The AK47 is, by any objective measure, the most successful rifle ever produced. Nearly 1 in 10 firearms in the world today is an AK47 or some variant of it. That amounts to approximately 100 million AK47s.
Mihail Kalashnikov’s rifle attained such immense popularity for several simple reasons. First, it’s reliable as the sunrise. Second, it requires very little maintenance. And third, it’s cheap. As a bonus it also fires a larger round than the more expensive M16/AR15.
While the AK47 has gained a reputation as the scumbag’s weapon of choice, that is not the gun’s fault, nor the designer’s. The fact is, the AK47 does exactly what it was designed to do: provide a low-cost, reliable way to spray bullets in the direction of the enemy.
Today, the AK47 and its variants are produced in more than 30 countries, including the US. And while it will never be the sniper’s favorite, it may be considered the people’s favorite considering how many are in circulation.
Below are the 10 best AK47s you can legally buy in the US.
1. Zastava N-PAP M70
Zastava is a Serbian arms manufacturer that produces the N-PAP M70 for Century Arms in the US. Century then takes the rifles and performs the modifications necessary for the rifle to be sold on the US market. The result is a hybrid AK47 that embraces Kalashnikov’s simplicity but contains numerous US made parts, including the hammer, trigger, and polymer pistol grip. Other American touches include the elongated butt stock and the TAPCO G2 trigger group that offers improved trigger pull and reduces often painful trigger slap.
In the best Kalashnikov tradition the N-PAP M70 has been engineered to take a punch and stay upright. With it’s 16 1/4 inch hammer-forged barrel it is also somewhat more accurate than its Soviet ancestor. But only somewhat. So potential buyers should be disavowed of the notion that they’ve found the ideal discount range rifle. Still, with all weather reliability, its powerful 7.62mm wallop, and its affordability it’s a great rifle for medium sized game or home defense.
2. Century Arms C39V2 AK Rifle
Century Arms is back with their 100% made in America C39V2 AK Rifle. The C39V2 features a basic wooden stock, a long stroke piston, a Zhukov handguard and, of course, it chambers a 7.62 x 39mm round. All that keeps it squarely in the Kalashnikov family tree. Where it ventures off the farm a bit is with the milled receiver, the 4140 steel barrel and the nitride finish.
Another place where the C39V2 diverges from the original design is in the fire control group. Here you have the Century RAK-1 trigger, hammer, disconnector setup that is a significant step up from what Eastern Block troops had to wrestle with. The side rail scope mount, while also harkening back to those grey days of Soviet occupation, is actually fashioned from much better material here and held in place by high-quality Torx fasteners. All in all, the C39V2 is a nice combination of traditional and contemporary blended together in an affordable, dependable AK.
3. Arsenal Sam7 Series
Arsenal AD is a Bulgarian arms manufacturer that has been around since the mid-19th century. They built their first AK47 in 1958 and eventually became one of the best known arms manufacturers in the former Warsaw Pact. In 2000 they opened a subsidiary in the US and began producing and importing a number of different kinds of semi-automatic rifles, including the AK47. Their Sam7 Series AK47s are manufactured in Bulgaria and imported to the US where they are subjected to rigorous American quality control checks and modified for the American market.
The result is what many firearms experts consider a higher quality AK47 then you will ever get in Eastern Europe. One that can be customized to fit your needs, produce greater accuracy and weigh less, yet still retain Kalashnikov’s vaunted all-weather, long-term reliability. One thing that does fall victim to the Americanization of Arsenal’s AK47s is their legendary affordability. By the time Arsenal is through tweaking these rifles they can wind up costing as much as an AR15.
4. Century Arms RAS47
Century Arms is one of the largest manufacturers of AK47s in the US. The company was started in 1961 when typewriter repairman William Sucher discovered there was greater demand for a rifle he was trying to sell then for his typewriter repair services. He then switched to reselling used firearms and, in time, began importing surplus firearms from overseas to resell in the US. Eventually, the company began to manufacture its own guns, including the AK47.
