The AK-47 and its variants are the most common rifles in the world, and among the most recognizable. Apart from the basic AR15 design, there probably isn’t another long gun as well known as the Kalashnikov. It’s also a legendary combat weapon, famed for its sturdy build and reliability even if maintenance isn’t all it could be.
On the other hand the AK series does get some abuse for its mediocre accuracy and variable quality. This isn’t always all that fair. Some clones can be pretty shoddily built, but get a Russian, Polish, Yugoslav or East German one, and they’re well enough made. Russian AKs also had chrome-lined barrels long before any major western design did. As for the accuracy, a lot of that’s down to the sights – and the sights themselves reflect doctrine. Accuracy as a rifle wasn’t a major priority for the Red Army at the time. What they mainly wanted was a harder-hitting, longer ranged replacement for the submachineguns that equipped much of the Red Army; the ability to take aimed shots out to a few hundred yards was a bonus. That’s why the first setting you get to when you click off safe is fully automatic.
What’s interesting is what happens when you take the basic AK design and build it to western standards. One of the best examples of that is the Valmet Rk 62.
Culturally, Finland is quite close to its western neighbors, Sweden and Norway, but during the Cold War it had to be strictly neutral – with the USSR on its eastern border it couldn’t afford to be too pro-western. One result of that was that the Finnish military used a lot of kit either bought from the Soviets or based on Soviet designs. When they started looking for an assault rifle in the 1950s the AK was an obvious choice, and after trials they decided it was tough enough to work in Finland’s Arctic climate.
The Finns didn’t want to be too dependent on the Soviets though – they’d fought a very long and bloody war the previous decade – so they opted to license-build the rifles. Starting with the Polish version of the AK-47, they started tweaking the design to suit their own needs, until they came up with the Rk 62. Once they were happy with it, they started building, to a very high standard.
Internally the Rk 62 is a clone of the AK-47, but the standard of fit and finish is immaculate. There are still some loose tolerances in there – that’s an inherent part of the AK design, and part of what makes it so reliable – but overall it’s beautifully made.
Outside there are a few differences. The butt has to be the crudest-looking mess ever fitted to an assault rifle – just a straight tube, with a strip of steel bent into a butt plate and welded to the back – but it’s surprisingly effective. The rest of the furniture is moulded composite, and far more ergonomic than the standard AK wood. The flash hider has three open prongs, similar to the Vietnam-era XM16E1, and it’s designed to double as an assault wire cutter; wedge a strand of barbed wire through two of the flash hider slots, push the rifle forward to put some tension on the wire, and pull the trigger. It’s not covert, but it works.
The really big change is the sights. Both sights are higher quality than the AK’s, and fitted with tritium inserts. They’re also in different places. The AK sight post just behind the muzzle is gone, and the foresight is now on top of the gas block. Meanwhile the rearsight has been moved back from the top of the breech to the rear of the top cover. Theoretically, this is a weakness, because the top cover has to be removed for cleaning which could break zero, but the Finns reckoned it was a worthwhile trade-off. Not only is the rearsight now an aperture type instead of the AK’s tangent notch, the sight radius is longer too – 18.5 inches, compared to the AK’s 14.9. Finally, the better fit of the Rk 62’s top cover means the zero doesn’t wander much anyway. The rifle is known for being able to shoot sub-MOA with decent ammunition, and that’s more than good enough for an assault weapon.
The Finns have been using the Rk 62 since the 1960s, and they have no plans to replace it. They’re now upgrading them to Rk 62M standard, replacing the ugly butt with a folding adjustable one and mounting a 1913 rail on the top cover. A mount for a light and laser module is also fitted under the barrel. It must have been tempting to move to a 5.56mm weapon, because the Finnish military is working closely with NATO these days, but the troops seem happy with the 7.62×39 and the simple, but incredibly tough, old Rk 62.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.