Archive for the ‘Firearms Purchasing Questions and Answers’ Category

Buying a used AK

May 13, 2012



Question: Wondering what are some issues to look for when buying a used AK? If there are ways to see if there are any problems.

Answer: A used AK, is basically as good as a new AK, within reason.  It starts with an excellent design, made for flexibility and toughness. Literally it’s about the flexibility.  There is nothing that is on a stamped AK that isn’t able to actually “flex” when the weapon is in action. This flexibility is what makes the AK so tough.  Think of it like this: closed cell foam is flexible and resilient, but a mirror is rigid and brittle.  You want the toughness of the closed cell foam and its flexibility and resiliency, but you want some of the rigidity of a mirror so edges don’t wear down.

The AK is a lot like that: it has some rigidity and some flexibility.  A fully milled or cast part (like the receiver for example) would be too rigid to allow the type of flexibility needed to avoid cracks in harsh usage. The stamped receiver only welded in a couple places allows recoil and knocks to move through the piece of steel and exit out of it.

This resiliency is what makes the AK so tough.  The other part to the equation is the gas piston system, which keeps the chamber and action parts much cleaner because it keeps the fouling and gas areas away from moving parts required to have tight tolerances.  In a direct impingement system (which the AK is NOT) the gases and powder residue is stuck on the bolt and chamber, causing inherently less reliability.

OK, now that we have gone through a very basic idea of the gun’s design, here is what you want to check on:

  • Take off the gas tube handle cover (using layman’s terms: this is the piece of furniture forward of the rear sight and which covers the gas tube).  Check this area both what is still on the gun and that which is now in your hand for excessive fouling and pitting especially.  Pitting will denote poor maintenance and bad ammunition, or potentially a bad batch of metal in the manufacture of the firearm. A used AK should still be un-pitted, as most of the variants have chrome plating on the crucial areas.
  • Take off the dust cover (the rear piece which seems to be in the place of the “upper receiver), and look for mushy metal edges and non-wound springs (springs which are a single strand of wire rather than the standard dual or tri-ply wound springs); this denotes soft metal or bad aftermarket modifications.
  • Inspect the lug area, just below the barrel fit area at the front of the receiver to determine that no welds or press fit areas are loose or crooked.
  • Look at the crown of the muzzle and make sure that it is not dinged or chipped, which would denote poor treatment of the gun and bad accuracy as a given.  A used AK should be worn, but not damaged.
  • Make sure the magazine fits easily but holds securely.

A Used AK


A used AK will almost never be unusable, but you should also check the regular stuff before considering a purchase:

  • Check the bore for pitting, rings, bulging or other concerns
  • Check the stock for cracks and swelling
  • Check the sights for breakage
  • Check the safety to ensure it works properly
  • Check the gun for full functionality

A used AK is a more than worthy purchase; in fact I prefer my AK’s a bit used.  There isn’t a lot to look for, but if you get to shoot the gun before you buy, do so.