A lot of buzz came from Shot Show 2020 and a much of it is surrounding the number of companies really upping the Kalashnikov game. Between Palmetto State Armory, Kalashnikov USA and even Century Arms, there’s a lot to get excited over. Whether you love or lathe the platform, you’ve got to respect the qualities that have made it an enduring weapon since its introduction in the post-WWII era. The fact that American companies have finally got serious about building a quality AK is impressive and personally I think its as good a time as any to be in the AK game.

New production (2018) Romanian WASR 10, top, and PSA GF3.

But first, why would anyone wanna run that ‘commie gun’, anyway? It the so-called ‘modern era‘ it lags behind in optic integration, modularity, customizability, speed, and all those first world problems, so why would anyone want to pay any attention today? For starters, it works. And it works pretty damn well in nearly every corner of the world. Period. Because, as I discussed in the last episode of Radio Contra, its a simple platform to learn if you’re faced with having to train completely inexperienced people. Anyone who’s actually been in a firefight knows that under duress you’re going to default to your best level of training- meaning, the simpler, the better. The AK is about as simple as it gets. After training up civilians with zero experience on any weapons platform, the AK‘s perceived lack of ergonomics actually favor them. Does that mean its better than anything or everything else? No. But that does recognize some advantages when looking at it a different way.

I recall training with the Afghan Border Police who had their detachment commander but also had a unit elder who, that if I had to make an equivalence, was the senior NCO of the group. Everyone revered him, and we all respected him. The guy had been a Mujaheddin fighter against the Soviets, a Taliban fighter in the early post-DRA days, had killed Iranians for fun (his words, not mine) and could skin a goat faster than anyone on earth.  He carried a Tokarev as a status symbol but also an incredibly well-worn side-folding Romanian AK. This had been his since ‘the time of the Russians’ and had enough green jingle tape that I didn’t dispute him. They had M16s available to them, but most still preferred the AK, and to me, that was a testament to the weapon. His loadout was simple- a light homemade chest rig that looked like the Chinese ones but in a weird camo, three or four mags depending on how much trouble we were planning on getting into, and a fixed blade knife that looked like an Old Hickory. And you can say what you want about modernity, but the guy had survived more than a few ‘SHTF‘ moments in his life on just this go-to-war kit. It was certainly something to be respected and juxtaposed to the American ‘prepper‘ community, makes a lot of folks look pretty weak in comparison. When all you’ve got is all you’ve got, you don’t have time to bitch about what you would happen to like better, I guess.

Taliban go-to-war kit, recovered by my Team somewhere in southeast Afghanistan.

For them, the Kalash was as much a symbol as it was a weapon, like the Lee Enfields they used to fight the British two generations before, of the freedom of a people against outside an aggressor. More than that, it was a weapon that endured the realities of life in one of the most inhospitable places on the globe. And in capable hands, it works extremely well. Placing it in a woodland or jungle environment, the carbine really starts to shine as the weapon and rounds it fires are well suited to short range engagements and punching though underbrush. There’s a reason India has adopted a slightly modified AK-103 for its internal counterinsurgency units and Venezuela are manufacturing the 103 in large numbers.

So what about you, here in the States? The ammo, even quality ammo, is dirt cheap. You can supply a small team for a long period of time on roughly half the budget as you would other calibers. I don’t think anyone in their right mind can dispute the capabilities of 9l.the 7.62×39 when used in its intermediate role. Many in the past have derided the caliber and the weapon for a perceived ‘lack of accuracy’…and while no, you’re not getting match grade groups, a properly put together AK is more than capable of that 4 MOA combat accuracy threshold. I don’t expect any of my AKs to put up the same numbers as my ARs do, but then again, for operating in a woodland environment or any other where close contact is more likely than longer shots, I don’t think it makes that big of a difference.

It looks like a number of companies are warming up to the prospects of a quality American AK and I like what I’m seeing come down the pipe- from the good results I’ve had so far from Palmetto State Armory to the AK-103 that Kalashnikov USA is producing in-house. These are serious weapons, not the hobby-grade junk that’s been produced in the past, made by people who are actually serious about the platform. How will they stack up against my favorite of the bunch- the current-production Romanian WASR and M10? We’ll see, but so far so good. I’m excited to see where this goes and I think that 2020 is going to be the year a lot of people get into the Kalash– and in doing so, find out why the design has stood the test of time.