For years there were three roads to go about procuring an AKM, AK-47, or AK-74 in the US. The first being that you could buy an import. For years that meant a Chinese Norinco or Polytech imported by a half dozen different firms. Hungarian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Romanian, and Russian rifles started to pour in after these Chinese guns were banned. Today this is limited to Romanian, Bulgarian and Serbian AK rifles. Generally, with some exception, all these imports have proven to be reliable, long lasting, and overall well-built rifles.
The Second road was purchasing a rifle that had been built from a de-milled parts kit. These kit guns would be brought in as an AK rifle, whose receiver was chopped in two. The parts were disassembled, degreased, and reassembled as a semi-auto rifle with a US barrel typically, and US receiver and some other US parts. These rifles can be hit and miss, with some being just as well built as a factory gun. Others were “a waste of good parts.”
The third way was “build it yourself.” A massive AK building community started to spring up in the USA around the year 2000. Many builders create masterpieces, complete with genuine imported barrels, barely used parts, and much attention to detail. Others are in a hurry or are inexperienced and build sub-par rifles, or screw-built guns that can start to come apart after a few magazines.
The American Made AK
There are many variations and calibers that the AK-47 comes in. Starting around 2010, Domestic AK manufacturing started to rise in the USA with companies like Inter Ordnance and Century Arms taking the lead. However, their efforts have been proven to produce guns that are in almost every way inferior to imported AK rifles. Cast trunnions and carriers and inferior parts have produced firearms that shoot themselves apart. Rifles whose head spacing quickly slips into dangerous ground within a few thousand rounds.
Palmetto State Armory as of the writing of this article, seems to be the only domestic manufacturer of AK pattern rifles to build anything even halfway decent. However, a new trend in domestic AK manufacturing has started to rise in popularity.
The Higher Road
WBP Rogów, a Polish AK manufacture started to export brand new parts kits to the USA after 2012. These parts at first were made with the same cast parts that US domestic producers were using. After some suggestion that they switch to forged parts, they began doing so in 2016. WBP produces brand new AKM parts kits now from Polish military specs, with billet/forged bolt carriers and trunnions. WBP has partnered with several US based dealers and manufactures to sell their kits.
Starting with Atlantic Firearms around 2016, WBP kits with forged trunnions and a Radom Arsenal built cold hammer forged and chrome lined barrel, were completed into full rifles by Atlantic. Their reputation has been stellar. Atlantic now offers 3 rifles built from WBP parts on a quality US made receiver and a Radom barrel.
WBP has been joined, as of January 2018 by the Polish Radom Circle 11 Arsenal as well providing brand new AK kits. These too have been built by Atlantic and a few others into complete rifles.
Cugir Romania is joining the pack and exporting brand new PM md 63 kits and Cugir cold hammer forged and chrome lined barrels. These parts have been built on by M+M industries and Lee Armory. These parts include forged trunnions, and forged carriers all built on the same machinery that military AKs flow from. These are built on US receivers and sold as complete rifles.
This new trend of importing brand new parts kits and finishing them is starting to become a standard in AK manufacturing. No longer do companies need to rely on worn out military parts kits or shoddy American made parts that are sub-standard at best. Cheap parts kits built to military standards can be imported cheaply and built into complete rifles and sold for a price that comes in under a new Bulgarian Arsenal rifle.
The quality of WBP, Circle 11 Radom and Cugir is well established. They don’t produce junk. Nor do they cost an arm and a leg. For slightly north of $800 you can have a solid Kalashnikov chambered in 7.62x39mm. You will be buying what is basically a mil-spec factory com-bloc rifle from a reputable manufacturer.
As of the time of this writing, most of these rifles are available in 7.62x39mm. 5.45x39mm and 5.56x45mm factory new kits are not being imported to my knowledge. That does not mean that this will not happen. Atlantic Firearms is currently working to bring new products to market with WBP, so the future is unclear right now.