7 Best AK-47 Rifles You Can Buy for Under $1500 in 2024

by Ryan Cleckner

September 26, 2023



With increased talk of an Assault Weapon Ban, specifically bans on AK-style rifles (such as AK-47s and their clones), more and more Americans are looking to pick up an AK-style rifle before it’s too late.

The AK-47 is a classic automatic rifle that goes way back to the Soviet Union. Today’s AK-47s have been developed and modernized over the years, but they’re still built on the same principles of the original Soviet army rifle. They’re super simple to use and very reliable, which is why they’re some of the most widely recognized firearms in the world today.

If you’ve been researching AK-47-style rifles… good luck! You already know that there’s a nearly endless supply of information on variants, features, pros/cons, etc.

It’s so much information that many can’t even decide what AK-47 to buy! Or, you (like me) might want to default to a higher-priced option just to make sure that you aren’t getting something that is a piece of junk (or worse, dangerous). This can work, however, spending $1,500 or more on an AK-47 defeats the purpose for many shooters.

7 Best AK-47 Rifles That Won’t Bust the Bank

List of the Best AK-47 Rifles

  • Gas Operated
  • 30+1-Round capacity
  • Fixed Front Sight
  • Plain Muzzle
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Century Arms VSKA
  • Carburized bolt
  • RAK-1 enhanced trigger
  • Stamped steel receiver
  • Accepts standard AK magazines
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  • Gas Nitride 4150 Steel Treated Barrel
  • Stamped Steel Receiver
  • Forged Front Trunnion
  • Hammer Forged Bolt
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  • 30+1 rounds
  • 10.6″ barrel with LH 14×1 threading
  • Milled receiver
  • Magpul® MOE
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Zastava ZPAP92
  • Extremely compact, would make a great truck gun
  • Common caliber and mags
  • Significant modularity and customizing potential
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Draco NAK9
  • AK reliability
  • Vast aftermarket support system
  • Low recoil
  • Glock mag compatible
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  • 30+1 round capacity
  • Adjustable Krinkov-style sights
  • Krinkov-style muzzle brake
  • Krinkov-style hinged dust cover
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List Of The 7 Best AK-47 Rifles Under $1500

Gun University has put together a list of what we deem the best AK-47-style (i.e. AKM-style) weapons available at reasonable, “everyman” prices.

  1. Century Arms WASR-10
  2. Century Arms VSKA
  3. PSA PS-AK-47 GF3
  4. Century Arms C39V2 AK Rifle
  5. Zastava ZPAP M02
  6. Draco NAK9 (9mm AK)
  7. Zastava N-PAP M70 AK-47

Note: These rifles are not listed in order of priority – each has its own features to recommend (or against it). Read through the pros and cons, and if you need more info, check out the more in-depth write-ups we’ve done on the individual weapons.

Before we see the hate in the comments below, we get it: you get what you pay for. Some folks want a budget AK so that they can at least have something or they merely want it for plinking or “just in case” and can’t afford to spend (or don’t want to spend) that much on a rifle.

So, we’ve collected the 7 best AKs for under $1500…although with the economy the way it is, some of our original choices might be pushing up past that ceiling.

So, if you’re looking to build your warzone loadout with your “AK-47 assault rifle” (ugh, we hate that term), you may need to stop playing so much Black Ops Cold War or Modern Warfare and actually get out to do some live-fire training IRL.

However, if you want to know the best AK-47 rifle for under $1500, read on…

Note: Each of these rifle links shows the best prices online (yes, you can buy guns online)

Reviews of the 7 Best AK-47 Rifles Under $1500

Let’s take a look-see at each of the AK models in turn that are not only something you can buy today, but also are usually under $1,500.

1. WASR-10 AK-47 Rifle

Editor's Choice
WASR 10 Review

WASR-10 AK-47 Rifle

The WASR-10 is an excellent model of the AK-47. Even though it’s pretty cheap, we don’t hesitate to recommend it.

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability A
  • Ergonomics B+
  • Accuracy C+
  • Value B

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WASR-10 AK-47 Rifle Specs

  • Host Platform WASR-10
  • Operating system Blowback operation
  • Caliber 7.62x39mm
  • Overall length 34.25”
  • Weight 7.5 lbs
  • Length (collapsed) 34.25’’
  • Capacity 30 rounds
  • Receiver Stamped

Century Arms WASR-10 AK-47 Rifle Review

The WASR-10 is where it’s at! I know, I know, there are some AK purists out there laughing at me right now for typing that. But hear me out.

The WASR-10 has long been known as the bottom-of-the-barrel/cheapest possible AK-47. Guys who like expensive AK-47s look down their noses at WASR-10s. However, I believe they are really great rifles (especially for the money).

First, they’re made in Romania, where they have a LONG history of knowing how to make quality rifles. I have heard WAY, WAY, WAY more complaints about American AK-47s (even pricier models) than I have ever heard about a WASR-10.

