The ever-popular AK-47 has been made in many countries over many years, and in many variants. They have been around a long time and are still being manufactured new today. Some are better than others, and the buyer will have to do some research to find the best bargain, and luck might have a part to play as well. In an effort to clear away a tiny bit of the fog, we acquired one of the recently offered fixed-stock versions from Romania, called the WASR-10 (about $450), and put it up against a recently made Yugoslav version with a folding stock, called the M70 AB2 (about $500). Both were in the original 7.62×39 caliber, and both were in near-new condition. Our test ammo was two-fold only, Russian hollow-point and Chinese soft nose. Both rifles had what we consider to be excellent triggers. And besides the caliber and pedigree, that’s about all they had in common. We took a hard look at them, and here’s what we found.
Romanian AK-47 WASR-10 7.62×39, about $450
WASR stands for Wassenaar Arrangement Semiautomatic Rifle. The name comes from a Dutch town where the international agreement on exportation of small arms was born. In simplest terms, it means this rifle originally took a single-stack magazine, but it has been altered by Century Arms to accept staggered, higher-capacity mags. The modifications included a new trigger group, and perhaps other inner mods that don’t affect us here. The main complaint about such rifles seems to be the lack of magazine-stabilizing dimples on the side of the action, coupled with an occasional failure to function correctly. In place of the dimples, the inside of the action has bits of steel spot-welded in place to accomplish what the dimples used to do. The bottom-line question is, Does it work? The short answer for our test rifle is: Yes.
The action included a rail for a scope. No scope was forthcoming with the rifle, nor have we seen any offerings online for whatever scope is supposed to go on that rail. However, a scope and an AK-47 are not the best of partners, seems to us. So what you get is a bit of added weight on the left side of the action. This Romanian rifle had a laminated stock with a glossy finish. Our best guess is birch laminations. The stock was very well made, though the fit of butt stock to action was typical reworked military, i.e., not very good. The forend fared better as to fit. The top wood of the forend was not a lamination, but one-piece of what appeared to be birch. There was a polymer pistol grip that we liked, too. If we owned this rifle, we’d sand down the glossy finish and slap on some linseed oil to dull the shine.
The quality of the Parkerizing was reasonable, but the underlying metalwork left a bit to be desired, we thought. The sights were good enough. The post front was adjustable with a special tool for elevation, and by drifting for windage. It needed no adjustments, though. The rear ladder sight had white-painted numbers ranging from 1 to 10 with a P position as well. The rear notch was well mated to the front sight and presented an excellent sight picture. Older eyes will like the placement of the rear far out on the gun, making it easier to get into focus.
The gun had a screw-on flash hider, but it was loose. These hiders (the other gun had a similar device) are retained by a sprung plunger that catches one of several notches on the base of the flash hider to secure it to the rifle. However, this one needed something like a lock washer under it to prevent movement during firing. This rifle had a tendency toward excellent accuracy, and we suspect locking that flash hider would improve things.
Takedown was normal and very easy, typical for the breed. Clear the gun, close the bolt, leave it cocked, press the rear button and remove the action cover. Take out the recoil spring assembly, move the bolt fully rearward, and lift it out of the gun. To remove the bolt from its carrier, push the bolt fully rearward, turn it a quarter turn clockwise, and remove it toward the front. It’s not really necessary to remove anything else. The gas-tube assembly, which includes the top piece of the forend wood, is easily removed by rotating a lever to the right of the rear sight, but in our experience the tube doesn’t need to be removed very often. The hammer can be lowered to get better access to the bottom of the receiver for cleaning. We thought the parts inside this gun were well-enough made, though not as smoothly polished nor quite as well machined as those on the Yugo-made gun. Reassembly was a simple reversal of the above. Make sure the hammer is cocked first.
On the range we had only one slight problem. The gun came with a 30-round magazine that fit it well. However, we tried a 10-round mag from the other gun and it was a bit sticky going into the Romanian gun. The sides cleared, but the latch was very tight. The 30-rounder from the Romanian gun fit the other gun perfectly. The stickiness could be easily blamed on the magazine. There were exactly no problems with feeding, firing or extraction/ejection. The gun ran well. Even more satisfying, the target showed an occasional tendency of this rifle to group exceedingly well. Our best three-shot group at 50 yards measured just 0.6 inch. Most were in the 1.5-inch to 2-inch range, with some of our very first groups larger than that. The gun seemed to be settling in, and it will be interesting to see if that continues.
