The AK is meant to be cheap

I recently posted a review of the Arsenal SAM7SF forged and milled receiver AK on the Military Arms Channel. In reading through the comments section of the video I noticed a number of posters saying they would never pay over $1k for an AK regardless of the quality since AK’s are meant to be “cheap”.

AK post

This viewer believes that AK’s are supposed to be “cheap”, and regardless of the quality, there’s no reason to pay $1k for a rifle. He presumably would use a $1500 AR15, just not a $1500 AK.

I have never understood where this mindset evolved from. The AK, like most modern military weapons, was designed to be efficiently manufactured to save precious resources. The original AK47 was intended to be made mostly from stampings like the current AKM’s, however due to manufacturing issues the rifle went into mass production using a milled receiver until the kinks could be worked out of the stamping/welding processes.

Prior to the AK47 being designed, Nazi Germany had been perfecting stampings for use in the construction of military small arms throughout WWII. Other countries were also beginning to produce small arms constructed primarily from stampings including the U.S., England, Australia and others. The German MP40 sub-machine gun made use of stampings as did the MG-42. Then we have the grandfather of the modern assault rifle, the StG-44, which also made extensive use of stampings in its construction. Interestingly, most of these German made firearms had predecessors that were made mostly of machined components, but by wars end they had began using stampings for major components like the receiver.


The HK91, which is viewed by most to be a “high quality” weapon, is constructed primarily of stamped components.

I mention the use of stampings because I’m confident that the belief AK’s are “cheap” comes from their use of stampings for the construction of the receiver and other miscellaneous parts.

Now lets talk about the AR15. When this rifle hit the market in the 1960’s it was disparaged as being cheap and/or low quality by the firearms elite of the era due to its use of polymers and lightweight aluminum in its construction. The aluminum alloy and plastics were cheap and easy to work with, plus they were light weight. Eugene Stoner was all about keeping the price low and reducing the weight of the rifle, the same reasons stampings were used in the construction of other contemporary designs of the era.

Somehow the AR15 went from being viewed as a cheaply made, bare minimum quality rifle, intended for mass production in the 1960’s to now being seen as the gold standard for quality in modern military rifles. Ironically, nothing significant has changed in the construction of the major AR15/M16/M4 components over the years. The mil-spec standards established in the 1960’s are still applied to the current production rifles. The only thing that has changed is the way the rifle is viewed by modern shooters.

So why is it that many American shooters view the AR as a high quality rifle while viewing the AK as cheaply made junk? First, many will automatically equate stampings with low quality. However, the view that stampings make a rifle “cheap” isn’t applied evenly across the spectrum of modern military rifles. Take the HK91 (G3) as an example. Many who view the AK as being cheaply made see the HK 90 series of firearms as being high-quality and modern designs, despite the fact they’re made primarily of stampings. The Swiss made 550 is another rifle mostly constructed of low cost stampings, however you would be hard pressed to find anyone who will call it “cheap” or assert it’s poorly made. Then we have the SCAR, which people are more than happy to pay over $2k for, that features a low cost extruded alloy receiver and other major components fabricated from injection molded polymers.

Sig 550

Like the HK91, the Swiss made Sig 550 rifle is considered by many to be of very high quality yet it too is constructed of lost cost stampings.

The same people that deride the AK as being a cheap rifle that should never cost more than $400 will have no qualms about paying $1,500 to $2,500 for a “high quality” AR15 or one of the new plastic-fantastics like the SCAR or ACR. If you show them a rifle like the new SAM7SF AK, which is machined from forged steel (higher quality than any AR15 receiver I’ve seen in recent history) and features a fit and finish that would rival the best $1,500 AR15 on the market, they’ll scoff and tell you it’s a waste of money.

Making matters worse, many believe that the AK was designed for a poorly trained “peasant” army. Nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout the Cold War the Russians maintained one of the best trained and equipped militaries in the world. To this day Russian military small arms are in high demand and are viewed as being among the best weapons available on the global small arms market. It’s only the hoity-toity American AR fans that seem to think the AK is little more than a low quality second class rifle.

I disagree with those that contend the AK is “cheap” or poorly made and firmly believe the AK is one of the best, if not the best, military service rifle of the 20th century at any price.


MAC is an avid shooter, former MCSF Marine, NRA member, Oath Keeper and is commissioned as a Colonel by the Governor of Kentucky. Known for his videos on the Military Arms Channel, he also writes for The Bang Switch, for Shotgun News (Be Ready!) and freelances for Guns & Ammo. MAC has been a life long shooter who has an interest in all things that go "bang" but gravitates towards military type firearms.

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  • Mike

    People are frustrated because the AK, up until last year, was the only “assault rifle” (if you pardon my liberal borrowed lingo) that many in the shooting community could afford. Just because you are comfortable with paying exorbitant prices for AK’s does not help the fact that many people feel they are being priced out from exercising their constitutional rights as laid down by the 2nd Amend. I am not a jilted AK owner, I possess AR15’s & an array of other firearms, I can simply see from these people’s point of view. Love the channel, keep up the great work!

    • Andrew Little

      I saw your review on Warrior Talk Forum. Once again I witnessed them practically ridicule you for sharing nothing more information about your experience with a weapon platform. What’s ironic is, I learned to respect the AK platform through that particular forum and educational videos that you and others produce. I thought the reaction was very strange.

      • Bones

        I noticed that on Warrior Talk too…sometimes on subject matter like firearms especially when those that have either served or made their living using the tool would now be such ‘bandwagoneers’ and ‘fanboyish’ gets bothersome and keeps those trying to glean helpful information in a fog of unsurity.

        I’ve really come to value the M.A.C’s reviews. Concise yet thorough, no hype, honest and unbiased. MAC’s review of the SAM7SR came out and mr Suarez slams it, or more pointedly, slams Arsenals marketing hype about it being a game changer and it’s used by subsequent forum contributors to slam the rifle and it quickly turns into a promotion of the SIg 556R. Prior I was on WarriorTalk reading about the virtues of the AK platform, now they collectively seem to slam it for its apparent obsolescence.. I’m left as confused as a church boy with a bipolar girlfriend at her time of month.

        I have limits of my disposable funds and I’m honestly trying to figure out which is the ideal way to go with either a Sig 556R or this Arsenal SAM7SR, In truth I was hoping MAC would have reviewed the 556R instead of the 551a1 but that’s my selfish side talking because of decisions I’m trying to make.

        There were performance and quality of fitment issues with the 551 on MAC’s review that dont endear most to it at present. Those that have had face-time with the real deal are readily calling these SIG USA version ‘unfortunate compromised knockoffs’, some owners rave about their experiences, those with the 556R largely seem to like it very much. Some like the ‘WarriorTalk’ folks term it the ‘mercedes benz fo the AK world’ and sing it’s praises. Then there’s the 551 MAC showed us that rattled like a 1980’s Chevette. I’m thinking they are the same operating system and skin..

        The Arsenal looked to have favorable reviews and MAC reports it also performed admirably and has the high build quality many expect with an Arsenal AK, yet there seems to be a collective internet slamming of it, primarly for its price and secondarily for the nerve of the manufacturers marketing hyperbole. It otherwise seems like a premier AK.

        Trying to get a collective of unbiased input seems to evade me at present. I just dont have the funds to buy twice, I tend to always research as heavily as I can so that I can make a well informed choice, much of what helps is honest and open reports and review by folks that have hands on time with the firearm. This time around with these two in particular are making me dizzy.

        I even read on WarriorTalk that the Beretta ARX 100 is a SCAR killer and does everything better.. I dunno, maybe it is but I see so much jumping on the bandwagon there that I struggle to find truth.

        • MAC

          I will say this much, there is absolutely no way I would take a Sig rifle of any caliber over an Arsenal AK. The US made Sig rifles don’t stack up to real military grade rifles like the SAM7, Colt AR15, SCAR, etc. I’ve yet to see any Sig rifle that didn’t have a toyish quality to it.

          A good friend and well known gun writer told me he had nothing but problems with his 551A1, and I believe it. Sig quality is hit or miss. My 551A1 is functionally sound, but I’ve handled air soft toys that were more solid feeling. I just finished using JB Weld on my 551A1 to stop the excessive hand guard and stock wobble. It’s the first rifle I’ve had to use epoxy to make right. Given the price, that’s unacceptable.

          Suarez moved on to other rifles for business reasons, not because the AK suddenly became obsolete. But like Suarez, I believe there are other alternatives to the AK out there that are potentially better solutions. I just don’t think Sig rifles are one of those viable alternatives. If you want a 7.62×39 rifle, the AK is still by far the best option in my opinion.

          • alh483qy8943

            The AK is currently the premier 7.62×39 rifle, but it still leaves many things to be desired, like the finicky way of mounting scopes, the single side safety and short sight radius for ironsights.

            After nearly a century of use I’ll don’t know why nobody except the polish ever decided to add a rails and a hinged top cover.

