Comparing Kalashnikovs

Not all AKs are created equal. The author sets out to determine the best of three.

When Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the AK47 more than 60 years ago, I doubt he realized how this simple, extremely robust rifle would proliferate and be copied by so many countries. Even though the basic design has remained the same, subtle differences exist between specimens of different origin. There are many variants available today, and people often want to know which is best.


I'm curious about that too, so I recently compared three popular variants currently available through Century International Arms. They are all semiautomatic modernized AKM models characterized by stamped metal receivers instead of the older and more expensive milled AK receiver.


The Romanian GP WASR-10's receiver is manufactured in Romania, while the GP 1975 and Yugoslavian M70AB2 receivers are manufactured in the US. All three guns contain a mixture of new and used U.S. and foreign parts in order to comply with U.S. law.

The samples are all chambered in the original 7.62x39 Soviet round. All three operate the same way, and to the casual observer are the same, but there are differences--especially in their stocks.


The Romanian GP WASR-10 has rough, linseed oil-treated wood fore-ends and a matching buttstock. The stamped metal buttplate incorporates a trap door to stow a cleaning kit. The straight pistol grip is black polymer.

The GP 1975 stock is black polymer with the same profile as the GP WASR-10 but with a ridged stamped sheet metal buttplate that lacks the trap door.

The Yugoslavian M70AB2 has a buttstock that folds underneath the receiver, allowing the gun to be fired with the stock folded or extended. Its fore-end and pistol grip are black polymer.

Comparing features from front to back, all three have a slanted muzzle brake. Barrels are 16ΒΌ inches long, but only the Yugo's is crowned and only the imported GP WASR-10 bore is chromed. Beneath each barrel resides a cleaning rod.

The GP 1975 and GP WASR-10 front sights are the same, but the M70AB2 has a heavier tower and is equipped with a deactivated folding night sight. The front sight posts on all three guns are adjustable for elevation.

All three rifles feature a gas block with a bayonet lug. However, the M70AB2 gas block is equipped with a grenade launcher sight that pivots upward and--when raised--obstructs the gas port.

All three tangent rear sights are adjustable for distance. All are graduated from 1 to 10 and have a battle-sight zero setting--marked "P" on the GP WASR-10, "0" on the others.

Behind the sight is the receiver cover. The GP 1975 and GP WASR-10 covers feature ridges for added stiffness; the M0AB2 cover is smooth. Thickness of the GP WASR-10 is .027 inch, the GP 1975 is .030 inch and the M70AB2 is .035 inch.

Outwardly, the stamped sheet-metal receivers look the same, but the GP WASR-10 has no dimples to reduce magazine side wobble, instead utilizing two pieces of metal attached to the inside.

While the Yugoslavian M70AB2 and GP 1975 receivers are made to accept 30-round magazines, the GP WASR-10 receiver--as imported--accepts only single-stack 10-round magazines until Century International widens the well.

The Romanian mag well measures 0.037 inch wider than the others and allows the bottom of a 30-round magazine to wobble about a quarter-inch from side to side--twice the play of the other two. Each gun comes with two 30-round steel magazines.

Attached to the right outside of the receiver is the safety, and all three are marked with an "S" and "F," but the M70AB2 lacks locking detents. Nevertheless, friction is sufficient to hold the safety lever in place. The M70AB2 lever has a small lower tab to clear the right arm of the folder while the upper tab is larger than the others and located to the rear. A scope mount is riveted to the left side of the GP WASR-10.

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Accuracy Results |

AK47 Comparison

7.62x39 Bullet Weight (gr.)Velocity (fps) Standard Deviation Group (in.)
Romanian GP WASR-10
American Eagle FMJ 124 2,202 07 5.61
Winchester Super X SP 123 2,283 13 3.01
Wolf Steel Case FMJ 122 2,263 18 6.93
Century Arms GP 1975
American Eagle FMJ 124 2,300 10 2.16
Winchester Super X SP 123 2,323 21 4.85
Wolf Steel Case FMJ 122 2,445 15 3.93
Romanian M70AB2
American Eagle FMJ 124 2,260 07 1.36
Winchester Super X SP 123 2,308 36 1.82
Wolf Steel Case FMJ 122 2,444 19 2.82
Notes: Accuracy results are the averages of three five-shot groups fired from a sandbag rest at 100 yards. Velocity figures were recorded 10 feet from the muzzle with an Oehler 35P chronograph. Abbr. FMJ, full metal jacket; SP, softpoint

The Yugoslavian M70AB2 is a compact AK variant when the stock is folded beneath the receiver.

