A SMALL CALIBER WITH A BIG NAME
By Jeff W. Zimba
There are very few firearms in the world as recognizable as those in the AK47 family. There are also very few names in the firearms industry as well-known as “Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov.” When both are brought together for a brand new rifle as in the case of the German Sport Guns (GSG) GSG-AK47, it has to be big.
The .22 LR “Kalashnikov” manufactured by GSG represents much more than a small caliber “knock-off” of a famous rifle. The GSG-AK47 is not only a well-made rifle, common of the German engineering we have come to appreciate, but it actually bears the name “Kalashnikov.” GSG is currently the only company in the world licensed by General Kalashnikov to manufacture real, functioning firearms, and they have not taken this opportunity lightly.
For several years, .22 LR rimfire versions of military firearms have been available. The quality, aesthetics and function have been all over the spectrum, with many falling into the sub-par category. Anyone who reads the pages of Small Arms Review has seen an increase in these rifles – many of excellent quality and actually commissioned by the same companies who manufacture the originals.
In the September, 2009 issue of SAR (Vol. 12 No. 12) we examined the GSG-5 series, a family of .22 LR firearms modeled after the H&K MP5 family and we were pleased to accept the opportunity to test and evaluate the newest member of the GSG family, the GSG-AK47 Kalashnikov.
From the moment the GSG-AK47 is removed from the factory packaging, the quality is immediately obvious. The first feature of our test rifle to excel far beyond our expectations was the furniture. The stocks are all solid wood, comfortable and functional, and not an inexpensive plastic part with its only purpose to resemble a familiar rifle.
Upon examining the rifle it was apparent that something else was special with the name “KALASHNIKOV” boldly displayed on the left side of receiver just below the front trunnion location. Furthermore, on the left side of the receiver, is a standard AK47 side rail mount for use with many popular optics.
The magazine is a full size magazine and looks correct in the firearm. Aside from the visual round indicator window in the center of the magazine where remaining ammo is visible, and the small rib to the rear of the magazine, it looks very much like a normal AK47 magazine. It holds 24 rounds and locks up in the typical fashion. The front is inserted and it is rocked to the rear. To remove the magazine it employs a paddle magazine release positioned in front of the trigger guard like an original.
The sights are very similar to the full size companion and the rear ladder-style blade is adjustable for elevation in the typical manor. The front sight is a standard style protected post and is also adjustable for elevation to fine-tune your specific ammunition to a known distance.
The safety lever is located on the right side like the original but with one additional feature. When the bolt is pulled to the rear position the safety lever can be lifted to the top position and double as a bolt lock. When the bolt is not pulled all the way to the rear the lever works like a standard safety with the SAFE position being up and the FIRE position being down. The GSG-AK47 also features a last shot bolt hold-open for a visual inspection upon firing the last round and to assist in quick reloading.
The muzzle end of the barrel has a device that resembles a standard thread protector (referred to as a nozzle), but the barrel itself is not threaded. The threads are inside the front sight post and the nozzle slides over the barrel and is threaded into the front sight post. It was not clear at the time of publication if anyone is making a thread adapter for use with a suppressor or other muzzle devices.
As nice as the GSG-AK47 looked and felt we reserved our true opinion for after time spent doing some live fire exercises. Several targets were set up and the magazine was loaded to its full capacity of 24 rounds. For test ammo we chose Wolf .22 LR and Federal Gold .22 LR. We fired numerous 24-round strings to see how well it would function and group. At a distance of 25 yards the groups were much smaller than expected with the rifle favoring the Federal Gold ammo. We fired several hundred rounds of both types of ammo and we did not experience a single malfunction of any kind from any ammo at any time.
The groups were not expected to be “match quality” as the method of fire was far from slow firing with gentle controlled trigger squeeze and controlled breathing. The rear blade AK47-style sights are not typically conducive to bench-rest accuracy, especially with a few tired sets of eyes, but the groups highly exceeded our expectations. After firing several magazines we were simply amazed at the level of accuracy possible with this rifle. Most of the targets looked similar to the “shoot out the star” carnival targets after a good effort, with a big, tattered single hole. Knowing the capabilities of this rifle we will be obtaining an optical sight to see what it is actually capable of.
Of course the recoil was almost non-existent and the sound level was negligible after firing several large caliber rifles the same day.
Although the look and feel of the GSG-AK47 is extremely similar to its famous namesake, the internals have almost nothing in common with it. Under the familiar top cover is a completely different animal: it operates with a simple short action blowback mechanism, very similar to that used in the GSG-5 weapon system. Complete stripping for periodic maintenance requires the removal of several screws. Cleaning and maintenance is quite simple and easy but it will not be familiar to the seasoned AK47 enthusiast.
We enjoyed the GSG-AK47 for many reasons. The low cost of shooting .22 ammo is attractive, but not at the expense of an unfamiliar rifle with awkward controls and an uncertain reliability aspect. Fortunately, for those who like military rifles, all these issues were not a factor with the GSG-AK47. The look, feel and controls are almost identical to the most heavily proliferated rifle system in the world. From the first time it is handled and shouldered, the heavy wood and comfortable stock length give the shooter the real feel of a familiar rifle. The magazine works and looks great and the accuracy potential was a surprising plus. Whether it is for low-cost training on the real system, a departure from the usual noise to give your neighbors a break, to help a youngster learn to handle this style rifle without the recoil and intimidation of the muzzle blast or just plain for fun, we think the GSG-AK47 will make a nice addition to any military firearms collection. With the manufacturers suggested retail price of $499.95 it should not break the bank and the low ammo expense will cost average the purchase price out in no time. All that combined with a high level of performance and the fact that General Kalashnikov believes it is a rifle worthy of bearing his name speaks volumes too.
American Tactical Imports
100 Airpark Drive
Rochester, NY 14624
Ph: (800) 290-0065
Fax: (585) 328-4168
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V13N10 (July 2010)|