Of course, there are some complaints about “I don’t like them,” but I don’t hear about reliability or safety issues as I have with other AK-47s.

Yes, they are cheap. No, they’re not very accurate. They’re not supposed to be! You are probably going to be shooting the absolute cheapest Russian ammo you can find anyway! Plus, these rifles are short and lightweight, so they make a decent self defense gun if you’re in the market for one. The WASR-10 is compatible with AK magazines and also uses Soviet cartridges which are super cheap and widely available, so it’s a versatile rifle that’s not very expensive to shoot. 

Something about the WASR-10 just screams AK-47 (in a Russian accent), whereas the American versions seem like AK-like rifles…kind of. With all the talks of an AK-47 ban, these will go quickly.

Now, it works fine on its own, but it’s got a side mount scope rail in case you want to add anything. You’ve got plenty of accessories to choose from since it’s been around since the 1940s. These rifles also have stamped steel receivers that are cheaper and lighter than milled ones and usually have interchangeable parts that give you options for customization. 

I’ve given this rifle a lot of praise but I won’t lie, it does fall short in few areas. Firstly, it doesn’t have a buffer tube which could result in a bit of recoil, but from my experience I can’t say it was  too bad. Secondly, reloading it can be a little tricky, especially if you’re using a full-sized magazine. Thirdly, there are no left side controls, which is the standard for AKMs but it does mean my left-handed buddies have to miss out.

It’s not perfect, but it’s affordable and gets the job done. So keep in mind:

Cheap/Plinking/End of the World Rifle: AK-47.

Accurate, premium, precision, etc. rifle: AR-15.

So, because of its reliability, and its cost, the WASR-10 is my #1 pick for best AK-47. Sure, you might find better, but you’re paying a premium for slightly better. But when it comes down to a AK47, this is a great all-round choice. Don’t believe me? Check out our full WASR-10 review.

WASR-10 Pros and Cons

  • Made in Eastern Europe!
  • Widely available ammo
  • Insanely Reliable
  • Compatibility with aftermarket components
  • Great value
  • Bit of recoil
  • Issues with magazines
  • No left side controls

2. Century Arms VSKA : Century Arms VSKA (American)

Century Arms VSKA

A “fixed” model of the CAI rifles, the CAI VSKA was a good move for Century Arms. Great for shooting and easy on the budget.

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  • Shootability A-
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value A-

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VSKA Specs

  • Host Platform Century International Arms Inc.
  • Operating System Gas Piston (long stroke)
  • Caliber 7.62x39mm
  • Overall length 37.25”
  • Weight 7.5 lb
  • Capacity 30 rounds
  • Receiver Stamped


As you’ll see, Century Arms is the most popular name on this list. This is because Century Arms is the biggest importer AND manufacturer of AK-47s – especially budget varieties which I like. Their rifles are ISO 9001:2015 certified, so they’re of pretty high quality as well.

They made a very popular American AK-47 called the RAS-47…BUT… it had some quality issues (serious ones) and it got a bad name quickly. Do not let this turn you off to all CAI rifles – there are plenty of good ones and this rifle, the VSKA, is their answer to the previous issues.

Previously, in the RAS-47, they used cast trunnions and bolts. In this VSKA, however, they use S7 tool steel which is very strong and durable, and mill the parts out of forgings (this is great news). 

I really liked its trigger too. It’s single stage and has a very smooth and consistent pull which is great for taking repeat shots. The VSKA does come with its own 30-round Magpul PMAG and while it does take any standard AK mag, it’s a lot lighter with the original.

So, why did I make this the #2 best AK-47? Well, while it is affordable, it needs some maintenance – more than the WASR listed above. But on the other hand, I have found that finding a VSKA on the market is usually a bit easier. So, you can go either way on that part.

The VSKA is pretty high maintenance because the manufacturer recommends procedures at different round counts to keep the gun working properly. For example, the extractor and recoil springs have to be changed every 3,000 rounds, so you’ll want to keep track of that.

I do love the improved trigger and BCG, but I’m going to knock it some points due to it being a machined billet instead of using forged components. 

So, because of this, I have listed this as the #2 on the list. But if you are looking for an American-made AK-47 with some classic styling, I think you should check out the VSKA. But, if you are still on the fence and would like to know more, then be sure to check out my full CAI VSKA review including pictures and results.

CAI VSKA Pros and Cons

  • Nice improvement over RAS-47
  • Great value
  • Improved trigger and BCG
  • Compatible with AKM accessories
  • No bayonet lug/cleaning rod
  • Machined billet

Century International Arms Inc. VSKA Gun Deals

3. PSAK 47 GF3 : Moekov Rifle (American)

Palmetto State Armory PSA AK GF3 review


A meat-and-potatoes AK-style rifle from PSA with plenty of upgrades. Possibly the best American production AK yet. 