Unlike other companies that import foreign-made AK47s and then modify them for the American market, the RAS47 from Century is designed and built entirely in the US. It comes with a red army standard barrel (hence “RAS”) fashioned from 4140 chrome-alloy steel that is highly corrosion resistant and a few user friendly modifications that make the rifle less punishing. The RAS47 embodies the all weather reliability and low maintenance requirements everyone expects, although it’s not quite as cheap as Comrade Kalashnikov would prefer.
5. Krebs Custom AC-18 A2
Marc Krebs and a handful of associates produce what are often regarded as some of the best AK47s in the US. His custom AK47s manage to maintain the rifle’s legendary reliability although they haven’t done much (not that there is much you can do) to improve the weapon’s accuracy. It might take Mikhail Kalashnikov a minute to recognize that the AC-18 A2 as one of his offspring, but that it is.
The AC-18 A2 comes with a 16 1/2 inch barrel. That barrel is cold-forged and chrome-lined to resist corrosion and topped off with the company’s own Krebs Custom Interchangeable Muzzle System. There’s a Tango Down pistol grip, an AR-15 style rear sight, a custom ALG trigger and a Bravo Company collapsing buttstock. Just to name a few of the company’s distinctive touches. All these touches and more, of course, drive up the price. But there’s no denying this is one handsome, reliable and comfortable AK47.
6. SA VZ 58
The SA VZ 58 is an AK47 clone that includes a few quality upgrades that separate it from the competition. The SA VZ 58 is built exclusively by Czech Small Arms who export it to more than 30 countries, including the US. The rifle comes in either bolt action or ‘Sporter’ variants with the bolt action obviously requiring the loading of a new round after each shot, and the Sporter being semi-automatic.
The most obvious upgrades from the old Soviet AK are the nitrate coating on the lining of the barrel and a high quality trigger that reduces trigger slap. But there are other touches that are equally noteworthy including the quick access safety switch, a milled, (as opposed to stamped) receiver, lighter weight and improved rear sight.
7. Arsenal SLR-107
Arsenal makes a second appearance on our list with their outstanding SLR-107. Like most Arsenal firearms the build quality here is first-rate and there are a number of unique touches they provide that turn the normally workmanlike AK47 into an attractive, comfortable, reasonable choice for hunters of medium size game. Perhaps most impressive, they’ve even managed to improve the accuracy of Kalashnikov’s notoriously inaccurate rifle.
To do that they have included an 800 meter rear sight and a side rail for attaching optics. The high-quality two-stage trigger also helps ensure a more accurate shot. Beyond those mods, however, are some endearing Warsaw Pact elements like the stamped receiver, the length of the buttstock and that magical ‘clak clak’ sound. But overall the SLR-107 is several steps up in build quality from its Soviet progenitor.
8. Century Arms WASR-10
The Century Arms WASR-10 is sometimes derided for not embodying the type of quality we want and expect from US made firearms. But it’s flaws can largely be traced to the fact that most components are made in Romania and are actually the flaws of the original AK47 it aspires to replicate. So, if it’s more like the ‘real thing’ that should be good, right? After all, the 47 is not a precision instrument and most Americans buy them as collectors items or for home defense.
All that said, the WASR-10 embodies all those things that have made the AK47 the world’s most popular firearm: best-in-class dependability, ease of maintenance, the wooden stock, and that hard to beat 7.62 mm punch. It is also one of the few AK47s available in the US that is significantly less than $1,000. And that too is right in keeping with the spirit of the original gun. If it shakes, rattles and rolls a bit, well, it is an AK47 after all. What did you expect? It will still fire all day long in a sand storm.
9. I.O. Inc. AKM-247C
The I.O. AKM-247C is another AK47 that bears little resemblance to its Soviet ancestor. I.O. has gone to great pains to make their rifle more user-friendly than the original. As such there is lightweight polymer furniture and a wire stock that together result in significant weight reduction. The kind of weight reduction that would have been appreciated by Warsaw Pact soldiers sent to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968 or NVA who had to schlep their Soviet issue AKs through the jungles of Nam for years on end.
