*The AK-47*
By Shooter
(Photos By Warlord)

The AK47 and its clones, are easily, the most recognized assault rifles in the world today. Even though the design dates from WWII, it is STILL the weapon, by which the reliability of newer weapons is judged. While true that it will not win any beauty contests, TRUE beauty lies in its performance. Whatever the climatic situation or battlefield conditions, the AK just keeps going and going and....

The AK47 is a gas-operated weapon, using a rotating bolt inside of a bolt carrier. The gas tube containing a loose-fitting gas piston, is positioned directly over the top of the barrel. When the weapon is fired, some of the propellant gases are bled off through a gas port drilled through the top of the barrel. The gas drives the gas piston rearward, through the gas block, emerging over the top of the chamber, where the back end of the piston impacts against the bolt carrier.

The bolt, which is contained within the bolt carrier, has a lug on its side which mates to a groove milled in the carrier. As the carrier is forced back, it moves this slot over the lug, in turn, causing the bolt to rotate. This rotation and reward movement causes the bolt to unlock, disingaging its lugs from matching slots machined into the rear of the chamber. This rearward action of the bolt carrier also extracts the spent case, cocks the hammer and strips a fresh round from the magazine, chambering it, on its return journey forward into battery.

As the carrier and bolt are driven back they compress a recoil or return spring. At the end of its rearward travel, the carrier and bolt are driven forward, now under spring pressure, stripping a new round from the magazine and chambering it. The carrier and its corresponding machined grooves, cause the bolt to rotate and lock into the matching recesses machined into the chamber end of the barrel. The hammer is now cocked and the weapon is ready to fire. If immediate firing is not needed or anticipated, the safety, which is on the right side of the receiver, can be raised into its uppermost position, making the weapon safe. In additon to acting as the safety, this lever also doubles as a dustcover, keeeping dirt and debris out of the weapon's action.

Depending on manufacturer, the rear sight, which is of the ladder type, will be adjustable from 200 meters out to either 800 or 1000 meters. A "Battle Setting", usually 300 meters, is also available. Please note that on the Isreali Galil, Finnish Valmet and South African R4, the rear sight is of the peep-type, and is usually fitted with Tritium inserts.

The front sight is a threaded post, contained within a sight housing similar to that found on the AR15/M16 series of rifles. The front sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation, via the use of a special tool. Practically speaking, the AK sights are too crude to be able to consistantly score hits beyond 500 meters. However, for its intended purpose, these sights are perfectly functional.

The design of the AK has been copied by various nations. It has been manufactured in every country that was included within the Warsaw Pact and others. These include Russia, China, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, East Germany, North Korea, Egypt, South Africa, Finland and Isreal. The latter three countries variants are known as the R4, Valmet and Galil. The USA can also be included in countries which manufacture an AK. Hesse Arms has recently begun stateside manufacturing of several differnt AK variations.

The AK has been manufactured with several stock variations, also. These include fixed wood and synthetic stocks, underfolding and sidefolding variations. There are even some AK pistols that have been manufactured, which are sans buttstocks of any type.

To fieldstrip an AK, first, remove the magazine and VISUALLY check the chamber to INSURE that the weapon is UNLOADED.

Pull the bolt all the way to the rear, cocking the hammer. Then, looking at the rear of the receiver, find the protruding serrated catch at the back of the dustcover. This is the end of the recoil spring guide rod. Push in on it with your thumb and using the other hand, grasp the rear of the dust cover and lift it up and off.

Carefully, push in on the rear of the recoil spring guide rod and disengage it from its slot in the AK receiver. Be careful, as it is under spring pressure. Withdraw it from the rear of the bolt carrier and set it aside.

Pressing down gently on top of the bolt carrier, slide it back until it pops up and out of its receiver rails. Turn it over and the bolt can be rotated out of the carrier. No further diassembly of the bolt or carrier is recommended for routine cleaning.

If the gas tube is to be cleaned, the gas tube lock, found on the right side of the gas block, just forward of the chamber, will need to be pulled up. This is easily done using the rim of a cartridge. Once it is in its unlocked position, the gas tube is grasped at its rear and lifted up and out.

If you wish to remove the lower handguard, just flip up the lever at the top of the guard and slid the retainer forward, rock the handguard out. BE SURE to remove the cleaning rod first if you have not done so already.

Blow out any dust, dirt or grit that may be found inside the receiver, using a small paintbrush if necessary. Only light oiling is needed on the rails and bolt lug. Over oiling attracts dust and grit, so go EASY!

Reassembly is in REVERSE order, with exception to the dust cover. Position the front lip of the dustcover under the small recess found at the extreme top rear of the gas block, underneath the rear sight.

Then, align the rear of the dustcover with the takedown button on the end of the recoil spring guide. Slap the rear of the dustcover SMARTLY with the heel of your hand to seat it in place. Cycle the action to make sure everything is in order.

Accessories for the AK can be a whole other article in itself. Some of the useful ones are cleaning kits, both buttstock and tobacco tin types.

Other's are sight tools, 5, 20, 30 and 40 round stick magazines and pouches. 75 and 100 round drums are also available, although no longer cheap. Slings, night sights, scope mounts, stripper clips and clip guides, and stock kits abound. Half the fun of owning an AK is getting all the accessories for it and personalizing it!

If you are lucky enough to have owned and STILL own an AK, consider yourself fortunate. The days of the $189 AKs are long gone. Pre-Ban, Post-Ban and Pre/Post-Ban (confused?) AKs are going for $400-1700, now. Current BATF approved IMPORTED AKs take ONLY proprietary 10-round magazines. US-made Hesse AKs acept ALL normal AK magazines. Prices on these two types range from $219 to $800.

If you haven't made the AK-plunge, yet, they are still available, as are lots of magazines and ammunition. So...what are you waiting for?!

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All materials at this site not otherwise credited are Copyright 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 Trip Williams. All rights reserved. May be reproduced for personal use only. Use of any material contained herein is subject to stated terms or written permission.