Our Team Said: We thought this was a very good deal for an AK-47. It might not please the purist, but it was a good rifle with no problems that we found. There were no extras, no bells and whistles — some of which the other gun had — but it ran well, shot well, looked essentially like an AK-47 is supposed to look, and did it all for what we thought was a reasonable price. We took it down a notch for the loose flash hider and poor fit of the butt stock to the action. The action was actually a bit slicker than that of the Yugo, probably due to the rifle’s having seen some slight use, while the other was essentially new.
Yugoslavian AK-47 M70 AB2 7.62×39, about $500
This rifle was made by the Zastava factory, at Kragujevac, Yugoslavia. That factory produced many of the Interarms rifles based on the 98 Mauser, many of which were sold under the Parker Hale name. The factory made some pretty good Mauser 98s during WWII, and under the name Zastava Arms, made the recent Remington M98-type rifles. Right off the bat we found this rifle had much nicer metal work than the other one. Also, the wood had a dull, oil-like finish that greatly enhanced the appearance of this one. There were essentially no blemishes to the metal finish. The fit of wood to metal was also superior, as was the general shape of the Yugo’s forend on the bottom. The Yugo had other nice features, like a grenade-launching sight, which folded against the forend wood, and a night sight that folded down against the front-sight standard, but it was missing the glowing insert. There was also a folding rear leaf that should have held two tritium elements to match the front post. However, the tritium elements were all missing from our test rifle. There were cleanly made holes for three tritium pellets, or perhaps phosphorus as on early versions, but nothing had ever been put into the holes.
There was a Tapco muzzle piece that should have deflected the gases upward to reduce muzzle jump. However, this piece could only be locked into place at an angle, which we thought was not quite right. It would require another notch to be filed or milled to let it sit in the correct position. On the good side, this muzzle piece was free from wobble and looseness, unlike the flash hider on the other gun. The iron sights were of the same design as on the Romanian gun, though not filled with white on the rear elevation scale.
This Yugo version of the AK-47 had the Tapco USA G2 trigger group, just like the other rifle. The pull felt identical on both guns, giving what we thought were excellent triggers. The pistol grip had more pronounced checkering on its sides, but on such a design good checkering is secondary, we thought. The main control comes from finger grooves, which this one had but the Romanian one didn’t. One further difference was the takedown. On this rifle it was necessary to shove a button crosswise at the rear of the receiver before the main takedown button could be pressed fully forward. The purpose of this is apparently to prevent the dust cover flying off during extended grenade launching. We found the main dust cover to be sticky to remove. On further inspection, we discovered that the two actions were of vastly different contours at their front ends. The dust cover of the Romanian was more than half an inch longer. Clearly, not all AK parts will interchange.
Next we come to the folding stock. In short, we have no great liking for it. We found it painful on the face and not that easy to deploy in its nearly new, stiff condition. Not all shooters were kicked in the chops by the stock, so that’s not a universal complaint, but we’d wrap it with leather or something soft if we owned it. Another annoyance was its tendency for the stock’s shoulder piece to straighten out at the worst times. It would also easily catch on an insulated, somewhat baggy jacket and hinder quick mounting. The folding stock did allow the gun to be fired without the use of the stock, and that might be handy in close quarters. (But for that situation, many prefer a powerful handgun. Of course not many handguns can fire 30 rounds.) The question thus becomes, When are you supposed to unfold the stock? We’ll leave that up to the owner. We tried a few shots offhand with the stock folded, and noticed the rifle recoiled quite a long distance, more than we expected, so be careful trying to use the sights with the stock folded. Tuck the gun under your arm for better control, but of course that eliminates the use of the sights. While that’s okay for extreme close range, such as indoors, some of us have been trained to use the sights at all times.
On the range we had zero problems. Full reliability was the order of the day. Accuracy was perhaps a shade less than that of the fixed-stock rifle, but was not bad, we thought. The smallest three-shot group at 50 yards was with the Chinese ammo, at 1.5 inches. The worst was with the same ammo, 4.2 inches, and we’re sure part of that one was our fault, not the gun’s. On a chilly fall day we tried to avoid the cold, hard, metal stock, and that did nothing for the target results. All in all we thought the accuracy was plenty good enough for any reasonable mission of such a rifle.
Our Team Said: We thought this was a better-quality rifle than the Romanian one, all things considered. We liked the extra treat of the grenade sight, and some will just love the folding stock. Note that these rifles may not still be available for the price quoted. Today’s price could well be over $600, depending on supply.