If you’re anything like me, you came up in an All-American family that hated anything those commie scum over the pond would produce, from trade-goods, to guns, to foreign policy. You were accustomed to the bad guys in every 80’s and 90’s action movie being a generally terrible human, sporting some kind of AK variant. Then, if you took the next step and joined the military, you would notice the enemy killing your brothers and sisters with these same weapons. AK’s are cheap to buy, cheap to fire, mass-produced, and function nearly anywhere, making them obvious choices for warfare. Lets just say there was no love lost on AK’s in the eyes of myself, and many of the people I came up with in the Marines.
Fast forward a few years out of the Marines, the “All-or-Nothing” Marine mindset starts to fade and I start to get curious as to why these weapons are so widely used. What really makes them so popular when so many newer weapon systems have been developed since the inception of the AK? I also start to think that if we ever get invaded on our own turf, it might be a good idea to have a weapon chambered in the enemy’s rounds on hand, as well as a lot of practice functioning and manipulating such a weapon. So I called up a good friend of mine, Brian Kovacs and told him I was on the hunt for a AK-47, I didn’t know what was quality and what wasn’t at that point but I knew he did and I trust his judgement. He agrees to keep an eye out for a quality one, but then says to me, “47’s are great, but have you ever heard of a AK-74?”. That conversation was the start of a serious love affair (Not just with Brian, but also these weapons) and ultimately led to the collection of my (Closet) favorite weapon, the AK-74.
Sparing you all the weapon specs you can find in a quick google search, I’ll get into a little bit of its history, and why I love this weapon. It was the next evolution of the AKM and what many call Mikhail’s answer to the M16. It was fielded in the Afghan War by Soviet Special Forces initially, and once Americans started to hear rumors of a Russian AK with “poisoned” bullets that could hit nearly anywhere and still kill, the race was on to get a hold of one. The AK-74 uses smaller 5.45x39mm rounds, with a higher velocity, with less recoil and more speed. This means lighter combat loads with more rounds per soldier, more penetrating power, and more accurate automatic fire capabilities. All while keeping the rugged reliability of the AK platform. All these reasons are why I had to try it out, plus the rounds look absolutely wicked, I mean come on.
As soon as I fired the first round I was blown away (right?!). The recoil was less -or at least felt less- than nearly any AR platform weapons that I had fired. Muzzle-rise is non-existent, and the factory trigger surprised me, not only on the first shot, but the following shots as well. The weapon breakdown is that of any AK, super simple, and tool-less, which I find an amazing feat in itself. The shots were surprisingly accurate, even standing, walking the shots out from 50m to 100, then 200 and so on. I could not believe I had just been given a Commie weapon that felt this great to fire and was basically an “Out-of-the-Box” example. I was amazed, and instantly fell in love. It felt so damn dirty to love a gun produced from the enemy so much, but I did, and I do. I hand refinished the wood, sanding it, restaining it, and sealing it over the next week. I cleaned it meticulously and went on the hunt for heaps of ammo for it… I knew I would keep this weapon, it made the cut.
My time in the military had produced a short list of “Must haves” in a weapon. High on that list is the trust that the weapon will fire every time you pull the trigger. Reliability, it seems, starts to outweigh things you thought would be more important like accuracy over 500m, a staple in the Marine mindset through training. Other things like worldwide access to ammo, parts, and ease of maintenance, especially when short on tools or time are also pressing concerns. This is one of those weapons that checks all the big boxes, and most of the little ones. If you ever find yourself in the market for an AK, I’d suggest you start with one of these weapons, but only if you’re OK with falling in love with the enemy.