All-American AK

The Red Army Standard 47 From
Century International Arms

By Will Dabbs, MD
Photos By Takashi Salo

In the years immediately following World War II, everyone assumed the world’s geopolitical center of gravity would be nukes. These devices were, after all, capable of precipitating planetary extinction. However, the real catalyst for revolutionary change turned out to be an 8-lb., shoulder-fired, air-cooled, select-fire rifle churned out en masse by semi-literate workers.

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A Tale Becomes Legend

The story honestly feels a bit contrived. A patriotic young Russian peasant soldier wounded in combat with the Nazis dreams up a revolutionary new rifle design while recuperating in a military hospital. Dedicated to the preservation of the Soviet state, this young tanker birthed a weapon so perfectly suited for its role, it changed the societal fabric of the planet. Like most legends, this one likely has origins in both fact and fable.

Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, the 17th of 19 children, was wounded in the shoulder while serving as a tank crewman in 1941 and subsequently spent six months in the hospital. The first weapon he designed was actually a sub-machinegun. This early effort was not adopted but did show sufficient merit to get him noticed. Despite little formal training, Kalashnikov’s impressive capacity for solving mechanical problems earned him the respect of both his peers and his superiors.

In 1944 he designed a gas-operated carbine chambered for the extraordinary new M43 7.62×39 intermediate cartridge that lost out to the Simonov SKS. The SKS went on to gain some modicum of notoriety in its own right. This early Kalashnikov effort was later adapted into the “MikTim,” an eponymous gun named after the designer’s name Mikhail Timofeyevich. This design then evolved into the AK47 — accepted in 1947 and entered into service in the Soviet military in 1949. Beyond all expectations, the Kalashnikov rifle has indeed fundamentally shaped the affairs of men.

The first variation was initially built around a stamped receiver but was deemed insufficiently robust. The subsequent forged-receiver version became the standardized early model. Because of early production challenges, this milled-receiver AK-47 was not actually issued in quantity until 1956. By 1959 the problems had been resolved with the original stamped AK receivers and the sheet steel AKM became the most prevalent variant. More than 100 million of the world’s approximately 500 million firearms now bear the name Kalashnikov.

Kalashnikov rifles were produced literally around the globe and the price of a select-fire AK is a reliably good measure of domestic stability. If it’s expensive, the country in question is likely a good place to live. If they’re ubiquitous and cheap, you might want to move elsewhere.

It was the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War that really raised the Kalashnikov to international prominence. Countless millions of stockpiled AK’s tucked away for a war with the West, which never materialized found their way into international arms markets. In the process, quite a few unscrupulous opportunists grew exceptionally wealthy, a formidable number of bloodthirsty warlords became very heavily armed, and chaos ensued on a breathtaking scale.

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Here’s the stone-simple innards of the most dead-reliable gas-operated system ever.

How Does It Work?

The military AKM chambered in 7.62 x 39mm is built around a stamped receiver pressed out in quantity using basic metal forming equipment. The gun is driven by a long-stroke piston system — grossly over-designed and easy to maintain. This legendary robustness keeps AK rifles running in mud, dirt, sand, and snow with trivial attention. The manual of arms is so simple a child could do it—and many have.

Though the newer AK-74 was chambered for a high-velocity 5.45×39 round, the original 7.62×39 is a tough cartridge upon which to improve. Light enough to tote in quantity yet sufficiently powerful to drop most any North American game animal, the argument could be made this 70-year-old .30-caliber round is the best all-around military cartridge ever devised.

The action locks via a massive rotating bolt and feeds from heavy yet essentially indestructible 30-round magazines. There are variations with both fixed and folding stocks and the charging handle reciprocates with the bolt.

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An Americanized Classic

Kalashnikov rifles are built in at least 33 countries and I stopped counting at 105 nation-states who use them operationally. Despite this unprecedented worldwide saturation, most of the guns available to American shooters are from foreign-made parts. Fairly schizophrenic import regulations allow most parts to be brought in freely but restrict complete guns in their original military configurations. As a result, there is no way to be completely sure your foreign-made rifle doesn’t include parts harvested from the reject bin in some Bulgarian sweatshop, or even discards dredged up from the bottom of a Mogadishu sewage lagoon. The new Red Army Standard 47 from Century, however, is a totally different animal.