But those aren’t the only improvements. There is also a longer magazine release, nitride coating on the barrel and that wire stock can be folded up to vastly improve portability. The AKM-247C makes overtures to increased accuracy, such as the sights that adjust out to 1,000 yards. But the rifle itself really isn’t accurate to more than about 300. So those sights are like putting a spoiler on a Ford Pinto. All in all though the gun is very well built, easy to use, dependable and can be carried long distances without wearing you out. Hunters, take notice.
10. IWI Galil Ace
The last of our best AK47s is from Israel. The Galil Ace is a nifty little piece of work that’s as aggressive as it looks and as dependable as General Kaslashnikov intended. Whether it’s actually an AK47 is open for debate, although it chambers the same round and shares a few essential design cues.
Some aspects of the Galil Ace can trace their ancestry to the company’s first rifle developed in the 1960s, and there are also echoes of the Valmet RK62 of Finnish origins. But at its heart this is a modified AK47 and quite the interesting variant at that. Lightweight, portable, dependable and reasonably accurate it’s a must have for any AK collector and also makes an outstanding home defense weapon.
What is an AK47?
The AK47 is a gas powered automatic rifle invented in the former USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov (1) and first pressed into service by the Soviet army shortly after World War II. The “AK” in the name stands for “Avtomat Kalishnikova” or “Automatic Kalashnikov”, while “47” indicates the year Kalashnikov’s design was accepted by Soviet authorities.
It’s fair to say that the AK47 is one of, if not the most, popular firearms ever created. Of the approximately one billion firearms in the world, an estimated 100 million are AK47s, or AK47 clones, copies or derivatives. Meaning 1 in ever 10 firearms in the world is a direct or indirect descendent of the Mikhail Kalashnikovs automatic rifle.
Kalashnikov once said that when he was young he read that God commanded “All that is too complex is unnecessary”, so he used this as his guiding principle when creating small arms, including his most famous, the AK47. It’s the gun’s rugged simplicity, affordability and dogged dependability that have made it such a hit worldwide.
What are the Advantages of the AK47?
AK47s are available everywhere – Russia now licenses the AK47 to be built in more than 30 countries including Albania, Bulgaria, Communist China – where it known as the Type 56 (2) – Egypt, Pakistan, Vietnam, and yes, the United States, where companies like Century Arms produce AK47 variants.
AK47 parts are available everywhere – As you might imagine, a mechanical device that is so widely produced is going to create a (not so small) parts industry in its wake. AK47 parts can be found just about everywhere guns are sold, traded, built or used. You can also cannibalize any AK47 to repair or rebuild your own. Or you can build your own from scratch for pretty short money.
The AK47 will fire in a dust storm – Kalashnikov was a soldier and created a soldier’s gun. To him that meant a gun that was simple, tough and incredibly reliable, since fighting rarely takes place under ideal conditions. Rather than designing his gun to exacting tolerances, Kalashnikov designed a rifle that fits together loosely, (by machine standards anyway). This forgiving design means the AK47 rarely jams. It’s also not “precious”, in that it will continue to work even if the person wielding it is not scrupulous about gun maintenance.
The AK47 is durable – It is not unusual for AK47s to last for 30 or 40 years even with relatively little maintenance. This type of rugged practicality and value makes it a big hit in countries where the government doesn’t have a ton of money to lavish on their military. It also makes it a favorite of warlords and insurgencies working with limited funds.
AK47s are affordable – The law of supply and demand applies to firearms as well as everything else. The fact that there are some 100 million AK47s in circulation drives down the price both for new models and those on the secondary (and black) market. Whether you are the defense minister of Ethiopia, or an average Iraqi looking for a way to defend yourself and your family from marauding extremists, you might be able to afford an AK47.
Why Does the AK47 Have a Bad Reputation?
The AK47 was invented at the dawn of the Cold War and was the weapon of choice of America’s long time Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. It was a common site in newsreel reports from Berlin, where Soviet and East German troops could regularly be seen brandishing the gun at Checkpoint Charlie and other hotspots. Over the course of the Vietnam War the AK47 became an increasingly common gun for the NVA and Viet Cong, and were often captured and repurposed by American Special Forces (3) who preferred their jam-free performance over the M16, which at the time, was a jam-factory.
