By Charlie Cutshaw
We’re all politically incorrect to one extent or another, aren’t we? If you aren’t, why are you reading this? Well, political incorrectness has just taken a giant step forward with a new air rifle imported by Kalashnikov USA. Take a look at the photos accompanying this article. Looks like an AK-74M, doesn’t it? Well, if you’ll look closely, you’ll notice that there are subtle external differences between this rifle and a real AK-74M. This rifle is called a “Junkers,” perhaps an unfortunate name, but it has a historical foundation that transcends the subject matter of this article. If you’re interested in the origins of the term, I suggest that you check out your German history. At any rate, the term “junker” has an unfortunate connotation in the USA that has nothing to do with the overall quality of the rifle. Well…it isn’t really a rifle, appearances to the contrary. The Junkers is actually a pistol cleverly disguised as a rifle. Confused? Stay with me and we’ll sort things out.
Once upon a time, Izhmash, the company that makes the ubiquitous Kalashnikov rifles was seeking an appropriate gift for visiting dignitaries and the little cast pewter rifles that most manufacturers hand out as favors just didn’t seem appropriate. So what some genius at Izhmash essentially did was integrate the Izhevsky Zavod MP651K air pistol into the receiver of an AK-74M to make a legal to own shooting souvenir. The pistol already was capable of being converted into a conventional air rifle, so the transition was a relatively natural one. The execution of this project, however, is mind boggling! What Izhmash has done is replicate the external appearance of an AK-74M in almost all of its essential features, except the folding stock. The rifle even disassembles like a standard AK for the most part, as you, dear reader, will see by examining the field strip/loading procedures accompanying this article. The external differences between this rifle and the real McCoy will not be apparent to any but the trained eye, and when your hand is on the pistol grip, even the most highly trained observer will have difficulty in distinguishing the AK air rifle from the real thing.
Needless to say, authenticity has its down side. One does not wish to appear in public with this rifle in hand, unless one wishes to attract a great deal of unwanted attention from the local gendarmerie. In fact, the police have shot people for a lot less, so caveat emptor if you buy one of these Kalashnikov souvenirs. The owner’s manual that accompanies the rifle even has a warning statement, as follows: “IMPORTANT. EXPOSED CARRYING AND IMITATIONS OF USING THIS RIFLE AS A COMBAT WEAPON MAY DELUDE OFFICIALS OF THE LAW-ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES OR CIVILIANS AND GIVE THEM REASON TO USE A FIREARM OR OTHER MEANS OF SELF DEFENCE AGAINST YOU.” (The caps are theirs, not ours.) At any rate, Izhmash came up with an ideal souvenir that violates no laws, yet actually shoots after a fashion (see below) and has the authentic Kalashnikov imprimatur.
How authentic is the Junkers? It is so authentic that a Russian friend tells us that the Junkers is used for training older schoolchildren in the basics of the AK. Look at the close up photos of the receiver. The Junkers has the full Izhmash factory markings, except that the right side of the receiver it is marked “Junker – Kalashnikov USA -Port St. Lucie, FL, USA.” The rifle even has a nonfunctioning magazine that can be inserted and removed exactly as with the original. The likewise nonfunctioning selector moves to its appropriate positions on the receiver. In fact, the receiver cover, “recoil spring,” “bolt carrier,” and “gas tube” are disassembled exactly as with the real rifle. In fact, these components must be removed to load the magazine with BBs. The Junker even weighs seven pounds — about the same as an actual AK-74. Once the receiver cover, recoil spring and bolt carrier are removed, however, things are quite different. Nestled inside the receiver is a pistol, which can be removed and fired independently of the rifle. The muzzle of the pistol interfaces with a BB “Guide Tube” beneath the “barrel” in the same location as the actual rifle’s cleaning rod. What appears to be the barrel seems to be an actual 5.45mm barrel that has no chamber and has had three large holes drilled horizontally near the breech end to ensure that the air rifle is not somehow transformed into a real rifle. The “barrel” is actually rifled and one can only hope that the barrels used to fabricate “Junkers” air rifles are rejects. The muzzle brake is removable as with the actual rifle. The guide tube, however, has no rifling at all. It is merely a steel tube with a boss at the muzzle end for attaching it to the sight base. Fit and finish of components is typical Kalashnikov, rough but serviceable.
The Junkers/MP651K pistol/revolver is supplied with two eight shot cylinders, one for use with BBs and one for 4.5mm lead pellets. The BB cylinder, installed at the factory, has a small ledge in each chamber to prevent BBs from double feeding and causing a stoppage. The cylinder for 4.5mm pellets is bored straight through. If one removes the pistol, uses it for pellets and then forgets and replaces it into the rifle with the pellet cylinder in place, BBs from the tubular magazine will “double feed,” causing a stoppage that requires the pistol to be again removed from the rifle to clear. The Junkers is also provided with a comprehensive accessory kit that includes a cleaning rod, tools, a rear sight for the pistol and spare “O” rings and gaskets for the gas system. A small tubular container that fits inside the buttstock receptacle houses a screwdriver and punch. These are inserted into slots in the tube’s side for use.
