The AK-47 is one of those legendary weapons, up there in fame and popularity with the M16, Mini gun, Desert Eagle, Glock and Colt Single Action Army. These weapons are so well known that even non-gun people can recognize them. The AK gained its legendary status from its uniquely Soviet appearance, its widespread proliferation, its place on the nightly news, and the fact that at the end of the day it’s one of the most reliable rifles in the world.
However, the design is definitely a bit dated. The AK is known for its poor ergonomics, its weight, and its lack of accuracy.
Thankfully, we live in a time with an epic level of gun ownership and a fascination with modern defensive rifles like the AK, so nearly any demand can be met. Three companies have seen how popular the AK round is, how easily available the magazines are, and have identified the fact the AK is not the most ergonomic platform.
Let’s take a look at alternatives:
1. CMMG Mutant/MK47
The CMMG rifle company has always been a unique company, producing modern, modular rifles in the AR platform. The CMMG Mutant is the company’s attempt to combine the best aspects of the AR-15 with the best aspects of the AK-47. The platform uses controls almost identical to the AR-15, including the safety placement which is 10 times better than the traditional AK.
The MK47 uses an ambidextrous magazine release identical to the AK-47, but that’s because it uses AK-47 magazines. The use of AK mags is what separates it from previous incarnations of 7.62 x 39mm AR-15s. The Mutant also uses a much, much bigger bolt, which increased reliability with the weapon.
The full-length handguard keymod handguard is an awesome touch that provides nearly unlimited options for mounting accessories. The flat top upper receiver allows the easy mounting of optics. The MK47 can accept almost all of the same accessories of a traditional AR, such as butt stocks, handguards and trips.
The MK47 is perfect for those like myself trained in the military on the M4/AR platform, but who have a personal preference for the 7.62 x 39mm round. The MK47’s customization is a major factor for some, as well as the ability to easily add an optic without a secondary mount. The MK47 is an excellent design, and its use of popular (and cheap) AK mags makes it an excellent AK alternative.
2. SIG 556R
The original SIG 556 rifle took a lot of inspiration from the AK-47 platform and utilized a bit of Swiss engineering to make a lighter, handier weapon to comply with NATO standardization. The SIG 556 uses a very similar method of operation, but was refined in the ergonomic category, was more accurate and chambered in 5.56.
The SIG 556R is a harkening back to the AK design, with SIG’s renowned ergonomics and ease of use. The SIG 556R is chambered in 7.62 x 39, and accepts standard AK-47 magazines. If you haven’t figured it out yet, the R is “SIG 556R” stands for “Russian,” a reference to the AK’s country of origin. The SIG 556R is more modular and comes with a standard handguard that can be swapped with a standard railed or keymod handguard with ease.
The SIG 556R has a flat-top upper receiver to facilitate the mounting of nearly any optics. The safety is also positioned to be much easier to activate than the standard AK safety. The stock is side-folding for easier storage, especially in vehicles. The 556R still uses a gas piston design, one that gives the shooter confidence when it comes to reliability. The design is so simple and easy that it’s reliable even during heavy use and rough terrain.
The SIG 556R also allows the user to adjust the gas system for use with suppressors, something the AK is lacking. The SIG 556R’s use of AK magazines, and its ammunition, makes this an excellent option for those who’ve never cared for the AR platform, and want something a little more modern than the AK platform.
3. PTR 32
This is a rather interesting rifle. Fans of the H&K G3 / 91 know that PTR produces some of the best clones of these weapons out there. They are well built, and certainly up to the high standard set by H&K. The PTR clones are normally in 308/7.62 NATO, but the PTR 32 is in 7.62 x 39mm.
The PTR 32 is essentially the H&K 91 just rechambered for the Soviet 7.62. This weapon is quite heavy, but has some excellent features. For one, the H&K style sights are wonderful and capable, and the sight radius is nice and long. The forward charging handle is incredibly accessible and can be locked into a notch at the rear of the cocking handle.
The safety is very easy and accessible; like all of these models, it is much better than the traditional AK model. This 9.8-pound rifle absorbs recoil like a champ, and it makes the extra weight worth it. The Gen 2 PTR 32 features a M4 collapsible stock, and a railed foregrip for accessories. The PTR 32 Gen 1 is traditional H&K 91 furniture. The PTR 32 is a Cold War warrior, but it’s an excellent, well-built weapon — a Soviet heart wrapped in a German coat.
AK Now Passe
The AK is still a very viable platform, and it remains one of my favorites. By no means is this a get-rid-of-your-AK article.
However, if you like the round and the available magazines, these weapons are excellent replacements. The AK is going nowhere soon, and that’s evidenced by these three weapons. If the AK wasn’t as popular as it is, these weapon would never exist.
What is your favorite AK alternative? What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the section below: