I can be a girly girl when I want to be one, but I still like to wear camo and hunt on the ground instead of from tree stands and blinds. I especially like training on the pistol range and sometimes I take out my trap gun and shoot a few rounds with the boys at the shooting club. But, never — not even a year ago — would I have dreamed that I would be raving about, and I mean mad about, an AK-47.


I have Frank Pennachio of I.O. Inc. to thank for my conversion to an AK fan. It all happened when I searched for women at the NRA Annual Meetings & Exhibits last May in Phoenix who admired pink guns. I noticed I.O. Inc.’s AK-47 with its pink furniture (the gunny terminology for a gun’s buttstock and forend). I talked to Frank about the gun and he told me that I.O. Inc. would be selling this pinkish version of the gun soon. Then, in early July, he sent me an e-mail asking me if I’d be interested in shooting one of the guns. Shortly after that, he sent me an e-mail telling me that mine would be the first gun off the production line with pink furniture. And, then, when I received the gun, it came with I.O. Inc’s compliments. I thought so highly of this gift, I featured I.O. Inc. in an ad — full disclosure — on this website. (They get several click-thru’s on it per week, by the way!)

The gun arrived at my FFL dealer’s place a few weeks ago. I think all the guys in the shop and those who stopped in before I did admired it. The gunsmith’s teenage daughter wants to shoot it and we have a future date on the range for her “pink gun experience.”

Before I took the AK to the range, I took it apart — under the tutelage of my husband, former commander of an international military shooting team for the Royal Air Force. Some of the parts were stiff and it was quite oily, but that’s to be expected with a new gun. I ran a patch through it a few times, wiped it down and put it back together. No problem.

We then went to the range, and as in most cases, we like to shoot the same course of fire so my husband brought along his short-barreled FN FAL to shoot. To say I doubled up on ear protection is almost unnecessary. I wore my purple Brite-Ears inside my muffs.

I shot at a target about 25 yards away, and I liked the group I produced with the gun. And, the AK-47 handled easily. I could insert a magazine with one hand, while I held the gun up with my shooting hand. I then shot it 40 yards and then, about 100 yards. Of course, the AK’s accuracy diminished with distance (the gun was never intended to be a precision, long-range firearm).

Then, I shot my husband’s FN FAL and compared the two. I could not insert a magazine into the FN FAL without putting down the gun, because of its weight. It touts a nice sight (military version of the EOTech Holosight) where my AK has iron sights, but the FN FAL is a different animal than my rifle. Overall, I think women will appreciate being able to manage and deliver the firepower available in an AK-47, as opposed to the FN FAL. And, as my husband said, “Now you know why nine-year-old boys can pick up this gun and commit terrorist acts in the world.” I hope he didn’t mean I have arms comparable to a nine-year-old’s arms!

The technical part: The AK-47 (Avtomat Kalashnikov, Model 1947) versus the FN FAL – Fusil Automatique Léger (Light Automatic Rifle), originally manufactured by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal (FN) of Belgium (my husband’s is an Austrian variant, the StG58)

The AK-47 was developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov, and accepted into use in 1949. The most widely used assault rifle in the world, it is a select-fire rifle (the shooter is able to select full automatic fire or semi-automatic fire), so it is an assault rifle by definition. It is gas operated, using a long-stroke piston to drive the bolt carrier and bolt out of battery. The gas piston operation isolates carbon-laden propellant gases, and keeps them away from the bolt and bolt carrier.

Because of its widespread use in the West, the FN FAL has been called “the right arm of the Free World.” FN introduced the prototype in 1947, and first produced the rifle in 1953. It too is gas operated, using a short-stroke piston to drive the bolt carrier and bolt out of battery. Some rifles are select-fire, and some are semi-automatic only.

The AK fires a 7.62 x 39 mm (M1943) caliber cartridge, and its design used a combination of proven rifle technologies plus creative new concepts. The early design had a welded, stamped sheet metal receiver; manufacturing problems led to the use of a machined metal receiver until introduction of the AKM with a modernized riveted sheet metal receiver in 1959.

The FAL fires a 7.62 x 51 mm caliber cartridge (the NATO standard .30 caliber rifle and light machine gun cartridge), and its gas regulator allows adjustment of the gas system for more or less robust opening of the bolt and extraction of the spent round. Depending on their country of manufacture, rifles were made in either English dimensions (the so-called inch rifles) or metric dimensions and most parts are not interchangeable between inch and metric rifles.

Advantages of the AK design compared to the FAL are lighter weight, a shorter and lighter cartridge (each trooper can carry more of them), the guns are simple to build, shoot, clean, and maintain, and they are inexpensive and rugged.

The advantages on the side of the FAL are the ability to fire most variants of its cartridge (including rifle grenade-firing cartridges) because of the gas regulator, relatively light recoil in semi-automatic operation, and a high-power rifle cartridge that is effective at long ranges (600 meters and beyond).

Disadvantages of the AK design are relative inaccuracy compared to Western assault rifle designs (because of the loose tolerances in gun design and the fact that the long-stroke piston operation has greater mass moving in the gun than a short-stroke piston gun or a gas tube gun [like the M-16 or AR-15]), a low-power cartridge effective only at close battle ranges, and the safety/fire selector lever wears loose and rattles.

The FAL has its disadvantages, too. It is comparatively heavy, and expensive to produce, because of its machined metal receiver. It uses a cartridge that many believe to be overpowered for close battle engagements, and it is nearly unmanageable in full-automatic operation (if the gun is capable of select-fire operation).

Technicalities over, home again and time to clean

I took “Lil Pinky” home, field stripped her and cleaned her. After having about 150 rounds (30 per magazine) put through the bore, she was a bit dirty.

So, thanks, Frank, for opening my eyes to the beauty of this little beast. She will no doubt travel with me sometimes when I’m out and about in rural areas, and you know, I’m thinking about using her as a backup for home defense since we live in a rural area, my kids have left the nest and I don’t have to worry about shooting through walls at occupants, etc.

Now, I just have to decide who to call first because for that trip to the range next time, because ever since my shooter girlfriends heard about Lil Pinky, they all want to shoot her, too. I think they’ll have to buy their own ammo, though. Or, buy me a very nice lunch afterwards. And maybe help me clean her, too. And drive.

Editors Note:
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