        • MAC

          I don’t know how anyone can say with a straight face the ARX100 is a SCAR killer when no one has spent any meaningful time with one. They’re not on the market yet. To say a rifle you’ve never fired is a “killer” of any other rifle is a bit suspect to me.

  • James

    I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph. The only reason people see ak’s as “cheap, low quality com bloc rifles” is because of two reasons: 1. The soviets and their allies made (and continue to make) so many AK rifles that the supply was far more than the demand, hence the lower price point. 2. They are only inaccurate in the hands of people who haven’t been properly trained on them (e.g. Taliban, Somalian militia etc). The Russian Military are among the few skilled enough to use a Kalashnikov rifle to its full potential in combat.

  • icepick37

    Yeah it probably comes from the stampings, and the platitude that they can be made for $20 or whatever.

    Obviously many guns COULD be made on the cheap. That doesn’t mean they are meant to be cheap, though.

  • UN Medic

    gets out the popcorn and a lawn chair.

  • Denise Lynn Hemmingway

    MAC, AKs don’t have to be cheap, but they are the poor nations’ and men’s weapon of choice when the chips are down and they need something to arm themselves with. Since I already own a Yugoslavian SKS I’ve been toying with either the AK or a Ruger Mini-30 for my detachable box magazine rifle. I have built up a supply of 7.62×39 and am leery of adding another caliber to the mix I already have. Still I would buy an AK that was either built with a milled receiver or one casts and machined similar to either the FN-FAL or the AR’s if I had the funds and one was available in my local market. I like the concept of the AK because in its traditional configuration it is meant to be assembled by nations or groups with limited industrial capability.

    • MAC

      There are 3rd world nations that use AK’s and there are nations like Poland, Bulgaria, Russia, China, and others that have used it too. The same can be said of the M16, there are plenty of 3rd world countries with them in inventory because we either gave them away or sold them on the cheap. Who uses them means little in how the rifle system is valued, IMHO.

      • LJK

        “Who uses them means little in how the rifle system is valued, IMHO.”

        Spot on. Just looking at the Nordic countries also gives some insight to this since it’s a very varied bunch. The Norwegians use an AR-15 derivative (either Colt Canada’s rifles or HK’s offerings), the Swedes mainly use a modified FN FNC and us Finns like our AK47 clones, the RK62s and 95s. Granted, our choice was probably influenced by having Russia as our neighbour but the rifles are still well liked (if a bit heavy compared to modern guns) and the 7.62×39 is especially appreciated for its ability to penetrate barriers (that is, trees) well.

        If you can find a civilian RK92S on the market, I recommend snatching it up. Probably one of the finest, and the most expensive, AK derivative out there. They’re also starting to be quite rare nowadays and you don’t really see them on sale anymore, even here. So if nothing else, a nice collector’s item that’ll only grow in value if you leave it in the safe.

  • Tim

    I think the cheapness comes from retailers and the ability to only markup the price of an ak47 so much. So they discount the platform because they can’t make as much.

  • msalzbrenner

    I disagree only in the fact that I absolutely love my “cheap” AK and I would never pay over a $750 for ANY rifle. I could care less WHO made it or WHAT type it is. I purchased my rifles because I intend to USE them. AK’s have more than proven their reliability, and overall usefulness. I’ve owned many rifles, including AR’s. I do not see the AR as the “gold standard” of anything. My interest in a “combat” weapon is simply getting the best “value” for my hard earned money. So far in the US that usually ends up being an AK or an SKS. They are ALWAYS looking for more cost effective ways of producing weapons, I suppose the truth at that point is that ALL weapons are “cheap”. And so be it. I’ll buy the one that costs less and does all the things I need it to do. The beauty is. There are plenty to choose from.

    • MikeW

      @msalzbrenner: I could not say it better.

  • manny

    Great article! Totally agree!!!

  • LJK

    Seems to be largely the case of a spoiled customer base and age-old propaganda (you know, AR-15s being made by CN machines by artisan gunsmiths while an AKM can be cobbled together in a cave). Just because a product can be had at a low price and low quality, doesn’t mean the same product couldn’t be made high quality, with a price to match.

  • Havok


    My biggest issue with the “new” Arsenal SAM7 is the way they tried to advertise it to us before the release. Our rep made the comment that this was going to be a much better priced weapon and appropriately priced for Dealers to actually make a profit on it. Arsenal makes a great quality product and the weapons are definitely worth the asking price, but they missed the mark on the “average joe” AK.

  • MjolnirActual

    Actually I think the answer to your question is what you briefly touch on at the end of the article.

    I think that is a hold over mindset from the cold war era that everything that is not ours must be crap.

    At the end of the day the AK has to be pretty damn good to have so many of them in the world, in various degrees of upkeep, many held together with spit and duct tape, and still viable.

    However you know how people can be when their opinions turn in to facts in their own mind.

  • Josh

    I suspect most of it comes from a Murica is da best at anything attitude too.

  • Jason Piveral

    Personally, I love AKs, the only thing I don’t like about them is that there is no bolt hold open on last round and the magazine has to be stripped manually – both of which can be remedied with minor aftermarket modifications.

    The AK can be of a cheaply made poor quality, or an expensive high quality … but so can the AR, as well as every other weapon in the world.

    From automatic to semi-automatic, bolt, pump and lever action, breach loaders and muzzle loaders, and even bladed weapons – the quality is in the craftsmanship, not the design.

  • AR

    Yeah tell that to the gun store owner, who didn’t want to buy my pristine converted MAK-90 because he “didn’t want to explain the differences that make it better than the WASR” to his customers.

    I was asking him for $800 – he was selling his WASR’s for $749.99. What it all boils down to is ignorance. Ignorance of different builds of AK, ignorance of desirable factors and function, and ignorance of differences in quality.

    One thing you vaguely skipped over, is indeed the AK was designed to be used as on fully automatic, from large groups of infantry advancing on enemy forces as a rule, in cold war doctrine. The rifleman training of the average Soviet soldier of the cold war was mediocre. It does not have the inherent accuracy for point accuracy in untrained hands, nor the arguably “clean” look of the AR series to untrained eyes. It is a tool to be mass produced and reliable in the hands of anyone, including children (which is a statement that makes me cringe.)

    For the record, I would gladly trade my AR for another AK. The AR just doesn’t do it for me like the AK does.

    Those who are in the know about the AK and AR, bemoan the AK series inherent inaccuracy. It gets a bad rap for that…and it is completely false. Some gun rag did a test on the 5.45 7n6 and Hornady 5.45 out to 500 yards. The 74 was capable of 16″ groups at that range with irons, which is quite admirable. People are just ignorant of the facts. It’s probably the gun cultures biggest failing.

  • David f

    It is designed to be reliable even if made in a cheap fashion, but that doesnt mean it cant be made well. the ar-15 on the other hand doesnt do too well when made will low quality components.

  • Gregor

    I’ve built a few ak’s, nothing is cheap about it, genius of the design – yes, how logically it goes together – yes, how easy it is maintain and disassemble – yes, uber reliable – yes, cheap – no. It is the genius of the design that makes it possible to be mass produced and keep the cost down. Price of the manufacturing and value of the produced subject are two different things.

  • Joshua

    I am an AK man through and through. But I would have to say that Century QC and others like them have also helped put this mindset into motion. Century guns or home garage converted Saigas are more available than say, Arsenal or pro built AKMs. Yes, I would never pay $1000 for a Century M10 or whatever flavor they import these days but there are a lot of AK types out there that I would find $1000+ being a deal. I am not putting down Century owners by any means. If it works, it works. My gun is no prom queen by any stretch. OOW receiver with a Rommy G kit hacked together in someone’s back yard. But it runs right.

  • Matt

    Well said Mac! I really enjoy reading your posts, and reviews.

    Grammar error “plus it they were light weight”

  • Tim

    Tim, I agree. I’m slowly putting together parts to build an AR, but I have a VEPR .308 AK, and that thing is a tank! Yeah, it’s a bit heavy due to it’s RPK origins, but in a precision rifle course I recently took, I was consitently hitting 1 MOA out to 350m (the range didn’t go any further). If I had to pick one of the two, my future AR or my AK, to take into battle, it would be no contest. My AK is not only accurate as hell, I can fill it with sand, and it will still run (as you pointed out in one of your AK videos). — Tim

    • mike

      VEPRs are great! I have a x39 and a x54r. Just need that 308 now! My 39 will group 2″ all day with cheap ammo at 100 with a dot sight.

  • Kelly

    I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that folks think AK isn’t a high-quality firearm. Perhaps what that poster was saying was that he could get a very reliable AK for less – thus why spend more than 1000 bucks?

  • Kendo

    This is the type of opinion column that I would like more of from the blog, much more so rather than freaking out about the political presumptions of a hollywood movie. There are perspectives on certain firearms, gear, and groups that really should be spoken more about to be questioned and challenged all for the better. Thanks for the post MAC!