The rifle obviously is not intended for use as such on a regular basis. Loading requires removal of the receiver cover, recoil spring and bolt carrier. This allows access to the pistol’s 23 shot tubular magazine that feeds BBs to an eight shot revolving cylinder. We found with our rifle that loading more than 18 BBs made the trigger mechanism very stiff to operate because of BB pressure against the pistol’s cylinder. Once the rifle is loaded, it may be fired without replacing the receiver components, but what fun is that? In practice, we always loaded the rifle with 18 rounds and kept a round count or waited until the slight difference in shot noise indicated that there was no BB exiting the guide tube. Accuracy? Not very good. Our Junkers consistently shot very low and to the left and our Daisy Red Ryder BB gun gets better shot groups. Our Junkers seemed unable to “print” any shot groups worthy of the name, shooting to a different point of impact with each shot. Adjusting the sight for elevation made little difference in the point of impact of the BBs. In fact, the rifle is pretty much useless as such; attributable to the interface of the MP651K pistol’s muzzle to the guide tube and the fact that the guide tube has a slight downward cant at the muzzle end. These could be corrected by some judicious machining, but unless one were to change the entire guide tube, it would make little difference. The most serious blow to Junkers accuracy is the guide tube’s inside diameter of approximately 0.275 inch, which ensures that the 0.17-inch BB will ricochet its way down the tube and exit the muzzle at a slightly different angle with each shot. It is abundantly clear that this rifle was not intended for competitive air rifle shooting. We were able to consistently hit a gallon milk jug at 25 feet with the rifle, but that is about as good as accuracy gets. In contrast, when backyard shooting with our Daisy, we can successfully engage bottle caps at the same range.
As mentioned, though, the Junkers can also be used as a pistol, so we were curious as to the pistol’s accuracy once it was separated from the rifle component of the system. Removing the pistol is a rather involved process, as follows:
- Engage the safety!
- Remove the receiver cover.
- Withdraw the recoil spring.
- Remove the bolt carrier and unload the magazine (The cylinder cannot be unloaded except by firing the pistol.)
- Remove the “gas tube.” (The takedown lever was very stiff and required pliers to rotate)
- Lift the forearm retaining lever, slide the clamp forward, and remove the forearm.
- Undo the retaining screw beneath the sight block and remove the guide tube.
- Remove the plastic pistol grip.
- Remove the buttstock screw and buttstock.
- Remove the “selector” by pivoting it vertically and then working it out to the right.
- Tilt the pistol back by pulling down on the grip frame so the muzzle is upward. Work the pistol out of the receiver from the top.
- Reassembly is the reverse of the foregoing, except that the magazine catch spring has to be pressed back out of the way with a small screwdriver or similar tool so the trigger guard will fit back in the housing. Also, the catch spring is guaranteed to scar the finish of the trigger guard! (There is nothing about this in the instructions.) Moreover, you have to hold your mouth just right to get the pistol positioned properly so the guide tube will interface.
Once the pistol has been removed from the rifle’s receiver, it can be fired accurately using BBs after installing the rear sight provided in the accessory kit. The sight simply slides into place and is fixed with a small lock screw. The MP651K has a rifled steel barrel nearly six inches in length. To change from BBs to pellets, the pellet cylinder must be inserted, a task which can be accomplished in a one or two seconds by simply pressing the release latch and lifting out the BB cylinder. The pellet cylinder is loaded from the rear and will not feed pellets from the pistol’s tubular BB magazine. Thus, the pellet cylinder must be removed for reloading after every eight shots. This is, as stated, not difficult. When used with 4.5mm lead pellets, the MP651K pistol is extremely accurate. We were able to achieve one inch groups from the offhand position with it at 15 feet in our informal evaluation. But of course, how often one will use the Junkers as a pistol is highly questionable, given that getting at the pistol requires nearly total disassembly of the rifle and about 10 minutes’ time. Moreover, the components do not separate or reassemble easily. Disassembly and reassembly resulted in several unavoidable scrapes and scratches on the surface of both the pistol and rifle in the receiver area. The owner of a Junkers will not use his air gun in the pistol role very often.
Based on the foregoing, one would logically conclude that we didn’t like the Junkers. WRONG! With this rifle, logic goes out the window! The Junkers is a real Kalashnikov, straight from Izhmash and we love it! We’d love it even if it didn’t shoot, because it is just SO damn politically incorrect! If Diane Feinslime, Teddy (the lecher blimp) Kennedy, Algore, HILLARY!, Traitor Bill, or Chuckie Schumer were to see this air rifle, they would all enter into apoplectic fits! (The CHILDREN, y’know!) In fact, we consider it to be only a matter of time before the Junkers is banned simply because of its appearance. The Junkers transcends being evaluated as an air rifle, or as anything other than what it is — a true Kalashnikov memento that happens to be a Kalashnikov memento that actually shoots, is legal to own (for now), and can be sent right to your door via UPS or FedEx. Moreover, the engineering that went into adapting the AK receiver so that an MP651K pistol would fit inside and work is fascinating in itself. In the final analysis, everyone who is enamored with the basic AK design should want a Junkers air rifle. Sure, you can have “the real thing, but the “real AKs” available in this country are not made by Izhmash. I’m personally not a great fan of AKs, and don’t own and have no desire to own any of “the real ones,” as I had enough of them in Vietnam. But the Junkers is different. I love it! Order yours from:
1019 Holbrook Ct, B-3
Port St Lucie, FL 34952
Tel: (561) 337-3398
Fax: (561) 337-0258
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V4N7 (April 2001)|