|Weapon Name||Avtomat Kalashnikova|
|Weapon Type||Various – Battle rifle, carbine, SMG|
|Country of Origin||USSR, produced in many countries around the world|
|Role||Main battle rifle|
|Good for:||Primary rifle, collection, milsim, OPFOR players, outdoor games|
“Oh, uh-uh-uh, here we go. AK-47, the very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every m*********** in the room, accept no substitutes.” – Ordell Robbie, Jackie Brown.
The AK series of guns, from the grandaddy AK47 to the more modern AK74 and its descendents, are some of the most legendary and iconic weapons to have ever been produced,
Not only have they been the main battle rifles for a host of countries since the mid-20th century, they have also featured prominently in Cold War movies, tv shows and video games for decades.
It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that AKs are fairly popular in the airsoft world, and have become something of an alternative to the ubiquitous airsoft M4s that populate most fields.
If you think an airsoft Kalashnikov might be just what you need, this guide should give you a little insight into the AK platform and provide an idea of some of the things you should consider before making a purchase.
Need Help Finding An Airsoft AK That’s Right For You?
Although they aren’t quite as popular as an M4 or HK418, there are a lot of airsoft AKs out there.
If you have your heart set on an airsoft AK47, AKM, AK74 or other model but just don’t know which to pick, you can always check out our top recommendations.
AK47 and Beyond: A Brief History of the Avtomat Kalashnikova
There aren’t too many people out there who haven’t heard of a Kalashnikov.
Created by (and ultimately named after) Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov in 1947, Kalashnikov had designed his post-war rifle to be as rugged, reliable, all-weather and as simple to use as possible.
Perhaps more importantly, he also designed it specifically to be easy and relatively cheap to produce and mass manufacture.
His prototype, for example, had fewer moving parts than other select-fire assault rifles at the time. Its tolerances were also quite loose and required very precision parts, and its body was a wood and stamped steel affair.
The result was a rifle that raised a few eyebrows where it counted, and the AK47 (Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947) was adopted as the main Soviet battle rifle in 1949.
The classic AK47 was replaced in the 1950s by a lighter weight and more modernized AKM, which used some cheaper parts (like a stamped sheet metal receiver and plywood furniture).
In the 1970s, the AKM was replaced by the AK74, which replaced the 47s legendary 7.62mm round with a smaller, 5.45mm version.
This resulted in both a higher muzzle velocity (2952 ft/sec vs 2296) and better accuracy thanks to reduced recoil.
The AK74 was eventually adopted to replace the AKM as Soviet Russia’s main infantry weapon.
It continued to serve in this role well past the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, all the way into the 21st century when the Russian army began introducing the AK12 and AK15 series.
The AK: Not Just A Russian Firearm
Although the AK47 may have been invented in Russia, it and its subsequent iterations were also produced in factories all over the world, essentially wherever Soviet influence was strong.
Throughout the Cold War, firearms factories across the Eastern Bloc (and beyond) took the Kalashnikov design and ran with it, churning out AKs for their own armies and police forces that were very similar to the original.
As a result, people can find AK47s, AKMs, AK74s and more with stamps from countries such as:
- Bulgaria (as AKK – AR-M1)
- Romania (incl. AKMs, AIMS 74 and others)
- Poland (as KBKs and others)
- Serbia (as Zastava M70 and others)
- East Germany (as MPiKM)
- Albania (as the ASH series)
- Hungary (as the AK-63 and others)
Even China and North Korea started producing their own variants of the classic AK47, the Type 56 and Type 58 assault rifles.
What does this mean for airsoft?
For a variety of reasons, some historic and some more current, many airsoft players may not feel comfortable owning or using a Russian airsoft rifle on the field, even if they really love the Kalashnikov-style design.
These users can, if they choose, purchase a typical airsoft AK AEG or GBB and simply insist that they are popular variants from another Eastern Bloc or Eastern Block-aligned country, such as Bulgaria, Poland or East Germany.
