JANUARY 14, 2021

Skill Set: Favorite AK

Every year I go through the gun safes, remove everything and wipe ‘em all down with oil. It’s good maintenance and gives me a chance to review the inventory, which has gotten small since I’ve been getting rid of a bunch of guns that I just “collected” -- as opposed to actually shoot. It also prompted this column about my favorite AK – 7.62 x 39mm of course.

I’ve got a few AK’s, all nicer than my favorite. It’s a Romanian “WASR” semi-auto manufactured by the Cugir Arms Factory in Romania and imported by Century Arms International. These were built for import during the ban of 1994 to 2004. They were originally configured to accept single-stack, low-capacity magazines. After Century imported them under the Wassenaar Arrangement Semi-automatic Rifles agreement they were converted to accept standard double-stack magazines. Mine is dated at 2001. Romania stopped producing the WASR rifles and parts in 2008.

I originally bought a couple of these AK’s because they were a good price – cheap means I don’t care if it gets banged up in the truck or field, and also works well as an investment. You never see any of this stuff get cheaper. (Some of the old Norinco firearms imported from China have risen greatly in price.) The pricing also meant that sometimes you’d come across a WASR with the front sight base out of alignment. You can still get a zero, but the rear sight might be way over to one side. It doesn’t hurt the function at all.

What I like about these affordable AK’s is that they embody the true AK doctrine. They’re loose, and rattle when you shake one. They’re “AK accurate,” which is about four to six inches at one hundred yards. These liberal tolerances also mean it’s reliable. Regardless of the field conditions, or your ability to maintain the weapon, it always goes bang. You could bury it in the mud, come back, dig it up, crack the bolt open, dump any kind of old oil in and make sure the barrel is clear and start shooting.

Mine came with an optic mount, which was removed. The trigger has been smoothed out a little, but springs and pull weight are still standard. A notch cut into the safety lever allows the bolt to manually be locked to the rear. I installed a MagPul MOE stock; never been a fan of the folders. The MOE stock fits me well, plus it looks good. The top handguard got busted, so I replaced it with a MagPul handguard but kept the factory bottom guard – I like the way it feels. Most of the furniture has been spray-canned flat black. It’s equipped with an Agile AK sling. The sling mount is part of the front sight base, so it’s important to have a steel attachment on the sling that won’t melt. I normally use Hungarian “tanker” 20 round magazines, which creates a lighter, more compact package.

Why carry an AK? We live in the country. There’s a lot of brush and scrub, and the nearest neighbor is a mile or so away. In this environment you need something that will punch through the flora, or a pickup truck. The 7.62 x 39mm is made to penetrate. (If you live in a populated urban environment this is a disadvantage; the .223/5.56 – which is designed to dump its energy quickly - is ideal for densely populated areas.) The best platform for this round is the semi-auto version of the AK.

I can hear all the real AK guys moaning about now. “That’s not even a ‘real’ AK,” they’ll say. But that don’t matter none to me. Plus, unless yours is fully auto, it ain’t a real AK either. The WASR fits me perfect, both physically and financially, and it does everything I need from an AK. If you’ve never owned an AK, I highly suggest you invest now. They may be a little more expensive these days, but at least you can still buy one. If nothing else find one you can shoot, and at least learn how to manipulate – there’s a lot of AK’s around the world. You never know when you might need to grab one up.

Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy. He is the author of The Book of Two Guns, AR-15 Skills and Drills, has a regular column in American Handgunner and makes some cool knives and custom revolvers. Visit Shootrite’s Facebook page for other details.