Memories of the Automat Kalashnikova. Part 1


I started writing this long ago and it became a long winding rambling pointless thing. It read more like a schizophrenic’s manifesto than an article, so let me try again from scratch.

Prior to joining the service I only remember shooting an AK once. I have have shot them more than that, but I only recall once. At the time I believed it was a 5.45 AK, looking back now I think it was .223 as the ammo brass and packaged in the little brown 20 round boxes that looked like like so very much of the other .223 ammo I shot later in life. What I remember the most was that it was cleaning cutting the bass almost in half. Bending it in a L shape with a little bit of of uncut brass holding the two halves of the case together. I’d really love to see that gun again and try and figure out what was happening. I’d bet that it was a Romainian SAR-3.

See… This is the sort of pointless rambling I was wanting to avoid.

For my first 2 years in the Corps (and my last year), I mainly used the M16A2 and the M249 SAW. Our beloved M16A2 rifles were about 40 inches long and around 7.7 pounds. My peers and I had very little experience with the AK. Occasionally we might get to carry one as eye candy when we played opfor. We generally saw the AK as a lighter handier gun than the M16A2.

Then we would see a U.S. Military manual on the AK, and it would say that it weighs 9 pounds, and that just seemed so wrong to us.

The Above photo shows a Colt AR15A4 along side an Arsenal SLR106FR. The SLR106FR has a longer muzzle break than the AKM rifles were were used to seeing, so we often saw the AK as being about 4-5 inches shorter than the M16 we had. It just seemed so compact.

What we didn’t understand at the time is that the AK47, AKM, and AK74 are rather different animals.

We didn’t know that when people said AK47, that they usually were referring to an AKM. We didn’t really know anything about the AK74, despite it being 30 years old at that time.

Prior to going to Iraq, an “Expert” in our company was suppose to give us a class on the AK so that we would all be familiar with it. He proceeds to start talking about manufacturer marks. Circle 10, a triangle with an arrow in it, etc. Our Company CO finally stops him and asks him to explain how to load, unload, permanently disable an AK, etc. He was unable to teach us any of that.

Fortunately later we received a class by a Hollywood prop guy who did go into a fair bit more details. We also got to see this in person:

heavily customized Saiga-12 for Hollywood movie “Showtime”. Folding stock has a laser in it for when it is folded. There is a top folding barrel extension. I think it was suppose to be a “silencer” in the movie. Later it showed in Firefly as the “Vera” with a few cosmetic tweaks

Still the majority of the Marines I served with have no idea how to operate or the capabilities of an AK. If the first or section position on the safety selector is semi or full auto (fun trick question). How to field strip one. How to disable one. Etc.

There was still lots of misinformation floating around. Stuff like, “The AK is in 7.62 Russian so they can fire our 7.62 but we can’t fire theirs”. Etc. Guys would hear about 7.62x54R Armor Piercing defeating our body armor and then think that the AK fires it and that we are all screwed, etc.

I got out of the Corps, and at that time the AK vs AR discussion was very popular. The comparison was still usually between the 20 inch A2 style AR15 vs. an AKM. Aside from the common and inane “.30 cal kills while .22 cal tickles” type arguments, other arguments were often about sight length or reliability.

Some argued that because the 20 inch AR15 has about a 5 inch longer sight radius so it was better. Others said that the sights on the AK were faster for CQB so it was better.

When we got to the AK vs M4 arguments, the sight radius bit went away and was replaced with the idea that the M4 has better optic mounting options.

There were always arguments about reliability, with second hand stories of second hand stories constantly repeated.

As with just about anything firearm related, the majority of the “facts” out there were just opinions.

So, I ended up buying one. Perhaps I’ll talk about that next time.


  1. I see the AK in terms that I think Kirk would appreciate in that the Russkies decided how they were going to fight and then developed their small arms to support their doctrine. Maybe he’d disagree but that’s how I see it. It’s a stupid simple rifle, easy to maintain and despite the internets saying otherwise, a fairly accurate arm. It’s manual of arms is simple to teach with a “push this down, pull this back” ease. Everything is gross motor skills with it.

    If you haven’t watched them, check out Ian’s interviews with Max Popenker relating the development of the AK. He just did a recent one about the SVD that I thought was fascinating.


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