Those who are really into milsim may have to make some factory stamp changes and/or some minor cosmetic adjustments to account for some regional adaptations.
Some of these can be done with the help of the information below.
Things To Look For (or Mod) To Get Maximum Airsoft AK Authenticity
Fire Selector Indicator
Whether we’re talking about an AK47, 74, 105 or even 12, the big, chunky metal fire selector is a distinctive feature on an AK-pattern rifle and is something that you obviously want replicated as accurately as possible on your airsoft gun.
On AK47s and 74 patterns, the safety could swing into three positions – Upper (safe), Middle (automatic) and Lower (semi).
Much like an AR, and unlike H&Ks perhaps more useful pictographic design, the fire selector would point to different letters in each position.
These, of course, would change depending on what country the AK was produced in.
To give an idea of what to look for, we’ve put together the chart below.
It can be used to check for replica realism (or to help modify an airsoft AK to suit personal preference).
Airsoft enthusiasts, especially collectors, tend to love their trademarks.
Having the name of a big name firearms manufacturer like Colt or H&K stamped across the side or grip of a replica can be a lot more satisfying than the personal branding of an airsoft maker (or nothing at all, as in many cases).
Being a Soviet design, where things like corporate branding weren’t exactly the most popular concepts around, and intended to be produced across the Eastern Bloc, airsoft AK’s don’t have quite as much in the way of visually pleasing markings as their AR-based competition.
You won’t generally see something like “Kalashnikov Model 74” stamped across the side of a receiver, for example.
But there are some things you can look for on your airsoft replica, if you want to nerd out.
For the most part, most airsoft manufacturers will replicate that of the original Kalashnikov factory in Izhevsk, the rather Communistically-named Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant.
Guns made in this plant would be stamped with an arrow-in-triangle design.
Given that this is the most famous Kalashnikov factory, and is today the HQ of the Kalashnikov concern, the majority of airsoft AK47s and AK74s will have this stamp on it, as can be seen in the Tokyo Marui AK47 NGSS below.
As we’ve mentioned, however, AK patterns were produced across the Eastern Bloc and beyond.
Although the designs remained broadly similar (with some variations here and there) every factory put their own rollmark on their guns, something that can be used by those looking to modify their airsoft AKs to take on the appearance of the Eastern Bloc country of their choice.
They were also made in the Tula Factory, which used a star design. This is a little less commonly found in airsoft, but can be seen in some models such as the WE AK-74 GBB model below.
Finally, a third factory in Molot would often produce Russian AKs, which had a star in badge design, which is likely the least common airsoft AK rollmark out there.
Other country’s factories had their own stamps, of course, and these could be found on their local versions of AKs.
The vast majority of airsoft manufacturers tend to go with Russian-style AKs, but for those interested in doing a conversion of their replica, we’ve compiled some of the stamps to look for below.
|Polish||Circle with an 11 inside|
|Romanian||A triangle with a half-arrow pointing up|
|Chinese||Triangle with a 66 inside|
|East German||Circle K3 (although there were others)|
Rear sight country of origin indicator
One thing that is a little more discrete but still something to be on the look out for are small country of origin indicators located on the AK’s rather large tangent iron sight.
In AKs from Russian factories, these were indicated by a П just below the 1, as can be seen in the picture below.
Other countries had their own little letters located on the sight, a table of some examples can be found below.
AK Mag Curve
AK mags are known for their rather unique length and shape.
Depending on the model, however, there can be a significant difference in the overall shape of the magazines your replica should be using.
An AK47 or AKM is designed to use much larger 7.62mm ammunition and to accommodate this has the more pronounced, sickle-like curve that most people think of when they think of Kalashnikovs.
Ak74s and their variants, on the other hand, were designed to use much smaller ammunition and thus require a far less extreme curve.
With airsoft AKs, of course, none of this really matters since they all run 6mm BBs anyway.
