If you are even a general student of history, you appreciate the impact and development of the AK and its influence around the world. Even as a casual observer, you cannot miss the obvious constant pictures that surface in just about any armed conflict. Images of fighters beyond the NATO realm will almost always include an AK of some sort. It is one of the most prolific guns ever manufactured, maintaining a committed following since it was first introduced into service with the Soviet armed forces in 1948. Mikhail Kalashnikov’s design has remained relevant even after seven decades.
The AK is one of the most widely used assault rifles on earth for a few simple reasons. It is reliable in harsh conditions, easy to use and, most importantly, cheap to manufacture. According to Weaponomics: The Global Market for Assault Rifles, “As of 2004…Of the estimated 500 million firearms worldwide, approximately 100 million belong to the Kalashnikov family, three-quarters of which are AK-47s.”
The American market for the AK is nothing short of ravenous, and over the last decade, the overall interest in the AK platform has exploded as people enjoy its mixture of ballistics and history.
While the AK world has seen a series of variants, the weapon has remained relatively unchanged for decades. In fact, the study and classification of these variants has become a major hobby to many serious AK aficionados. It is to the point where fans scour media images of foreign fighters looking for that one unicorn gun or odd version. So the question of the day: Just what else can be done to the AK? Well, just when you thought enough was enough, a diamond has emerged from the rough. Enter Jim Fuller and his company, Rifle Dynamics.
About Rifle Dynamics & Sharps Bros.
Rifle Dynamics is widely considered the premier AK builder in the country, and Jim was recently approached by John Sharps of Sharps Bros.—a company known for its creatively CNC-machined Jack and Warthog AR lower receivers—with an intriguing item. Sharps has created an exceptionally well-made AK receiver. Listed as the MB47, it is an American-made receiver patterned after original milled Bulgarian receivers, but with the added feature of an integrated AR buffer extension. The receiver is machined from 4140 steel that has been heat-treated to a Rockwell hardness rating of 45, and it’s compatible with any standard parts kit.
Together, Rifle Dynamics and Sharps have conspired to turn the AK world on its ear with an exceptionally crafted rifle. Through a convergence
of stars and some lucky personal connections, I was able to get my paws on one of these rifles for an evaluation.
The AK I received had the standard Eastern Bloc feel to it with a very refined twist. The buttstock is a UBR model from Magpul. While this is blasphemy to some in the AK world, an adjustable stock allows shooters to change the length of pull on the rifle, making it easier to fit a variety of people. The front end of the gun is set up in Rifle Dynamics’ 700 series configuration. The barrel chosen for this gun is a 14.5-inch, nitride-coated, 4150 steel barrel with a 1-in-10-inch twist rate. It has a pinned ASR compensator from SilencerCo, which allows the gun to be run with the quiet Omega suppressor.
The upper and lower rails are new designs from SLR Rifleworks. They are light, well made and add a functional atheistic to the gun. The upper gas tube caught my eye, and it called for a visit with Jim Fuller. When asked about it, he said, “The upper gas tube replacement is probably the best mounting system I’ve seen for a gas tube replacement rail since the UltiMAK. It’s the same height as the UltiMAK, and so far from our testing, it has held its zero and the gas system functions fine.”
The trigger is a crisp and clean AKT unit from ALG Defense. This is a single-stage trigger dedicated to the AK platform. On my test gun, it had a smooth, short pull and was much cleaner than a stock AK trigger. The build is rounded out with a green Norrells Moly Resin finish offsetting the black furniture. Add-ons for this specific rifle included a Trijicon MRO and a SureFire Mini Scout installed in a Haley Strategic Partners Thorntail SBR mount as well as a hand stop from Zero-Bravo. The gun was essentially set up with everything I could ever ask for.