The Yugo and GP 1975 gas pistons are chromed and feature two grooves while the GP WASR-10 is made by TAPCO, is stainless steel and has three grooves.

The recoil spring and guide look alike on all three rifles. However the M70AB2 rear retainer has a ridge that engages a takedown catch on the rear trunion, a feature not shared by the other two guns.

The M70AB2 rear sling mount is located at the left rear of the receiver at the buttstock release button, while the front mount is on the left side of the gas block. Both accommodate a one-inch-wide strap. The rear mount on the GP 1975 is on the left side of the butt, the GP WASR-10 has a one-inch wide rear mount on the toe, and both feature a 1/2-inch wide front sling mount on the left side of the lower fore-end retainer.

The GP 1975 at center and GP WASR-10 at bottom are nearly identical up front except for the fore-end material, while the M70AB2 has a more massive front sight tower and gas block. On the Romanian GP WASR-10 (top), Century International Arms widens the well to accept standard 30-round magazines. The other two receivers are U.S. made. From left: The M70AB2 has a folding stock, the GP WASR-10 has a standard wood stock while the GP 1975's is polymer. The field stripped GP 1975 is typical of the three AK47s. This simple design is one of the most dependable battle rifles of all time.

Overall fit and finish of these guns are acceptable for military arms. The GP 1975 and M70AB2 are Parkerized, and the GP WASR-10 appears to be blued. The finish is a little nicer on the GP 1975 and the M70AB2, but the latter's stock pivot points were slightly rusted.

The GP 1975 top cover and gas cylinder finish do not match its receiver or barrel, and the GP WASR-10 finish has a few blemishes. However, these are surplus guns and should look the part. I kind of like it.

Accompanying each gun are two magazines and a manual, but the GP WASR-10 also comes with a cleaning kit, an oiler, a bayonet--including sheath and frog--a leather sling and a canvas belt pouch.

I could find no other significant differences between the guns, so to determine which gun is best, I headed to the range.

AKs are not built to tight tolerances, which is one reason they are so reliable. Although a high degree of accuracy should not be expected, these samples produced groups that ranged from about 1.5 to seven inches at 100 yards. While seven inches pushes maximum acceptable accuracy, 1.5 inches is pretty good.

The best average of three five-shot groups was 1.36 inches, and was delivered by the Yugoslavian M70AB2 with American Eagle 124-grain FMJ loads. The GP WASR-10 was the least accurate but still delivered acceptable three-inch groups with Winchester Super X 123-grain softpoints.

Trigger pulls were long and smooth, between four and five pounds, and there were no malfunctions.

AKs are not highly sophisticated, precision instruments and tend to have their quirks. For example, the GP WASR-10 magazine release tended to stick. The right arm of the M70AB2 folding buttstock was bent slightly and hit the safety when moved, and its cleaning rod was bent and tended to creep forward under recoil.

I found none of these problems significant.

Reliability over the long-term is a major component of quality, and unfortunately one I was unable to test. To do so would require many copies of each gun and huge quantities of ammunition. However, Gunsite Academy has about 50 GP WASR-10s, so I talked to Ed Head, Gunsite's operations honcho. He told me that 25 guns have been used extensively over the last four-plus years and have fired between 40,000 and 50,000 rounds each. During this period, a couple of pivot pins broke and one gun developed a bulge in the receiver. That's pretty good reliability, especially considering the GP WASR-10 is the least expensive and roughest appearing of the three guns.

So which is the best? Each person must decide for himself based on personal preference, price and features. I would feel comfortable using any of these guns for self defense or recreation.

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Specifications |

AK47 Comparison

<strongRomanian GP WASR-10Centure Arms GP 1975 Yugoslavian M70AB2
Type (ALL): semiautomatic, gas-operated
Caliber (ALL): 7.62 x 39mm Russian
Capacity (ALL): 30 + 1 rounds, detachable box
Barrel Lenth (ALL): 16 1/4 inches
Overall Lenth: 35 1/4 inches 35 1/4 inches 35 3/4 inches
Weight: 7 lb. 6 lb. 12 oz. 7 lb. 8 oz.
Finish: blued Parkerized Parkerized
Stock: wood w/ polymer grip black polymer polymer fore-end, under-folder stock
Sights(ALL): windage adjustable rear, elevation adjustable front
Optics Mount: scope mount on left side of reciver no no
Trigger: 4 lb. 2 oz. 4 lb. 12 oz. 4 lb. 10 oz.
Price: $400 $450 $525
Importer: Century International Arms, Inc., 800.527.1252

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