ARES publishes Research Note No. 6 – An Introduction to Basic AK Type Rifle Identification

Armament Research Services (ARES) has released its first published Research Note, Research Note No. 6 – An Introduction to Basic AK Type Rifle Identification. ARES Research Notes are short form publications, designed to give brief, accurate information on a single topic or concept.

Authored by Jonathan Ferguson and N.R Jenzen-Jones, Research Note No. 6 aims to correct some common misconceptions about an often misidentified family of rifles: the Avtomat Kalashnikova type rifles. Identifying the 3 main ‘parent’ categories of this rifle, it discusses technical differences and identifying features of each. Some sample excerpts:


All of this meant that the AK was widely produced, and remains available throughout much of the world today – more than 60 years after its introduction. More AK type rifles have been produced than any other firearm, and the AK is considered the most wide spread small arm on the planet.

Nearly 200 copies, variants, and derivatives have been identified by ARES and other researchers to date, some faithful copies of the original design, and others produced in various calibres and for differing battlefield roles.


AK-74: Avtomat Kalashnikova obraztsa 1974, ‘Kalashnikov Automatic Rifle, Model 1974’

The third major iteration of the AK is a reflection of the global military trend toward small calibre, high velocity (SCHV) ammunition. Introduced in 1974 under revised Soviet nomenclature as the AK-74, the new variant was essentially a stamped receiver AKM chambered for the new 5.45 x 39 mm cartridge, the shape of which dictated a new magazine with visibly reduced curvature. The magazine, together with a distinctive new muzzle brake, constitute the primary means of identification for this variant.


With nearly 200 variants, copies, and derivatives of the AK having been produced, identifying rifles on the battlefield or from limited images can be tricky for the novice. ARES will shortly be releasing a guide showing some select identifying markings which may be present in some rifles. ARES can also support your organisation in correctly identifying arms and munitions through our training and technical review services.

Research Note No.6 can be read in full here. For other ARES publications, including our Research Report series and Arms & Munitions Brief series, click here.