The AK-47 is reputed to be the most popular weapon in the world. This tells us that an awful lot of you out there either:
Have one and are looking for another, or you are in the market for your very first AK-47 purchase.
In this article, we will look at:
- A brief history of this ultra-reliable gun.
- The Pros and Cons of using one.
- Review 6 of the very best AK-47 weapons currently out there.
Once this is complete, you should have a much better idea of which AK-47 is for you and understand why its popularity looks certain to continue on an upward curve.
- The AK-47 Is Born
- The Pros & The Cons Of AK-47 Use
- Top 6 Best AK-47 For The Money 2020 Reviews
- Best AK-47 Purchase – Stamped or Milled Receiver?
- So What’s The Best AK-47?
The AK-47 Is Born
“Avtomat Kalashnikova” These two words describe:
- Avtomat: The weapon’s automatic firing capability.
- Kalashnikova: The Russian national from humble beginnings who was principally responsible for its design – Mikhail Klashnikov.
- The ‘47’ simply indicates the year; 1947, when full-scale trials of the original AK-47 version began. It was adopted by Soviet armed forces very soon afterward.
Put simply; the AK-47 is the most popular assault rifle ever. Here we are talking about numbers manufactured, longevity of ‘in service,’ and its global reach as well as use.
The design was not completely original. It took several other existing weapon concepts and melded these into what became the renowned AK-47.
Existing concepts included the:
- Trigger mechanism.
- Gas-driven action.
- Rotating bolt.
- Safety catch.
However, the trick was to combine these existing components with modified ones and present them on a durable platform. The other challenge was to ensure these weapons could be mass-produced at low manufacturing costs.
The original design was not purpose-built for accuracy. The major focus was that multiple-shots could be fired by individual Russian soldiers with complete confidence in weapon reliability. Both targets were achieved (and some!). The AK-47 was embraced by all.
For over 70 years it has seen various refinements and clonings. These modifications have helped develop the AK-47 design into the weapon of substance it still is today. Since conception, it has been manufactured the world over in various forms, but always based on the original concept.
In truth, there are very few AK-47’s still used, the versions produced now would be correctly classified as an “AKM”: Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovannyj (assault rifle).
But, as that is rather a mouthful, we will stick with the acronym AK-47 or AKM throughout the piece!
You don’t need us to tell you of its world popularity over the last seven plus decades. You will also be aware of its use for foul and fair means wherever conflict has arisen on the globe. Suffice to say it is the most produced assault rifle on the planet.
The Pros & The Cons Of AK-47 Use
Let’s highlight some of the pros and cons of AK-47 use. We will start with one that could be seen as both a Pro and a Con!
Note: We are NOT talking about snipers, professional shooters, highly trained shooters, or the use of optics here. We are talking ‘recreational shooters’ with standard weapon sights.
Accuracy is a moot point. Most shooters would be proud to achieve accuracy at a distance of 100 yards on a regular basis. The fact is that the majority of us struggle to achieve even this.
So, the argument that the AK-47 is inaccurate is NOT true if taken over distances of 100 yards. Many would argue it is accurate up to 200 yards. Some would even say up to 350 yards in the hands of very competent marksmen and women.
However, if compared with other rifles – i.e., An AK-15 then the AK-47 does not have the same accuracy at longer distances (350 yards+).
A most definite AK-47 ‘Pro’. Some claim you could bury this weapon in the garden, leave it until required, dig it up and start shooting. While we feel this is stretching a point and don’t recommend you try it, rest assured, it has been done!
The point we are making is that the AK-47 needs little or no maintenance to perform continuously.
From the steamy, swamp-ridden forests of Vietnam to the arid deserts of Iraq. Then onto the fluctuating freezing cold through the blistering heat of Afghanistan, this weapon has proved that with minimal maintenance, it will continue to function.
During the World Wars, the Russian military leaders took a very clear stance on weapons and their use. They viewed weapons (and equipment) as disposable items.
They felt that “battlefield cannibalization” was as good a route as any while in the field. (Not for the leaders you understand, but certainly for the troops!). They also viewed re-provision on new AK-47s as their preferred route of supply over attempted repair.
This was much to do with the cheap, fast, and easy-to-manufacture process of the AK-47.
We have really touched on this in the maintenance comments above. The versions of AK-47s/AKMs out there today are extremely reliable.
While good maintenance of any weapon should be a principal task, these weapons continue to be reliable under extreme conditions. A whole variety of tests have shown these weapons are as near to fail-proof as you will get.
This can be looked at as a Con. This is due to the fact that the AK-47 design can make optic attachment fairly tricky. It is often the case that the wrong type of optic is chosen.
A Word Of Advice
If choosing an optic for your AK-47, please bear in mind that you do not need anything large and you do not need anything that adds too much weight. As a guide, the sensible option would be a red-dot sight. Particularly one that is classed as a miniature red-dot sight. If you need more advice on these, please check out the best scopes red dot sights AK 47.
You should also check that the sight in question has been specifically designed to fit this type of weapon. For more information please check out the best AK scope mounts.
Compared to more modern design weapons, the ergonomics of an AK-47 have to be seen as a Con. Many will find it is more difficult to handle than other rifles out there. This will be seen in such areas as the magazine and safety release features. These may well take a little getting used to.
On the plus side (not if you are predominantly left-handed mind you!). The AK-47 charging handle is on the right-hand side. This means that the majority of shooters will be able to rack it more easily with their dominant hand.
A Well-manufactured AK-47 Is A Force To Be Reckoned With
It goes without saying that the manufacturing standards in some countries are way below par.
Thankfully, the stringent quality assurance standards the USA has in place means that quality manufacturers have stepped in. Some manufacture their own quality controlled versions of the AK-47 design for recreational use. While others bring imported versions up to acceptable standards before market release.
A Major Talking Point
After we have gone through the reviews, look at one major talking point in terms of the best style of AK-47 manufacture. It relates to the receivers.
But, let’s first let’s review 6 of these weapons that would do any shooters armory a service.
Top 6 Best AK-47 For The Money 2020 Reviews
1 Century International Arms – WASR-10 16.5IN 7.62 X 39MM Blue 30+1RD
We start with one of the Century International Arms line, which is one of the best value AK-47’s you can buy.
However, it is certainly not the highest quality AK-47 out there. Having said that, for those who need a rough and tumble, highly reliable and very well priced weapon, then this model will more than suffice.
While Century International Arms do manufacture in America (their RAS47 model being an example). But, it should be noted that this WASR-10 model is made in Romania. This has led to a few quality issues, particularly where the receivers are concerned. This is because during manufacture in Romania the weapons receivers are cut only to accept single stack magazines.
However, the magazine ‘wells’ are then machined in the USA. This is done so the weapon will accept ‘standard’ AK-47 magazines. Because of the different standards of quality in milling, this is regularly poorly completed at source. The knock-on effect is that the ‘well’ is often loose. This causes the fitted magazine to rattle when placed in the gun.
It is also a given that the iron sights will need some serious adjustments in order to get them zeroed. Patience required!
On the plus side, this rifle has been stress tested to the hilt and continued to perform for far in excess of 10,000 rounds.
The low purchase price this rifle comes in at means there are no optic rails or attachments. But, it should be said that the origin
al wood furniture can be replaced to accommodate rails. Another replacement many opt for comes in the barrel. The original design has a slant-cut compensator. Because it is a threaded barrel, this can easily be replaced.
The final thing to look at is the trigger. The WASR-10 has a standard AK-47 trigger fitted. This certainly works but is not the best trigger available. Many shooters (particularly those into competition shooting) will benefit from swapping this out.
The answer to this is a most definite ‘YES.’ As can be seen, there are some quality control issues, but these do not affect the weapons functionality.
We would recommend the WASR-10 for those shooters who are looking at a first AK-47 purchase. It will also suit those who regularly put their rifles through testing conditions.
- Low cost.
- Long life.
- Ideal for custom furniture.
- Quality control issues.
- Magazine rattles.
- Sights need major initial alignment.
2 Century International Arms Inc. Red Army Standard
We are moving up a notch here in terms of manufactured quality in the Century International Arms best AK-47 offerings.
The Red Army Standard AK-47 is still a basic weapon. It has been well-built and will meet usability and reliability requirements of budget conscious shooters.
Built mostly with wood furniture, you also get a polymer pistol grip and some nice ergonomic features.
- T-shaped magazine release – This allows for easier and quicker reloads.
- Bolt hold-open notch – Placed on the safety selector and allows for easy bolt lockback.
- Standard AK-47 sights – Adjustable up to a distance of 300 meters.
- Barrel – Made from 4140 chrome-molybdenum steel. This certainly prolongs service life and also helps in terms of accuracy.
- Classic slant-cut compensator – A capped barrel with this compensator is included as standard, but it is removable. Because the barrel is also threaded, it means you can very easily add an alternative muzzle device.
- Trigger – This is an enhanced trigger. It is not the best out there, but it is far smoother than the classic AK-47 trigger included in other makes.
You need to be aware that there are no optic or accessory attachment points on this rifle. You also only have two sling attachment points. If you’re looking a sling for an AK or any other rifle then please check out our best tactical gunshot sling.
Again, it has to come into the best AK-47 category for first-time buyers. Thanks to its solid base construction, it will also suit those who enjoy building their own design weapon. This can be achieved thanks to ease of furniture and accessory addition.
- Positive ergonomic features.
- Quality barrel for the price.
- Compensator equipped.
- Attractive proposition for those into custom building.
- Furniture needs changing if attachment points required.
- Maximum sight adjustment is 300 meters.
- Sling options limited.
3 Arsenal SAM7K01 SAM7K 01 Milled Receiver AK Pistol
We should make it clear from the off. Here we are reviewing an AK pistol as opposed to a standard AK-47 rifle. However, due to the quality of this weapon, we felt it only right to include it.
Note: Of course you could add a stock to bring it up to standard size. If doing so, be prepared for excessive paperwork to reach the required legal certifications!
In a nutshell, this is one solid, highly durable and compact pistol. And you can choose between a model that has no rails or one with a full set. If you are looking to mount optics, then go for the full rails option – the SAM7K-01R model. It must be said that this would be classed as a good call. We say this because the pistols original sights are not its best feature.
The durability comes from its milled receiver and the 10.5-inch, chrome-lined barrel. The latter has been produced through cold hammer forging. This best AK-47 pistol also comes with a coned flash suppressor.
Polymer furniture is yours as is a neat looking coating that is corrosion-resistant. You also have the benefit of a double-hook trigger. This allows for smooth, easy firing.
Because it is a pistol, you will not get the same accuracy as a full-length AK-47 rifle. You will also find that compared to other pistols out there it is quite heavy.
Using it ‘as is’ makes it a very formidable, compact, home defense weapon. Those who want customization, or are looking to build their own short-barreled rifle (SBR) will find this right up their street.
- AK 47 style pistol.
- 7.62 x39mm cartridge.
- Chrome-lined barrel
- Hammer forged.
- Sling and cleaning kit included.
- Ambidextrous safety.
- Resilient construction.
- Flash hider could be better – though it can be easily replaced.
4 SA VZ. 58 Bolt Action Tactical – Best Quality AK-47 Build
This weapon is easily one of the best quality AK-47 builds currently available. Manufactured in Czechoslovakia, it is not strictly an AK-47, rather a Czech clone. Having said this, it is constructed in very much the same way as we see an AK-47. It certainly looks and functions essentially the same, but the additional build quality makes it worthy of inclusion.
A long lasting shooters experience is yours thanks to the milled receiver. This adds to the weapons robustness. Throw at it what you like. It will come back for more.
The gun barrel comes chrome-lined as well as nitrate-coated, which makes it fully corrosion-resistant. And users have stated that the barrel factor and quality trigger make it far more accurate than the majority of ‘standard’ build, American-made AK-47s.
Staying with the barrel, this is threaded, which means any alternative muzzle can be installed. Therefore, it gives a smooth, fast to use safety switch that is thumb-operated and auto-locks ‘open’ when your magazine is empty. This very simply means you are able to reload as fast as possible.
It is designed with a blend of wood and polymer furniture that does not add too much weight. Many feel this gives it a look of classic wooden style on the frontend and stock. Others have stated that this blend makes the design look cheap. Take a good look at it yourself, it is your viewpoint that counts!
The sights should be classed as ‘average’ and will compare with standard AK-47 sights at 300 yards. This may be sufficient for many shooters. If not, it is possible to mount optics.
Those shooters who are looking for a quality-build and a more accurate shooting experience will appreciate it.
Competition shooters may also be interested. Those who are prepared to spend a little time on customization will find it an ideal competition shooting rifle.
- Quality foreign manufactured build.
- Very well made barrel.
- Magazine auto-lock open when empty.
- Quick access safety switch.
- Sights classed as average.
5 Arsenal SAM series
We make no apology for including a series of AK-47 weapons in our review.
Because the Arsenal SAM series of AK-47s are all worthy of attention, there is a model to suit your shooting needs. By explaining the ethos behind the SAM series, it should help you understand the quality and choice available.
Many AK-47 aficionados feel that if you want the best AK-47 choice, then Arsenal are the way to go. The company imports its AK range from Bulgaria. However, they do not release them onto the American market until significant modifications, and quality tests have been made.
There are various full AK-47s rifles to choose from as well as a pistol version. The multiple furniture configurations available make it easy to select what is right for you. Those who wish to modify themselves are also at liberty to do so.
Those shooters who are looking for real quality, a choice of furniture configuration and anyone with money to spend. This quality does not come so cheaply, but as quality costs, you are certainly getting value for money.
Don’t worry, our next review is specifically related to one of the best Arsenal AK-47 models out there.
- Wide choice of models and configurations available.
- Top quality build.
