Online AK Forums
Although there’s no one “Kalashnikov AK-47 Central” website, there are a number of excellent online resources to find reviews of guns, gear and comradeship with fellow travelers.
A great way to keep on top of new innovations or learn about existing “stuff” in great depth is by joining either The AK Files Forums or the AK Forum.net. Or both. Like any forum they have discussion groups on various variants, ammo, optics and other gear. If you want to get insights on your particular brand of rifle, this is the place to go. If you want to delve into esoterica about milled receivers, reloading, slant brakes or RPKs, hanging out at these forums will certainly educate you.
Bloggers who regularly cover the AK Space
On Facebook the AK Operators Union, Local 47-74 otherwise known as “AKOU” is all AK, all the time. It was founded by Rob Ski who produces product reviews, videos, training exercises, thoughtful commentary and rants on everything AK. He’s famous for dropping rifles and other gear until they literally break. Unlike many so-called “Operators” he was actually trained with an AK as part of his military service in Poland. Many of his FB members are from Eastern Europe including Russia, Poland, and Serbia. Rob acts as a bridge between the East and West. In addition to his commentary, he runs an online store which sells gear that he has personally vetted. He also has Website, a Twitter feed and a YouTube Channel.
Tim Harmsen, aka “Mac”, is the host of the Military Arms Channel, Full30 and Military Arms Channel Facebook page. Affable and extremely knowledgeable, he covers the gamut when it comes to firearms but has a special place in his heart for the AK platform. He’s also an entrepreneur who sells a variety of first class firearms at his Copper Custom store which is both an online and bricks and mortar affair.
AK47ChatterBox.COM is actually a Facebook page run by Mike Vican. Mike has a sort of 30,000 foot view of the AK space and he republishes reviews from AKOU, Mrgunsngear and other Internet sources. His page is also strictly AK and just perusing it will give you a great feel for what’s out there in the way of rifles and accessories.
Mrgunsngear is also popular Internet gun guru who has a strong affinity for the AK. A graduate of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Center, Mike has done stints in the USAF as well as the Army. He’s not connected to any kind of business venture that conflicts with his video blogging. If he finds flaws in a product he’s reviewing, he’ll tell you without worrying about offending the manufacturer. We respect him greatly for that. He has produced over 600 videos to date.
Larry Vickers a highly decorated Special Ops veteran, offers classes around the country under the aegis of his company, Vickers Tactical. Considered the dean of tactical training, he’s also a big fan of the AK platform. A firearms historian and gunsmith his video, Inside the AK 74, has received over a 1.2 million visitors on YouTube and counting.
Graham Baates, a contributor to this book, owes his respect of the AK platform to his combat experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. After a decade of specializing in small arms and Eastern European studies for the US Army, Graham currently works as a consultant and has a popular YouTube channel with a number videos on the AK platform as well as other subjects.
There aren’t too many of these. A company called Ultimak, which designs AK rails, has a terrific User Resources page with background info on electronic sights, FAQs and basic instructions on removing and replacing an AK stock. Cheaper than Dirt, the online store, has a blog style Buyer’s Guide to the AK Family of Rifles that’s quite good, albeit dated. Likewise, AR15.com has a comprehensive AK Buyers Guide with a gallery that illustrates a number of variants.
Where to Buy Guns and Accessories
Naturally every vendor of AK “stuff” has a Facebook page and a website. I prefer the FB pages simply because they are updated regularly.
Here are some places to go where you’ll get quality products:
>>AK Builder.com is a one stop shop for the hobbyist. You can purchase parts, parts kits and all manner of tools.
>>Apex Gun Parts sells AK kits and a plethora of parts.
>>Atlantic Firearms is the largest volume seller of AK rifles in the nation. They have
>>Aim Surplus has a nice selection of AKs–both foreign and domestic.
>>Brownells is a good place to purchase parts, tools, videos and even books at reasonable prices. They also have an excellent tech support lineup that can be extremely helpful.
>>Carolina Shooters Supply has a wide variety of AK rails, handguards and the like.
>>Circle 10 AK sells exclusively AK parts such as muzzle brakes and handguards as well as rifles.
>>Copper Custom, owned by Internet celeb Tim Harmsen sells high quality AKs, among other guns.
