Recently I had a Patreon ask me to write a short post explaining my love affair with the AK-47, AKM, AK-74, etc. It's a story that takes us back to around 1986 when I got my hands on my first AKM. It was an under folding stocked Hungarian AKM imported by KBI and it chambered the then unpopular 7.62x39.
Why, you may ask, did I want a rifle that at the time was considered to be "communist junk" and grossly inferior to American firearms like the M14 or even the AR15? The answer was simple. It was the weapon of my natural born enemy -- communists. More specifically, the Soviet Union. I disliked them so much I enlisted in the Marine Corp after high school so I could do my part to rid the world of the communist scourge.
(Above: Clint Eastwood in the 1986 film "Heartbreak Ridge")
While in high school I already had a Colt AR15 A2 Sporter II rifle that I shot all the time and cherished. In fact, I liked it so much I had my senior picture taken with it for my high school yearbook. I'm not kidding. I really did. I even had my finger on the trigger like an 80's rock star. We didn't practice trigger discipline back then and we were proud of it.
(Above: Picture of me with my Colt AR15 for my high school yearbook)
The Hungarian AKM came onto the scene via a local gun show held in the conference room of a Holiday Inn in Lawrence Kansas. Oh, the good old days...
Right away I wanted to see how it stacked up to the AR15, our nations service rifle. That meant I fired it for accuracy using commonly available and inexpensive Chinese made 7.62x39 ammo that had steel cores and was manufactured by Norinco.
I also wanted to see if it was as reliable as Hollywood and Vietnam Vets made it out to be. Keep in mind I was in high school 10 years after the end of the Vietnam War, so stories about the M16 sucking and the AK-47 firing after being dug up from the shallow grave of a NVA soldier and still firing abounded.
(Above: Running the KBI imported AKM through an early version of the "gauntlet" test)
What did I learn? A few things.
First, the AK wasn't nearly as inaccurate as war stories led me to believe. Secondly, the AK wasn't as reliable as war stories indicated. It was a good rifle, no doubt, but it was far from a vastly superior infantry rifle when compared to the M16. As a matter of fact, my early impression was that it was in fact poorly made "communist junk" and it really didn't work any better in adverse conditions than my AR15.
But I loved it. I wanted a Russian made AK so bad I could taste it, but during the Cold War that wasn't going to happen. The best we could hope for were Chinese, Egyptian, Hungarian and Yugoslavian rifles.
(Above: Me with my buddy Mike screwing around near Clinton lake in Kansas in the 80's)
So what brings me to the point now where I absolutely love shooting and collecting AK's? That's a tough question to answer.
It's not because it's the most ergonomic rifle on the market, because it's pretty far down that list. It's not because it's the most well made rifle using only premium materials on the market, that's clearly not the case either. It's not because the 7.62x39 is an amazing caliber, because when compared to other calibers it's rather lackluster at best.
(Above: Out shooting my Definitive Arms AIMS-74 rife.)
So what is it? What is the draw? Why do I have more AK's than any other rifle in my collection? What compels me to own all flavors of AK's including poorly made rifles like the WASR 10 or Egyptian Maadi? I honestly can't answer that question. It's like trying to explain why I love an overcast day in the mid-70's with a slight drizzle of rain. It's not what most people would consider to be "perfect" but for me I find it to be relaxing.
(Above: A vintage picture of an early collection of AK's circa 1986)
Upon reflection I think my interest in the AK and all of its variants stems from my early life and desire to better understand the weapon of my enemy. That interest turned into an obsession and a life long passion that I'm now passing down to my sons.
In the grand scheme of things, there hasn't been a rifle more influential in the 20th and 21st centuries than the AK and its countless variants. No rifle has been produced in greater quantities and to be fair, it's not just the weapon of communist regimes. In many parts of the world the AK symbolizes freedom.
However for me, it will always be the weapon of my enemy... and I love it.