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The Americanization Of An Enemy

Century International Arms carved out a unique niche in the American firearms market by providing the military-style guns (for which we appear to have an insatiable appetite) at remarkably reasonable prices. Early on this meant domestically-assembled parts guns unavailable anywhere else. I own several early Century AK and HK clones, each rendering predictably reliable service. In recent years, however, Century’s lineup has expanded to include new-made factory guns.

The RAS47 is entirely new and American-made from the buttplate to the muzzlebrake. Americans milled and pressed the parts, Americans cut the wood for the furniture from American forests, and corn-fed Americans put everything together. What this offers American shooters is a truly brand new Kalashnikov rifle whose metallurgy and workmanship are beyond reproach.

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The safety lever has a cutout to lock the bolt back for inspection

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The finish is black nitride — it’s virtually impervious to the elements.

Vital Statistics

The RAS47 is a reliable rendition of the standard Com-bloc AKM. The receiver is 1/16″ 4140 pressed steel, the furniture is oiled hardwood, and the improved RAK-1 heat-treated internals eliminate trigger slap. The hammer drive spring is wound from a single strand rather than the multi-strand originals, the buttstock lacks a cleaning kit trap, the magazine release has a T-shape for easier access. Plus, the gas block and front sight base lack the cleaning rod fixtures of the mil-spec rifles. Otherwise, the RAS47 is pure unfiltered AK.

The chrome moly 4150 nitride-treated barrel has a 1-in-10 twist and is threaded with left-hand 14×1 threads accepting all standard AK muzzle attachments. The rifle comes fitted with a slant muzzle brake. The clunky “ranch gate” safety sucks, but all AK safeties suck. The safety lever does incorporate a cutout to lock the bolt to the rear for inspection or servicing.

The newest versions come with a proprietary return-to-zero scope base riveted in place on the left side of the receiver. This mount rectifies the myriad problems encountered with the original milspec versions and Com-Bloc mounts will not fit as a result. However, Century is producing a robust mount to fit this base and it holds up to hard use, mounts any imaginable optic, reliably retains zero, and sets you back around 90 bucks.

The finish is black nitride with a skeletonized heat-treated bolt carrier and the gun comes with a single Magpul 30-round magazine — if bought in a Free State. My gun ran every AK magazine and drum I shoved into it. Everything about the rifle is tight and the execution is perfect. It even has that inimitable new gun smell right out of the box. I stripped mine down to pins and springs and found it to be exquisitely well executed throughout.

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A scope base is mounted on the left side of the receiver.

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The furniture? Plain-Jane oiled hardwood.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

It runs like an AK. The compact carbine geometry is right at the upper end of acceptable given the power of the .30-caliber cartridge, but literally tens of millions of soldiers, terrorists, freedom fighters, and sporting enthusiasts can’t be wrong. The tapered M43 cartridge is the ballistic equivalent of the .30-30, likely the most effective whitetail deer round ever made, and the rifle itself is arguably the most reliable mechanical contrivance on the planet. Recoil is noticeable without being unpleasant and I printed between 3″ and 6″ groups at 100 meters so long as I paid attention.

These guns are rolling off the assembly lines as you read these words and there is nothing at all “collectible-only” about the RAS47. What this means is this rifle is ready to work — keep in your truck, hump through the woods, stash in your closet, protect your business, or roll around with in the dirt — the RAS47 won’t quit on you. You can shoot it until it glows and bump it on stuff without guilt. Clean it if you want, don’t if you don’t. It is the rare American civilian shooter who will run enough rounds through this rifle to slow it down.

The gun is sufficiently reliable to stake your life upon and inexpensive enough to actually use. The RAS47 is part Ford truck, part Campbell’s chicken soup, part Timex watch, part loyal hunting dog, and part crowbar in equal measures. It is utilitarian, affordable and effective.

It is the classic American workingman’s gun. 

Importer: Century Arms

www.centuryarms.com
Caliber: 7.62×39
Action: gas-operated semi-auto
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Barrel length: 16.5″
Rifling twist: 1:10″
Overall length: 37.25″
Weight: 7.8 lbs.
Sights: Adjustable front post and leaf rear
Finish: Black nitride with phosphated bolt carrier
Stock: Oiled hardwood
Price: $649.99

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