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  • Shootability B+
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value B+

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PSA PS-AK47 GF3 Specs

  • Host Platform Palmetto State Armory
  • Operating System PSA
  • Caliber 7.62×39mm
  • Overall length 34.5″
  • Weight 7.5 pounds
  • Capacity 30 rounds
  • Receiver Stamped

PSA PS-AK47 GF3 Review

Palmetto State Armory is known for budget firearms. But I find this to be both good and bad and the PSA PS-AK47 GF3 is no exception. Because of this, the GF3 is affordable but it isn’t the best quality of the bunch.

I generally like the GF3. Like I said, it’s still on the affordable side. Plus, I find it is decently accurate (for an AK-47) and reliable, which it probably owes to its 800 meter rear sight and adjustable front sight. 

Apart from that, this GF3 is also a clear delineation for the classical look of an AK-47. I’d say it combines all the best parts from Russian, Chinese, Bulgarian, and Romanian AK designs. It’s durable, low maintenance, and uses cheap ammo so you won’t rack up a bill every time you want to use it. Plus, it has a foldable stock which makes it super compact and easy to take along with you for a day at the range.

It does come with “upgraded” Magpul furniture, which I generally like, but am not a major fan of when it comes to AK-47s. Call me a bit of a purist but it seems a bit off. 

Another issue I have is that while it is shrouded with the Magpul components or ‘upgrades,’ I find that the quality of the materials around it are lacking as compared to the true and tested materials of the WASR or the VSKA.

I also found the GF3’s recoil noticeably sharp and spent some time fiddling with the trigger because it wasn’t resetting after each shot as it should. I guess it needed a few rounds to break in.

It gives you a bit more trouble than you’d expect for the price you pay, but personally I think its accuracy and design make up for it. I go into detail in my full review of the GF3, so make sure to check it out if you’re curious.

PSAK-47 GF3 Pros and Cons

  • Classic design
  • Accurate (for an AK-47)
  • Comes with Magpul AK furniture and folding stock
  • Incredible Value
  • Sharp recoil
  • Faulty trigger
  • American made AK (something weird about that)
  • Lowest level of quality we’d recommend

PSAK-47 GF3 Gun Deals

4. Century Arms C39V2 : AK RIFLE


Century Arms C39V2

Century Arms is probably one of the the few US manufacturers we trust when it comes to a US made AK-47. So with that being said, the C39V2 is a solidly made AK firearm and can be trusted to deliver.

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  • Shootability B-
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy B+
  • Value B

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  • Host Platform Century International Arms Inc.
  • Operating system Gas Piston (long stroke)
  • Caliber 7.62x39mm
  • Overall length 35.25″
  • Weight 8.2 lbs
  • Capacity 30 rounds
  • Receiver Milled

Century Arms C39V2 Review

The C39V2 by Century Arms is their milled-receiver AK-47. If you want a milled receiver under $1000, then this is your only option, which is one of the reasons why it made my list for best AK-47.

Why a milled receiver vs a stamped receiver on most AKs? Well, it’s actually a matter of personal preference. If you want an AK-47-style rifle that is more traditional, you want a stamped receiver. The stamped receiver is lighter and it is more flexible allowing for some forgiveness when shooting.

However, a milled receiver can be more precisely manufactured and give a more rigid platform for your rifle (at the cost of a higher weight). A milled receiver is NOT necessary, but if you’ve decided that you want one, the C39V2 is your best bet for this price range.

I found the C39V2 decently accurate. I got a group of about an inch and a half at 50 yards away but it spread out to around 4 inches when I got to a 100. It’ll take most 7.62 AK mags, which is great if you want to swap them out. 

Its stock is interchangeable with other AK ones too, but I didn’t feel the need to change it since the C39V2 was already pretty comfortable to use. Another great feature is that it folds so I can easily pack it up to take to the range or even just store it away for later. The C39V2 fires folded but it’s tough to get an accurate shot that way, so it’s best to practice unfolding it if you want to use this rifle in an emergency.

The C39V2 is also very easy to use and I definitely recommend it for beginners. It’s got an excellent trigger pull, an ambidextrous mag release, a good grip and doesn’t overheat after a few rounds so you can get as much practice in as you want.

Something to note is that I didn’t get a lot of accurate shots with lightweight ammo – the C39V2 worked best for me with heavier bullets. I even had some issues with the bolt lock because it doesn’t lock on an empty mag (which could be useful if you need an indicator that your mag is empty), and I prefer keeping it properly shut. My C39V2 got scratched up pretty quickly as well; it didn’t even take more than a few rounds for its coat to start chipping off, especially along the bolt. Of course, it still works fine – just looks older than it is.

I also felt more recoil from this one than the other models above. It’s clear when you’re shooting them all side by side, and this was definitely the case in my test. It’s also left leaning and thus reduces your options for muzzle devices.

So, because of the recoil and some of the limiting options on the C39V2, I didn’t place it in the top 3 for this list. Still though, I think that the milled component makes it a target in this class if that is important to you.

