As the American AK market has become more crowded these days, more options mean lower prices. As production and availability for AK rifles increase and the number of options grow, it's a good idea to have a game plan in place as you begin shopping for your next AK.
We've compiled a list of what we think are the 3 key features you can look for to make sure your AK is up to par, and all 3 are pretty well identifiable while you stand at your favorite gun store counter.
Simply put, alignment is making sure the rifle is straight from head to toe. Due to the way AK rifles are built, there's a higher possibility for a crooked result if proper care isn't taken while attaching the barrel or buttstock. To gauge the alignment of the rifle is pretty easy. Pick up the rifle and look down the buttstock toward the front sight. Use the heel of the buttstock, the rear sight, the gas block and the front sight as reference points and make sure that the 4 of them form a straight line. If there's a curvature to the rifle, there may be a problem, so check the alignment both top and bottom. Meaning, once you look down the rifle from the top, turn it over and do it again from the bottom.
Rivets are pressed into place on AK rifles. If they look marred, flat or scraped, corners may have been cut during the build process and somebody may have thought faster was better than right. Rivets should look uniform and round on the rifle. Do not forget to check the bottom of the trigger guard. There are 4 rivets in place there, and they should look as clean as the rivets lining the receiver.
3. Magazine Fit
Now that you have determined that the alignment is good and the rivets have been pressed properly into place, you need to focus on the fit of your favorite style magazine in the AK you are considering. AK magazines are supposed to fit into the receiver with a bit of "slack" or "slop", or more easily described as loosely.
Since there are dozens and dozens of AK mag styles (Bulgarian, Russian, Polish, Magpul, etc.) it's a good idea to take your favorite style of magazine along with you, and test its fit for your AK. If you're shopping in a store, ask a store employee if you can use your own magazines to test the AK before buying. Further, if you're able, remove the dust cover, carrier and bolt and insert the magazine to see if the magazine's feed lips line up correctly with the AK's internal rails. There will be a rail on each side of the inside of the receiver. The magazine's feed lips should run parallel to those rails.
There are plenty of great AK rifles in the market these days, and you can certainly find a quality rifle for an affordable price if you know what to look for while you shop. If you have any additional tips or tricks about how to shop for an AK, we would love to read them in the comments below.
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About Kris Vermillion
Kris Vermillion is a lifelong shooter who focuses his training on defensive shooting techniques and the shooter's mindset. Kris works with Palmetto State Armory doing Ecommerce and Marketing.