As such, with the AK47 curved magazine being so iconic and desirable, many manufacturers also include them with their 74s, 74Us and 105s.
If you are a stickler for authenticity or are into milsim, this might be something to look out for.
What Makes AKs Desirable for Airsoft?
They’re not another AR
By and large, airsoft fields are filled with AR-style rifles in the form of carbines, full battle rifles, SBRs and much more.
If you’re someone who doesn’t want to follow the crowd, the immediately identifiable shape of an AK47, an AK74 or one of their variants will help you stand out a bit more.
They have a lot of history to them
Love them or hate them, the AK series of rifles have a great degree of historical weight behind them.
They were the battle rifles of choice for the Eastern Bloc countries during the cold war, were used in many wars, were exported to insurgents and guerrillas around the world and generally have become something of a 20th century icon.
In fact, although something of a dated design, the AK74 and its variants are still used by some countries’ military and police forces to this day.
Consequently, they can be a very valuable piece to own for milsim enthusiasts, particularly for those interested in playing OPFOR and those running COIN games.
They hit targets as accurately as any other airsoft rifle out there
While AKs aren’t always known for their precision shooting, with airsoft this is far less of an issue, meaning users don’t have to worry about sacrificing any on-field performance for looks.
Not subject to the laws of ballistics and a design that is more or less similar to other airsoft guns out there, they can (and often are) just as accurate at range as any M4 rival.
Are often built more durably than many other options
By and large, airsoft AKs aim to replicate the heavy and durable qualities of their real steel inspirations.
As a result, they tend to use similar parts, with many good quality models being made of stamped steel and using heavy wood or reinforced polymer furniture (rather than alloy or ABS, for example).
More than that, the V3 gearbox tends to be a little thicker/more reinforced and sturdy compared to the V2s commonly found in AR replicas (although the internals are usually similar).
Many can support unusual looking accessories
If you are a fan of Soviet style optics, then you’re in luck.
Many AK74 replicas have specific attachment points on their sides for attaching Soviet-style optics and other accessories that can further help you stand out a bit from your peers.
Rarely feel toylike
Finally, it’s important to note that AKs in general are heavy and solid airsoft guns that can feel very much like a real steel firearm when held.
As a result, they almost always manage to avoid that common airsoft gun pitfall of being overly light and plasticky, i.e. feeling like a toy.
What Are Some Disadvantages?
Not quite as common or in-demand as some other airsoft rifle models
When it comes down to it, regardless of the model in question, AKs just aren’t as popular or in-demand as an M4-style gun.
While they’re not exactly a niche gun, these guns aren’t always in stock and when they are they can be more expensive to buy than a comparable AR.
They are heavier, bulkier and more mechanical looking than other options
As we’ve said, due to their use of more durable materials in their construction, airsoft AKs tend to be heavier and bulkier than their AR-rivals, which means they can be harder to carry around for long periods of time if you’re not used to them.
They also don’t have that modern, sleek, tactical look that, say, a Daniel Defense or a Trident might have, which can be a turn-off for some users.
They don’t disassemble as easily as other options
Unlike an M4 or other AR-platform, which only usually require users to pop off a couple body pins, airsoft AKs tend to take a lot more work to strip down.
They often require users to unscrew and detach a few components before being able to access key components, meaning there is a greater chance of losing or breaking things in the process.
Parts and upgrades aren’t quite as ubiquitous as with ARs
Due to their relative popularity, ARs such as M4s or HK416s tend to have a lot more third party manufacturers making a wider variety of accessories and customized parts for them compared to airsoft AKs.
Their history and origin can cause some cocked eyebrows on the field
Not everyone is a huge fan of the Soviet Union or Russia and the use of an AK on the field may cause some issues.
Issues To Be Aware of With Airsoft AKs in General
Most airsoft AKs worth their salt are full metal builds.
As we’ve mentioned previously, although an airsoft gun advertised as “full metal” might seem naturally durable and strong, you often have to be quite careful.