  • Timothy G. Yan

    As for the cheap AK, those are because of left over stockpile components from the Cold War. Those have dry up and the cost of living in Eastern Euro countries have been increased by multiple folds.

  • JShepard

    If I had $1500, could source and afford 7.62×39, I would pick up that Arsenal. Maybe someday. It is beautiful, with solid components. Not sure how I feel about the thumb safety as it changes the manual of arms…

    Most people are used to CAI imports at gun shows that have canted sight bases, rattle when you shake them, have terrible barrels, ill fitting mags, etc. The same is true between a HK91 or Cetme built by CAI compared to getting one from PTR. There’s a price and quality difference, you’re getting what you pay for. There are also some terrible AR’s out there right now which rattle, have terrible triggers, and are just built weak.

  • Tony Goicochea

    Yup. I remember the first time I looked at the inside of an AK … I was floored by how simple, and ingenious the design was. I was surprised by how reliable it is, nearly impossible to jam, and it’s very sure extraction.

    Kalashnikov is a genius.

    You should read page 139 of David Hackworth’s “Steel My Soldier’s Hearts” and read
    about the AK experience.

    If there were a SHTF scenario I think I’d stick with an AK especially for close quarters

  • DrewR55

    Mac, while I agree that the AK has a stellar record and it should be held in the same regard as the M-16 and G3 I think you’re missing the trees for the forest. The reason, as it appears to me, that many look down their collective noses towards the AK has more to do with the reputation many other Soviet Bloc products have in the free world. Guilt by association if you will.

    How many times have we gotten up close to an example of the Soviet military might only to find that it was a whole heck of a lot scarier when looking at it through field glasses with the East/West German border in between? Think of the first time you watched the turret of a T-72 pop off in a geyser of smoke and flame (IIRC because of exposed fuel lines and an automated loader that requires live rounds in the turret) or when the Soviet pilot flew his MiG-25 to Japan and we found out it turned like a Mac truck at a hundred miles an hour. It’s not that the AK is a cheap or poorly made product but the same political system that gave us the AK also gave us the K-19 nuclear submarine, the Chernoyble reactor plant, and a chemical weapons plant whose name I cannot remember but which leaked.

    Like I said, guilt by association.

  • Palz

    I think the real complaint about a $1000 dollar SAM7SF is that it was not all that new or ground breaking. I would gladly pay top dollar for an AK 107 system from Arsenal or other competent manufacturers.

    • David

      I’d gladly pay $1500 for a Arsenal AN-94, if they made them.

  • Jeff Pederson

    I think that the biggest beef that everyone had with the new SAM7SF was the hype that Arsenal put into it with their cheesy “game changer” marketing campaign. They got people all excited, thinking they were really bringing something new to the market, when it was just a forged/milled AK with a folding stock and thumb safety. I know that you’re mainly addressing the people who think “AK’s are junk”, but to address the SAM7SF critics, Arsenal got everyone excited over nothing and that can take away a lot of a company’s credibility. Just be honest and say that you’ve got a cool new milled AK coming out and be done with it.

  • Bryan

    I really like accuracy when considering rifles. Show me an AK that is more accurate than an AR of the same build quality. But then again, the AK wasn’t built for accuracy, it was built to work, and it does. I’ve never held and AK that felt “cheap.” I put the AK and AR platforms on the same level. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but when it comes to cost, I would easily drop a grand on an Arsenal AK. Why? Because it’s worth it.

  • John Hop

    But as you have shown in your last video you were only able to hold 1.5-3 MOA from a bench and high-end $1000+ optics. On a bad day my cheap, $700ish, built heavy profile middy will do 1moa +/- with cheaper ammo and sub MOA with Hornady Vmax.

    So for the price of your high speed AK and optics I can buy/build 3 AR’s and have enough left for 15 Pmags and a minimum of 300 rounds of ammo.

    I do agree an AK may be “reliable” but so is an AR if its kept wet and semi clean.

    Not flaming the fire at all just making a point brother.

    Love your blog and channel!

  • Andy

    Low quality AK’s should be cheap, high quality AK’s have never been cheap, just look at the Valmets. They are by design made with loose tolerances, I think this throws a lot of people who are used to western designed firearms. That, and the fact every third world Army seems to have them can lead some people to think they are cheap disposable rifles.

  • Jacen

    I think with the SCAR, the reasons why people are willing to shell several months’ paychecks is the brand name. FNH is one of the best and oldest firearms manufacturing companies in the world.

    With HK, it’s also a brand name. If Heckler & Koch finally made a US produced G36 rifle for the civilian market and tag it at over 2 grand, people will sell their cars for it.

    With the ARs, look at Chris Costa and Travis Haley and their signature rifles they designed from 2 different companies. Outwardly, the Predatobr and the Jack Carbine are really just 2 custom rifles, built to 2 different people’s standards, given a cool paint job and then slap a 3K price tag on it and people BUY these things.

    Jim Fuller AKs are no different. Custom built and finished and with price tags that cost more than the parts they were built from because people want quality.

    I think both these rifles used to be considered something of descent “affordable” prices a decade ago but today, people want more to their guns and quality. The smart people pick their rifles carefully and the price is usually worth it.

  • Cactus Jack

    Excellent article! Keep speaking the truth. And yes, I own AR15’s & LAR308’s as well as M1 Garands and AK74’s. love em one and all

  • Mike

    When I see Pakistani gunsmiths creating an AR15 in a cave I will refer to it as cheap. Cheaply made equates cheap.

  • Jake Hellmann

    “Throughout the Cold War the Russians maintained one of the best trained and equipped militaries in the world”

    Negative. Read the book “MiG Pilot, The final escape of LT belenko” for an inside view of how things were really done in the ‘professional’ Soviet military.

    Lt. Belenko was the Gentlemen who defected in ’76 with the ‘state of the art’ MiG 25.

    • MAC

      I think you make the mistake of believing that because Russia was behind the U.S. technologically that it was therefore not the military juggernaut it really was. I was a member of our military in the heat of the Cold War and I know for a fact the U.S. military wasn’t nearly as well trained or equipped as many thought we were. As for the Russians, they had the Mig 29, which western aircraft designers still marvel at, the Mi-28 attack helicopter, the T-72 and T-80 tanks, the AK, the PKM, the SA-7, etc. Their military was far more evolved than any 3rd world country (which many of them they armed). They also had a nuclear arsenal that dwarfed our own.

      Yes, we had the technological edge for much of the Cold War but that shouldn’t eclipse the massive military might the Russians had built and maintained. If we had gone toe-to-toe with them in Europe it would have been a knock-down-drag-out fight.

      • Jimmy Smith

        “They also had a nuclear arsenal that dwarfed our own.”

        My uncle was a colonel with SAC up until it disbanded, and he was in charge of maintaining many of our land-based nuclear missile systems. After he retired, he was hired to help deactivate Russian missiles as part of the big disarmament treaty with the US. This was because the Russians didn’t have enough expertise to safely do it themselves.

        He once commented that most of their missiles would’ve been lucky to get off the ground and that a launch might’ve done more damage to themselves than to us.

        • MAC

          I worked for a couple of years with nuclear weapons in the late 1980’s. While it’s true that towards the end of the Cold War many, if not most, Russian nukes were in serious disrepair (nukes require a LOT of expensive maintenance), but that wasn’t always the case. By the time the Soviet Union collapsed things had gotten very bad, including the once powerful Black Sea Fleet sitting and rotting away in dry dock. But during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s this certainly wasn’t the case.

      • Drmaudio

        This comment reminds me that Germany had the technological edge for the entirety of WWII, and we all know how that worked for them. Tech is great, but it is not everything.

      • David

        The Hip, Hind, and Kamov were also marveled at by how well they were engineered. The Hind D was pretty much a Tank with a Glass paneled cockpit and some Rotors.

      • Jake Hellmann


        During the entire cold war we shipped the Soviet Union grain & wheat. They couldn’t even feed themselves without us. Look what happened to Iraq in the Gulf War! They had a huge military equipped with Soviet equipment and they were all but destroyed in 100hrs.

        • MAC

          Once again, just because Russian tech wasn’t at the same level as our own doesn’t mean they weren’t a “super power”, because they clearly were. We sent them wheat because they diverted all of their resources to their military. Throughout the Cold War they did things like field nuclear subs that we couldn’t track, create high-end helicopters like the Mi-28 Havoc, or design fighters that made western powers marvel like the Mig 29.

      • Carlos

        +10 on everything you said. We (US) did not know about the AK until late into the Viet Nam war. Each Russian soldier was required to recite an oath when issued an AK and the Russians certainly did a great job keeping it a secret from us as long as they did. As far as I know, it’s the only rifle that actually is depicted on a nation’s flag (Mozambique).

