AK Exhibits Page 8
1984 Soviet AK-74, Izhevsk Arsenal

The rifle in the following images is an original Izhevsk-produced Russian AK-74 with laminated stocks. We are very pleased to present these images to the collecting public, since it is very rare that examples of this earlier type are represented in never before released photos. We hope you enjoy studying the details as much as we have. I also wish to thank my personal friend, Malysh, for providing the following text which he has written after a very careful study of the subject matter and the rifle.

IMAGE CREDITS: From a private collector
TEXT: M. Halbreich

This beautiful AK-74 was manufactured in the Izhmash Factory in Izhevsk, Russia. It was among 12 rifles that were part of a shipment of AK-74s sent to a Warsaw pact country to help them start up their own indigenous AK-74 production. Both it and the AKS-74N that Tantal has described were among this group of rifles.

This rifle is of particular interst to the enthusiast who may wish to study and learn more about this durable and beautiful design, which will likely continue to be used by army's and causes all over the world until late into the 21st century. The AK series has already had a service life of plus 50 years and counting, and is an enduring tribute to the genius of small arms designer M.T. Kalashnikov.

This rifle as produced in 1984, has some very interesting differences from what we have deemed to be typical production of the era. By approximately 1985, the Russians had begun to use plum colored polyamide stocks sets, magazines, and bayonet handles on their AK-74 rifles. The rifle, assembled with the laminated buttstock, handguards and pistol grip, may be assumed to be one of a minority made using laminated furniture in the mid eighties.

The first image (above) shows the rifle in full right side profile. Note the beautiful laminated handguards and the AK-74 laminated buttstock with the distinctive lightening cuts which are so prized by Western AK collectors. It is interesting that the rifle was supplied with red bakelite magazines from the Tula factory, as opposed to having ones made by the rifle producer, Izhevsk.

In image 2 (left), we can see the selector lever showing the full auto "ab" and the semi auto "oa" markings. The finish appears to be black enamel or black lacquer paint over phosphated steel.

Most fixed stock AK-74s of the era were issued with the well known red bakelite plastic pistol grips. We are told that the laminated pistol grip was on the rifle when it was acquired, and not added after the fact. The AKS-74s of the late seventies were commonly issued with this same laminated pistol grip and also exhibited the early transitional gas block, and a melange of parts constantly evolving from the AKM line of production.

The following images show the mid production AK -74 ribbed receiver cover with the moderate or subtle reinforcing ribs which transverse the cover.It also shows the extended shelf over the selector lever and the indentation behind the shelf.
Earlier Russian AK-74 receiver covers produced from about 1974 to about 1980 show reinforcing ribs of greater height and width and are easy to spot by comparison.They also were initially produced with no indentation behind the shelf, as shown on very late production AKM receiver covers. The phosphated trigger, hammer and auto sear axles, and rear sight can also be seen in these pictures. They are typically left unpainted.
Please take notice of the tiny gap of 1mm or less between the back of the receiver and the end of the laminated stock. We have learned over the years from Russian AK-74 armorers and field manuals that the factory recommended that the buttstocks, be they laminated wood or especially polyamide, should not be mounted flush to the receiver end. This was done to avoid shredding at that contact area due to extended usage and recoil. The contact area for buttstocks and receivers should be the stock mounting "steps" or "pegs" which can only be seen when the stock is removed from the rifle. This only applies to fixed stock AK-74s and not to the AKS-74 or AK-74M line of production.
This image details the lightning cuts which are so distinctive of Russian laminated buttstocks, and have been continued in production to this day, as can be seen on the right side of Russian AK-74M and AK100 series folding buttstocks. There are many theories as to why the lightening cuts were added to the AK-74 buttstocks. The most sensible and verifiable explanation was the one given by Kalashnikov. He has related in books and in film documentaries that the lightening cuts were used to reduce the weight of the rifle. Along with extensive casting of parts which replaced the forged steel, milled and polished heavier parts. It was a dictum of the Soviet Ministry of Defense that the successor to the AKM be chambered for the 5.45 x 39 caliber cartridge and that the weapon be lighter than the previous AKM. Ironically, the production fixed stock AK-74 weighed slightly more empty than the fixed stock AKM did. When a full 30 round magazine was added, the AK-74 was noticeably lighter than it's predecessor using the heavier 7.62x39 caliber ammunition. The lightening cuts remained, however, a feature of this line of rifles throughout it's entire and ongoing production.
Note also the ribbed steel buttplate on the laminated buttstock. Previous AKM fixed buttstocks utilized smooth steel buttplates. The very earliest AK-74 ribbed steel buttplates were coated with rubber. This was discontinued fairly early in production. Examples with the rubber coated ribbed buttplates are virtually unpossessed by collectors in the West as far as this student knows
Image 9 and 10 (left and below) are detail photos of the upper and lower handguards, right and left sides. The handguards are also atypical for a laminated stocked production AK-74 rifle of 1984. Note the shallow depth and taper of the finger grooves in the lower handguards. The majority of AK-74 lower handguards have the same squareish and prominent palm swells, but have noticeably deeper finger grooves.
The upper handguard has no cooling slots along the bottom edge, but does share the radiused or scalloped contour along the edge which is a standard feature of the laminated handguards for Russian AK-74s. Both pieces were new as issued on this rifle. We feel these laminated handguards were a very late pattern which is not widely seen in our research of laminated mid production Russian AK-74s.
In the detail picture of the AK-74 muzzle brake we can see the continuously evolving design of this part. The earliest AK-74 muzzle brake, pattern 1, is a one piece brake with half moon cuts in the very front of the expansion chamber, a thin thread collar which is well radiused and polished and thin bridges connecting the expansion chamber to the deflection pad. The pattern 2 muzzle brake has the same thread collar assembly, but the openings for the expansion chamber were laser cut in the familiar zig zag pattern. Both of these patterns are commonly found on early AK-74s and AKS-74s with laminated furniture. The example found on this rifle is one with the typical smooth and short thread collar, but also with a two piece plug or baffle at the expansion chamber, which appear as two semi-circular arcs when viewed from the front.
The Russians determined that the amount of labor and machinery costs involved with cutting half moon ports or laser cutting crescents into one piece muzzle brakes could be eliminated by using the baffle, to be pressed or peened into the front of the expansion chamber. This change also dictated that the two bridges which extend the muzzle brake to the deflection pad had to be made thicker than the bridges on the pattern 1 and 2 brakes. The brake on this rifle is the exact pattern as the Bulgarians use on their current production AK-74s. It is a muzzle brake with the older thread collar pattern of a one piece brake, but also with the two piece construction of the ports and the thicker bridges, which is the way the pattern 3 AK-74M and AK100 series brakes are made and shaped at the front end. The pattern 3 brakes also exhibit the distinctive thicker thread collars which taper in a scalloped fashion to blend into the tube of the expansion chamber. This pattern was never verified before in Western collecting circles as ever being Russian production. Only one is known to be in the hands of an American collector.

Tantal and I sincerely hope you find these two rifles to be as exciting and rewarding to study as we have. We look forward to seeing you around the site again! M. Halbreich

See our ongoing AK-74 Production Variations Study by clicking the link above.

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