A real steel AK is made of stamped steel and good-quality replicas use stamped steel as well (or at least high quality aluminum), resulting in their receivers being a lot heavier and more durable than comparable aluminum builds.
Unfortunately, to save costs, some manufacturers may use relatively poor quality metals, eschewing the use of hard-wearing steel for aluminum alloys with high percentages of tin or zinc.
As a result, their supposedly rugged frames may more easily fall victim to rust damage, dents, or even cracks with moderate use.
Wood Furniture Issues
Wood is a heavy, fairly durable and very attractive material to use with any firearm.
On an AK (particularly a 47 or 74 variant), wood furniture is simply iconic.
Unfortunately, when it comes to airsoft you often don’t really get the same level of wood sourcing or quality control as you might from a real firearm manufacturer.
As a result, with cheaper models wood handguards, grips and stocks may come out of the box a little rougher, poorly finished or badly stained.
Not only can this make the airsoft gun look cheap, a lack of proper finishing and treatment can make its furniture more prone to swelling and splitting, and they can be a little costly to replace.
Fit and Finish of Handguards
Airsoft AK handguards are often prone to looseness, either out of the box or as an effect that develops over time.
Although this is also an issue for many real steel AKs, it can cause an annoying rattle/sensation when the gun is handled.
Depending on how you’ve paid for your airsoft AK, this can range from being a mild annoyance to a full-on irritant.
Hop Up Looseness
For the most part, airsoft AKs tend to use a slide up hop up.
To adjust them, users take a screwdriver, untighten the screw, slide the hop up from one side to another, and then retighten.
On occasion, these screws have been prone to working loose over time when the gun is fired repeatedly, causing the slide to lose its adjustment during a game.
Fixing this issue is usually pretty minor, often involving something like adding a thin piece of rubber or o-ring behind the screwhead and retightening, but it can be an annoyance.
Fire Selector Wonkiness
Airsoft AK fire selector levers are prone to some issues.
The most common is that the lever itself can either become loose or become stuck between fire modes.
The usual cause of this is a misalignment in the selector gears, which can be fixed with a little work and knowhow.
A less common reason is that some manufacturers fit their airsoft AKs with poorly made selector plates that tend to jam or otherwise interfere with the fire selection action.
The Fire Selector Scratches The Paint on the Body
This is actually something that affects real steel AKs as well and, although nothing to be concerned about, is kind of annoying for collectors.
It is actually due to the design of the AK’s safety lever.
To help prevent slippage, it was designed with a slight bump pointing inwards that drags against the receiver and causes a nice, crescent shaped scratch in the finish pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, as they say, it’s a feature not a bug.
Small Battery Compartment
With airsoft AK AEGs, the battery compartment is often located under the dust cover of the gun.
As you might imagine, this isn’t exactly an expansive location.
While some models extend the battery compartment into the gun’s faux-gas tube, it still remains a bit of a tight fit height-wise.
This can limit the size and type of battery you can effectively use with the gun and any possible locking mechanism the manufacturer has installed may actually end up causing damage to a battery.
So…Bakelite, AKs and Airsoft – What’s The Deal?
Bakelite is the commercial name for the first synthetic plastic, an often brownish, lightweight, heat-resistant and durable phenol-formaldehyde (yes, formaldehyde) resin that was used to make a variety of consumer goods, from dominos to household appliance parts, throughout the 1920s and all the way until the 1950s when it gradually started being replaced by thermoplastic materials, such as ABS.
Contrary to popular myth, real steel AK47s and their later counterparts didn’t actually use Bakelite per se, which was a Western invention and brand of plastics for one thing and actually strong enough to withstand the demands of firearms use for another.
There were AK47s that, for a while, used reinforced polymer for their grips, stocks and handguards with the understanding that they would be lighter, cheaper and easier to produce.
These guns’ plastic parts came in brownish hues and were somewhat designed to look like wood, but looked quite a bit like Bakelite to Western eyes, resulting in the amusing nickname.