>>Definitive Arms builds a variety of semi-custom AKs that are highly regarded.
>>Echo Nine Three sells slings, sling adapters, furniture and other AK items. They have really nice art on their FB page.
>>Krebs Custom builds high end semi-custom AK rifles and a number of parts designed in house such as KeyMod rails, gun sights, and safety selectors.
>>K-VAR.com sells a plethora of imported and domestic AK parts. It distributes Arsenal rifles and has a very knowledgeable sales staff.
>>Magpul, a rather large name in the AR 15 space, also sells AK-centric parts such as magazines, stocks, handguards and other furniture.
>>Midwest Industries manufactures a variety of good quality AK parts at reasonable prices.
>>Red Star Arms has a number of specialty parts such as high quality triggers, disconnector springs, sights and retainers.
>>Rifle Dynamics is well known for their top flight semi-custom guns and manufactures their own proprietary parts such as an M4 adapter and a custom rear sight. They also offer build-your-own AK classes at their Las Vegas shop. I’ve heard great things about the classes, which usually fill up way ahead of time.
>>RS Regulate sells state-of-the-art AK optics mounts that will fit most variants.
>>R&R Targets specializes in custom parts for Saiga Shotguns and AKs. This includes a souped-up Tapco G2 trigger, an AK to AR style stock adapter, a custom safety, handguards and other items.
>>SGM Tactical has a variety of items specifically for the VEPR. This includes rails, stocks, handguards and muzzle brakes.
>>Ultimak sells lightweight rails, mounting systems and optics that fit just about every AK variant.
>>Tapco, primarily a manufacturer of AR gear, also sells AK parts such as magazines, triggers and grips.
>>Vltor sells mostly AR parts but has a few high end AK items such as a stock adapter.
Online Sales Sites
>>Gunbroker.com is the biggest and baddest auction site of all. They sell both guns and gun parts.
>>Armslist.com has guns for sale by owners and dealers at a fixed price. They divvy up their site state by state.
>>Gunsamerica.com also has a wide variety of firearms for sale by owners and dealers.
>>Auctionarms.com is a site where my colleagues and I have purchased a number of items through the years with good experiences.
If you want to get proficient on your rifle a good step to take, says Graham Baates a contributor to this book, is to take an advanced carbine course. These are available at facilities such as Front Sight in Nevada, Thunder Ranch in Oregon, and Bill Rogers Shooting School in Georgia. There are a host of lesser known schools that are perfectly suitable.
The caveat is that if you’re interested in a particular school, first ascertain if there’s an instructor at the school who is familiar with the AK platform before you plunk down your fee. Advanced students might consider courses from the AK Operators Union, Vickers Tactical or Haley Strategic. There are undoubtedly other good courses out there for AK-centric individuals.
THE GUN is a Pulitzer Prize winning book by NY Times reporter and former marine, CJ Chivers. The book is a social history of the AK-47 (which he has called a “stubbornly mediocre arm”) that examines the origins and proliferation of automatic arms, and their influence on war.
He chronicles the development of the AK in detail. For example, Chivers reports that contrary to popular belief the AK was not the sole brainchild of Mikhail Kalashnikov. Rather it was a rifle designed, Soviet style, by committee. If you’re going to read one book on the history of this rifle, this is it.
(CJ Chivers’ blog is also well worth visiting and has some graphic photos of the kind of mayhem that an AK can wreak.)
AK-47 the Grim Reaper by Frank Iannamico is considered by many as the definitive collector’s book on the AK platform. With 1100 plus pages, it covers the complete series of the AK rifles country by country, and is illustrated with photos that examine the most minute details. This entails photos of that identify individual rifles by manufacturer, year and serial number, markings, etc.
The World’s Assault Rifles by Gary Paul Johnston and Thomas B. Nelson is a 1200 page tome with nearly 2,000 illustrations that exhaustively covers every facet of the assault rifle, country by country. Take-down, theory of operation, and history of development are examined for all weapons. AK enthusiasts will note that the first chapter looks at the evolution of rifle ammunition with special attention to the genesis of the Russian 7.62x39mm AK-47 round.
Brian Conrad of Krebs Custom suggests that those interested in the AK should try to obtain Masami Tokoi’s masterpiece, AK-47 & Kalashnikov Variations, which is out of print.