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AK47 Showdown: Who Makes the Best AK47?

AK47 Showdown: Who Makes the Best AK47?

 

 

Mikhail Kalashnikov’s greatest invention, the Avtomat Kalashnikova (better known as the AK-47 or simply the AK), is the world’s most prolific assault rifle and one of the best self-loading rifle platforms ever made.

AKs are well-known for their durability, reliability, relative simplicity, and ease of maintenance. They are so iconic that even people who don’t know anything about firearms can instantly recognize an AK.

American gun owners looking to add an AK to their collection have many options available. However, like any popular firearm platform, not all AKs on the market are created equal. If you’re looking for the best AK-47 on the US civilian market, here are the top choices available today.

1. Best Overall: Arsenal SAM7

Arsenal SAM7R AK47

  • Country of origin: Bulgaria

  • Manufacturer: Arsenal AD

  • Importer: Arsenal, Inc.

  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm

  • Receiver: Milled

  • Stock: Fixed or side-folding (under-folding for the M-7 Classic)

  • MSRP: $1,899 to $2,499 depending on model

By far, the best imported AK pattern rifles you can buy today in the United States are the SAM7 rifle series. These rifles are made by Arsenal AD on the same assembly lines as the select-fire AR-M1 rifles used by the Bulgarian military.

Unlike many imported AK-pattern rifles, the SAM7s are not military surplus; they are genuine, current-production rifles.

While most AK rifles use stamped receivers (patterned after the AKM), the SAM7 uses a milled receiver cut from a single steel block, just as the original pre-M AK-47 did. Although AKs with milled receivers are a little heavier, they are also far more durable.

However, even among milled-receiver rifles, this Bulgarian-made rifle has the reputation of being exceptionally reliable. Staff members at Battlefield Vegas, a well-known Las Vegas shooting range, once reported in 2015 that even after shooting over 100,000 rounds, these receivers have never experienced a single failure.

All currently-imported SAM7 rifles are chambered in the original 7.62x39mm cartridge. Three models are available: The fixed-stock SAM-7R, the side-folding SAM-7SF, and the M-7 Classic, a wood-furniture rifle with an AKMS-style under-folding stock.

2. Best Value: Cugir/Century Arms WASR-10

Century Arms WASR AK

  • Country of origin: Romania

  • Manufacturer: Cugir SA

  • Importer: Century Arms

  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm

  • Receiver: Stamped

  • Stock: Fixed (WASR-10), under-folding (WASR-10 UF)

  • MSRP: $1,099 to $1,199

The WASR-10 is another well-known version of the AK available to US civilian shooters. Although it is produced by the Romanian state-owned arms manufacturer Cugir SA, American shooters may be more familiar with the importer’s name: Century Arms.

The WASR-10 is a reasonably-priced rifle that offers nearly identical features and performance to the original Soviet AKM, right down to the stamped receiver. Available with fixed or under-folding stock, it is chambered in 7.62x39mm and comes with classic wooden furniture, just as you’d expect an AK to possess.

Though stamped-receiver AKs are slightly less durable than milled ones, the difference may not be significant to the average shooter, as they are not known to experience failures until many tens of thousands of rounds.

By far, the main draw of the WASR AK is its pricing. The WASR-10 is one of the best values for the US shooter’s money, a reputation it has enjoyed for over a decade.

The WASR-10 is often among the top recommendations for first-time AK buyers due to being an affordable yet desirable imported rifle with a classic look and feel, continued availability, and high build quality.

3. Best AK Pistol: Zastava Arms ZPAP92

ZPAP92 AK47

  • Country of origin: Serbia

  • Manufacturer: Zastava Arms

  • Importer: Zastava Arms USA

  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm

  • Receiver: Stamped, 1.5mm

  • Stock: None

  • MSRP: $1,064

Zastava Arms is Serbia’s premier small arms and artillery manufacturer, supplying the Serbian military with all types of equipment, from pistols to cannons.

The most well-known Zastava products are local copies of the AK-47, the Zastava M70, and its many derivatives. Although the first Zastava AKs that hit the US civilian market were surplus Yugo AKs, today’s Zastava products are modern-production weapons.

Built on the same assembly lines as the military rifles, the ZPAP92 is essentially a pistol version of the M70. It benefits from the same manufacturing techniques unique to Zastavas, such as the 1.5mm thick steel stamped receiver (identical to the RPK machine gun).

The ZPAP92 also comes with a high-durability, cold hammer-forged barrel with chrome-lining for additional corrosion resistance.

As with other pistol versions of popular rifle platforms, the ZPAP92 does not feature a stock. Instead, it is available with either a sling swivel or a short length of vertical Picatinny rails for installing a stabilizing brace.

4. Best US-Made AK: Palmetto State Armory PSAK-47 GF3

Palmetto State Armory PSA AK 47

  • Manufacturer: Palmetto State Armory

  • Country of origin: United States

  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm

  • Receiver: Stamped

  • Stock: Various

  • MSRP: $699 to $1,049

While most AKs available on the US civilian market are imports made in ex-Soviet states, American-made versions are also available. Once known for their poor reputation and many reliability issues, US-made AK-47 rifles have since vastly improved, and the best example of that progression is the Palmetto State Armory PSAK-47 GF3.

The GF3 in the name stands for Generation 3, Forged. It means it is Palmetto’s third generation of AK-47 rifles. GF3 rifles were the first PSA AK-47s to enjoy widespread success, offering US shooters competitive pricing and equal or higher quality compared to many imported rifles.

What makes third-generation PSA AK rifles unique is their high-strength construction: A hammer-forged steel bolt, carrier, and front trunnion, paired with a hardened stamped steel receiver and a nitride-treated 4150 barrel (similar to AR-15 barrels). The result is a highly reliable rifle that delivers the accuracy and reliability enthusiasts expect from an AK-47.

Palmetto offers the PSAK-47 with wood, plastic, or Magpul furniture and with many stock offerings. Options include classic wood, skeletonized side-folding, under-folding, Zhukov fixed stocks, and even AR-15 style Magpul MOE stocks.

 

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Equip Yourself with Knowledge and Gear

Whether you prefer genuine imported rifles from historical manufacturers or 100% US-made models that aren’t subject to importation laws, there are still many ways to enjoy shooting this classic Soviet-era design.

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