  • Rjackparis

    I think the stigma comes from a combination of NIH syndrome. And the fact that it’s quite common to see the ak in the hands of poorer countries and combatants. ( of course it’s forgotten that the soviet union absolutely FLOODED the world with these rifles during the cold war which is why they’re everywhere)

    In reality the only ones that deride ak’s as crap are the sort that are too set in their ideas that they won’t humor any others.

    Just as well, more ak’s for us.

  • Waldothegreat1


    I think the AK has a reputation for beiing cheap because trhere are so many variants made by many manufacuters with different quality. All I can say is when I was in Viet Nam we’d gladly trade our M-16 any time for an AK.. If you can get your hands on a Russian made Ak it will rival any AR

  • Steven

    The only problem I have with the SAM7 was that it was advertised as god’s gift to AKs with the whole “game changer” idea. They hyped it up so much, most of us AK fans were expecting a 107 recoil system or the Vityez 9mm clone. Something actually never seen in the US instead of another run of the mill milled AK with a galil safety and a cheap looking stock (despite the fact that is how those normally come off the line in Bulgaria). From what I can tell is the true AK fans feel cheated, it seems like there was a collective ” Oh, that’s all? Another milled AK? With a slight gimmick of a Galil safety?” Honestly I would be much more willing to spend money on a SGL31 with that safety since then I could have a more proper looking folding stock. Even then, save the “game changer” schtick for something that actually changes the game, not just adding another player.

  • Tim U

    The problem is that AKs have historically been cheap. People are unwilling to pay that price point when they remember the older prices. That’s why people think of them as cheap rifles.

    Arsenals, the best of the best, could be had for under $800 back during the best days. Today, you’re looking at least $1k or more.

    Meanwhile, AR prices are trickling back down. AKs and AK magazines? Not so much. I can find AR magazines for $10-15/mag, but the cheapest I can find an AK magazine online is $20 and in store $27-28.

    The era of the “cheap” AK is over. Now people have to decide which platform they like better and go with it without the financial incentives.

    I will admit…. if I was starting out brand new, without any of my guns I own, I would be taking a Sig 556R over an Arsenal AK each time. Same magazines/ammo/price, but a gun that can take optics out of the box without issue, and one that has more sight options.

  • Wyatt jayne

    I think the AR, the AK, The Sig 550, and the G3 platforms should all be less than 1k. A good rifle doesnt equate an expensive rifle. (Cou- SU-16/SKS-gh) I find that the rifles that are just covering production costs, are often better quality because they spend more time trying to compete than trying to gain profits.

  • Firecop71

    My heart is all a’flutter.
    I’ll put my Arsenal and Krebs AK’s quality up against any AR.

  • Peshawar

    Doesn’t help that domestic firearm manufacturers don’t have to deal with 922r BS to get their wares to market. We’d see more options if international manufacturers didn’t have to jump through those legal hoops. We can’t even get new barrels for AK’s without paying out the nose for them because so few are imported, and the US barrel makers don’t see the point in mass producing them. The AK still has its place, despite facing many disadvantages thrust upon it. It’s not the tool for every job, just most. ;)

  • Matt

    Depending on which AK you buy. Some are cheap, as in construction and quality. Sure it shoots and is reliable. But it lacks in quality and accuracy. Parts don’t fit right you have to get out a file and tinker until it is right. A total lack of quality control. Look at WASR 10’s. you get 10 out of the box and they all are different. Some are nice and some are junk. Back to you get what you pay for.

  • codifier

    Maybe I’m in the minority but I view any rifle that can consistently hit a man sized target at 300 yards or less and doesn’t have mechanical problems as a quality rifle. The rest are aesthetics. All else equal a $500 ak will kill just as easily as a $2000 ar with another $500 of tacticool operator gear on it.

  • Logic Prevails

    You are confusing cheap with inexpensive. Hi-point is cheap, AKs are inexpensive.

    • MAC

      …not anymore. Have you seen the prices of WASR-10’s lately?

      • Robert Voodoo Marshall

        Yes, I have and man oh man do I wish I had picked up about 20 of em 2 years ago when they were $350 to $500 each.. I just got my first AK-47 (Wasr 10) 2 weeks ago for $739 and sadly, felt fortunate that it wasn’t more. Regardless, I love it.. accurate enough for me and practically indestructible reliability.

        • D. Hide

          I did pick one up about 2 years ago for about $600. I’m in a more expensive area (that I can’t afford lol) plus it came with aftermarket furniture and a bunch of mags (as well as all the little trinkets and combloc accessories). I figure the regular price for one in my area was about $450 at the time. I haven’t check on an AK up here in a while, but I did see a Saiga elsewhere in the state for about $800. If it’s WASR vs. Saiga at that price range the choice is obvious, I’d say.

  • Jake Hellmann

    stamped parts are cheap, stamping was the polymer of old.

  • Mark7Seven

    I have the same view of people who exclaim that the only “real” combat pistol is the “good ol’ 1911 Govt. 45″. If you think paying $2k for a combat rifle is outrageous, how about makers of the $2K 1911 pistols out there!!

    I’ll take my plain Jane Glock all day over a 7 round CNC machined, hand made gold standard of knock-down power and point-ability.

    That’s not to say I can’t appreciate both points of the scale, but that for personal use I tend to lean toward what works for me, inexpensive or not.

  • Dave

    I find 1,500 is steep for any firearm, TBH, I mean my thought process is, what does it do that my Polish made AKM sporter or WASR can’t?
    If I had the money I’d prolly get one of the SAM 7’s, as they are extremely nice, but unfortunately I don’t. I do however,have the best AK’s I can afford and I’m happy with my rifles.

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  • Drake

    I bought my AR – an M&P 15 Sport – before the crisis hit for $630, only $30 more than my other choice, an Interarms AKM. I’m personally of the view that, with few exceptions, a rifle over $1000 is a bit too much. I had also considered an Arsenal AK, and was willing to pay the then-$800 price. Over a thousand? No thanks.

    I think the source of the complaint is that formerly affordable rifles are now ultra-expensive. I would GLADLY pay $800 for an Arsenal. I’d pay $600 for an Interarms, and $400 for a halfway decent WASR that wasn’t ruined by the drunken monkeys at Century. I absolutely refuse, however, to pay $700 for a bloody WASR – it just isn’t worth it. AKs of similar quality have typically been at a noticeably lower price point compared to their AR counterparts (with a few exceptions, like the M&P Sport), so to have it suddenly go up makes it seem like a “cheap” rifle is now expensive.

  • Josh B

    I don’t think when the majority of people say an AK is/should be cheap, that they mean in quality. I think they are talking about the expense. Up until now, you could find usable commie guns for around the $400 range. That could be just a supply and demand thing, but I think that’s what most people are referring to when they say cheap. I think the rugged simplicity and complete unwillingness for those rigles to break surely knocks out the cheap quality arguement, if that’s what some people truly mean.

  • Michael Andrew Smith

    I had an experience related to this as I was shooting once. A man and his kids showed up as I was shooting my AK and my friend was shooting his FAL. Naturally, they gawked over the FAL, but said my AK was “cool, but you cant hit anything with it over 200 yards.” I looked over to see what they were shooting and saw a Sig 556 DMR. I just disregarded their ignorance as to not only my AK, but its very close cousin, the Sig 556 series, and kept on hitting steel at 400 yards on iron sights while they struggled to hit tannerite at 100 yards with an optic.

  • Sean

    I think this mentality derives from folks rejecting government induced supply pressure, and the loose tolerances aspect of the AK design. People are accurate in stating the AK is overpriced considering global supply as compared to domestic supply. The AR is a domestic product that remains relatively free creating a true equilibrium price. I personally love the AK, but I too would not pay over a grand for the best semi-auto version available due to the fact that I do not know what the fair price is. Culturally, I believe US citizens cannot accept the loose tolerances design of the AK as anything other than a value opportunity. It is just a cultural phenomenon encompassing a myriad of reasons from patriotism to historical considerations to foreign design elements to popular culture to perceived economic/technological superiority. I think it is fair for you to praise the AK, but I also think it is fair for US citizens to question the price as it relates to market conditions.

    • Michael

      I agree.The Russians produced aks cheap and plentiful.They should be priced accordingly.Its the greedy Americans that jacked the price up.Stop buying them and the price will go down.Sales for the ar has slowed and the prices are coming down.

      • David

        American gun/ammo companies are faking shortages too. They are driving prices through the roof. There is no shortage and no laws have been passed to take guns away. In the last 10 years gun and ammo production has tripled. It’s just pure greed on the American manufacturers part.

  • Chip D

    I totally agree with this article. I own several AR’s and two AK’s. Arsenal AK47 is a well built weapon. The quality surpasses my Sig 556. And when I fire my Arsenal AK you can feel the solidness of the weapon compared to my AR’s. Don’t get me wrong, I carried the M-16 in the seventies during my military stint and it has a special place in my heart, but the AK is a solid weapon. I am very thankful that I could have the opportunity to purchase one.

