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CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:10

The Different Types of AKs
The question often comes up concerning the different types of AKs. After all, most of what is for sale out there is the AKM model, yet people commonly, and incorrectly, refer to all AKs as AK-47s. AK-47s are one type of AK, as are AKMs and AK-74s. So let me try to shed some light on this. As always, if any of my info is off or incomplete, please let me know so we can all benefit.
I have collected some of these pics over the years and can't recall all the authors or I would give them credit. I can still do that if anyone can validate the origin of a particular picture.

Let's go back to the very beginning. This is the original AK-47, or experimental Assault Rifle No. 1 (1947).

Competitions were held from late 1947 to early 1948 with samples from Dementiev (KB-P-410), Bulkin (TKB-415) and Kalashnikov (AK-47). The results were inconclusive though with Kalashnikov's design not necessarily the best rifle since it suffered in the accuracy department. Regardless, Kalashnikov's design was reliable and that's what the Russians preferred. An order by the Ministry of Armament dated January 21st, 1948, directed both Izhmash and Izhmekh to assist in supplying parts and assemblies for the new rifle. They issued another order in May of 1948 saying that the main production for the new rifle would be done exclusively by Izhmash starting in January of 1949. While production started in mid-1948, official adoption of the AK-47 did not occur until June 18, 1949 by the directive 2611-1033cc of the Council of Ministers. It was formally named 7.62mm avtomat Kalashnikova, yet simply referred to as AK.

This is the first production style AK-47 with a stamped receiver. Two models were made of this first AK with a Type 1A and a Type 1B receiver. The Type 1B receiver had a stamped steel stock that folder underneath and toward the front of the gun, resting under the lower handguard. The picture below is of a Type 1A (fixed stock) receiver. All AK-47s come in 7.62x39.

Here's a picture of one that is still going!

Here is a picture of a Type 1B

Quality problems with the stamped receivers forced Izhmash to switch to a milled receiver until a solution was available. This created the second type of AK-47 receiver, the Type 2A (fixed stock) and the Type 2B (underfolding stock). The new, milled receiver guns were named Oblegchyonnyj (Lightened) 7.62mm avtomat Kalashnikova (AK). Oddly, in the mean time, the Russians were still making the Type 1 despite the high stamped receiver rejection rate. Here is a Type 2A. Note the longitudinal cut just above the mag well that normally identifies the milled AK-47s. Also notice the socket that is added to the back of the receiver to accept the buttstock.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:15

The final version of the AK-47 receiver is the Type 3 built as either the Type 3A (fixed stock) or the Type 3B (underfolder). Quick differences between the Type 2 and 3 receivers include the deletion of the buttstock socket, the addition of the sling attachment at the gas block, and the alteration of the back of the receiver profile. Here is a Type 3A:

And a Type 3B underfolder:

By 1959, the Russians had solved the problems with the stamped receivers and introduced the Type 4A receiver, which is stamped. This is the basic AKM receiver from which all AKMs and AK-74s originate. The Type 4A is made from a 1mm thick piece of stamped steel that is folded into the receiver shape and heat treated. Thicker, 1.5mm steel is used on Chinese, Yugoslavian, and some Bulgarian AKMs. Since it is a stamped piece of metal, all the parts that had been machined into the milled receivers now have to be made separately, installed, and then secured with rivets. The rivets all over the sides of the receiver are a simple way to spot a stamped receiver. Other changes made include the addition of a magazine guide dimple on each side of the receiver on 99% of AKMs, just above the mag well opening, 1000m sights (usually), recontoured barrel, new gas block, new (narrower) front sights, and a relocated bayonet lug. Although the original AKM receiver was used for the 7.62 round, it lent itself to other calibers, including the 5.45x39 (AK-74) and 5.56. Here is a typical stamped Type 4A receiver.

The two rivets on the right (and their counterparts on the opposite side) are used to secure the rear trunnion, which secures the buttstock to the receiver. The one rivet on the left is a reinforcing rivet that spans the width of the receiver.

The three rivets at the front of the rifle (and those on their opposite side) secure the front trunnion to the receiver. On the latest version of the Type 4 receiver, the Russians have added an additional rivet to the front trunnion. Just above the left-most rivet you can see the pin that secures the barrel (which is pressed into place) to the trunnion.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:16

While on the transition from the AK-47 to the AKM, let’s line up the two together and look at the differences besides the obvious machined vs. milled construction. This is a picture of the front ends of the two (well, actually three since I had this picture with an AK-74 too). Note the wider front sights on the AK-47 compared to the AKM, plus the different gas block, method of attaching the bayonet, and the location of the sling attachment loop.

Here are some excellent pictures from a gentleman named Stottman, from another board. If you have not seen his collection of AK pictures, you are missing out.
A Russian AKM. Note the rivets.

