Scoping the AK By: Dr. Martin D. Topper

A Leupold 30mm. VX-R Patrol 1.25-4X scope mounted on an Inter-Ordinance (IO) AKM 247T tactical rifle. An MTM K-Zone rest provided good support for accuracy testing.

Conventional wisdom states that most 7.62X39mm AKs are very good CQB rifles that are tactically effective out to 150- 200 yds.  Beyond that, the conventional knowledge also claims that accuracy with many AKs drops off so quickly that the AK is far inferior to the AR.  Is that really true?  To find out I asked Leupold to send their recently-introduced 30mm. VX-R Patrol 1.25-4X scope and mounted it on an Inter-Ordinance (IO) AKM 247T tactical rifle.

Bench testing clearly showed that the AKM can be a very acceptable 300m. rifle when equipped with a modern low power scope like the Leupold VX-R Patrol.

The AKM 247 T is a high quality American Made tactical version of  IO’s AKM rifle which is built on the Polish AKM pattern. It has a dark black Parkerized finish on its mil-spec. receiver and 16.25″ barrel.  It also sports a rugged black polymer stock and polymer forearm with an M1913 Picatinny rail.   This particular rifle’s forearm is additionally equipped with a Crimson Trace Rail Master Pro green laser/light combination and a forward sling swivel.  The rifle has standard AR adjustable sights and a barrel-mounted hard-coat anodized aluminum scope rail.  The AKM 247T receiver is also equipped with a rail mount that fits a proprietary IO scope mount which is designed for a standard eye-relief scope.   In addition, the rifle has smooth proprietary 2.5 lb. IO trigger which facilitates precise bullet placement.  Unloaded weight is 8 lbs. and fully equipped with scope, mount, laser/light, sling and a full magazine the AKM 247T weighs 10 lbs.

Inter Ordinance’s proprietary scope mount worked well with the Leupold scope.

Leupold VX-R Patrol Telescopic Sight

The VX-R Patrol scope sent by Leupold is the 1.25-4 X second focal plane version with a duplex reticle and a .5 moa. illuminated red dot in the center of the crosshairs.  On low power at CQB distances the bright red dot in the crosshairs of this compact 9.4″ scope can be used with both eyes open, much the same as a conventional red dot sight.  On high power, the dot offers a precise aiming point in both sunshine and low light.  The 20mm. objective lens gives the shooter a 5mm. exit pupil at high power and a very generous 16 mm. exit pupil at low power. Combine this with the scope’s 30mm. tube, Leupold’s index matched lens system, DiamondCoat scratch resistant coating, and second generation argon/krypton waterproofing and you have a scope that can be depended upon to transmit a consistently bright, sharp and clean sight picture under a broad variety of light and weather conditions.  Add to this the scope’s rugged construction and 90 moa of windage and elevation adjustment and you have a scope that is adaptable to a broad variety of tactical missions.

Shots Fired

Hornady’s 123 gr. SST load in 7.62X39mm. is a very good all-around load. It is combat accurate out to 300m. and expands and penetrates well in ballistic gelatin.

The rifle and scope combination were test fired at the Volusia County Gun and Hunt Club and at the Big 3 East Training Facility near Daytona Beach.  Ammunition selected was Hornady’s steel case 7.62X39mm. load with 123 gr. SST bullets.  Muzzle velocity was 2240 fps. from the rifle’s 16.5″ barrel. Targets were set at 100 and 200 yds. and at 300m.  Life-size silhouettes were used for the 200 yd. and 300m. distances at the Volusia Club and bullseye targets were employed for all other shooting at both firing ranges. The sights were zeroed at 200 yds. which means that the bullet was 3.14″ high at 100 yds. and 22.5″ low at 300m.  Aiming points were 3″ low at 100 yds. and 6″ over the top of the silhouette target’s head at 300m.  The scope was set at 4X for all shooting, and no attempt was made to change the scope’s elevation or windage adjustments.  This was a test of general combat capabilities rather than of the rifle’s potential to be used as a sniper rifle fired at a designated distance.  Shooting was limited to 300m. since at that distance the 7.62X39mm.’s 123 gr. bullet looses velocity and energy at an increasing rate, limiting on-target effectiveness.

This 300m. target clearly shows that a scoped AK can produce telling hits with the 7.62×39 at distances beyond most shooter’s expectations.

The scoped rifle shot 2.75-3.25″ groups at 100 yards., 3.75-5″ groups at 200 yds and into 7″ at 300m.  At 300m. all shots were on-target and most were in vital zones.  However, the effect of even a 5 mph. wind at this distance required some Kentucky Windage to keep bullets on the silhouette. Overall, the level of accuracy was far superior than what I had achieved with a 1 moa. red dot which had no magnification, and far above what I could have achieved with iron sights.

Conclusion

Clearly, the conventional wisdom isn’t correct.  A well-made modern AK like the one tested from IO can easily be a good combination CQB and 300m. rifle if it is properly set up with an equally well-made low power variable scope with an illuminated reticle like Leupold’s 1.25-4X VX-R.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was one of those skeptics who was impressed by this empirical proof that the 7.62×39 round is better than an area fire load. Would I try to use an AK for a long range shot? Probably not if there were better calibers available, but if an AK is what you got, and with a good sight, it could save your life! Tell us what you think or have found out.

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