If you’d like to dig a little bit more into this AK-47 rifle, then be sure to read my full Century Arms C39V2 review!

C39V2 AK47 Pros and Cons

  • Accurate
  • Interchangeable parts
  • Milled receiver
  • Budget friendly
  • More recoil than others
  • Left leaning
  • Bolt doesn’t lock on empty mags
  • Scratches up easily

Century Arms C39V2 AK47 Gun Deals

5. Zastava ZPAP92 AK : Zastava ZPAP M92

The Zastava ZPAP92

Zastava ZPAP92 AK

The ZPAP92 is an AK SBR (or pistol) chambered in 7.62×39.

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  • Shootability B
  • Reliability A+
  • Ergonomics C-
  • Accuracy C
  • A

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ZPAP92 Specs

  • Host Platform Zastava
  • Operating system Gas Piston (rotating bolt)
  • Caliber 7.62x39mm
  • Overall length 19.3″
  • Weight 6.6 lbs.
  • Capacity 30 rounds
  • Receiver Stamped

Zastava ZPAP92 Review

The M92 is probably just as popular as a Krink stand-in as it is on its own merits. Maybe more so. Krinks aren’t easy to get hold of, and they’re not exactly cheap, either. Enter the Zastava ZPAP92.

It scratches that itch for many an AK shooter– most people just start with it as base and make upgrades as they go.

The ZPAP92 is a smooth cycling machine with a bolt that moves like it’s on bearings. Although it is most often found as a pistol, it won’t take much work to make it an SBR – and even if you don’t want to go NFA with it there is plenty of potential here for modularity and customization.

The rifle’s got some weight to it, but it’s still balanced and easy to swing between targets. I took it down to the range and had no trouble alternating and taking repeat shots. 

The bolt is incredibly easy to rack and has a convenient little notch on it in case you want to keep it open to cool down. It does a good job lasting through multiple rounds, especially compared to my C39V2. That’s all great, but there are still a few reasons why the ZPAP92 didn’t make the top of my list.

For one, there’s not enough distance between the front and rear sights, so it’s difficult to get an accurate shot when you’re firing long range.

Plus, I felt like it could use some design improvements. It has a foldable stock that makes it a great truck gun, but that makes it  difficult to hold with both hands – I had to use a brace to help me redistribute the weight. My last issue was that its trigger didn’t have a clean break and messed up my timing a bit.

It’s by no means a precision instrument but has proven to be very reliable, and that’s by AK standards. You’ll have to watch your wallet on ammo though. If you figure the cost of operation using a price-per-round metric, you’ll find it gets about the same mileage as a 1968 Chevy Nova.

Might as well hit the pedal and go fast.

Read our full review on the Zastava ZPAP92 for more information!

Zastava ZPAP92 Pros and Cons

  • Customizable platform
  • Common caliber
  • Durable
  • Easily maneuverable
  • Hard to accommodate optics
  • Inaccurate

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6. CAI Draco NAK9: 9mm AK : Draco NAK9

Draco 9 mm AK

CAI Draco NAK9: 9mm AK

The Draco NAK9 is a 9mm AK pistol from Century Arms– and they’re made in Romania.

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  • Shootability C+
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics B-
  • Accuracy B
  • Value C+

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Draco 9mm Specs

  • Host Platform Century International Arms Inc.
  • Operating system Gas Piston (rotating bolt)
  • Caliber 9mm
  • Overall length 19.1″
  • Weight 6.38 lbs.
  • Capacity 33 rounds
  • Receiver Stamped

Draco NAK9 Review

It is easy to confuse the different Dracos. There’s the 7.62×39 Draco many of us think of when you hear the moniker, the Draco Mini, the Draco Micro, and some others (including one that takes Scorpion mags).

Well, the Draco NAK9 is a pistol caliber carbine (PCC). It’s chambered in 9x19mm and most importantly it accepts Glock mags, specifically the Glock 17 and 19 ones. Glock mags are everywhere. Even people who don’t shoot or like Glocks have one somewhere.

The NAK9 is super lightweight and has low recoil so it’s easy to use, but I did add a strap to mine to make it more comfortable to carry. I also really like that it has a long barrel – this makes it very accurate when I’m firing at long range targets. It’s even great for repeat shots; I got around 900 rounds per minute when I tested it.

In addition to the traits you expect from a weapon in this cartridge, the NAK9 has the advantages of modularity and a dummy-proof design. Taking the NAK9 down for maintenance is extremely simple.

One of the issues I had with it was that the grip felt unnatural in my hand. It’s very rectangular and difficult to hold without a sling, but that’s usually the case with AK-47s. I didn’t like the trigger much either because it didn’t have a good feel to its pull and I wasn’t sure when my shot was going to actually fire.

Now, it does have a plastic rail on top for any accessories, but the rail got damaged when I tried attaching an optic on it – so I’m not a big fan of that. 

