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Old 09-08-2017, 03:05 AM   #1
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First evaluation of AK74 Aberdeen Prov Gnd 1982

I was a Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director at Aberdeen in September 1982 when I got a call from Col Buck Weaver (US Army Retired) of the Army Material Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA) which was about 100 yards up from our office "behind the fence".

Buck started off by telling me he had already talked with my Section Chief Bob Connolly who had cleared him to contact me directly. He went on and told me AMSAA had obtained a rifle and they wanted an Accuracy - Dispersion validation conducted. He asked if I could come up to his office and he would give me more background as they wanted to meet me. I checked with Connolly and he confirmed the contact/approval.

I had seen their sign walking past their office numerous times but did not actually know what they did. I pulled this up on their website which seems to say it best, " The US Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, known as AMSAA, is an Army Materiel Command organization that conducts a variety of critical analyses to provide state-of-the-art analytical solutions to senior level Army and Department of Defense officials. AMSAA's responsive systems analysis supports the "Equipping" and "Sustaining" of weapons and materiel for our Soldiers in the field as well as our Future Army Force."

When I arrived he introduced me to a number of personnel and we went to his office. First he gave me a little background of what AMSAA did which was to evaluate a wide variety of material, concepts etc and told me they had just received a Russian AK-74 Rifle for analysis and evaluation. Unfortunately they they only had one that the Military Intelligence folks had recently obtained. He asked me if I would help them by conducting an Accuracy-Dispersion Validation on the weekends. I agreed and asked how they picked me.

Buck recounted that the Aberdeen Proving Ground newspaper had just done a big front page spread on me for my being a member of the 1982 US Palma Team as I had just returned from Canada and Camp Perry National Smallbore Championships where I made the US Dewar Team the week prior to going to Canada with the Palma team. When I returned I got a call from the APG Newspaper and they wanted to do an article on me.

Buck told me the timing of that article was perfect and he called the Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM) and they directed him to the Material Test Direcorate Small Arms and Ammunition Test Branch and ultimately to my Section Chief Bob Connolly. Bob was also a NRA Master Class shooter and he told them I was also the Test Director on the M16A1E1 Rifle Technical Feasibility Test which was developed at the behest of the US Marine Corps Firepower Division, Quantico (Maj/ Bruce Wincentsen was the Corps Project Manager) and I had just that same week finished the range portion of the Technical Feasibility Test for the M16A1E1. The Corps first adopted it as the M16A2 and a few months later by the Army followed. He also told him I served as the Accuracy -Dispersion "control shooter" for that project and I had just finished the firing phase for the Marine Corps test and had just started the report writing phase.

BACKGROUND: Aberdeen Proving Ground tests encompass a large variety of weapons and equipment testing. Our branch tested small arms which is defined as every caliber up to and including 40MM Air Defense guns based on Test Operation Procedures (TOPs) developed many years ago. All testing of similar weapons are tested following those procedures in the same manner so accurate system comparisons can be made even though conducted years apart.

Part of the TOP rifle protocol called for accuracy-dispersion firing of shoulder fired weapons were to be conducted only by personnel that held a National Rifle Association's Master Class Rifle Classification in Highpower Rifle or Smallbore Rifle" and I held both of those. In the Marine Corps test there were not enough Master Class NRA shooters on the Proving Ground and TECOM was notified and they notified Marine Corps. Thus the Corps would supply additional NRA Master Class shooters from the Marine Corps Rifle Team at Quantico, Virginia.

That introduced another problem as there was apparently a requirement that their people could not be on long Term TDY and their plan was to rotate shooters. The Aberdeen analytical section indicated they needed to have at least one shooter conduct all phases of the testing and such would give them a solid base line of data and they could work the numbers and give a good analysis. Thus I also became the "control shooter" and shot the initial dispersion groups for each rifle, all the long range work and the indoor 100 yard testing on each rifle. In excess of 244,000 rounds were expended.

At the end of one Marine shooter's TDY that shooter would leave and another replaced him and so on. The firing took months to accomplish as we had to test the rifles from 100 yards and 200-800 meters at the beginning and every 1200 rounds until 12,000 rounds were on each barrel.

Buck said when he read the article in the APG Newspaper he realized he had a extremely rare combination of things that would not only give him quality test data but after talking with Connolly he realized he had the opportunity to get data that would give a direct comparison to the M16A1E1 which had just been adopted as the M16A2. At the same time the M16A1 was tested again with all shot by the same control shooter (myself) on the same range, with the same light conditions, same elevation, same targets, same weather conditions. Buck went on to say that many tests over the years it is basically an "apples and oranges" comparison but this time it was going to be apples and apples all picked from the same tree by the same picker so to speak. He said it just didn't get any better. I agreed.

Buck stressed that he wanted me to test the AK-74 in the exact same way as I did the M16 variants and I assured him that could be done and that I would make sure I had the exact same gun crew supervisor and gun crew to change the targets, the same targets and their dispersions would be measured with the same calibrated steel metric tape exactly as had been done in the previous months fired on the same target board which was still in place on the same range. It was 8X12 feet and completely covered in paper so all shots would be captured up to 800 meters.

Buck wanted to conduct the testing on the weekend and I concurred since little or no testing on adjacent ranges were likely to interfere. We were going to have to erect the target 800 meters down range from the Michaelsville Main Firing Line which would not be possible if the adjoining ranges were HOT for obvious reasons. He arranged for me to get the weapon and that came with a nice surprise. The intelligence boys had 55 gal drums of 5.45 genuine Russian arsenal produced ammo, all battlefield pick up just waiting for a rifle.

We went through the drums and noticed just about all of it of it was made at the same arsenal so we selected about 500 rounds with the same headstamp. Only a couple cartons were available in original packaging, there were loose rounds, rounds in stripper clips etc and I inspected each round to insure no handling damage had been sustained on the battlefield. Apparently is was all the same lot as it performed quite well with no stoppages.


Sights: They were very crude and the previous owner(s) had not protected them and the finish was deteriorated to where they were bright and shiny. In shooting iron sights you want a flat black surface you can have a nice clear sight picture no direct sun light on them. After blackening the sights I fabricated hoods from Gun Tape for the front and rear sight to give me the best sight picture I could get. The term Gun Tape was a Aberdeen Proving Ground and Rock Island Arsenal Term. Others call it "100 MPH Tape" and civilians refer to a commercial version as Duct Tape or Green Army Tape.

It did however have a scope mount but alas no scope came with the rifle. I would estimate a good scope on that system could really enhance hit probability at long range (upwards of 1000 Yards)

Muzzle Brake: The muzzle brake was very interesting in that it is was fitted to be tight and there was no way to tighten it. Apparently being loose was part of the design and was not detrimental to accuracy.

Position Disclosure: We shot it at night to get familiarized with it and noted the flash signature was for lack of a better description unbelievable. Anyone firing that weapon at night is sure to bring grief on themselves in short order and by today's conditions could probably been seen by personnel in orbit at night.

Trigger Pull: The trigger pull was typical AK and not a marksman's trigger by any stretch of the imagination and took intense concentration to control it so that the movement could be stopped right before sear off to get the best sight alignment.

Magazines: Without a doubt the most durable magazine I have ever seen/used. One could probably use them as a weapon alone. The design and construction was superb. The only fault I would say was it is too long and doesn't allow for a low position in prone firing. I saw a demonstration on the military channel where it was being utilized as a monopod and rammed into the ground. It was clearly capable of taking such abuse. Also saw a former Russian operator utilizing one as a push up aid which was impressive.

Length of Pull: The butt stock was the right length for personnel wearing heavy clothing, body armor or with short necks.

Case Ejection: It is a reloader's nightmare. I estimate the brass ejection at perhaps 35 feet. It was hitting my spotting scope chipping paint from it and chipped my rear lens. It was ejecting cases out into the marsh area on the side of the range we were on. Anyone having a AK74 civilian version and located brass cases with boxer primers to feed it will find it will get quite costly in a hurry because "the hunt would be on" when they went to retrieve fired cases.

Barrel: We had no idea of the number of rounds on that barrel before I got it. A visual examination was the best I could do and the barrel appeared to be acceptable with no signs of mistreatment.

Accuracy-Dispersion: Semi auto firing was commenced after we spent considerable time tweaking the sights to get POA/POI (point of aim/point of impact) at 100 meters and I shot group after group till we were convinced it was zeroed for me.

