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While I believe that it is safe to say that the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle is the single most popular military-style rifle in America today, the AK-47 rifle is without a doubt the second most popular military style rifle ever made even though it lacks the modular construction of the AR-15.

However, any time any product proves to be so popular with consumers, disreputable manufacturers with the questionable manufacturing process and poor quality control will inevitably enter the market in an effort to cash in on such popularity. In fact, most AK-47 rifles are manufactured overseas but, due to the present ban on the import of so-called “assault rifles”, all AK-47 rifles must be imported into the U.S. as either as disparate parts or as “sporterized” rifles.

Therefore, in order to return an imported AK-47 rifle to its original configuration, it must be reassembled stateside which means that the rifle must first be built, then disassembled, and then reassembled which introduces a significant margin of error. Thus, the quality of an AK-47 rifle is entirely dependent on the quality of its manufacture as well as the quality of its assembly. Consequently, when considering the purchase of an AK-47 rifle, there are several things that you should look for.


Quality Control

For instance, because most AK-47 rifles are manufactured overseas and, because different manufacturers impose varying quality control standards, the first step when purchasing an AK-47 rifle is to decide whether you prefer a new rifle, a used rifle, or one reassembled from used parts based upon its cost because the newer the rifle is and/or the more reputable the manufacturer is, the more the rifle will cost.

Therefore, it is important to note that Russian, Bulgarian, and Polish AK-47’s respectively tend to have the highest manufacturing standards with those made in China generally being of the lowest quality. Furthermore, while it is likely that upwards of 90 percent of the AK-47 rifles manufactured feature stamped receivers, some rifles do feature milled receivers which some shooters prefer even though there is no real advantage to one type over the other but, it should be noted that milled receivers do significantly increase the cost of the rifle.

Matching Serial Numbers

ak serial number

Image Source: Reddit

Also, when purchasing what is advertised as a new rifle, it is important to remove the dust cover and then check to make certain that the serial numbers on the receiver, the bolt, and the bolt carrier all match because, if they do not, then it means the at least part of the rifle has been reassembled from used parts. In addition, while you have the dust cover off, you should also check the amount of wear on the top of the hammer to make certain that it is not excessive and that it is not wearing unevenly.

Bore Quality and headspace


Next, it is also very important to use a bore light to examine the condition of the barrel’s bore in order to check both the height of the lands and to note any pitting that the bore may exhibit.

Furthermore, when purchasing a used rifle reassembled from disparate parts, it is important to make certain that the bolt face and barrel’s breach have the proper headspace because improper headspace can adversely affect both the accuracy of the rifle as well as its safe operation.

Mounting Optics

Plus, it should be noted that if it is your intent to mount any type of optics on your AK-47, then you should look for a rifle that has an optics rail mounted to the side of the receiver because the dust cover which is situated on top of the receiver has a very loose fit and thus, optics that are mounted to the dust cover are notorious or losing their zero after the first shot.

Fit and Function

Then, another factor that you should consider is the fit and function of the action because a canted gas block and/or burrs or gouges on the frame rails can cause the action to not cycle properly.

Thus, in order to check if the gas block is properly aligned, you should grasp the bolt handle and slowly slide it back until you feel a significant increase in pressure from the recoil spring and then slowly allow the bolt to return to the battery position while noting whether or not the bolt smoothly disengages from the locking lugs and slides smoothly within the bolt carrier.

Then, once you have checked the alignment of the gas block, you should fully cycle the action several times to make certain that the bolt carrier does not hang up at any point during its travel because, if it doesn’t, then the rifle is very likely to cease cycling properly at some point.

Trigger and Safety Operation

ak-47 trigger

Image Source: BingoAirsoftWorks

Next, there are the issues of whether or not the trigger and safety mechanisms operate correctly and whether or not the magazine fits into, and disengages from, the magazine well properly.

Thus, you should look for a rifle that has a trigger that breaks cleanly when disengaging from the sear with little or no creep and which returns to the forward position after being released because, if it does not return forward, then it means that the trigger spring is broken. In addition, you should also make certain that the safety both engages and disengages properly and that it actually performs its job by preventing the trigger from being pulled when the safety is engaged.

Front sight alignment

Then, yet another factor that should be examined is the alignment of the front sight because a canted front sight can adversely affect the rifle’s accuracy.

Therefore, it is important to shoulder the rifle and then view the position of the front sight in relation to the rear sight to make certain that the front sight is aligned with the center of the receiver in order to ensure proper accuracy.

Magazine Well Tolerance

Last but not least, there is the issue of whether or not the magazine fits properly within the magazine well because, even though there are significant differences in the tolerances of magazines manufactured in different countries and/or by different manufacturers, the magazine well’s tolerances should be great enough to allow the easy insertion and removal of all magazines without the use of excessive force.

Plus, it should also be noted that an easy way to load your AK-47 magazines is to use a Podavach Magazine Speed Loader.

Podavach Magazine Loader

So, as you can see, while purchasing an AK-47 rifle may at first seem like a simple, straightforward, process, there are actually numerous different factors that should be considered in order to ensure that you purchase a rifle that functions properly and delivers acceptable accuracy.

4 Replies to “What to Look for When Buying an AK-47 Rifle”

  1. I’ve read your article about AR-15 and I’m glad you published also about an AK. Those 2 are important rifles to cover. Thanks!

  2. Never owned an AK, really more an AR-15 person. But I did like the way you put all the details.

  3. The Chinese AK 47 rifles are not the worst quality-This is a myth. The are built heavier and more solid like a Yugo AK 47. You also did not mention anything about the Yugoslavian AK rifles.

  4. I understand that the new Chinese AKs are of poor quality, but the Polytechs and Nornincos imported in the 80s and early 90s were very good rifles. My Norinco has always performed well.

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