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Book Review: How to Buy an AK-47

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“Easily the best book we’ve read on the subject”

I’ve read several dedicated buyers guides for firearms. They almost always manage to disappoint.  The topics often read like the manufacturers slick-glossy advertising from which they were derived.  In the other extreme, they are overly simplistic and fail to address the real strengths and weaknesses of a given platform.  Robert Kay managed to avoid both of these foibles, creating a manual that is quite a lot more than a simple buyer’s guide.  He made a book that took the mystery out the AK-series and did it in a format that was both approachable for the layman and informative for more experienced users.

land of ak72Never one to bury the lead,   Kay’s book, “How to Buy an AK-47” approaches the decision process by interviewing diverse experts in the firearm.  He gives us a tour of the manufacturers who share what makes one AK different from the next and the parts that make them better.  Through Kay we meet the aftermarket parts manufacturers who explain the difficulties of matching parts to a diverse universe of very similar but dimensionally different rifles.  Finally men with combat pedigrees explain the interaction of desired parts to the rifle’s role in personal protection.  It is a fine format that never drags.akm72

As the book points out, the AK-platform has been “Balkanized” because of the Soviet Union’s practical interest in only a few key points of the design.  They only required that all Warsaw Pact magazines be compatible and that the manual of arms remain similar between any variant.  This allowed for subtle changes in the AK design from each country that manufactured the arm.  There is no Mil Spec similar to the one Americans have come to enjoy with the AR-15 platform.  This also means there are also few absolutely reliable drop-in parts.

Mark Krebs of Krebs Custom, who made his reputation by offering well-designed parts for the AK, was extensively interviewed for the book.  His knowledge will save time and money for anyone who wants to modify an AK to fit their specific mission.  As the book stresses, that task is not a easy as it might seem.

Modded ak72Mounting a scope or red dot sight is not a simple process on an AK-series rifle.  Customization tips from men like Tim Harmsen from the Military Arms Channel explain their methods and choices, referencing the parts which worked best.  Simple suggestions like taping a red-dot in place to check the position choice before buying a mount drive this section.  Common sense is a keystone of this book and it is most apparent when it comes to the chapter on sighting choices.

Throughout the book, intelligent people offer cogent opinions, which is far from the norm in what purports to be a simple buyer’s guide.  Armchair commando silliness is non-existent.  Noted trainer Larry Vickers offers hard advice based on his experience with the arm and problems he encounters when training people in its use.  His simple four tips should be applied to anyone who cares about the marshal use of firearms and are worth the price of the manual.

If you intend to buy an AK for any purpose, from plinking to self-defense or have one that you intend to modify, there is no better reference than “How to Buy an AK” by Robert Kay.

Robert F. Kay

Robert F. Kay

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