It’s worth noting that the mag release is on the left side only (would have been nice to see this as ambidextrous), but that’s hardly a deal breaker. I should mention that the NAK9 comes with a Korean Glock-inspired mag that doesn’t actually feed, so you’ll need to replace it with another one.

Apart from that, everything else is about what you’d expect of an AK, including the ability to digest many different brands and kinds of ammunition. That includes hollow points, which sometimes give PCCs some trouble. If you want to learn more, you should definitely read our full review on the Draco NAK9.

Draco NAK9 Pros and Cons

  • Reliable
  • Many aftermarket accessories available
  • Low recoil
  • Glock magophile
  • No bolt lock-back
  • Heavy trigger pull
  • Mag doesn’t feed

Century Arms Draco NAK9 Gun Deals

7. Zastava N-PAP M70 AK47

Zastava N-PAP M70 AK47

Sold at Guns.com

Given that the AK-47 can be modified in lots of different variations, the Zastava N-PAP does not disappoint. It has many different specs that allow it to be just as versatile as any AK-47 on the market today.

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  • Shootability A
  • Reliability B+
  • Ergonomics A
  • Accuracy A+
  • Value A+

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Zastava N-PAP M70 AK47 Specs

  • Host Platform Zastava
  • Operating system Gas Piston (rotating bolt)
  • Caliber 7.62x39mm
  • Overall length 36.25’’
  • Weight 7.7 lbs
  • Capacity 30 rounds
  • Receiver Milled

Zastava N-PAP M70 AK47 Review

This rifle comes recommended by AK Operators Union (and passed their torture test), which says a lot about it’s performance. 

For all you history buffs out there, the Zastava N-PAP was once the standard infantry rifle of the Yugoslav People’s Army, which is pretty cool if you ask me.

The N-PAP is accurate enough with basic sights: I tested it out at 50 and 70 yards and ended up landing groups of 3-4 inches, which is pretty standard for AKs. I loved that the groupings were so consistent; I ran through a few rounds of ammo and expected them to spread out as the N-PAP heated up but they didn’t budge. This makes it a good AK to go with if you’re planning on shooting for a while.

I also like that it’s compatible with most kinds of ammo, which is definitely a plus point in my books since it lets me opt for something within my budget. 

Portability wise, it’s a bearable weight and has a foldable stock so you can pack it up when you need to. You could swap out the stock if you wanted to, but I like the classic feel that the teak has to it. 

The trigger resets well, which is great because it allows you to take repeat shots without any interruption. It was designed to reduce trigger slap (the loss of contact between the trigger and the finger after a shot is fired) so shooters won’t have a hard time with the impact of the slap throwing off their sights. 

All that’s great, but the N-PAP did fall short in a few areas. For one, its trigger isn’t very crisp and ended up throwing me off my target a bit. There’s also quite a bit of recoil because the N-PAP doesn’t have a buffer tube and while it wasn’t too strong for me, it could be difficult for someone with a smaller build. I even had the misfortune of experiencing the N-PAP cheek slap (yes, it has its own name). You could avoid it by really pressing your cheek into the stock, but that feels very unnatural to me so I just fixed it with a muzzle break instead.

The mags gave me some trouble too – they got a bit difficult to load after a few rounds so there might have been some wear and tear. I also felt that the safety lever was a bit too tight and had to sand down the insides at the risk of accidentally making it too loose, so I wouldn’t recommend trying it yourself if you don’t have experience doing that.

However, if you’re just looking for a reliable AK that looks good in your hands, isn’t picky about ammo, and packs up real nice, the N-PAP is worth a shot. We haven’t done a full review on this one yet, but we’ll be sure to update our article when we do. 

Zastava N-PAP M70 Pros and Cons

  • Novel design
  • Compatible with most ammo
  • Small
  • Can utilize same cartridge in pistol
  • Heavy recoil
  • Unimpressive trigger
  • N-PAP cheek slap
  • Tight safety lever

Zastava N-PAP M70 Gun Deals

Worst AK47s to Avoid

When it comes to AK-47s, there are an ungodly amount of cheap or poorly made AK-47s that should be avoided – but let’s face it – this is one of the reasons why so many countries around the world use them.

Therefore, the first thing that I recommend is to make sure you don’t get an unrecognizable branded AK-47. Now, let me caveat this – I am not a ‘brand’ guy and just because a brand is well-known or popular, doesn’t mean every gun they make is going to be excellent.

However, when it comes to AK-47s, you might want to have a recognizable brand behind it. This way, you’re not going to get a Frankenstein or a unit, or something worse.

Now, for the below Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947s, it does NOT necessarily mean they are terrible, or a health risk. I just figured I should list any of the AKs that I didn’t like or were not good enough to make the list. This way, you know they were a part of the comparison and you can confidently pass them:

Palmetto State Armory AK-103:

Palmetto State Armory had a rough start getting into AKs in the past. However, as you saw above on the GF3, they’ve started to get the hang of it.

