Note: This was originally part of a discussion comparing the AK to the SKS. I’ve updated and changed it a bit, in order to make it more comprehensible to readers who’ve just come here and weren’t part of the original discussion.
For the record, I like both the Kalashnikov and the Simonov. Neither weapon is perfect, and both have their advantages and disadvantages, whether compared to each other or to other rifles.
The Simonov is definitely more accurate than the AK, probably due to the longer barrel. Mine's a 20", but I've seen "paratrooper" models that were 18"or so. In terms of cheapness, reliability and accuracy, I'll give it a thumbs-up. This may run contrary to some opinions, but in my experience, the Warsaw Pact models are of higher quality than are the Chinese.
The bluing - while admittedly more light-reflective - is better and more durable than the phosphate finish on the Chinese rifles. Also, loading from strippers - while more convenient than loading one by one, is not quite as simple as it looks. The lips of the strippers need to be kept lubed (Don't
TOUCH that one, you sickos. Get your minds out of the gutter. We're talking about guns here.) preferably with something that won't bleed over into the primers of your cartridges, as this can ruin your day, for obvious reasons. If rust forms inside said lips, loading can be somewhat difficult. This is relatively minor stuff, though.
The real downside is that the fore-end tends to heat up, especially when the weapon is fired rapidly. The other problem - especially with the Chinese models - is reassembling it after field stripping. The pin that holds the trigger group to the receiver is so stiff that I had to use a c-clamp to pop it back into
place. Also, the cleaning rods are apt to fall out if one is running or otherwise bouncing the weapon around. They can be replaced for about twelve bucks, but it's still a pain in the butt.
Actually, I'm not "coming down" on the weapon. I love mine, but there are a few shortcomings, and I ain't gonna lie about them. The real upside is that the thing will work even when filthy, and it's virtually impervious to wear and tear. It is best to keep the trigger group clean, though, or you may
experience slam fires and other things that might attract unwanted attention or result in injury.
Overall, the weapon is extremely accurate (Note: for 7.62 x39, that is), and while the 7.62 Soviet cartridge doesn't shoot as flat as the .223 Rem., It's a much better "brush cutter". I've -literally - had rounds fired from my Mini-14 deflected by twigs or even heavy underbrush. Not the 7.62, though. This might come as a surprise, but in terms of performance, the 7.62 Soviet cartridge is interestingly similar to the .30/30.
I love the AK. Mine's an MAK-90 (also Chinese, although I might trade it in for a Romanian or Yugoslavian model).(Note: Ultimately, I did no such thing. I stuck with it and customized it until I was satisfied. Pictures to come, perhaps.) It's not as accurate as the SKS, and has a shorter effective range, but it will stand up to equally rough treatment. It definitely packs less recoil than the Simonov, possibly because the weapon's mass/length ratio puts it on the "blocky" side. Mine weighs a
little over ten pounds when loaded.
With the 16" barrel, the already interesting trajectory of the bullet is even more exaggerated, which can be very disconcerting to people who are used to the .223 Rem. Recoil is almost negligible - my buddy's very petite wife was able to shoot one with no discomfort at all - and that's a plus, too, especially at ranges under 75 yards or so, at which recovery could really matter, if you catch my drift… As the weapon was designed in the aftermath of the "spray and pray" style of warfare that occurred on the
eastern front during WWII, that's exactly what it's made for. History buffs will note that "Comrade" Kalashnikov borrowed liberally from the German Stg-44 when designing the weapon.
Mr. Miyagi is SO right about the distinctive sound. That box-like, stamped steel bolt cover produces a noise unlike anything else, especially when firing rapidly. It sounds like somebody shaking a marble around in a tin can, only louder, as the receiver acts as a sort of "echo chamber" and amplifies the mechanical noise of the weapon. It doesn't sound like anything else, period. It's absolutely unmistakable.
Even the act of moving the safety lever (doubles as a selector switch in full-auto models) produces a rather loud, hollow-sounding click, which Could very well be a setback, under some circumstances. It also
shares a problem with the SKS: the fore-end heats up rather quickly.
Overall, it's another "thumbs-upper". I won't call it the finest weapon Of the 20th century but it's a damn close second, and I wouldn't trade mine for anything (except a Romanian or Russian model)! The Soviet economic system was a combination of idiocy and suicide, but they made some damned good weapons. Cheap, reliable, durable, and definitely "no-frills". To me, beauty is the result of form following function, so I'd have to consider Both the SKS and the AK to be rather beautiful weapons, as "crude" as they may
appear on the surface.
While strippin'n'cleanin' after a shooting party, some time ago my buds and I were joking that "If this piece breaks, we can just cut and bend some coathanger wire!" and we were only half-kidding. And speaking of stripping and cleaning…
Stripping (and reassembly, for that matter) is sheer simplicity, and when one does this , he really learns to appreciate the brilliance of the design. The mechanisms are so simple, that almost nothing can go wrong. Hell, if one takes a look at the RPK light machinegun, he'll note that it's nearly identical, except for the stock and the longer, heavier barrel. The AK design is also the basis of the PKS machinegun, which goes to show that Ivan (if nothing else good could be said of him) understood that “You don’t mess with success”.
Final verdict? I’ll keep both of ‘em.
©2002, 2006, David J. Bean