And now a Russian AK-47 Type 2A receiver. Note the lack of rivets and the horizontal lightening cut above the magazine well. Those pins you see on the side are not rivets, by the way, but the pins for the fire control group.

No Russian AK-47s or AKMs were ever imported into the US until the Saigas came along. Kits have been imported however, minus receivers, so there are 90% Russian AKs out there. There is even one guy who specializes in rewelding milled receivers, so you could retain the original markings on most of the Russian receiver.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:17

Next on the receiver types is the 4B, which is made for the underfolding AKMS rifles. This AK has the Type 4B receiver.
Picture courtesy avtomatsinaction.

The Type 4C receiver was then added and it incorporated an accessory mount on the left side of the receiver to attach optics. Here is a picture of an AK with the mount…
Picture courtesy avtomatsinaction.

…and with the mount and a sight mounted.

The last of the Type 4 receivers was the Type 4D, which now incorporated a latch mechanism in the front left side of the receiver to secure either a solid or skeleton folding stock. Here is a Type 4C/D receiver with both the accessory mount and the latch mechanism.
Picture courtesy avtomatsinaction.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:19

After the AKM, the Russians switched to the AK-74 and the 5.45x39 round, which as far as receivers were concerned, required very little modification to the Type 4 series. The rest of the gun is a different story however and only 50% of the parts interchange between the AKM and the AK-74 and those are minor parts like pins and springs. The very first AK-74s featured a fixed wooden stock and were simply called the Avtomat Kalashnikova obrazetsa 1974. Note the horizontal groove cut into the buttstock in the picture below. It’s a common myth that the groove was cut into the stock so that soldiers could tell the difference between AKMs and AK-74s in the dark. According to Mikhail himself however, the AK-74 actually turned out to be slightly heavier than the AKM it was replacing, so the groove was cut to bring the weight down.

The first AK-74 rifles were later modified by the addition of plastic furniture. This was done as a result of the lessons learned in Afghanistan, where the harsh environment destroyed the wood used on the original rifles. Here is an AK-74 with the plum, fixed stock. The production run on these was about 3.5 million.
Courtesy avtomatsinaction

Improving the AK-74 series, the Russkies next added a folding stock to the AK-74 series, and incorporated the improvement to some AKM receivers. This metal, side folding stock turned the AK-74 into the AKS-74 (So skladnym prikladom). This type of stock is known as the Type 2 stock, with the Type 1 being the underfolders.

The last change made was the change from the skeleton stock to a normal looking stock that folded and was made from plastic. This final designation became the AKS-74M or AK-74M (Modernizirovanniy or modernized). This stock is officially known as the Type 3 stock.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:21

As a point of interest, there is a Type 4 folding stock, and that’s the wire folder developed by the East Germans and used by the Romanians and Poles on either AKMs or their versions of the AK-74.

On East German MPi-KMS72 (AKM)

On Romanian AIR (AKM)

Polish Kbk wz 88 (Tantal) version of the AK-74

On all of these examples, except the Tantal, the standard Type 4A receiver was used. The folding stock was designed to secure using the rear trunnion normally used for the fixed stock, thereby making production easier and having more flexibility. The Tantal however, had an extra safety selector on the left side and therefore used an iteration of the Type 4A receiver. The last unique version of the Type 4A receiver is the one used on the Hungarian AMD-65. This also featured a folding stock that stowed to the right, but the rear trunnion, swivel, locking system, and strut itself were unique to the AMD. As such, the AMD has cutouts in the rear of the receiver to accommodate the folding stock and cannot be changed to a fixed stock version.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:23

Back to the AK-74…Most of the Commie countries outright copied the Soviet pattern AK-74, but they also added some of their own twists. For example, the FSB on the Romanian AK-74 rifles is unique because the bayonet lug is directly below the sight, where as everyone else placed theirs on an extension behind the FSB. This also required the Romanians to use a unique 22mm muzzle brake that was not interchangeable with the 24mm size used by the other countries.
Common lug and brake.

Romanian lug and brake.

The Romanians also decided to keep the 45 degree gas block from the original AK074 instead of changing to the new 90 degree style used in the modern AK-74 produced after 1977. Here is the original AK-74, circa 1974 (duh).

