The Year Of The AK

Is it 1945, or 2015?

I’ve been asking myself that question since SHOT Show’s Industry Day at the Range, where some of the rifle-related products generating the most buzz were the AGL Defense AK trigger, the Galil ACE carbine and pistol (chambered in 7.62×39 and using AK magazines), and the CMMG Mk47 “Mutant,” a hybrid of AK and AR technologies that also ran standard 7.62×39 ammunition AK magazines.

That opinion has only been reinforced as I’ve wandered up and down the miles of products on display here at SHOT.

Full-on “Russian” AK manufacturing (not just parts-kit rebuilds) are coming from RWC Group, LLC. RWC had been importing Kalashnikov Concern Izmash/Saiga AKMs prior to President Obama outlawing their import by executive order. Now they’ll build their own… and they aren’t alone.

Palmetto State Armory is going to be building American-mandufactured AKs, and only importing furniture from overseas.

Century Arms is growing their line of “100% American made” C39 AKs.

Magpul has jumped into supplying AK furniture and accessories with both feet, following up their all polymer AK magazine (which few serious AK shooters took seriously) with a new magazine with steel-reinforcements for better durability, and both a basic MOE line and a Zhukov enthusiast line of stocks and handguards.

Even Mossberg is getting in on the act, with two AK variants in the brand new line of Blaze-47  .22 semi-automatic rifles with a magazine that “rocks and locks” into place like a real Kalashnikov magazine.

Mossberg Blaze-47 .22 LR rifle

Why all the sudden interest in a rifle and/or cartridge designed at the close of World War II?

The answer seems to change slightly based upon which manufacturers’ reps I talked to at SHOT, but they were all a variation on a theme.

Many manufacturers seem to feel that after years of stunning growth, the AR platform is finally plateauing both in terms of innovation and user interest.

While the AR is easily the most common centerfire rifle purchased in recent years, a majority of those shooters who might be interested in the rifle probably have already have an AR… or three or four. While there are endless tweaks to be made to the operating system (gas vs piston), handguards, and calibers for those who link to tinker or add uppers, the AR market is decidedly on the soft side.

At the same time, there are plenty of people out there who are interested in buying a new semi-automatic rifle, and the weapon that has faced off against the AR in wars large and small around the globe was the natural next choice.

I suspect that it will not be long before other manufacturers jump on the bandwagon to start producing the endless variety of accessories that we now see for AR-style rifles, now that major manufacturers are on board.

Seventy years after it was created, the AK seems primed to be the next “it girl” for semi-automatic rifle enthusiasts.

Somewhere, Mikhail Kalashnikov is smiling.