Illustrated Guide to the AK Platform

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    Illustrated Guide to the AK Platform

    September 22, 2017

    The AK-47 and subsequent models are the most common small arms in the world. The AK platform is also arguably the second-most popular airsoft platform after the AR platform. This illustrated guide reviews the different AK-style rifles available from a historical perspective. Similar variants produced in other countries, e.g., China and Warsaw Pact nations, are not included. The airsoft gun pictures below the description are provided to help you identify a particular variant.

    A guide to airsoft replicas of that variant is listed for your convenience but this is not intended to be a complete list. Some replicas may have been discontinued.


    1. AK Nomenclature

    2. Magazines

    3. AK-47/AKM Series

    4. AK-74 Series

    5. Hundred Series

    6. AK-12 / AK-15

    7. LMG (RPK) Series

    8. Sniper Rifle Variants

    9. Airsoft-only versions

    10. Airsoft buyer’s guide

    11. References

    1. AK Nomenclature:

    N: “N” versions of the AKs have a left side-mounted scope rail for optics or a night sight. “N” is for night-fighting. All versions of the AK from the AK-74M have a scope rail as standard equipment.

    M: “M” versions of AKs are updated or a modernization.

    S: “S” refers to folding stock versions. The “S” is for Skladnoy, or “folding” in Russian. This applies to variants up to the AK-74M when a solid, side-folding stock became standard.

    U: “U” versions of AKs have a very short barrel and are intended for tank crews, etc. The “U” is for “"Ukorochennya" or “shortened” in Russian.

    2. Magazines

    Nearly all AK rifles have a 30-round curved detachable box magazine. AK-47s and AKMs were equipped with metal magazines while AK-74 and later models have plastic magazines. The plastic magazines often have ribbing molded into the front of the magazine to strengthen it. Magazines that were not 30-round include the sniper and RPG variants. The sniper variants (SVD/SVU) have a ribbed 10-round box magazine. The LMG (RPK) series are equipped with either a higher capacity box or drum magazines.

    3. AK-47/AKM Series

    AK-47 / AK-47S (1947)

    Caliber: 7.62x39mm

    Barrel: 415mm

    Stock: Fixed Wood (AK-47), Under Folding Metal (AK-47S)

    Airsoft versions (AK-47): TM (AEG), CYMA (CM042), LCT (LCK47)

    Airsoft versions (AK-47S): TM (AEG), CYMA (CM042S), LCT (LCK47S)

    The design of the AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikov) was based on guns captured during World War II, mainly the German StG44. The AK-47 design is renowned for its ruggedness, simplicity and reliability at the expense of accuracy and ergonomics. The AK-47 had wood furniture as well as the famous curved 30-round box magazine.



    AKM / AKMS (1959)

    Caliber: 7.62x39mm

    Barrel: 415mm

    Stock: Fixed Wood (AKM), Under Folding Metal (AKMS)

    Airsoft Versions:

    The AKM (“AK Modernized”) was an update to the existing AK-47 design. The major change was to a stamped steel receiver making production easier. External changes include a re-design of the pistol grip and buttstock. The most noticeable change may be the addition of a slanted muzzle compensator to reduce muzzle rise. Finger grooves were added to the lower part of the handguard as well as a recess above the trigger guard. The folding stock version has a metal under-folding stock similar to the AK-47S.


    AKM – note slanted muzzle brake as well as grooves on handguard and buttstock

    4. AK-74 Series

    AK-74 / AKS-74 (1974)

    Caliber: 5.45x39 mm

    Barrel: 415mm

    Stock: Fixed Wood (AK-74), Side Folding Metal Skeletal (AKS-74)

    Following the adoption of the 5.56mm round by Western nations, the Russian military changed to a smaller caliber, higher-velocity round as well. The AK-74 was an AKM modified to use the new 5.45x39mm cartridge. One exterior difference is that the AK-74 has horizontal finger groove along the buttstock. The stock on the AKS-74 also differs by having a side-folding skeletal stock rather than an under-folding one.