But besides being the automatic rifle of choice of America’s Cold War enemy, the affordability of the AK47 also made it – and continues to make it – a favorite of cash strapped warlords, third world gangs and Islamic extremists, including those who carried out the November 2015 atrocities in Paris (4)(5). It’s difficult for the AK47 to crawl out from under the shadow of press like that, and it may never do so.
Is it Legal to Import a New AK47?
In 1989 the Bush administration enacted a ban on the import of semi-automatic weapons such as the AK47 and variants like the Chinese Type 56 (6). Bush’s ban was in addition to an existing ban on fully automatic firearms. However, AK47s and other rifles legally imported before these bans went into effect were grandfathered in and their owners allowed to keep them.
But the point is moot really, because there are now several American companies that produce what are in essence, AK47s, including the Kalashnikov Concern, a Russian company that produces authentic semi-automatic AK47s right here in the USA (7) under the name Kalashnikov USA. Century Arms is another American company that manufactures AK47 variants.
Is the AK47 Better Than the M16?
“Better” in this case is a relative term. If you are primarily interested in spraying ammo at a vaguely defined target a couple of hundred yards away in less than ideal conditions, then the AK47 is your gun. If, however, your target is smaller than an elephant and more like 700 yards distant (and conditions are generally good) then the M16 is a better choice.
The difference between the two can basically be summed up thus: the M16 is a high performance weapon while the AK47 just performs, come hell or high water. The M16 (a slightly modified version of Eugene Stoner’s (8) AR-15), is machined to more exacting standards, is lighter than the AK47 and is also more accurate, as we mentioned. On the downside, it is more temperamental, more expensive and it requires more maintenance.
The AK47 is simpler, more dependable, suitable for even raw recruits with little firearms experience and much cheaper than the M16/AR15. On the downside it’s not nearly as accurate and it’s heavier than the M16. So which one is better? It depends on your budget and what you want the weapon for.
Is the AK47 Accurate?
We touched on this above but it bears some elaboration. The AK47 is not a precision instrument. You won’t find any military snipers lining up a target with their AK47. At best, it is considered to be fairly accurate to around 300 yards. And that’s fine. Because it’s not intended to take out a hostile who’s perched in a bell tower half a mile away. It’s designed to spray bullets in the direction of enemy forces and make them think twice about advancing in your direction.
Being heavier than the M16/AR15 you might expect the AK47 to be more accurate. But that’s not the case and there are several reasons for that. For example, the bolt on the Kalashnikov is heavier than the bolt on the M16. After firing that heavy bolt flies backward, creating some pretty significant vibrations that make it difficult to hold the gun true and get off your next shot and the shot after that etc with much accuracy. By comparison, experienced shooters are able to hold an AR15 nearly static while delivering multiple shots in quick succession (9).
Is the AK47 Comfortable to Shoot?
Again, the AK47 was not designed for snipers or big game hunters. It was designed to allow Soviet troops to send a blizzard of fire in the direction of Western infantry the poobahs in the politburo assumed would one day appear on the Russian Steppe pushing toward Moscow. The goal was to make a rifle that was fully automatic, required little maintenance, would fire under any conditions and could be wielded by anyone. Check, check, check, check.
The fact that the rifle might not be comfortable for frontline troops to carry and fire was not something that kept Stalin awake at night. That said, it is possible these days to modify the AK47 and make it a bit lighter, a bit more accurate and a bit more comfortable.
The Bottom Line
The AK47 has been in service for more than 70 years and is the most popular rifle ever invented. Renowned for it’s rock-solid dependability and low maintenance requirements it is now produced in more than 30 countries, including the US.
Any of the AK47s on our list will make outstanding hunting rifles, home defense weapons or collectors items and all are produced by reputable manufacturers who understand both the strengths and weaknesses of the original design. Use the information in this buying guide to help determine which AK47 is right for your purposes.