When the Warsaw Pact countries looked at switching over to the 5.45 caliber, some, like the Poles, asked about obtaining license rights from the Russians to manufacture their own AK-74s. The Russians however, made such a venture very expensive, so much so that the Poles decided to alter the basic design enough that they would essentially have a different rifle that still fired the common round.
Polish Tantals also use proprietary components on their version of the AK-74 and are probably the greatest departure from the standard AK-74 design from any country. The Tantal uses a different muzzle brake than standard AK-74s that permits the firing of rifle grenades, modified mainsprings, handguards, handguard retainer, gas tube, gas tube retainer, FSB, and a few other details. Tantals use a very unique combination of the standard AK safety selector on the right side of the receiver and a fire control selector on the left side based on the FNC design. The right side setting "Z" (Zabezpieczony) worked like the standard AK safety, while the "0" (Odbezpieczony) setting activates the 3-position selector on the left side. "C" (Ciagly) is for full auto, "P" (Pojedynezy ) is for semi-auto, and "S" (Seria) for a three-round burst on the fire control selector. On real Tantals, the ratchet mechanism resets itself after the trigger is released so pulling the trigger again gives you three rounds, not the remainder of what was left before you released the trigger.

The AKM receiver also served as the basis for AKs in other calibers, especially the 5.56x45 NATO. The Russians, Romanians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, East Germans, Yugoslavians, and Chinese have all built 5.56mm chambered AKMs. The Bulgarians have also taken their manufacturing prowess one step further and built milled AKs in 5.56 and 5.45mm.

CarlosC 02-11-2010 22:24

Offshoots. The AK design spawned other rifles centered around the 7.62x39 cartridge. First up in the Finnish Valmet, several version of the Valmet exist with both milled and stamped receivers, but most of what you’ll find are the milled, model 62. Internally, the Valmets are very close to AKs, but externally, they look nothing alike. Valmets are well respected for their quality and accuracy.

Just a quick trip off the 7.62 AK family tree….The Israelis took the Valmet design and used it to create the Galil. The very first Galils were made using Valmet M 62 receivers, but the Israelis quickly discovered they needed to make the receivers stronger to handle the increased operating pressure of the 5.56x45 that the Galil would be chambered in. I believe this picture is from IMI.

Next is the Czechoslovakian VZ-58. All VZ-58s are milled and look like an AK on the outside, but that’s where the similarities end.

The VZ shares nothing with its AK cousin…nothing. Not even the magazine interchange. The operating principle of the VZ is a short stroke piston like the FAL, which smacks the front of the bolt carrier to cycle the action. There is no hammer, the VZ using a striker instead. The bolt and carrier look like a huge version of the Beretta 92’s falling block design.

Okay, I'm done.

Jesu27 02-11-2010 23:03

Awesome Post! I learned a great deal!

Any info reguarding the Yugo's, Tabuk's, Maadi's, or Norinco's?

plugger 02-11-2010 23:38

It is nice to see someone sharing the fruits of his learning so others can be informed. Off to to Congress you go. I will keep this for me and my friends. Hey! is this the start of a new bible, religion, cult,or whatever. Sorry it's the second beer and I got a kick out of you great post. Now to save it, as I must. Do more of this, plz.

jwitagauge 02-11-2010 23:43

This was awesome thanks for the post!

plugger 02-11-2010 23:53

It is nice to see someone sharing the fruits of his learning so others can be informed. Off to to Congress you go. I will keep this for me and my friends. Hey! is this the start of a new bible, religion, cult,or whatever. Sorry it's the second beer and I got a kick out of you great post. Now to save it, as I must. Do more of this, plz.

Glocker08 02-12-2010 00:48

This is really interesting stuff Carlos. I love learning about the history of different firearms, especially AK's. Thanks for posting. :thumbsup:

photoguy 02-12-2010 07:21

Outstanding post!
Thank you

CarlosC 02-12-2010 13:41


Originally Posted by Jesu27 (Post 14739231)
Awesome Post! I learned a great deal!

Any info reguarding the Yugo's, Tabuk's, Maadi's, or Norinco's?

I am working on a post for the Yugos and Chinese (almost finished). The Tabuks are really nothing more than a direct copy of the Yugo rifles, except for the markings. I'll have to think about the Maadis...there's already a good website out there on Maadis and I don't want to simply copy the information.

TerdSlayer 02-12-2010 14:19

This post is just like reading a book, thanks for sharing your knowledge... Looking foward to what you post about the Chinese...

mrbray101 02-12-2010 16:19

Thanks a lot for the write up! I learned a great deal from that, especially since I'm new to the AK world.

Definitely should be a sticky at the top.

Aceman 02-12-2010 16:32


Originally Posted by CarlosC (Post 14742575)
I am working on a post for the Yugos and Chinese (almost finished). The Tabuks are really nothing more than a direct copy of the Yugo rifles, except for the markings. I'll have to think about the Maadis...there's already a good website out there on Maadis and I don't want to simply copy the information.

What you are working on is a book Carlos...and I for one would absolutely buy it.

g29andy 02-12-2010 16:51

Well done!

LEAD 02-12-2010 17:32

Thanks carlos, informative as always.

I may be mistaken, but something I think is true, that a section is lacking is that the Polish Tantal had a selector option of burst fire that other AK varients did not. Sorry if don't think it to be note worthy, but I find it interesting.

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