is not simply the ammunition that is the cause of the malfunction, but the combination of magazine and ammunition. Magazines are the cause of most malfunctions, but the bullet used should be examined as well. As there are many different AKM variants, all mags should be test fitted and filed to fit all the AK’s in that arsenal. Some mags will feed ammunition well in most AK’s, but not necessarily all AK’s. We do not want a malfunction when the rifle is needed most. It could be there are one or more magazines that will not feed soft point ammunition in one particular rifle reliably, yet does so in all other rifles. If this is the case, that particular rifle has a feed ramp that can have a 45 degree angle, or bevel that can be cut into the bottom of the ”feed ramp” that is the opening, or lip of the chamber that does not necessarily look like a feed ramp. This is relatively easy to accomplish with a small round files, rolled up emery cloth, or a Dremmel tool with a fine abrasive stone. Pull the top cover and remove the main spring and cycle the action slowly. Observe how the cartridge enters the chamber. Some magazine and action combinations cause the bullet to jump, with the better combinations feeding the nose of the bullet directly and smoothly into the chamber. If the latter occurs, and the nose of the bullet dives into the bottom of the chamber mouth, a small or larger 45 degree bevel, as described, usually does remedy the situation.

    Soft point ammunition is far superior man stopper than FMJ. If soft points do not feed well in any one of your rifles, and reshaping the feed ramp is not practical, then test to see if hollow points will work. There are two kinds of hollow points. The one to test first is the 8M3 that is fragmenting ammunition, if you can identify it. If that bullet cannot be found, then try the common hollow point variety. Hollow points in general will break apart and do more damage than FMJ that may only punch a .30 caliber hole before it yaws, but 8M3 fragments violently within an inch or so after entering the target. If we have a limited supply of ammunition, expanding ammunition can reduce the need to hit the target several times to be effective. Soft point do a better job it than all others. If your rifles can not feed other than FMJ bullets, then the most effective FMJ bullet is found in the hard to find brass cased Yugo M67 ammunition. This ammunition was once considered to be corrosive, yet now is considered not to be corrosive. Ballistic gelatin tests have shown the M67 bullet to yaw with several inches of entering the gelatin. Standard 7.62×39 FMJ bullets are known to have lack luster stopping power soft tissue because in general tend to yaw late, if at all before passing though the target, and the result is similar to 5.56 FMJ, unless it is M193 shot out of a 20 inch barrel with a 1:12 twist rate at better than 3,100fps. I cannot afford to make the jump to a 7.62 NATO platform, yet, IHMO, 7.62×39 delivers as much energy, and perhaps as much, or more destruction as 7.62NATO within the practical range of an AK.

    Given these considerations, paying a few cents more for soft point ammunition is well worth it. This example expands up to .75 inches in diameter quickly in ballistic gelatin. It tend to run at 2,500 fps out of a 16 barrel, and is a tad flatter in trajectory. In 20 inch SKS barrel, or like my 21 inch AK barrel, I would expect closer to 2,650 fps. Grab it while you can.

    https://www.sgammo.com/product/wolf-ammo-sale/1000-round-case-762×39-125-grain-soft-point-mil-spec-ammo-lacquer-and-sealant

  4. Thanks for the mention. There was one very important caveat to using ammunition other than FMJ that should have been covered in that article that I can briefly cover this morning. If using any ammunition other than FMJ, it should be tested in all the rifles that might share magazines loaded with it. If testing all the rifles in an arsenal is not possible, it would be best to only supply FMJ. Otherwise, should magazines need to be shared, as one rifleman may need to be resupplied during a lull in a battle, ammunition that does not use a FMJ bullet could potentially cause that rifle to malfunction. FMJ is the most reliable type of bullet in terms of feeding in all rifle types. It would be best to test all magazines with any ammunition in the inventory, including FMJ ammuntion, that would be supplied, in all rifles in the inventory. As it is not simply the ammunition that is the cause of the malfunction, but the combination of magazine and ammunition. Magazines are the cause of most malfunctions, but the bullet used should be examined as well. As there are many different AKM variants, all mags should be test fitted and filed to fit all the AK’s in that arsenal. Some mags will feed ammunition well in most AK’s, but not necessarily all AK’s. We do not want a malfunction when the rifle is needed most. It could be that there is one or more magazines that will not feed soft point ammunition in one particular rifle reliably, yet does so in all other rifles. If this is the case, that particular rifle has a feed ramp that can have a 45 degree angle, or bevel that can be cut into the bottom of the ”feed ramp” that is the opening, or lip of the chamber that does not necessarily look like a feed ramp. This is relatively easy to accomplish with a small round files, rolled up emery cloth, or a Dremmel tool with a fine abrasive stone. Pull the top cover and remove the main spring and cycle the action slowly. Observe how the cartridge enters the chamber. Some magazine and action combinations cause the bullet to jump, with the better combinations feeding the nose of the bullet directly and smoothly into the chamber. If the latter occurs, and the nose of the bullet dives into the bottom of the chamber mouth, a small or larger 45 degree bevel, as described, usually does remedy the situation.