- Higher price than other AK-47s available.
6 Arsenal SLR-107R
Our final best AK-47 model simply oozes quality. Many would agree that the Arsenal SLR is representative of how this type of weapon should be presented.
Those considering this best Arsenal AK-47 can choose between the standard version – a 36.9 inch model. Or the shorter version – which is a 34.5 inch model.
The larger version is a typical AK-47 variant. The smaller version comes with a reduced size hand-guard and gas tube. This means that the barrel can be shortened.
Without a doubt, the longer, standard version. This is most suitable for the vast majority of shooters. We say this because shortening the barrel means legal compliance must be achieved if you are to possess a legal Short Barrel Rifle (SBR).
Here are some of the outstanding features this best AK-47 rifle offers:
- Barrel – Chrome lined for additional durability.
- Furniture – Polymer as opposed to traditional wood furniture.
- Reasonable weight – Thanks to the polymer stock, pistol grip and forend, the weapon weight is kept down.
- Folding stock – The foldable stock makes for easier transportation and storage
- Stock compartment – This can be used for storing small items such as spare batteries and a cleaning kit.
- Superior sights – Better than standard AK-47 sights. You can adjust the rear sight to well over 500 meters.
- Improved trigger – The 2-stage trigger comes with an ‘anti-slap’ mechanism. This design feature complements the improved sights. You benefit from a smoother trigger pull and can take advantage of longer distance sight targeting.
This model does not come ‘optics-ready.’ Those who want to add an optic will need to change the polymer handguard for another with rails on it.
When delivered, there is also no muzzle device, but there are threads to add whatever device you wish.
The final pleasurable surprise to be mentioned of this best AK-47 model is its price. While certainly not the cheapest, you will find it is far from being the most expensive out there.
All shooters who are looking for a good AK-47 shooting experience. Everyone will benefit from a very well-built, robust, and super-reliable AK-47. The Arsenal SLR-107R version really is to be appreciated.
- Top-notch build quality.
- Polymer furniture.
- Folding stock.
- Extended distance, quality sights
- Two-stage trigger.
- No muzzle device.
- No optic rails.
- Stamped rather than a milled receiver.
Note: The last ‘Con’ mentioned really needs to be put into context. We will do just that in our next section:
Best AK-47 Purchase – Stamped or Milled Receiver?
While we gave pros and cons of AK-47 use above, there is one question that you are bound to come across when looking at the best AK-47s. This relates to the receiver. So let’s take a look at the facts…
Stamped or Milled Receiver?
This is often cited as the most important purchase factor when looking at the best AK-47 for your personal use. Stamped or Milled determines how the main receiver is manufactured. Some will argue that this has a large impact in relation to overall gun quality.
This means the actual receiver has been made through a process of hollowing out one single piece of solid steel.
This was the original manufacturing process. It is of a higher quality but is a more difficult (and more expensive) process. Therefore, you will usually find that weapons are heavier if a milled receiver is used.
How Can You Tell If It Has Been Milled?
Quite simple really; you will not see any side rivets because it has been ‘single-piece’ produced.
This manufacturing process uses a thinner piece of steel that is then molded into shape. Rivets are then used to add other components.
Stamped receivers are far easier to mass produce and are lighter than milled receivers. You will find the majority of modern AK-47 designs come with stamped receivers.
Which One Should You Go For?
The fact here is that milled receivers are of a higher quality construction. They will last longer as well as stand up to long-term use better than a stamped receiver. With this said, we feel the type of receiver used does not really impact a well-manufactured AK-47 either way.
Why Do We Say This?
Because the reality is that it will take extremely heavy use to wear down an AK-47 with a stamped receiver, far more use than the majority of shooters will ever reach. To prove this point, it has been stated that stamped receivers begin to fail after around 100,000 rounds. Milled receivers even longer.
The vast majority of shooters will not even approach 5,000 rounds fired!
At the end of the day, you will have your own perceived preference, and this is absolutely fine. Whichever receiver you choose you will get reliability, longevity, and years of use from a well-designed and manufactured best AK-47.
There is one final caveat here. If you are a real AK lover and intend to buck the trend by shooting masses of rounds, or you have money to spare, then the milled receiver will most likely be your best choice.
So What’s The Best AK-47?
AK-47s can be loved or despised. However, it really does depend on which side of the ‘rifle’ fence you sit on. One thing that cannot be denied is their continued popularity.
In our opinion, the best is the…
The manufacturer is renowned for quality and choice. The many features offered include a quality barrel, superior sights, and a very comfortable trigger. All-in-all you are buying into better quality than other makes in this price range and even higher.
This version of the AK-47 design is one you will grow to cherish and very likely not outlast!