As we moved to the next meter line I adjusted the rear sight to coincide with the range markings on the sight. Aberdeen Test Operating Procedures will identify not only group sizes but the relation of the various sight settings at various ranges to impact point to determine how close the sights were in relation to the point of aim/point of impact. In other words you set sight at 600 meters and bullets impact target higher, lower or left/right of aiming point.

We were shooting at round bull targets and at the 700 and 800 meter range we shot the US 1000 yard 8/9/10/X target. From the dispersion I remember the group had shifted about a minute right at 800 meters but was a nice round group.

Bottom line is if you have opposition upwards of 800 meters from you and they possess a highly skilled shooter that has a good zero, no wind condition, good lighting and target acquisition and a rifle comparable to the one I fired exposing the upper half of your body will in all probability win you a trip home in a body bag or Purple Heart. I would estimate at 800 Meters utilizing a E silhouette target a good shooter and ideal conditions could expect a first round hit about 1/3rd of the time. If the shooter had optics and a good zero and good conditions I would estimate a first shot hit about 50% of the time.

Conclusion: There were things I was not impressed with however the dispersion at 800 meters with battlefield pick up ammo was equal to the M16A2 using FN SS109 ball ammo. The SS109 ammo loaded by FN is the most impressive ammo I have yet to fire in a 5.56 M16A2. The Marine Program Manager told me he had the same opinion of that ammo in his validation at Quantico with Army and Marine Corps Squads.

Wound lethality (M16 5.56 ammo) Per Col Martin Fackler MD Army Wound Ballistic Lab testing showed the 5.56 ball ammo has the highest lethality in the first 95 yards. I would not be surprised to learn the Russian ammo would exhibit similar wound capability as the M16 with M855 ammo.

I once saw a opinion that a heavy infantry overcoat was capable of giving protection from a 5.56 at 1000 yards. All I can say is we built our targets at Aberdeen with 3/8" plywood and never failed to achieve complete penetration at 800 meters. I looked all over that target (32 feet high and wide) and never saw a bullet sticking in the plywood. That range was 2500 yards long and there was lots of 5.56 MG firing from up range so the odds of a rounds getting into that target board were quite good.

The best part of this test was the relationship I established with Buck Weaver and his wife. I was invited to their home for Sunday Dinners and holidays as they adopted me (single in those days) and I learned a great deal more about other testing he had done and it was fascinating work.

We got into a conversation about hit probability with full auto from a magazine fed shoulder fired rifle (not a belt gun) and he told me, "If you ever see a study conducted that indicates full auto fire is more effective than semi auto fire, it was a rigged test." He said AMSAA had conducted many such tests thus he knew exactly what the hit probability was utilizing full auto fire.

Buck authored three studies of the AK74 in the next eight years. Only one is available on line and reflects the hit probability of the accuracy-dispersion validation I conducted for him.

Scroll down to page 8, see paragraph 2.1 and 2.3 for the data reference this project.
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:34 AM   #2
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Early Russian AK-74's were a bit rough around edges. Ones made since the fall of the Iron Curtain are much nicer. That seems like it was a pretty fair assessment, but it's an assessment from an American, and very American-centric biases. Example: American's always grip about AK sights, because we greatly prefer aperture sights and spout all the technical reasons why they're better. However, in Russia most are very familiar with, and actually prefer the traditional open sight picture of the AK. So while an American sees the sights as a major disadvantage, a Russian sees that as no disadvantage whatsoever.

My experience with newly manufactured AK-74's from Bulgaria or Russia is that a good '74 will hold it's own accuracy wise with a rack grade M4...Both being roughly 2.5MOA rifles.
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Old 09-08-2017, 11:41 AM   #3
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Fwiw, I saw/fired some "really doggy looking" /battlefield pick-up AKs "way down South" & all of them shot FINE, though neither the AR nor AK is my choice in a battle-rifle.

yours, sw
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Old 09-08-2017, 02:46 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by stand watie View Post

Fwiw, I saw/fired some "really doggy looking" /battlefield pick-up AKs "way down South" & all of them shot FINE, though neither the AR nor AK is my choice in a battle-rifle.

yours, sw
Yep, me too. I was in Nicaragua at one point, and saw some seriously ratty AK's. That was when I became really impressed with the Chinese AK's...they build those Ford Tough!!

When I got my Chinese AK in the '80's, I had no problem hitting man sized targets with open sights at 500m...none at all. Well, let's just say; when I missed, it wasn't the rifle, but the loose nut behind the stock!

I have found well built (meaning Russian and Bulgarian) AK-74's to be downright accurate rifles. To me a 2.5 MOA battle ready rifle is an accurate military rifle, and all the Russian and Bulgarian '74's I've played with were 2.5 MOA or better.

American's hate them, because we set our rifles up differently. Just like if you give your average Russian an M16A2 or M4 and he's probably going to turn his nose up.

And while civilian ownership isn't nearly what US gun ownership is, the Russians have a VERY good tradition of teaching marksmanship. Their soldiers turn in very good scores with those crappy AK's with crappy sights.

David Fortier wrote an article years ago and it's one of my favorite stories. He was interviewing Spetznaz in Chechnya and of course they were talking M4 vs AK-74. He said he liked the M4 better because of accuracy. The Russian Spetznaz soldier countered as best as I've ever heard...something to the effect of...

"Just earlier today I was out shooting down power lines with my AK (with open sights)...How much more accurate do you need?". Fortier admitted he had absolutely NO come back for that one.
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Old 09-09-2017, 05:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by GunGeek View Post
"Just earlier today I was out shooting down power lines with my AK (with open sights)...How much more accurate do you need?
That says something about elevation accuracy at ten yards...not so much about windage at any range. Heck, a lot of American teenagers can hit a power line with a pair of sneakers.
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Old 09-09-2017, 03:13 PM   #6
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In the Fortier article in the March 10, 2003 issue of The Shotgun News, he reported that one Russian vet said that his unit was engaged in interdiction of supplies to the Afghan Mudj and that he routinely engaged out to 400 meters and often at 600 meters.

Fortier himself tested the penetrating abilities of the 7N6-PS ammo by shooting at an American steel helmet at 300 yards with the bullet penetrating both sides.
Minute of helmet at 300 yards is fairly good accuracy.

I've seen other accounts by Russian troops who reported making hits at 800 meters.

The AK-74 is both better then people think, and worse then people think.
Accuracy is better then thought, reliability is not the un-jammable super gun claimed.
Plenty of US troops in the Sand Wars reported that the AK was often not as reliable as the US M16 series.
The idea that you can abuse an AK and never clean it and it'll always work is a myth.

I give my firearms the finest possible maintenance, and the AK-74 has proved not to be as reliable as my Colt LE6920 M4.
Here's my AK-74 built from an unfired Bulgarian demilled rifle on a quality US receiver. This is a high quality build.

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Old 09-11-2017, 08:22 AM   #7
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As always, you hit the ball right out of the park. Ak’s are EXACTLY as you say…better than most think, and worse than most think. The “legend” of the AK was out of Vietnam and the 6 day war. Here are two conflicts where the AK severely bettered the opposing sides rifles in the realm of reliability. So since they worked better, the legend grew that they always worked, under any and all circumstances; something we know not to be true today. And yeah, there are circumstances where the AK is less reliable than an M16/M4. And any idiot who decides his AK needs no maintenance is in for a very rude awakening.

When comparing AK’s to AR’s I’m careful to never us a US made AK for comparision, as build quality ranges from garage hack, to masterful (like yours). And of course, we can say the same about AR’s…there are some pretty iffy AR’s out there these days.

And honestly, much of the early problems with the AR was more just not understanding how to run that operating system. Unlike most rifles which require very similar maintenance, the AR does require things be addressed in the “AR WAY” in order to keep things running. And the AK just requires the same maintenance you would give any other rifle in existence…I think that further added to the mystique of the AK.

I can also recall back in the ‘80’s when guys ran their AR’s hard, they tended to have more issues than some other rifles. As an example, my AR-180 back in the ‘80’s had one hell of a reputation for reliability when run hard. However, now that people know an AR likes to be run a bit on the wet side, I doubt my 180 would be leaving AR’s in the dust anymore.
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