With all that said, this Bakelite style wasn’t really in production for a long time, and while AKs (like the 74m and on) did eventually start using polymer materials for their furniture, they mainly came in black.
Now, keep in mind that due to the relative rarity of Bakelite these days and the relative abundance and ease of using thermoplastics in manufacturing, most of these are what we call “fakelite” parts, i.e. thermo polymers painted light brown.
Its use and demand by AK enthusiasts in the real steel world is really more of a nod to the original AK’s mid-20th century origin and can be seen as something of a retro-cool add on or customization.
Airsoft AK manufacturers, of course, cater to the desire for Bakelite AK parts and magazines, and most manufacturers today will have lines of AK47s, 74s, 105s and more that have either OEM or third-party Bakelite accessories available for sale.
Most popular amongst these are the famous Bakelite AK magazines, since they can be added to just about any AK airsoft gun without worrying about fit issues, but quite a few airsoft AKs come with or offer Bakelite grips and handguards
As with real steel AKs, these tend to be made of ABS plastic and whether or not they look like actual vintage Bakelite is another story.
One thing to keep in mind is that while Bakelite could come in a few different colors and tones, the idea here is to emulate the wood coloring and style of an AK47, AKM or AK74 and so any fakelite should be a light almost toffee-colored brown.
AK Airsoft Brands You Should Know
LCT is a Taiwanese airsoft manufacturer known for producing high-quality AEG airsoft guns.
Although the company makes a variety of different models, it is best known for its line of AK models, which tend to be quite well-made.
Their AKs tend to use heavier-grade stamped steel, nicely finished wood furnishings (on their AK47s/74s) and tend to balance accuracy and reliability with a heavy dose of power.
As a result, they tend to be on the premium side of airsoft AKs.
“Get a CYMA” is the typical refrain heard on airsoft forums when a new users asks what kind of AK they should get.
And there is a good reason for this.
CYMA Gun is a well-known and popular airsoft company founded around 2000.
For Kalashnikovs, the company makes an extremely wide variety of AKs, from basic but reliable, budget-minded AEGs to their more up-market Platinum series, they really do make an AK for everyone.
And those they do make tend to be pretty reliable, upgradable and decent on the field.
Arcturus is a relatively new player in the US airsoft market, and when it comes to AKs has developed a reputation for building more tactical and modern looking replicas (like the AK12).
These tend to be very well built inside and out, generally offering a high level of performance for a mid-range price.
GHK is a Taiwanese airsoft manufacturer that was a pioneer and innovator in the field of airsoft AKs.
While they have expanded their overall product portfolio in recent years, they still make some of the best and most reliable airsoft AK GBBRs around.
Of course, everyone knows Tokyo Marui, the original airsoft manufacturer and the leading Japanese brand on the market today.
The company has a strong reputation for building extremely accurate replicas that, while not all that powerful due to local Japanese restrictions on airsoft manufacturing, are usually extremely reliable and surprisingly accurate.
As they’ve often set the standard for gearboxes and other components of airsoft guns, they tend also to be extremely upgradable and customizable.
What many people don’t know is that Tokyo Marui also makes a number of very high quality airsoft AK GBBRs.
The company’s high level of quality control and attention to detail usually means that their GBBRs tend to feed more reliably, tend to have better trigger break and reset, and can often contain some higher-end features, such as dry fire mode and more.
They also tend to keep FPS to a CQB-friendly range, which is something to consider.
With their rugged looks, durable design, unique details and iconic reputation, an airsoft AK can be an interesting option for those sick of browsing through page after page of M4 variants.
David Lewis – A longtime airsoft and airgun enthusiast and collector, our editor David’s lifelong passion for tactical sports began in high school with some friends, a cheap knock-off airsoft M4, and an open field behind his parents’ house.
When he’s not plinking around, he enjoys sharing his knowledge of airsoft and helping those just starting out.