  • Robert

    Milled AK receivers are available under $370, I would rather build one bit by bit to my preferences.

  • Frank

    This is a little OT, but There’s a couple of things here that have always bothered me. With the exclusion of John Noveske’s work (and yes, “ching, ching”), I’ve seen too many ARs that did not fire reliably and water is dangerous to all ARs, even the good ones. And they were well taken care of. I’ve seen too many AKs owned by idiots who disrespect the weapon, never take care of it, and are generally of the opinion that it’s cheap and meant to be treated like this. Last year I had the experience of watching too young lads dumping sand in an AK for a test. Once the test was over they cleaned it out with a hose… and then they put it in a case. Stupid, but just goes to show the attitude some have towards the AK. They would never treat an AR like that. And the AK does not let them down, even though it should. With so many of our soldiers having fought in our shitty little wars, there’s some misunderstandings creeping in about the nature of total war, which has scarred the Red/Russian Army psyche. I don’t know if this was an across the board Army policy but I know that one line company of the 101st was getting it’s M-4s sent to higher maintenance for a rebuild after every deployment. And they needed it according the young SSgt of my acquaintance. The AK came out of a WWII experience that was more akin to a caldron than a deployment (you went in, but coming out whole was highly unlikely), and luxuries like maintenance had to take a back seat to ammunition, food and fuel. Everything in that kind of war has to be able to take a lot of punishment, be easy to maintain, and simple mass production is far more important than MOA accuracy. The US military being the only industrial power left after the WW II learned a lot of silly lessons. During the war the US had a policy that allowed for equipment being destroyed; inexpensive, reliable and mass production were the hallmarks of US equipment. The F-22 is the exact opposite of that. It’s too damned expensive to be destroyed and since it’s hand build ramping up production would be a bit of a joke (we’d go from two units a month to three). The Soviets came from the other direction. Just being able to produce something reliable and ramping up production on the fly was the most important thing in the world.

  • Support Local

    I have a SCAR 17s and an I.O. INC AK (MADE IN NC wooohooo!!!) I love the wood and metal combo on my AK. Plus it is way cheaper to shoot. Just because something is designed to be able to operate anywhere by anyone doesn’t mean its cheap. I know my AK will go bang from round 1 to round 5000 if I ever had to go that long without cleaning it. I know a lot of ARs could probably do that too. I just feel like an AK was designed not to cleaned…Barry from IV8888 said it best…An AK is a biker bitch and an AR is a prom queen, they’ll both get the job done!

  • two_amber_lamps

    The new “rage” among the AR crowd are various piston-driven systems said to boost reliability and reduce filth/heat/wear induced by direct impingement.. ‘cept the AK’s been running a piston system since 1947! :)

    I guess some snobby AR guys just have to feel good about their purchase by tearing someone else’s equipment down. I’ve got both, I like both.. albeit for different reasons.

    • Blehtastic


  • Sam

    The stamped AK’s are more cheaply made. Not “cheap”. There is a difference. Also the only reason we have to pay so much now for an AK is due to the import laws. It’s so stupid. I should be able to buy an AK for 2-300 I think. If you think about it, materials it takes for reduction, labor, and import/transport rally shouldn’t be costing consumers 6,7,8,900 dollars.

  • Sam

    Production not reduction*

  • Brian in MN

    I believe that the idea that AKs should be cheap is a hangover form the recent past when you could get a POS AK built by the drunk monkeys at you know where for around the $300 mark. A certain segment of the market still feels entitled to a $300 AK. These are the same people who buy garbage from the drunk monkeys and then complain that AKs are cheap and inaccurate junk.

    This perception is reinforced by the fact that the communists have given away tens of millions of Kalashinkovs over the years. The fact that they were given or traded to client states does not mean that they were inexpensive to manufacture. It probably isn’t even possible to determine what a Russian made AK really cost because they were produced in a state run economy.

    • Get a clue

      SA-93s, SLR95s, SLR96’s all sold for about $350. Apparently you are new to firearms. Mak-90s under $200 and National Match’s under 3.

      I have a SAM-7 I bought NIB in ’06, for $650, and an SGL21 for $499 in ’09.

      You fanboi morons really crack me up, especially when you distort the reality of the situation.

      Hopefully Radom seeks to compete with the money grabbers at Arsenal, the AK market is in need of competition.

      The absolute fact of the matter is that if Norinco was able to import weapons into the US, Arsenal would be quickly out of business if they did not change their ridiculous business model.

  • lux blue

    I agree completely, with one exception, and that is to say that the M1 and it’s many variants is the best Military rifle of the 20th century.

  • Jake

    I have a Russian friend who is retired Naval Infantry/MVD. I recently asked him what the production prices were for AK-103s at Izhmash as of 2013 out of curiosity since I own an SGL 21-94. He checked with his still-serving friend over there, and it was reported back at a production cost of aprox. $225.00.

    I think this is what people mean when they say “cheap.” I agree with pretty much everything you wrote, and love how to-the-point you were about it, especially with the examples. The AK itself is definitely not a cheaply made weapon quality-wise, but actual production-cost? I’d say it’s pretty cheap compared to the AR, SCAR, etc.

    That said, I still had to pay $1,300.00 for my SGL 21-94 in Feb. 2012 for a rifle that costs Izhmash just over $220.00 to make. I don’t regret my purchase at all (and after getting its total price of rifle-plus-accessories to ~$2.2k, I still don’t: love that rifle), but I can definitely see why people are reluctant to spend that much on an AK variant.

    If it cost Izhmash $225.00 to make a military model, likely less for a Saiga sporter, why should we be expected to pay the $1,200+ prices on fixed-stock SGL 21/31-series rifles? I know import costs and conversion costs play a big part in it, but SGL-series were still $700-something rifles just a couple years ago. Production price has only risen by a few dollars for Izhmash since then: why an increase of $400 for us?

    • Gregor


    • Brian

      I don’t think this is limited to this specific product line. I happen to know of a certain manufacturer of Picatinny rail systems and sights for ARs, whose name you would recognize if I mentioned it, which charges well over $100 for a set of their rails. Their production cost is $16. Vendors will always mark up their products as high as the market will bear. The principle of equilibrium price isn’t new to economics.

  • Sam

    Jake that is very interesting! Good to know. I would like to see exactly what is driving the selling price up so much. Maybe it’s mostly supply/demand??? I’m sure our import laws have something to do with it as well. Then again they will charge as much as suckers will shell out.

  • TunnelRat

    For me it’s partly true. Now the AK in question you mention certainly has features that add to the cost. However let’s take a WASR10 for example. It’s made from parts kits, often mismatching, that come from a number of foreign communist bloc countries. I’m sorry but the labor in those is not close to that of a US made AR. And I’m not talking quality, I’m talking sheer cost for the manufacturer. I see WASR10s right now going for $850 locally. That’s laughable. I know the demand is very high and that’s the reason, but there’s no where close to that amount of money in parts and labor in that rifle. Now of course manufacturers of ARs are still making a healthy profit too. But I’m willing to bet that their margins are smaller than some of the prices I see these days on communist bloc rifles. In addition part of me is just willing to pay more for something that put people to work, especially as a lot of what I can buy firearms wise is built very close to me.

    I have a healthy respect for comm-bloc weapons, I think they’re great and I think the quality is there in many cases (and I love the KISS principle). My issue with the SAM7SF was that the price point it comes in at is not worth it, TO ME. There’s the key idea, value is relative to the shooter. I can get a decent AK, Waffen Werks or similar, for ~$700. No canted sights, decent finish, solid rifle. Definitely a step above a WASR10 in some ways, but granted no SAM7SF. But frankly I’m the kind of guy that is perfectly happy buying a Colt 6920 for ~$1300 instead of dishing out ~$3000 for an AR. There are high ends of both platforms and I simply avoid them. The added benefits I can see, but frankly I am happy with what I have and that leaves me a lot more money for ammo and training, which to me is more important.

  • Ben

    I think you missed the point. THE REASON i bought an ak47 is because it was cheap. I have 2 ar15s, and want another ak47, but i refuse to pay the current going price. There is really no reason for an ak47 to cost 1500$, they are cheap to make, but that doesn’t reflect on the quality and reliability of the rifle. charging 350$ for a bent up piece of metal is insane. realistically there is no reason for ar15s to cost as much as they do, and I spent way too much building both of mine.

    TLDR calling an ak47 cheap isnt a knock on its quality. It’s a knock on the manufacturers for over charging for a gun that doesnt cost that much to manufacture

  • Matthew Bosch

    Agree. AKs are simplistic in nature, but simplicity doesn’t always equate with “cheap.” The older Porsche 911s were also simplistic in nature but not many of us would view them as “cheap” and expect them to be a low value items.

  • Jon

    Hey Tim It looks like Keltec has been in touch with you. They said they sent you an email offering to fix your KSG for free and give you a factory tour. Somebody posted it on your FB page. It’s on theres as well.

  • Jessi

    AKs are savages. They can be tossed in the mud, water sand and still preform. They are more loosely put together than the AR so they can preform under duress, however the looseless of the gun as well as placement of the sites sacrifice long distance accuracy, which isn’t exactly what they are for anyways. THE AR However is the opposite, its tightly put together, with precision, and the precise placements of the parts and design make it the “pretty” rifle. You can’t drag it threw sand and expect it to preform the same. However you get the better accuracy and distance with it. However the new designs for both models are kind of bring them to meet at a middle ground, ARs can take more of a beating, and AKs are becomming better for distance.

    However, I have shot and LOVE the AK. I prefer a 74 to 47, and have never had a problem with accuracy or distance. I hit my target every time. and have played with distance too. I would also like to point out I was in the army, so I am familiar with AR platform and prefer the AK.. Plus you can’t be the price. Russians made a hell of a product. My BF got a Saiga, and from the factor it needed lots of work and some turning, but now its the best shotgun I have ever fired, and his favorite too.

    I think people expect the AK to be cheaper, because of its more barbaric feel and design, and it always has been the cheaper gun.

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  • Bryan

    For me personally I think most AK’s should be cheap. Cheap is a relative term. Basically for me it means about $400-$600. I don’t expect the rifle you had in your recent video to be that cheap but most AK’s are not that nice. When I look at an AK at the gun store it’s pretty common to see crooked front sight posts. Sticky actions indicating deformed receivers that need to be worked on. Not to mention most of these guns have been thrown together as fast as possible from old parts with little attention to detail our quality control. One gun can be crap and the next one off the line is perfect. There are usually noticeable scratches and dents as well. Now when you can get a very well built bolt action rifle or a very nice AR for $1000 and you compare those rifles to a thrown together crooked receiver bent front sight post AK and they have the same price tag just because one is the universal symbol of a military rifle it is disconcerting. The point is most AK’s SHOULD be cheap, not all. The problem lately is most of them aren’t. Just my opinion.

  • tierlieb

    First, I would like to point out that everyone is free to spent as much money as they want on a rifle. At a certain point, you always pay a lot for marginal increases. And in most cases, you do not even pay for a quality increase in your gun, but in a general increase in the production quality. You, with a sample size of one, might still get a lemon, even if the series is generally high in quality.

    Tim got an excellent sample of an Arsenal. I got a bad one with canted sights and a sticky trigger. Tim got a terrible sample of the Kel-Tec KSG. Hickok45 got a good one. In both cases, that does not say anything about the quality of the series, it may say something about the potential of a series, though.

    Depending on the regulations of your country that has value or not, for example: I cannot exchange the gun cheaply because it would have a different serial number, which would involve paying for the deletion of the old permit and a new one. And even if I could, you Americans have bought up all of Arsenal Bulgaria’s stock, so getting a replacement takes a year. And legally I am not allowed to move the gas block on my own, even if I was technically able to losen the pinned and shrunk-on gas block. So for me, the gun would not worth $1500 (or 1200EUR) because I have better alternatives (sadly I already have it). It always depends on the circumstances.

  • Zack991

    I left the AR platform and i never looked back, people can make all insults they want about the AK platform. At the end of the day my Ak will be still running covered in think mud allowing me to defend my family. I do think bussiness are price gouging the basic ak rifle that is being sold. I understand the high ends cost more, yet no matter if it is a 300 dollar Ak or a 1500 dollar Ak. It is a rifle that has proven itself to be the most reliable combat rifle, a AR may be able to get submoa accuracy but it does not do you any good when it jams when u need it the most.

    • TomasEdwardChristian

      The Infantry get used to cleaning it and it’s not an issue for them.

      It just depends on how much time you are willing to clean it.

  • Lane

    I think the popular notion that AKs are cheap comes in part from the stamping construction and in part from the American perception of Soviet gear as cheap, rugged, and unrefined. But, I also believe that a large part of it comes from years of inexpensive AKs on the civilian market.

    I often find it interesting how market prices of a variety of firearms vary so much. People who scoff at spending more than $600 on a Glock may think nothing of buying a 1911 for $2000. This dynamic is more common among firearm collectors, who will belittle someone who spends more than $120 on a Mosin-Nagant 91/30, but will think that snagging a Type 99 Arisaka for $300 is a good deal. These view points are not so much built upon quality of construction, accuracy, reliability, etc., but a view of how much certain firearms are “supposed” to cost–based upon past market prices. As a point of comparison, when I tell my non-gun owning friends how much a typical WASR costs, they can’t believe it. They assume that a “foreign” AK rifle would be in the thousands.

    For years, people could buy cheap, but reliable, AKs for less than $550. This experience has led many people to see the design as inexpensive. The problems with some of these “cheap” AKs (canted sights, rough finish, etc.), only reinforced previous notions that the guns were typical Soviet-style unrefined firearms.

    Had inexpensive AKs not been readily available to Americans, the market price would be far higher and perceptions of value and price would have developed accordingly. Arsenal’s new product may be a good value for its construction, but it is finding a population of gun owners who have been accustomed to paying half or a third of the price for aesthetically similar and functionally identical firearms.

  • Brian

    I think the belief that the AK is cheap comes from the crudity of so many of the examples available out there on the market. Let’s face it, alot of the Egyptian, Romanian, and Chinese AKs are cosmetically crude. The wood they use for the stocks looks like something a 5th grader made in wood shop class. The metal finish is either nonexistant or very poor or, in the case of my old Maadi, amateurishly-applied black spray paint (complete with runs, drips, and missed spots).

    Another factor is the surplus ammo. Let’s face it, foreign-made steel-case ammo simply does not compare to American-made fare. Even though the vast majority of shooters don’t reload, the non-reloadability of the foreign steel-case ammo lends to its perceived cheapness. People can’t help making the assumption that a gun that shoots cheap ammo must itself be cheap.

    I now own a Saiga SGL-61, which is as nice as an AR I’ve encountered. I paid $985 for it before the panic buying set in last winter. It has never, and will never, fire anything but American-made, high-quality ammunition. I care for it and treat it like an AR of equivalent price. I don’t have a “cheap, junky AK” mentality about it, although I certainly did when I owned that Egyptian Maadi clunker a few years ago.

    That’s my 2 cents.

  • Cymond

    Yes, a quality rifle costs money, but tell me this: is the SAM7SR REALLY worth $650 more than a SLR-107FR? For what? A stock that folds to the other side, a Bulgarian barrel, and a nicer pistol grip? I think that for $650, I can live with a left-side folding stock.

    Tests have shown that milled receivers do not offer any significant advantages over stamped receivers, yet the cost more and weigh more. It seems to me that Arsenal could make a very nice AK for several hundred less. I understand that a nice rifle is not going to be cheap, but $1600 for an AK is quite high.

    The simple fact is that not long ago, you could buy a junk AK for $400 and a junk AR for about $600. Hence, at 4x the junk price, this $1,600 AK is like buying a $2,400 AR platform. Very, very few people can justify the expense over something that costs half as much and serves all of their needs. Seriously, it’s hard to justify this over a SLR-107FR for only $950. Both have a folding stock (but the SLR-107FR folds to the left) and a scope rail.

  • Zack

    Love this article MAC. I never considered the AK a cheap or an inaccurate rifle and I completely agree with your view point.

  • J.E.H.

    personally i wouldn’t pay over a grand for an AK because they are everywhere………..i could walk from montana to the chilean border, greece to thailand or spain to south africa and theres a near 100% probability i would find ak parts/mags in every country inbetween………..AKs outnumber ARs in the world by many many times and there are probably as many AKs in the US as there are ARs….its just this recent gun control and panic idiocy thats pushed prices up to inane heights…….in a world where everyone has their heads on straight, WASRs would be in the $400-500 range, arsenals/saigas would be in the $6-800 range, for the sheer volume of AKs that are out there right now, those seem like fair prices to pay…..unfortunatly, it looks like we live with a market controlled by people who lose their sh*t each time the political breeze changes direction even slightly….. but in any case, if certain manufacturers think they can raise the price by a large margin, they have another thing commin, at least with me……i just hope cugir/century will flood the market with another large batch of WASRs and just maybe bring down prices soon……….

  • http://Smith Craig

    I remember when you could buy AKs (stamped receivers) for under $250 and SKSs for around $90 if you bought a case. Something about opening a wooden crate in your trunk in the parking lot at work, handing out the contents to the guys who put in for the group buy.

  • mike


    I have a SGL-31 and a wasr-10 both are AK’s and both work just as good as a AK should. But my SGL is hands down a better made AK and yes I paid over 1K for it and worth every penny. I work a shop part time and let me tell you shooters are CHEAP!! I have seen guys spend 800 on a AR just to mount a cheap ncstar red dot when I had a nice eotech for $399. And a week later they come in saying there cheap reddot is not working SHOCKING!!! I would tell you forget the silly comments that these internet commando leave you and focus on the comments worth your time. Otherwise you will go nuts dealing with the comments.