And while the AK-103 isn’t terrible, I just don’t think it deserved to be on the above list. I liked its modern components and its folding stock. Plus, I thought it was decently accurate for an AK. Furthermore, its inclusion of an AK-74 muzzle brake helps with muzzle rise management.

However, I had a lot of problems with its exhaust mitigation and was one of the loudest. Now, I hear you saying – dude, it’s an AK47 – who is trying to keep it quiet? True – but the way it is built gives me pause. Also, it’s just around 1000 and for that amount, there are better options on the market. If you’d like to learn more about this one, you can check out our latest in-depth review about the PSA AK-103 here.

Buyer’s Guide for the AK-47

If you’re looking to pick up a new budget AK-47, you should at least learn a bit about one. It’s a gun full of rich history and uses.

What is an AK-47?

The AK-47 is select fire and was designed to be a very simple and reliable automatic rifle. It touts a 7.62×39mm round, air-cooled, long-stroke-piston gas-operated, magazine-fed rifle with a rotating bolt…that is a mouth full, and no I cannot say it 10x’s in a row fast!

The goal for this firearm was to be able to be mass-produced for a very low cost. The Soviet Union adopted the AK-47 in the late 1940s and over the years, it has developed and is the most widely recognized firearm in the world today. The barrel and bolt were milled out of steel and hardened chrome, with a sheet metal receiver. The furniture on the AK-47 is wood which was specific and helped the Soviet Union achieve the type of weapon it was hoping for in mass production.

Nowadays the AK-47 has had so many overhauls and updates, that it has changed quite a bit. However, the process and guts are fairly the same today as when it was created so many years ago. A lot of the parts nowadays are metal cast, with a number of synthetic and plastic pieces added. There are an estimated 100 million AK-47s that have been manufactured to date around the world.

What Should a Buyer Think About When Purchasing an AK-47?

As much as I would like to say you can get a good AK-47 in the US, they’re just hard to find. The top things to be aware of when you’re looking for an AK-47 are the following:

  1. Canted Sights– If you find an AK-47 with these types of sights, it’s probably more headache than its worth. There are better options, so I recommend staying away from these.
  2. Safety and Trigger– Make sure the safety moves easily and locks into its grooves on the frame. The trigger needs to be a clean pull and strongly resets.
  3. Magazine– This needs to fit “easily” into its slot, and if it does not, it is likely the gun is not cut to spec and you should walk away.

When compared to an AR-15, the AKM has a bit more recoil and a bit slower bullet velocity.

Another thing to think about is whether or not you want to stick with the iron sights or whether you should get a scope for your AK47. Unlike other rifles, it is a bit rare to see a scope on one of these, and something that I don’t do, but it is something to consider. If you do, you’ll need to get something that can really take a beating.

This is because the rifle shoots ammo with a much bigger bullet. This bigger bullet sacrifices some recoil control for many shooters and doesn’t have the same range as an AR-15, but the recoil and bullet velocity comes with a positive that makes the AK platform popular: more energy on target (although the effective range is decreased, arguably the damage range is increased).

Pros and Cons of AK-47 Rifles

While there are a ton of great rifles out there, AK-47s have their reasons for standing out. Here are a few of them.


  • The historic charm – AK-47s go way back to the Soviet Union and have been used by soldiers across the world since then, making them a significant piece of history. 
  • Generally affordable – They aren’t very expensive compared to other rifles and neither is their ammo, so they’re a lot more accessible to try out.
  • Very durable – AK-47s were designed to survive harsh conditions, which means they can withstand any kind of dust and grime you put them through at the range.
  • Super easy to operate – These rifles are super simple to use, which is why a lot of beginners get the hang of them in no time.
  • Low maintenance – Depending on the model, AK-47s don’t require a lot of cleaning between rounds, which can save you a lot of time and effort.
  • Widely available – A lot of countries have their own version of the AK-47, which means you have lots of options to choose from.

That being said, I have had some issues with the AK-47s I’ve tried. These were the main ones. 


  • Not very accurate – AK-47s were designed for heavy fire across a general area, so they aren’t the best for precision shooting.
  • Bit of recoil – These rifles have quite a recoil since they are based off of older designs, so it can be somewhat uncomfortable to shoot. 
  • Non ergonomic design – AK-47s were designed for function and durability and not comfort, so you might have to deal with some rectangular grips, odd stocks, and more.
  • Non-ambidextrous – The original AK-47s were designed for troops of mostly right-handed soldiers, so it’s very rare to find one compatible with left-handed shooters.

Then again, no one really uses AK-47s solely for their functionality. The history-buffs will know what I’m talking about, but for the benefit of those that don’t, I’ll share how they came to be.

History of AK-47 Rifles

Unlike the service rifles of the USA or Germany, or the first-generation battle rifles of the West in the 1950s, the AK was manufactured without an excess of precision which limited its adaptability as, say, a sniper rifle. (The AK’s then-unique use of an intermediate cartridge also did this). But it suited Soviet doctrine of mass attacks and mass fires well.

AK history: Cold War era Soviet conscript infantry charging


Unlike the NATO rifleman, the Soviet soldier, although instructed in semiautomatic fire on ranges, was also extensively drilled in live-fire obstacle courses, and was expected to run them firing on full-automatic, from the hip.


He was the heir of the submachine-gun battalions of the Battle of Berlin, and planned to fight the same way, as mechanized infantry guarding the flanks and securing the obstacle-ridden forests and towns to enable the great tank attack. Hence, the first click off safety on an AK is full-auto, contrary to every successful NATO selective-fire rifle.


Soviet Cold War infantry doctrine: mass assaults (AK history)


The same adaptations, design decisions, and production practicality that made the AK a perfect replacement for Ivan’s retired PPSh submachine guns, made the AK a perfect weapon for terrorist groups, “national liberation” movements, and under-resourced armies of newly free colonies worldwide.


Like the Mauser before it, the AK is a universal gun. And like the Mauser, the AK will be with us until something better supplants it. And “better,” in this case, will be defined by history and by nations, not necessarily by gun experts.


Kevin “Hognose” O’Brien: Weaponsman


How AK-47 Rifles Work

The AK-47 is the most widely used, and a favorite, of fighting forces around the world. A big reason is because of how easily the firearm operates. The AK-47 is made up of fairly simple and large pieces, which allow for it to cycle in many different conditions, like sand, mud, and even water.

The moment the operator pulls the trigger, it releases the firing hammer, then strikes the pin. This will then ignite the bullet primer which ignites the gunpowder to launch the bullet. The pressure and gas that pushes the bullet out, also pushes back on the bolt carrier, ejecting the empty shell and resetting the hammer to fire again.

The bolt will then grab a new round from the magazine, and place it into the barrel. During that action, the bolt hammer does not move because of the sear that is holding it in place, that is until the carrier returns to its original position.

Stamped vs Milled AK-47 Rifles

One thing you may encounter as you scroll social media, visit Reddit, or read forums about the AK is an ongoing debate about stamped vs. milled receivers. Milled receivers are often viewed as superior to their more mass-produced, stamped, cousins. In our view this is an unnecessarily contentious subject that is far less significant than many would like you to believe.

Unfortunately, the number of AK owners who dogmatically participate in this argument is smaller than the number of AK owners who actually know and understand the issue – including, at one point, some of the Gun University faculty.

Here’s the thing: check as many reviews as you can and buy the one that appeals to you most within your budget range. Stamped vs. milled should be a secondary concern at best.

AKM VS AK-47 Rifles

AKM stands for Avtomát Kalášnikova modernizírovannyj, or “Kalashnikov’s Automatic Rifle, Modernized”. It’s an improved version of the AK-47, which it began replacing in 1959. Some of the changes made to earn it the moniker modernizírovannyj include:

  • Use of a stamped receiver vs one that’s milled. (More on that here.)
  • Use of rivets instead of welds.
  • Introduction of the iconic slant compensator.
  • Use of parkerization metal treatment vs. bluing
  • Introduction of the “hammer release delay mechanism”.
  • Improvements to the gas ports, which were moved forward to the gas block.
  • Barrel pressed and pinned to the receiver (vs being threaded and screwed in).

The AKM was mostly replaced in the late 1970s by AK-74 (A K seven four, which is easily mistaken/transposed for A K four seven). The AK-74 was then superseded in turn. The lineage now includes different versions of the AK-12 (including the AK-15 and AK-19) in various calibers.

Confused? Don’t sweat it unless you’re on the hook for an AK trivia game.

We’ll provide some links below if you’re interested in learning more.

Imports vs. “Home-Grown” AKs

If you’re looking to modify or buy an imported AK, you need to be aware of what we refer to as 922R. That is a part of the federal laws governing the importation of rifles and shotguns.


Specifically, that’s US Code, Title 18: Crimes and Criminal Procedure. The 44th chapter of Title 18 governs firearms and section 922 (18 USC 922) explains what can be done, and not be done, with firearms. When someone says 922R they are referring to Subsection R of Section 922.


Clear as mud? Let’s break it down Barney-style:


There are certain rifles and shotguns that may NOT be imported because they are not “suitable [] for sporting purposes” and it is illegal to assemble one of these banned rifles or shotguns from too many imported parts.


Note the nuance there: you can build/assemble an otherwise illegal to import firearm IF you use enough US Made parts (there aren’t too many foreign parts).


Learn more about 922R.

AK Calibers

Most AKs you’ll see will be chambered in one of four calibers: the original 7.62, the subsequent 5.45, or the NATO-side 5.56. Other calibers are available, but typically only in niche platforms and/or limited numbers.

