The Littlest AK

The Littlest AK

Russia's eye-catching AKS-74U is one handy little package.

The AKS-74U was developed in the 1970s to provide a personal defense weapon for Soviet specialists who found a conventional rifle too bulky.

Without a doubt, the most eye catching member of the Kalashnikov Avtomat family is the ultra short AKS-74U (AKC-74Y in Cyrillic). The size of a submachine gun, this model has always had a special appeal, practical or not, to many. With its stubby 8.2-inch barrel, abbreviated handguards and side-folding stock, it's a visually captivating package. But while it may look impressive, people wonder just how effective such a short weapon could be.

Certainly controllability, accuracy and terminal performance must be compromised by bobbing the barrel length almost in half. Plus why was the okurok ("cigarette butt," as Russian troops nicknamed it) designed in the first place?


The AKS-74U is the work of Russia's most famous weapons designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov. As its name implies (U stands for ukorochennyj or "shortened") it's a short-barreled variant of the folding-stock AKS-74 assault rifle issued to airborne troops.



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Specifications:

AKS-74U

Type:gas-operated, long-stroke-piston semiauto
Caliber: 5.45x39mm
Capacity: 20-, 30-, 45-round box magazines
Overall Length:28.6 in.
Barrel Length:8.2 in.
Sight Radius: 9.2 in.
Front Sight: protected post adjustable for windage and elevation
Rear Sight: flip sight with u notch- 200 and 4-500 meters

The 74U was developed to fill a Soviet Army need for an ultra compact weapon. While the addition of a side-folding stock to the standard AK-74 reduced the weapon's overall length considerably, even this was still too long for use by certain specialists such as drivers of combat vehicles and special law enforcement sub-units. In effect the Soviets were looking for what we currently refer to as a PDW or Personal Defense Weapon--something intended more for carrying than shooting.


So one year after the AK-74 went into full production, Kalashnikov's design team began work on a drastically abbreviated version. The barrel was shortened to just 8.2 inches. This length allowed the then new 5.45x39mm cartridge to achieve the same velocity as the older 7.62x39mm M43 cartridge when fired from a full-size AKM.


To ensure reliable function, a special muzzle device was fitted in place of the AK-74's standard muzzle brake. This unit is approximately 3.12 inches long, and it threads onto a collar surrounding the muzzle. Its main function is to act as an expansion chamber, but it's also intended to reduce the flash signature.

The front sight assembly has been relocated to the top of the gas block. Shrouded by protective ears, the front sight is adjustable for both windage and elevation like the AK-74. Behind this, both the upper and lower handguards have been shortened and the lower reshaped. The lower handguard has a pronounced beavertail type shape to provide a secure hold.

Another major change is the topcover is now permanently attached to the weapon. Rather than being removable it simply pivots up at the front and is under spring pressure.

The rear sight has also been changed. To start, its been relocated to the topcover. In addition it's been greatly simplified from a sliding tangent to a simple L-shaped flip sight with two settings. The first U-notch setting is the battlesight set at 200 meters. Flip this to the rear and a notch labeled "4-5" is exposed. This is for long-range use starting at 400 meters.

At the rear of the weapon one finds the side-folding triangular stock of the AKS-74. Pressing a button at the left rear of the receiver allows the stock to fold out of the way to the left side of the gun. A metal catch locks it securely to the receiver. With the stock folded, the rifle is a compact 19.3 inches; unfolded it's still a short 28.7 inches. Loaded the AKS-74U weighs only 6.8 pounds.

For reliable functioning, the AKS-74U utilizes an expansion chamber rather than a muzzle brake.

The short barrel does have a noticeable effect on velocity. Our review gun averaged just 2,369 fps with Wolf Performance Ammunition's 60-grain FMJ load. Contrast this with a full-size AK-74, which averaged 2,880 f

ps.

A loss of 500 fps is significant. With a .221-inch FMJ projectile weighing 52 to 60 grains, you need all the velocity you can get--especially when you want terminal performance out at 200 to 300 yards.

The short barrel also leads to a noticeable increase in both flash and report. Muzzle flash is clearly visible in daylight and brilliant in low light. Report is also quite loud and would be deafening inside a house or motor vehicle with no hearing protection.

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Accuracy:

AKS-74U

Load Bullet Weight (gr.)Muzzle Velocity (fps) Avg. Group (in.)
Wolf FMJBT602,3693.0
Velocity readings taken 12 feet from the muzzle with an Oehler 35P chronograph at an ambient temperature of 71 degrees. Groups are an average of six five-shot groups fired from the bench at 100 yards.

Accuracy was quite good, though. Six five-shot groups were recorded at 100 yards using Wolf's 60-grain FMJ load. Off the bench, the little gun averaged three-inch groups with a best of five rounds into 2.75 inches.

Impressed, I moved to a field position. Shooting prone off the magazine, I found I was easily able to hit a man-size silhouette at 200 yards, and with some concentration I could hit it at 300 yards as well. The sight radius is very short though, and it's relatively easy to botch a shot at the longer distances.

Although it's capable of it, the AKS-74U was not intended for engaging targets at 300 yards. So I ran it through some drills inside 75 yards. These quickly brought to light its strengths. First off, it handles extremely well, shoulders quickly and swings like lightning. Due to its light weight, it's very easy to keep shouldered during magazine changes.

It handles very well indoors, and snakes around corners easily. Practical accuracy is very good, as is controllability. As to be expected, it also carries nicely thanks to its short length and very light weight.

Final thoughts? The AKS-74U is a visually captivating gun that's extremely small and light. It's surprisingly accurate, reasonably powerful, simple to operate and eminently reliable. The downside is a significant degradation in terminal performance and substantially increased muzzle flash and report. Out of production, it's now mainly issued to Russian law-enforcement units. Although not as practical as a full-size rifle, it's a handy gun well-suited for its intended purpose.

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