    Semper Fi brother!

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  • Carlos

    Superb article on the subject! There are many myths out there regarding AK. Anyone interested on the history of the rifle and its variants would enjoy reading Frank Iannamico’s “AK47: The Grim Reaper” 2nd Edition. Anyone who knows military weapons if asked will most likely say that reliability, under the most adverse conditions, is paramount. In that regards, the AK is tops. I can’t think of any military rifle that has been tried and proven in as many war theaters as the AK. For me, it’s the rifle of choice for anything other than shooting paper targets while playing soldier at the range.

  • Fabian Bollinger

    Since you mentioned it, I have to say that the SIG 550 is internally very similar to the AK. Just take one single look at the bolt and you’ll see it’s an AK-bolt with more removable parts.

    • TomasEdwardChristian

      The SIG-550 takes more time to make and the parts cost more…..

  • Tom

    I think “CHEAP” is the wrong word. they are meant to be COST EFFECTIVE, AND VALUE PRICED. Cheap AR is $700 everywhere right now, a low cost and not the best build like a WASER AK47 SHOULD be $400 but their still $600, heck VZ58 are down to $600 and their milled. But in all honestly, Supply and demand, AR15s are NOT in demand right now, and AK’s well….idk about demand, but i would say supply is down. Go to any gun show right now it;s NOTHING but AR15s, and only a Few AKs, same with Center-Fire-Ststems, Cheaper Than Dirt, ect. All those places are selling BASIC ARs for $700. BASIC Uppers for $329, Complete Lowers for $230. under $600 for an AR! that’s awesome! But anyways back to the point, people ALWAYS miss use the word “CHEAP”.

    • Joseph

      Agreed. I refuse to buy a wasr til they drop it to 499 like nov 2012.

    • TomasEdwardChristian

      The 1000 dollar AK from Arsenal is more or less just an AK-100 series rifle.

      The Russian Military gets those for $300 each, back in the early 2000s.

  • Joseph

    Totally agreed. Everyone I know looks at my converted saiga like a piece of junk but imo it goes toe to toe with the ar. Its all this “made in the usa” stuff just like guys that refuse to shoot glocks and will honestly tell you that the m&p 9 is a better weapon because of where its made.

    I love to buy American guns as much as the next guy, but discounting the value of a weapon based on its country of manufacture is foolish. Oh well, more 7.62 russian ammo and cheap super high quality saigas for me.

    • TomasEdwardChristian

      A lot of people hate Glocks because they know idiots who shot themselves with them.

      Why buy one handgun, when you can get the same handgun with a better safety.

  • dan

    expensive here…but ‘as seen on TV’…carried by all middle eastern rag tag ‘militia’s’….PLO,Hamas..etc.who seem to be able to ‘afford’ them……must be our foreign aid helping the oppressed…

  • Blehtastic

    You can’t build your own with minimal tools. You can’t easily mount reliably quick detach zero-able optics (no, seriously, you can’t, so STFU). There’s only partial compatibility with a wide range of commonly available accessories (in the USA).

    The reason the AK is a cheap piece of crap is because our American logistics chains are set to support the AR. Every advanced and high priced AK on the American Civilian marketplace is set up with a bunch of NATO milspec inspired parts that are designed to make the AK more compatible with AR accessories.

    In the USA, the AR is the rifle of the common man, yearning to breathe free. The AK is a curio of the armed intellectual that wants to indulge more in snobbery about his ability to reliably fire in practically nonexistent ecosystems(in the USA) than preparedness to defend self and country. Unless you live in the American Southwest, you have no need of an AK, you have need of foregoing hoppes, ballistol, and froglube for some breakfree CLP.

    The 300 BLK shows promise, but if you’re an American, and willing to spend ~$1000 on a battle rifle your only options are a DPMS LR308 or an M1A. Buying an AK, unless it’s solely for collection and second kind of cool, is ridiculous.

  • Randy Lambert

    So I totally agree with you MAC ! AK’s are not cheap ! Besides being extremely well made they are extremely reliable. I personally own a Romania that I built years ago for about $200, now yes that is cheap but was years ago and I built it cheap for a reason.To see how long it would last under horrible conditions. I have never cleaned it or oiled it and I have over 12k rounds through it and I can still hit the 8 inch gong at 200 yards. On the flip side I am currently building a totally custom AK in 6mm PPC . My goal is to achieve MOA at 100 yards. Yeah sure you can buy guns out of the box that can do that but A:) I didnt build it B:) its not an AK !

  • Steve Truffer

    The AK has, until 12/12, been a comparatively “cheap” rifle that could be had for $400. The same ones that could be had for a few bills people are trying to sell them at 3 times the price. An entry AR can be had for $1000. Were that same entry are to sport a $3,000 price tag, AR people would be furious. For those of us looking for a more economy rifle, we are frustrated by the inflated prices. Many people are calling AK’s “cheap” in place of inexpensive. AR prices have more or less normalized, yet AK’s have remained at inflated prices. Companies introducing more premium AKs is not what we are looking for.

  • Chefjon

    The funny thing is that, while AR prices have come back to Earth (or close), AK prices have stayed up…at least in my neck of the woods. The day after Newtown, I almost bought a WASR for $550…new..retail… I haven’t seen another @that price yet. Folks still want $700-$1000 for their used ones, while used AR’s are back in the $700-$800 range, bare bones. I chose AR over AK because the caliber was more conducive to my purpose-Rule-of-Law Home Defense. For SHTF, I still really want an AK…or 3…and cases of ammo. I just want last year’s pricing and will wait for it to come back.

  • Holyface

    MAC, if I remember correctly you stated that you choose the 5.45 over the 7.62 for your SHTF rifle. If that is so why. Also you wouldn’t be able to scavenge much ammo for your selection, it isn’t quite making sense to me.

  • Scott

    Back to the point of feeling cheated on the SAM7SF. At Arsenal’s price, I will gladly buy another NIB Chinese AK47 and keep the change to buy more ammo.

  • Peter Bucy

    I have an AK; it is a good end of western civilization weapon. It fires when I pull the trigger and it is reasonably accurate – good enough to get the job done. What hurts the reputation of the AK variants and correspondingly reduces the perceived value of the AK are the great number of junk AK’s on the market today.

    If you read the AK reviews you see good reviews and horrible reviews for the very same weapon. There is a long list of quality control issues that seem to crop up all the time – with everything from canted sights, bent barrels, poorly assembled receivers, magazine that don’t fit and over all poor build quality. You don’t see that with most other firearms.

    Then you have Arsenal that has a reputation of building a decent AK pattern weapon, but at a pretty high price. The AK was designed to be made from stamped parts at a very low cost. Paying $1,400.00 for an AK is contradictory to the basic design concept of the weapon.

    For less than $600 you can order an upper with a lower build kit and a lower and build a first class, very accurate AR in an hour or two.

    Until an American firearms manufacturer is willing to tool up and mass produce an AK pattern weapon from scratch the American AK enthusiast will be at the mercy of importers who are more than willing to sell you untested eastern bloc firearms of very questionable quality. Or your can go to Arsenal and pay almost three times the cost of a quality constructed, American-made AR.


    • fanchi

      “Or your can go to Arsenal and pay almost three times the cost of a quality constructed, American-made AR.”

      You don’t have to pay that much, there are many arsenals that go for 1,000-1,500 which is exactly what ar’s go for

  • twr

    I would say the expectation is more “inexpensive” than cheap. My stamped amd 65 built by real communist hands I bought for $400 would take the Pepsi challenge with any stamped arsenal and likely end in a draw. My understanding is the pre Clinton, quality foreign built ak were rather inexpensive around the time sks’s were $99.