Having this Russo-American beauty on the bench would simply not be enough, so range time was next on the schedule. The first thing that must be addressed is the milled-steel receiver from Sharps Bros. When I discussed this with several people, the first thing out of their mouth was weight. Yes, it is a milled receiver as opposed to a stamped piece. However, the additional weight is hardly noticeable, and I can assure you that a majority of the people who pick this rifle up will not even notice. The tradeoff for the weight is an exceptional receiver that will transform a rifle known for average groups into a tack driver. Unless you have plans to carry the gun for days or weeks at a time, the weight is not a concern.
The Trijicon MRO was a good fit for this build, as I intended to run it as a fighting carbine. A quick zero and we were off to the races. As a nod to the firm AK traditionalists, I primarily ran inexpensive TulAmmo 123-grain ammo for all of the moving and shooting drills. One of the appealing aspects of an AK—even a Rifle Dynamics AK—is the ability to shoot cheap ammo, and this particular build did not mind the less-than-stellar-quality ammo. It cycled flawlessly at every turn. Would I encourage anyone to run the cheapest ammo through an exceptional gun? No, but I also acknowledge the reality that ammo costs are real. Especially if you train and shoot a lot.
Back to the gun. The ability to modify the length of pull was a very nice feature, and I felt I was wed to the gun better than I could be with other rifles. I have spent more than my fair share of time behind AKs, and this was by far the nicest AK I have ever run. Beyond its reliable functioning, it was obviously a thoroughly well-thought-out rifle with attention to every detail. As a tongue-in-cheek rule, I tell students to wear gloves when they run AKs because I believe they are assembled by angry Russians who sharpen every edge on the gun. This is not the case with the Rifle Dynamics creation. It was deburred and had a great finish.
While the gun ran well in barricade drills and close-quarter sets, I was curious about how it would group at 100 yards. At this point, it was time to get a little more serious about ammunition. I shot five-round groups with three different brands of ammo from TulAmmo, Federl and CorBon. I shot off a bench with a range bag as a rest to minimize shooter influence on the groups. The best group came from the Federal load, which produced one ragged hole. This isn’t something I expected out of an AK. Without magnification, it was tough to judge just how good the group was. Turns out it was 0.9 inches, which to many is just unheard of in the AK world. I am confident that the use of a magnified optic would have improved all of my groups.
Steel Target Performance
After enjoying that success, it was time to test the gun’s ability to hit steel at a distance. By the time we finished, we had rung steel out to 600 yards. I believe we could have gone further, but we were limited by the range we were on. From that point, I took the AK for a spin around the fighting range, where it eagerly performed like a champ. I will even say that the mild increase in weight allowed me to stay on target slightly better and deliver faster follow-up shots.
Even though I respect a very nice gun such as this, I brutalized it to see where its surrender point would be. But it was a casual walk for this gun to digest inexpensive ammo in the dusty Arizona desert without any extra lubrication. There weren’t any hiccups, malfunctions or failures. In the end, it became obvious that I would be trying to find a way to justify the purchase of one of these to my wife.
Some people believe that the AK has evolved as far as it can, but that’s simply not the case. Rifle Dynamics, in partnership with Sharps, has just opened a new chapter on this beloved warfighter. No longer will the clichés about AK accuracy hold true, either. This is sure to be a game-changer; I anticipate much of the AK market to take notice and strive to match the quality and accuracy of this new workhorse.
Rifle Dynamics AK-47 Specs
|Barrel: 14.5 inches
|OA Length: 34.3 inches
|Weight: 6.9 pounds (empty)
|Stock: Magpul UBR
|Sights: Front post, adjustable rear
|Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
|Finish: Black, green
Rifle Dynamics AK-47 Performance
|CorBon 123 DPX
|Federal 123 Power-Shok SP
|TulAmmo 123 SP
*Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot groups at 100 yards.
For more information, visit rifledynamics.com.
This article about the Rifle Dynamics AK-47 was originally published in the 2018 issue of “AK-47 & Soviet Weapons.” To order a copy, visit outdoorgroupstore.com.