The Best AK Pistols

Who makes the best AK pistols?

The AK platform is, arguably, more popular than ever. The original (and nearly indestructible) rifle as developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, the AK, has been the firearm of choice for militaries, revolutionaries, and guerillas across the globe for generations.

The pistol variant has been shortened down and modernized, giving us the AK-47 pistol — a fun and formidable weapon for a number of applications.

But, there’s a lot to learn about these small semi-auto guns chambered in 7.62×39. These days, they’re offered in Section 922R compliant builds by several companies; from Zastava Arms to Century Arms and Palmetto State Armory.

Everyone is familiar with the AK47 rifle, and the AK pistol is just as ugly but shorter, easier to handle, and with a few mods can make for a homely little CQB or home defense weapon.

The AK pistol is a concept worth considering because, much like an AR pistol, it allows you to get a short-barreled AK without filing the paperwork to build a short-barreled rifle, and doling out even more to the alphabet agencies of the world.

Kalashkitty brings the pain.

Quick List: The Best AK Pistols

Century Arms

This is a classic in the AK pistol realm. This stamped-receiver AK comes with a short 7-3/4″ barrel, making it half flame thrower. While it doesn’t have tons of frills, it does deliver in terms of performance. If you want a straightforward AK pistol and aren’t planing on accessorizing it to the hilt, this is the one for you. Century also offers a micro version, which lops off 1 ½” from the barrel for even more 7.62 sturm und drang. Their C39v2 is also more than worth a look.

Zastava

The AK world is an interesting one, and the M85 is a great example of just how interesting things can get. This is an AK pistol with a 10” barrel chambered in 5.56 and plumbed for standard AR-15 magazines, giving you an “Amerikanski Kalash” in pistol format. 

To manage the recoil, the Zastrava uses a Krinkov-style muzzle brake , just like the one on the big daddy AK-74. All in all, the M85 blends several different designs that come together in a fascinating firearm.

Palmetto State Armory

Speaking of firearms that merge AR elements into the AK, let us introduce you to the AK-P MOE edition. Design-wise, this PSA creation is pure AK, with one exception; an AR buffer tube protrudes out of the back. Functionally there’s nothing to write home about, but it does open the door to AR-style pistol braces, giving users a huge pool of options to pull from.

Palmetto State Armory

The AK74u is one of the coolest looking firearms of all time, and about the closest you can come to owning one in pistol format is this side-folder AK pistol from PSA. They’ve taken one big step to modernize it and added a top cover with a Picatinny rail: making optics mounting much easier than with older versions of the top cover.

Century Arms

For another most modern takes on this concept, the RAS 47 in all black polymer certainly fits the bill. In addition to the 10.6” barreled and black furniture giving this an “I’ll be back” quality, an extended magazine release gears this toward performance and rapid reloads. It will get the job done and look great doing it.

Galil

While more AK inspired than true AK, the Galil does deserve a place on this list. 

Using SR25 magazines and based on the original Galil rifle developed by IMI 1960’s, this is effectively the 21st-century version of an AK with all the trimmings. The left-hand side-charging receiver is milled from steel and the ACE has a ton of rail space for accessories and attachments. This is one of those firearms that’s a little unusual, but certainly worth a try.

Are AK pistols accurate?

Accuracy is a subjective topic.  Rather than generalities, it makes more sense to get specific. The right question is: is an AK pistol accurate enough for a given task?

If your objective is to be on target at 1,000 yards, then, no an AK pistol is not the firearm you’re looking for (nor is the AK rifle for that matter). The best you’re going to do in the AK world (if you can find one) is a Romanian PSL, which is effectively an up-scaled AK47 chambered in 7.62x54mm (the world’s second-oldest cartridge still in regular combat service, FWIW). That, however interesting, isn’t what we’re talking about here. 

If your goal is something more along the lines of a super-portable truck gun or home defense, then the AK pistol makes more sense. The 7.62 round is heavy and, when compared to its counterpart in 5.56mm, is slower moving. This slower muzzle velocity comes at the cost of range, but the weight of the projectile brings a load of kinetic energy to the party at close to medial ranges. 

In terms of getting on target, a reasonably well-constructed AK pistol could be accurate enough for defensive shooting out to about 200 yards with decent glass and junior varsity-level practice. 

While not the most accurate weapons on the planet, they are effective fighting tools that you would do well to consider in home defense planning. 

The one downside (and this applies to both AR and AK pistols) — they’re loud. The shorter barrel is going to give you a serious report and muzzle flash, so while they will certainly stop an intruder, there are better home defense options if you want to preserve your hearing.

AK pistols vs AR pistols

At the moment, AR pistols are all the rage, and we certainly see why. Much like the AK pistol, AR pistols offer a lot of semi-automatic firepower in a small, highly maneuverable package. But there are several advantages the AK has over the AR pistols.

First and foremost, the AK will much more readily accept folding stocks and braces. The AR platform’s buffer tube behind the bolt means you will always have that tube protruding 6” out of the back of the receiver. Piston driven ARs, which borrow heavily from AK designs, try to get around this.

The Soviets, on the other hand, saw this problem coming in 1947 and contained the operational components right at the butt of the milled or stamped receiver. This means, in our context, an overall shorter and handier package.

Second, because the 7.62 round is already slower moving than 5.56mm, it suffers less from the drop in velocity that comes with shorter barrels. The 7.62 will see 2,300 to 2,400 fps in a 16.3-inch barrel and only loses 150-200 fps when the barrel is cut down to 11-inches, so you retain most of the longer-barreled velocity in the pistol format with the fatter bore.

AR carbines have been notorious since the Vietnam era for less than optimal muzzle velocity: that’s part of why the CAR 15 had accuracy and fouling issues and wasn’t revived as the M4 for several decades.

AKs, on the other hand, suffer little with shorter barrels, which makes them great choices for smaller form factors.

Uses for an AK Pistol

An AK pistol doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the most straightforward use might be as a truck gun — which sounds like a lot of fun. They also work well as part of a bugout bag or emergency plan, as they’re built like a tank and are legendarily reliable. If you prefer to carry a firearm in your vehicle one that will fit under your seat or in a car/truck safe is certainly desirable.

Thinking a little more creatively, an AK competition gun would be a bit of a shocker — but hold on. For shorter ranges, an AK pistol is a quick and reasonably accurate firearm, and running one on a carbine course could be a good fit. Slap on a muzzle brake always to keep the muzzle down and that red dot and you’re halfway there.

Lastly, for home defense. AK pistols’ diminutive form factor provides big-bore semi-automatic firepower in small size, so it would be, at a minimum, effective for home defense, especially when paired with a red dot given AK iron sights aren’t going to be super usable in the dark. The report would be ear-splitting, but if paired with a suppressor there’s a reasonable case to be made on the home defense front as well.

Sources

  1. Springfield, Armory Museum, Russian Assault Rifle  AK47 7.62MM
  2. Vietnam War Wiki, CAR-15
  3. The High Road, AR vs AK Pistol Ballistics, November 12, 2005
  4. Ballistic Magazine, Robert Jordan, 300 Blackout vs 308 vs 7.62×39: Which Caliber Is Best for Short Barrels?, April 27, 2020 
  5. Wikipedia, 7.62×54mmR
  6. Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, 18 US Code § 922 – Unlawful acts

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