  • AK Fan
    Match grade 5.45x39mm using match SS109 projectiles and a higher quality powder achieved a 0.545″ group at 75 meters. MOA is linear, so (100/75)*0.545 = 0.727″ group at 100 meters or a 2.171″ group at 300 meters. 7N6 is specified for 7.5cm R50 @ 300 meters which means 50% of shot groups are within a 7.5cm circle at 300 meters. I can confirm that from my personal efforts with 7N6 surplus, the best R50 I achieved (I do 6 shot groups) was 3/4 inch at 100 meters range verified using a Kashtan 1P78 optic out on the farm. Hornady makes a quasi-match grade 5.45x39mm that will do 1.5 to 1 moa R100 (all shots).
    The rifle is not any more accurate than the CARTRIDGE QUALITY / DESIGN and the SHOTTERS SKILLS (+ some environmentals). I recently read an entire report by the US Navy’s chief small arms engineer, 6.8MOA for Lake City M855! Lake City M855 is the standard 5.56x45mm cartridge used in the M4 Carbine and it’s accuracy R100 is 6.8 inches at 100 meters. Now the US measures differently than the Russians, but the fliers I get with 7N6 are usually about 1 to 2 inches on either side of the tightest cluster (R100 accuracy being 2-4 MOA at 100 Meters for 7N6 which is the same SPEC that M855 is supposed to achieve). The AR is not a magical super accurate rifle as many would have you believe, its no more accurate than the ammo it shoots and the operator.
    FYI the only two quasi-match like cartridges available for 5.45 are the Hornady V-Max 5.45 and the Banhaul 5.45 (the specify 2.5cm R100 at 100 meters). The Nickel Match used by Deuce 45’s was custom made from Nickel Match SS109 with is a 5.56 projectile they resized, but it shows that the AK is no less accurate and no less accurate than any other rifle. The Russian military simply doesn’t see the need for match grade 5.45 as they designate other rifles for that purpose (which assault rifle cartridges are typically only used at 300 to 400 meter distances due to loss of stopping power.
    At 300 meters 7N6 and the Hornady V-max 5.45 have the same energy to deliver as .45 ACP does at point blank (375ft-lbs). At 400 meters that drops to about 270ft-lbs (which is still very lethal given proper placement).
    FYI 5.56x45mm M855 contains about 13% more powder than 5.45x39mm 7N6 yet comes out of the same length barrel (16 inch) at 300 FPS slower (some of that velocity is due to the slightly higher weight of 62gr vs the 53gr of 5.45).
    Lets not forget the Russians use 7N10 as their standard cartridge, which is rated to pierce 16mm of mild steel at 300m or 5mm of Armor Steel at 200 meters. Then they have 7N22 (unknown penetration capabilities) and 7N24 with a tungsten carbide dart penetrator.
    5.45 is a little bit lower energy cartridge than 5.56 (assuming the 5.56 cartridge is properly design and performs as it should which standard issue M855 DOES NOT), about 1,050ft-lbs vs 1,250ft-lbs, however due to it’s ballistic efficiency advantage (0.168 vs 0.151) it actually overtakes 5.56 at 300m and beyond due to higher losses in standard 5.56 bullet construction.
    Even more so, now that AK’s have become popular in the US, all of the supposed “modularity” of the AR as being an advantage has vanished. There are great grips, stocks, optics mounts, rails and what not that make an AK just as modern and adaptable ergonomically as an AR (for example Rifle Dynamics, FAB Defense are just a few).

  • Otter

    I don’t think the days of $350 AK’s is ever going to come back. The fact demand is up certainly isn’t helping. People are also more aware of the differences between a poorly assembled AK and a quality job. Thanks to YouTube and other social media outlets, a crappy product will get crappy reviews quickly. The days of gun magazines being our only resource are over. Gun mags praising the product of anyone that advertises in their magazine, regardless of quality, are not over, but real, honest, actually reviews are easy to come by. So in turn QC seems to be up for the most part. Many of the aforementioned “drunk monkey” assemblers have left the game or improved their product.

    What people fail to realize is we can’t import parts kits with barrels anymore. Original barreled kits have essentially dried up or gone way up in value. So now you have to add the cost of a US made barrel and all the fitting it takes to install it. Plus removing all the parts from the pieces of the original barrel. Fairly labor intensive compared to just pulling the barrel from the trunnion, installing it on a new receiver and reinstalling the already populated original barrel. Another option is converting sporterized AK’s such as a Saiga, back into proper AK configuration. Again, time, parts and labor. Plus it’s a new product and not a well used decades old parts kit. So it will cost more. All or this while having to adhere to 922r and the parts that entails. I just can’t see the prices coming down much more than they are now (early 14′).

  • JB

    I don’t get any of this. Quality and value are separate from the style/type of a gun. You pay for quality, reliability and features on anything. The SAM7SF, is far above a WASR in so many ways. Ask anyone that has shot it and other AKs. It’s so much better, it doesn’t even feel quite like an AK to me.

    • Michael

      The communist have never been known for quality only quantity.Would you buy a commy car or anything else commy for top dollar?The Ak goes bang but is still cheaply made by the commys.It should never cost more than $400.By the way I have a slr107fr that I traded for nice Ak but not nearly as nice as my 4 Colts,and my Ars go bang every time.

      • Military Arms Channel

        The Russians haven’t been communist for 24 years.

        The Mig 29 is one of the most advanced aircraft of its era and it was produced by those filthy commies. The notion the Russians are incapable of producing high quality war implements is nonsensical, IMHO.

        As for commie cars, there are cars I wouldn’t buy from non-communist countries. I have zero interest in French made cars or most English made cars. I can’t remember ever seeing a Spanish car I wanted, or even an Australian car I wanted. Comparing cars to implements of war is a bit of a stretch.

        There’s one thing the Russians can make quite well and that’s weapons.

        • Michael

          The mig25 scared America in the early 60’s.When a Russian pilot defected with a mig25 America examined it and found it to be very crude.It was fast but didnt turn,range was short and the avionics were found to be lacking.In my opinion the Russians have made some effective products but nothing good.The ak is probably the only thing I would buy thats made in Russia.I wouldnt pay more than $600 for any ak.$600 is what I paid for an sgl 21 with 7 mags and 210 rnds of tula.My Colt6920,6920socom both are more accurate just as reliable more balalanced and can be fixed if broken by almost anyone.

          • TomasEdwardChristian

            So more or less it’s an F4, which was what America used around that time….

      • David

        Americans drive the price up. If they didn’t not many would buy anything else.

  • Gryff

    The comment on the quality of the Soviet military is partially incorrect. While the Soviets didn’t lack for small arms production, their quality of their average soldier was always rather poor. They were a conscription army than a professional volunteeer force with a high-quality core of non-commissioned officers. Sixty plus percent didn’t speak Russian at induction, and junior officers usually did the jobs that we trust to our NCOs because conscripted soldiers didn’t generally serve long enough to become competent NCOs. The AK platform WAS designed for peasant soldiers, since the Soviets always valued quantity over quality.

    The author does make a good point about how Western-produced weapons often rely on stamped parts also, but the final product of nearly every Western rifle usually surpasses the quality found in the best Eastern Bloc-made rifle. An H&K 91 is worth three times the value of an Arsenal AK pattern rifle because the fit and finish are vastly superior. Whether that matters in battle is not particularly relevant, since there is a point where “good enough” is good enough and anything beyond that is rapidly diminishing returns. But it isn’t a government contract where the H&K 91 is selling for $2000-24000. It is the private buyer who values the quality (and diminishing availability) of the H&K rifle.

    • TomasEdwardChristian

      H&K makes weapons Iran uses and makes them cost 1500 or more.

      Seriously, Iran has huge stockpiles of G3s…They shouldn’t be super expensive in America.

  • Dylan

    The fact that we will put up with over pricing just because a rifle is inspected to greater lengths by a company is ridiculous. Considering a Saiga is a $550 rifle (Arsenal probably gets a nice discount down to the $400 range at least) and the conversion cost around $120 that is a total of $520 and they then sell them for $1100+ which is insane. Think about it what if the AR manufactures did this. Would you pay $1300 for a DPMS panther like rifle (Ok trigger, BCG, Buffer, Barrel ect) because this new company pays more attention to QC? I personally couldn’t see paying over $800 for an Arsenal and that is pushing it. Fact of the matter is the firearms industry figures out you will pay more than they are charging and they will promptly adjust there price to meet your willingness to pay more. People if a gun goes up in price drastically don’t fucking buy it. There are plenty of other guns out there by many other manufactures. If your mad about the price of ammo don’t buy it, If your mad about the over pricing of a firearm don’t buy it. It is that simple. Please stop causing the prices of firearms and ammo to go up by allowing the manufactures to know that you are willing to pay $850 for CAI AK’s and $1 a round for .20 cent ammo.

  • Greg

    The AK is associated with communism and the AR iwith American exceptionalism.

  • Ryan

    Speaking of which avoid the Arsenal SAM7SF…I researched using this site as well as many others to find the best AK on the market and settled with the Arsenal Sam7SF milled for just under $1400…well when I got my brand new rifle I was unable to zero it at 50 yards due to the front sight post being canted off to the right. Each time I called Arsenal, I spoke with a very unpleasant woman named Jennifer who rudely responded and was slow to take the blame, assuming I had no idea what I was doing. Instead of taking the blame, they refused to fix anything unless I shipped the rifle on my own dime to get this brand new rifle fixed (~$100 through Fedex or UPS). This is something I expect from Century, but not Arsenal. I asked several times to speak with a technician or someone besides their “customer service rep” but was treated again like a nuisance. PLEASE STAY AWAY, to get treated like this after spending $1400 on a rifle is unbelievable. There are good AK’s out there with decent customer service, rifle dynamics, krebs, but after seeing the true colors of Arsenal, stay away