Monday, May 04, 2009

OK, One of my blogging buddies posed a question recently.

Kevin, out in California (??? are you still in Cali? Jesus, it's been a while), responded to my comments about the rebuild project I had going on with my other buddy Waters. he read that I was helping Waters turn his Romanian AK into something that looked Russian (Soviet). He asked something like... "What's the difference between a Romanian AK and a Russian AK?"

Well, this is gonna be fun. The short answer for Kevin is, basically, nothing. That is, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the guns, the Romanian rifles that are on sale today are all copies of Soviet era Kalashnikovs that were produced in the USSR. Thing is, there are differences between AKs that are produced in various countries. Most of those differences are purely cosmetic, but some are not. Some of the differences represent attempts by Warsaw Pact countries, like Romania, to produce their own variation on the basic Soviet model. So, if you want something that looks "Russian", there are a few things to think about.

When these rifles first went on wide sale in the US back in the 1980s, the vast majority that I saw at Gun Shows were Chinese or Egyptian. The Chinese models held an attraction because they were basically the same as the rifles used by the PLA, only semi-automatic.

They also looked more like an AK-47, the original version of the rifle (seen above). While they are actually a hybrid, the Chinese mixing aspect of the AK-47 and AKM in their rifles, they looked more like an AK-47. In fact, the Chinese sold a version of their AK-47, marketed as the "Polytec Legend". Those were rare, and usually were snapped up quick.

That's a "Legend" above there. See the similarity? Both had the milled receiver of the original rifle, while every other AK model on sale then had the stamped receiver of the AKM. Of course, with models that sported under folding stocks or under folding spike bayonets...

Chinese models also held an attraction to many folks they looked very much like the rifles used by the Viet Cong. The war wasn't too far off in the past then, and my generation had all grown up with those images in our heads, so there was that. Yea, I have one. It's one of my favorites.

The Egyptian rifles (Maadis) had the attraction of looking exactly like a 1960s era Soviet AKM (the second major evolution of the rifle that went into wide use). They were made from machines that the Russians had given or sold to the Egyptians in the late 1960s, when the Arab armies were being fully reequipped with Soviet weapons, so they were the next best thing to one made in the USSR. The shot below is of a typical Maadi.

The shot above is of a typical Soviet AKM. See what I mean? If you wanted something that looked like a Soviet rifle, you went with a Maadi.

If you watch the movie "Red Dawn" (a guilty pleasure of mine), I think all the Soviet rifles you see in that film are Egyptian, accept for one. The lead guy, Patric Swayze, carries a Yugoslavian SAR. But I think everything else was a Maadi. They have the same laminated wood furniture and black finish as the Soviet guns, only the standards of manufacture were horrible. I mean, they were made about as well as any AK, but the finish on the outside could be horrible. They typically looked like crap, but they were the closest thing to a real Russian AKM that you could get anywhere, so people bought them up.

At the same time, rifles from Hungary and Yugoslavia were seen now and then, but the rifles that most folks had access to at gun shows were ether Chinese or Egyptian. I can remember drooling over a Hungarian under folder several times at shows, but never being willing to take the plunge. Finally, at a show in the mid 1990s, right after the original assault weapons ban went into effect, I finally took that plunge, picking up a Chinese rifle with a side folding stock.

This is basically what that rifle looked like. Some mother fucker stole it from me back in December of 2005. May his soul rot in everlasting torment! May all his progeny stink of syphilis and rot! May his testicles... well, enough said.

Yea, I miss that gun. It was cool as hell. My first gun. First one I ever bought. I had it fixed up to look Russian, with Egyptian laminated wood furniture and a Russian style pistol grip. That Bastard! May his testicles... never mind.

At about the same time that the assault rifle ban came along, we started to see Romanian AKs on sale here and there. The first word I got was that the Romanians were going to put their version of the AK-74 on sale, shooting the modern Soviet round (5.45X39). There's been a brief moment in the 1980s when a limited number of Chinese AK-74s were being advertised, but I never actually saw one on the market.

There's a Soviet AK-74 (above). The word I got was that the Romanian rifles were basically a copy of the East German version of the '74. That turned out to be an overstatement, though the Romanian rifles do owe a lot to the East German rifles. Thing is, by the time they'd gone on sale, the ban had gone into effect, so the rifles we saw were just as crappy as all the other rifles that went on sale in compliance with the law.

Here's a shot showing the difference between what quickly became known as a Pre-ban rifle (below) and the crap that was readily available due to the ban (top). Both shoot the same bullets, from the same clip. The only difference, particularly to us purists who wanted stuff that looked "real", was the fact that you couldn't, by any stretch of the imagination conjure up the notion in your fuzzy head that that piece of shit at the top of the picture would be used by any military force.

Well, guess what, they were used by a military force. I saw a shot once of a group of "Zapatista" Rebels in Central Mexico armed with these things. Tells ya just about everything you need to know about them. They were cheap, ($150, vs. $350-400 for the PB rifles in their heyday), and once you popped in the magazine, they shot just as many rounds as the better rifles. They just lacked a pistol grip, muzzle nut and bayonet lug.

Thing is, industrious folks all over the country found out quick that they could take out three screws and replace the thumb hole stock with the old model and a pistol grip. The parts were sold everywhere. Typical eh? The government makes something everyone wants to do illegal, and succeeds in doing nothing but turn out a whole new criminal class. Ever hear of Prohibition, or the Drug War?

Anyway, they're shuttin' the library down on me. It's time to head back to the prison and teach. I'll continue this Wednesday, and eventually get to the real topic. We'll talk about the difference between a Romanian rifle and a Russian one. Cheers!


Hammer said...

I had a late 80's "Norinco hunter"
that looked like the Valmet.

It had one of those craptacular sheet steel triggers that would rebound and slap the shit out of the shooters trigger finger after 30 rounds it would be black and blue.

The shitheads who imported the gun retrofitted it with a piece of plastic tubing that slid over the trigger. I ended up trading it for a Walther P38 because it fell into a class of guns that could not be legally modified due to number of part restrictions. Or so I read.

BRUNO said...

Damned good history lesson, dude!

What gets field tested next? Claymores? Grenades?

Now THERE'S somethin' that's made a major change in the last several years---the once humble hand grenade! More than just a simple explosive anymore! And probably a lot safer, too---if you can say that about a grenade???

Becky said...

I'll take one with the bayonet!

Kevin said...

Great post FHB - very informative. Looking forward to your next one for sure. Too bad you can't get em for $350-$400 anymore!
I see on people are starting to get hold of "off-list" AKs and ARs now, as long as the mag is held in place by a bullet button (which means you need a tool to remove the magazine) and is 10 rounds max they're CA-legal. Baby steps - not all is yet lost over here...

Mushy said...

I'm too old to remember all that!