More recently we’ve begun seeing what are effectively AK Pistol Caliber Carbines (PCCs), mostly in 9mm Parabellum (like the Draco NAK9).

Wondering what the various models are, and in what caliber? Read on.

Please note that this might not be 100% complete or accurate (we’re working on that). It is a pretty comprehensive list, though, and one we can’t take credit for either. That honor goes to Bernard Samartsev, from a conversation in the comments of an article on the Firearms History Blog.

5.45x39mm AKs

AK-12 (2012 – all-new AK with collapsible and folding stock, ambidextrous bolt catch and fire selector/safety lever, Picatinny rails, new muzzle brake, charging handle and pistol grip, semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AK-74 and AKS-74 (1974 – AKS-74 has side folding metal stock)
AK-74M (1991 – side folding polyamide stock, polyamide handguard and dovetail side rail telescopic sight mount)
AK-74M3 (2011 – new pistol grip and receiver cover, additional safety lever, recoil pad and Picatinny rails, semi-auto and full-auto fire modes)
AK-105 (1994 – carbine version of AK-74M)
AK-105-1 (1994 – semi-auto only)
AK-105-2 (1999 – semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AK-107 (1999 – version of AK-74M with recoil reducing operating system, semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AKS-74U (1979 – carbine version of AKS-74)

AK Platforms Chambered in 5.56x45mm NATO

AK-12 (2012)
AK-101 (1994 – 5.56 mm version of AK-74M)
AK-101-1 (1994 – semi-auto only)
AK-101-2 (1999 – semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AK-102 (1994 – carbine version of AK-101)
AK-102-1 (1994 – semi-auto only)
AK-102-2 (1999 – semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AK-108 (1999 – version of AK-101 with recoil reducing operating system, semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)

7.62x39mm AK Platform Weapons

AK and AKS (1949 – first model or Type 1, AKS has downward folding metal stock)
AK and AKS (1952 – second model or Type 2, AKS has downward folding metal stock)
AK and AKS (1955 – third model or Type 3, AKS has downward folding metal stock)
AK-12 (2012)
AK-103 (1994 – 7.62 mm version of AK-74M)
AK-103-1 (1994 – semi-auto only)
AK-103-2 (1999 – semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AK-103-3 (2009 – new pistol grip and receiver cover, additional safety lever, bipod and Picatinny rails, semi-auto and full-auto fire modes)
AK-104 (1994 – carbine version of AK-103)
AK-104-1 (1994 – semi-auto only)
AK-104-2 (1999 – semi-auto, 3-round burst and full-auto fire modes)
AKM and AKMS (1959 – AKMS has downward folding metal stock)

Final Thoughts on the Best AK-47 Rifle

Overall, AK-47 rifles are durable, affordable and easy to use which is why they’ve gained a lot of popularity over the years. They’re the product of a classic Russian design that has been adapted by multiple countries, with each prioritizing different features.

The best AK-47 I’ve ever used has to be the WASR-10, but yours could be completely different depending on what you want in a rifle. With that in mind, AK-47s aren’t for everyone and aren’t all-purpose rifles. They’re definitely not my go-to choice when I’m precision shooting and they might even have some recoil and be uncomfortable to hold, but hey – they’re iconic. 

The AK-47 is a classic, and its staying power speaks to how reliable and widely accepted the rifle is. Hopefully, you’ve found something on my list that you’d want to try and if you didn’t, there are a ton of different options you can try out. Feel like we’ve skipped over your favorite AK-47 variant? Let us know below and we’d be happy to include it in our next blog.  


What is the most popular AK-47?

The AKM is one of the most popular AK-47 rifles. It’s of Soviet origin, and is a more modern version of an original AK-47. With its stamped receiver, it is a lot lighter and cheaper to produce than the actual AK-47 it was inspired by.

Which rifle is stronger than an AK-47?

M-16s are known to be stronger than AK-47s. These standard US military rifles are of a smaller caliber but cause a lot more destruction and fire heavier bullets (because of greater kinetic energy) than its Russian counterpart.

What is the maximum range of the AK-47?

The maximum range of an AK-47 is about 300 meters. Of course, this could vary depending on the rifle you use and your own marksmanship. 

How many rounds can an AK-47 fire in one minute?

An AK-47 can usually fire around 600 rounds per minute (rpm), but this may vary across models. For example, the Draco NAK9 is known for firing approximately 900 rpm, which is way above average.

How accurate is an AK-47?

AK-47 rifles are pretty accurate, but they aren’t a lot of people’s top choice for precision shooting. These rifles were designed for heavy fire, so its accuracy would depend on several factors, such as the types of ammo and sights you use, the quality of its barrel, and the skill level of the shooter. 


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About Ryan Cleckner

Ryan is a former special operations sniper (1/75 Ranger) and current firearms attorney, firearms industry executive, university lecturer, and bestselling author of the Long Range Shooting Handbook.

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