    Soft point ammunition is far superior man stopper than FMJ. If soft points do not feed well in any one of your rifles, and reshaping the feed ramp is not practical, then test to see if hollow points will work. There are two kinds of hollow points. The one to test first is the 8M3 that is fragmenting ammunition, if you can identify it. If that bullet cannot be found, then try the common hollow point variety. Hollow points in general will break apart and do more damage than FMJ that may only punch a .30 caliber hole before it yaws, but 8M3 fragments violently within an inch or so after entering the target. If we have a limited supply of ammunition, expanding ammunition can reduce the need to hit the target several times to be effective. Soft point do a better job it than all others. If your rifles can not feed other than FMJ bullets, then the most effective FMJ bullet is found in the hard to find brass cased Yugo M67 ammunition. This ammunition was once considered to be corrosive, yet now is considered not to be corrosive. Ballistic gelatin tests have shown the M67 bullet to yaw with several inches of entering the gelatin. Standard 7.62×39 FMJ bullets are known to have lack luster stopping power soft tissue because in general tend to yaw late, if at all before passing though the target, and the result is similar to 5.56 FMJ, unless it is M193 shot out of a 20 inch barrel with a 1:12 twist rate at better than 3,100fps. I cannot afford to make the jump to a 7.62 NATO platform, yet, IHMO, 7.62×39 delivers as much energy, and perhaps as much, or more destruction as 7.62NATO within the practical range of an AK.

    Given these considerations, paying a few cents more for soft point ammunition is well worth it. This example expands up to .75 inches in diameter quickly in ballistic gelatin. It tend to run at 2,500 fps out of a 16 barrel, and is a tad flatter in trajectory. In 20 inch SKS barrel, or like my 21 inch AK barrel, I would expect closer to 2,650 fps. Grab it while you can.

    https://www.sgammo.com/product/wolf-ammo-sale/1000-round-case-762×39-125-grain-soft-point-mil-spec-ammo-lacquer-and-sealant

  5. The crazy explosive nature of the 8M3 also depends upon barrel length. A standard 16 inch barrel will give 1550 ft/lbs of energy and a 10 inch will come in at 1250, and act like a standard hollow point. The SKS will do even better with it’s 20 inch barrel. Wolf Military Classic hollow points seem to be 8M3 in some batches and something else in others. Like they use whatever bullet they have on hand at the time.

    In gel, 8M3 at 1550 ft/lbs will penetrate 1.5″, then create a 4×9″ permanent wound cavity with fragments traveling to 14″.

    For prospecting in Alaska, we chose the AK and 8M3 for bear protection. It has the same power as a .44 Mag, holds 30 rounds, is reliable, and the underfolders body sling behind you and stay put while shoveling. The only thing missing for grizzlies is full auto!

    Operation RT-22 is in effect! Vote a red ticket in 22!

    1. The 8M3 bullet is indeed explosive. As with all bullets that expand or fragment in some way, there is usually a recommended maximum and minimum velocity that the manufacturer recommends. In the case of this unusual fragmenting bullet that comes with no recommendations from the manufacturer, I would determine the maximum range that it will fragment to a useful degree by shooting one gallon water jugs at increasingly further distances, and until no fragmentation is evident.

      As far as defending one self from a charging Griz, I would recommend a 75 round drum loaded with the 154 grain soft points made by Tula. It is effectively a spire point with similar terminal ballistics of a 150 grain round nose .30-30 bullet out to 200 yards. It would do far more damage to heavy bone and muscle than the 8M3. I would aim to disable the monster by targeting the upper shoulder. I am not sure I could bring enough gun to contend with a Griz, but this might work. Perhaps a .450 Lott, a .375 H and H, or at least a .45-70 would be good enough. But I do have a drum of the 154 grain soft points. These expand between .60 and .75 inches, and penetrate to at least 16 inches in ballistic gelatin. It is gonna leave a mark and slow them down.

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