    AKS-74 with side folding skeletal stock

    AKS-74U (AKSU-74) / (1982)

    Caliber: 5.45x39 mm

    Barrel: 207mm

    Stock: Side Folding Metal Skeletal

    Airsoft versions: TM (Next Gen), CYMA (CM045), E&L (A104), GHK (GKS74U)

    The AKS-74U (or AKSU-74) is a shortened version of the AK-74 issued to vehicle crews and special forces. The length was reduced by shortening the barrel and adding a folding stock. The flash hider is bell-shaped rather than slanted. Often classified as a submachine gun, it sacrifices accuracy for size.



    AK-74M (AK-74MN) (1987)

    Caliber: 5.45x39 mm

    Barrel: 415mm

    Stock: Side-folding solid nylon

    Airsoft versions: TM (Next Gen), CYMA (CM040C), E&L (A106), LCT (LCK74MN), GHK (GK74MN)

    The AK-74M is the latest version of the AK-74. Much like the “Hundred Series”, it has a higher level of finish, black nylon furniture and a folding solid stock. The handguard has horizontal ribbing to improve the grip. A side-mounted rail has been added for optics or night sights as well as a base for grenade launchers. Airsoft replicas may be named AK-74MN. This terminology is redundant as all versions of the AK-74M have a rail system.


    AK-74M with solid side-folding nylon stock

    5. Hundred Series (1994)

    Caliber: Varies – see below

    Barrel: 415mm or 314mm

    Stock: Synthetic, side folding solid

    The AK-100 series is composed of updated versions of AK-74M chambered in different calibers. The exception is the AK-105, which is chambered in 5.45x39mm but has a shorter barrel than the AK-74M. Like the AK-74M all have a side-folding solid synthetic stock and the handguard has horizontal ribbing. Note that the Tokyo Marui and CYMA replicas use an incorrect folding skeletal stock.

    AK-101/AK-102 (1994)

    Caliber: 5.56mm NATO

    Barrel: 415mm (AK-101) or 314mm (AK-102)

    Airsoft versions (AK-102): TM (Next Gen), CYMA (CM047D)

    The AK-101 and AK-102 are export versions chambered in 5.56mm NATO.


    AK-101 with accessories

    AK-103/AK-104 (1994)

    Caliber: 7.62x39mm

    Barrel: 415mm (AK-103) or 314mm (AK-104)

    Airsoft versions (AK-104): CYMA (CM040D), E&L (A103)

    The AK-103 and AK-104 are export versions chambered in 7.62x39mm (AKM). These variants were produced for the many countries who still have ammunition used in the AK-47/AKM.

    AK-105 (1994)

    Caliber: 5.45x39mm

    Barrel: 314mm

    Airsoft versions: CYMA (CM031B), E&L (A108), LCT (LCK105), GHK (GK105)

    As mentioned above, the AK-105 is a shorter barrel version of the AK-74M. The barrel is not as short as the AKS-74U.



    6. AK-12 / AK-15

    AK-12 / AK-15 (2010)

    Caliber: 5.45x39mm (AK-12), 7.62x39mm (AK-15)

    Barrel: 415mm

    Stock: Collapsible

    Airsoft Version: NPO

    The AK-12 is the next generation of AK assault rifles and is currently undergoing trials. Improving accuracy was a major goal of the re-design. A major exterior change is the use of a collapsible stock rather than a side-folding one. The AK-15 uses the legacy 7.62x39mm cartridge.



    7. LMG Series

    RPK / RPK-S (1961)

    Caliber: 7.62x39mm

    Barrel: 591mm

    Stock: Fixed wood

    Magazine: 40 round box or 75 round drum

    Airsoft Versions:

    The RPK is the light machine gun version of the AKM. It has been modified with a longer and heavier barrel as well as adding a bipod and accepting a drum magazine.


    RPK with drum magazine

    RPK-74 / RPK-74S (1974)

    Caliber: 5.45x39mm

    Barrel: 616mm

    Stock: Fixed wood (RPK-74) / Side-folding wood (RPKS-74)

    Magazine: 45 round plastic box

    Airsoft Versions:

    Similar to the RPK, the RPK-74 is a heavy barrel version of the AK-74 and a bipod at the front of the barrel. The RPK-74S has a side-folding wooden stock. Unlike the RPK, there is no drug magazine available. Gunners are issued eight box magazines that can be clipped together.

    RPKN3 / RPKSN3 (RPK-74MN)

    Caliber: 5.45x39mm

    Barrel: 616mm

    Stock: Fixed nylon (RPKN3) / Side-folding nylon (RPKSN3)

    Magazine: 45 round plastic box

    Airsoft Versions:

    The RPKN3 as well as the RPKSN3 are updated versions of the RPK-74. Based on the AK-47M, the N3 versions have a higher level of finish as well as black nylon furniture. A side-mounted rail for optics or a night sight was added. Airsoft replicas may be designated as the RPK-74M or RPK-74MN.


    RPKN3 with mounted scope

    8. Sniper Rifle Variants

    SVD Dragunov (1963)

    Caliber: 7.62x54mm

    Barrel: 622mm

    Stock: Fixed Skeletonized Wood

    Magazine: 10-round box magazine

    Airsoft versions:

    The SVD (Snaiperskaya Vintovka Dragunova) is a sniper rifle based on the standard AK-47 action. It is chambered in a different caliber than the AK-47 and has a longer heavy barrel to make it accurate to 800 meters. The SVD has a side-mounted rail with a detachable PSO-1 (4x24) scope. Later versions of the SVD had polymer furniture instead of wood.


    SVD with PSO-1 scope

    SVU / OTs-03AS (1994)

    Caliber: 7.62x54mm

    Barrel: 520mm

    Stock: Flat metal plate

    Airsoft versions: ASP OTS03

    Magazine: 10-round box magazine

    The SVU (Snaiperskaya Vintovka Ukorochennya) originated from a need for a more compact sniper rifle for the Russian special forces. The major design change was to a bullpup format that allowed the rifle to be made shorter without greatly reducing barrel length. The buttstock was also replaced with a flat metal plate and there is a unique cylindrical muzzle brake at the end of the barrel. Like the SVD, it is chambered in 7.62x54mm and has a PSO-1 scope. Interestingly, the designation SVU is used for a version with iron sights while scoped versions are designated as OTs-03AS.


    SVU with PSO-1 scope and suppressor

    8. Airsoft Only Versions

    There are many versions of airsoft AKs that do not exist in real life. Two common models are listed below:

    Beta Spetsnaz

    Airsoft versions: TM (AEG), CYMA (CM037)

    Originally produced by Tokyo Marui, the Beta Spetsnaz version has a fixed stock and shortened barrel. The Beta Spetsnaz has been cloned by other airsoft companies.

    Tactical, PMC or Contractor Models

    Airsoft versions: Multiple

    The desire to have rails and a modernized look has resulted in airsoft “tactical” models. With synthetic furniture and multiple rails, these models are easier to add accessories than replicas of actual AK rifles.

    AK PMC with railed front handguard and crane stock

    10. Airsoft Buyer’s Guide

    I have listed model numbers of the AKs listed above for Tokyo Marui, CYMA, E&L, LCT and GHK. These are manufacturers with a broad selection of AK models. This list is not meant to be exhaustive as other models exist, e.g., JG, but provided for your convenience.

    ak buying guide.jpg

    11. References:

    Gander, Terry J. Jane’s Infantry Weapons. 1999-2000. Surrey:Jane’s Information Group. 1999.

    Dougherty, Martin. Small Arms. Amber Books. 2006.

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