February 20, 2013

Interarms Bulgarian Style AK-74 5.45x39mm

The AK-47 is one of the most efficient and widespread assault rifles ever built. Soviet weapons designer Mikhail Timofeevitch Kalashnikov conceived of the basic mechanism while recovering from wounds he received in a tank battle in October 1941 near Bryansk. Though his idea pivoted off the German concept of the assault rifle, Kalashnikov came up with his own design that led to several variants of the mechanism being built in the 1940s. In 1946, substantial revisions to working prototypes by Kalashnikov’s assistant Aleksandr Zaytsev made the resulting 1947 model, the AK-47, especially reliable. The Soviet army officially adopted the AK-47 chambered in the 7.62x39mm Soviet as its battle rifle in 1949, and large-scale distribution of the weapon began in the mid-1950s.

More than 20 years later, although Kalashnikov’s AK-47 and its follow-on variant, the AKM, had proven their effectiveness on battlefields worldwide, the Soviets wanted a lighter version of the AK to compete more effectively with the M16. So Kalashnikov updated and refined the AK-47 to create a smaller-caliber variation, the AK-74, which appeared in 1974 chambered in 5.45x39mm.

Gun Tests magazine recently tested an Interarms Bulgarian Style AK-74 5.45x39mm, $639. This version of the Kalashnikov design first saw service with Soviet forces in Afghanistan, where the 5.45x39mm round was dubbed the "devils round" or "poison bullet" by the .

Here’s what they said:

One of the first issues we need to address is the problem of the 5.45x39mm bullets "key-holing" when they strike a target. According to Century Arms literature, "While barrel-twist rates have a slight effect on performance of the bullet, as we learn more about the 5.45x39mm cartridge, it is generally accepted that the bullet upset phenomenon is an intentional design attribute calculated to avoid over-penetration of a target and maximize energy transfer.”


Unless you have a known need for a wire stock, our testers believe the Interarms Bulgarian Style AK-74 5.45x39mm is the best gun of the trio they tested.

Century goes on to explain that the longer the bullet is in proportion to its diameter, the more twist is needed to stabilize it, and a low-velocity bullet requires a faster twist to stabilize it.

For our test, we chose some standard fodder that we didn’t expect to keyhole. Our first 5.45x39mm round was Wolf’s Military Classic 70-grain FMJ No. MC545BFMJ, a Russian-made steel-cased non-reloadable non-corrosive pick. We bought several 25-round boxes at online retailer CheaperThanDirt.com a while back, but it’s in and out of stock. Next, we went to AmmunitionToGo.com for 120 rounds of Silver Bear’s 60-grain FMJ boattail No. A545NFMJ, $24.95. This ammo is manufactured by JSC Barnaul Machine-Tool Plant in Russia, considered the country’s premier ammunition plant. It is non-corrosive new factory ammo with zinc-plated steel cases that don’t build up lacquer in the action. Last was Monarch’s FMJ 60-grain boattail, available at some Academy Sports stores in the South. It cost $8.79 for a 30-round box.

We ran the velocity numbers on a Competitive Edge Dynamics M2 Chronograph, a lightweight, compact system with a large, easy-to-read LCD screen ($200 from Brownells.com), and had on hand a Magna-Matic Corp. Standard AK Front Sight Tool (#100-005-933, $31, also from Brownells). The hardened steel tool enables fast, easy, precise windage and elevation adjustment on a variety of Kalashnikov-type rifles, and we’ve learned the full-circle clamp is stronger than C-clamps. The T-handle from the circle clamp serves as a wrench to adjust the sight post for elevation. It sure beats using needle-nose pliers to drift the front sight.


Gun Tests liked the shape and texture of the pistol grips on both of the Interarms guns. They gave good control of the back end of the rifle, even if when they handled it with only one hand.

Here’s what we thought:

Interarms Bulgarian Style AK-74 5.45x39mm, $639

The Bulgarian had some items that we liked. The fixed wood stock had a 13-inch LOP that most of our shooters could handle, but the team preferred the wood buttstock and handguards.

The Bulgarian used a replacement Tapco G2 trigger, which was set at a 3.5-pound trigger pull weight. However, this didn’t necessarily transmit into better downrange performance. However, the Bulgarian shot the best-of-test average group sizes at 50 yards, 2.6 inches, using the Wolf Military Classic 70-grain full metal jackets. We had zero misfeeds or misfires.

Our Team Said: Unless you have a known need for a wire stock, our testers believe the Interarms Bulgarian Style AK-74 5.45x39mm is a fine gun. It shot the best groups with at least one cartridge, had fine fit and finish of the wood furniture to the metal, had a even, dark Parkerized metal treatment, and was overall well mannered. What’s not to like?


Comments (7)

Yeah Colonel. Easy to tear down, clean and will put up a solid wall of lead at 100 yds. for sure. Still love my AR buy like you said, a very reliable firearm, and that's what counts in a gunfight.

Posted by: Cecil B | February 24, 2013 7:03 PM    Report this comment

I have several AK pattern pieces, of varying calibers and gauges, in my collection, and if they are anything, they are supremely reliable. Old MTK certainly knew what he was doing when he designed this rifle. Not to slight Jack Stoner, who designed our M16 family of rifles, many of which are also in my collection, but I think if I really had to choose, I'd go with the Kalashnikov line.....

Posted by: canovack | February 24, 2013 5:36 PM    Report this comment

Think we can still buy them for $639?

Posted by: Cecil B | February 21, 2013 11:09 PM    Report this comment

I had one of the earlier Century AK-74s. It was much more accurate than what you are seeing with the Interarms, but I used only Soviet surplus ammo. Perhaps the 53 gr. bullet weight is better for the twist. In any case, the AK-74 is a very useful tool, since you can carry much more ammo than with the AK-47.

Posted by: obxned | February 21, 2013 6:29 PM    Report this comment

It is generally accepted that Century made up that keyholing story to try and cover for all the Polish Tantals they shipped that had .223 bores instead of .221 bores. Goolge it, there are pages and pages of info on this subject. I have an unconverted Saiga in 5.45, it does not keyhole and neither will any other 5.45 that Century did not put the wrong barrel on.

Posted by: jwag74 | February 21, 2013 5:37 PM    Report this comment

Have one of these. Nice gun. Reasonably accurate enough. Little recoil. Reliable as all AKs are, or at least most AKs are. I haven't shot anyone with it' but it does have a good reputation as a man stopper. I still like my 7.62x39 cal AKs better for some reason, but I could carry much more ammo for this caliber. I would feel comfortable with either,

It does compare to the AR in 5.56 in most ways. I suspect one of the main reasons for both is the capacity to carry more ammo on your person. After all you can NEVER have enough ammo!!!!!!!

Posted by: Ridge Runner | February 21, 2013 9:49 AM    Report this comment

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Posted by: ttwoodard | February 20, 2013 10:23 PM    Report this comment

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