Do you know what Russia and America have in common when it comes to small arms? Both have a dogmatic attachment to a service rifle. America loves its M16/M4 family of rifles, and the Russians love the AK-47/74 series of rifles. We all know how the Americans have adapted the M16 and M4. But many of us may not know about the Russian side of firearm advancement. Today we are going to start with the AK-100 family of rifles.
Introducing the AK-100 Series
The AK-100 series comprises five rifles. These were designed both for domestic use by Russian police and military forces and for export. First and foremost, all the rifles in the AK-100 series used the classic Kalashnikov design that started with the original AK-47. The AK-100 uses the same classic long-stroke gas piston system that makes the AK both simple and reliable.
Sadly, no major changes were made to address the ergonomic shortfalls of the AK. I guess it’s always worked but never been great. The safety in particular kind of sucks (the Israelis perfected it with the Galil.) The AK-100s also have the same short sight radius as the AK-47. We also see the same side mounting rail for optics on the AK-100 series.
One big improvement was the perfection of the AK stock. The AK-100 series features a glass-filled polyamide stock that folds to the side. Previously, Russia utilized either full-on fixed stocks that provided a great cheek weld or wire and tube-like folding stocks that didn’t offer a great cheek weld or great support in general. The new AK-100 series provided a supportive stock that also folded out of the way and shrunk the weapon’s size.
As you’d imagine, the Russians abandoned the wood and bakelite in the production of the AK-100 series. Now we have polymer stocks, handguards, and magazines. This brings the Russian rifle into the early 90s, at least.
The above features are what the rifles in the AK-100 series all have in common. Beyond this, the AK-101, 102, 103, 104, and 105 start to differentiate.
The AK-101 was never designed to see service with Russian forces. Instead, Russia wisely designed an AK-100 variant for export that fired the NATO standard 5.56 cartridge. Plenty of countries align to the West but still wield the ole AK. A 5.56 AK allows an army to keep the same manual of arms while eating up that western 5.56 ammo.
The AK 101 features a 16.3-inch barrel, feeds from a polymer 30-round magazine, and utilizes the same style of brake found on AK-74 rifles. This big break worked extremely well and was worth keeping on future rifles.
The AK-101 has been purchased by Indonesia, Fiji, Kenya, and Uruguay and serves in a variety of forces. As usual, China copied the design and named it the AK-2000.
Carbines are all the rage these days, after all, who doesn’t want a smaller rifle? The AK-102 was made with the same purpose as the AK-101 and also uses the 5.56 round. The idea was that this short carbine could outfit the same forces purchasing the AK-101.
It’s almost identical to the AK-101 outside of the shorter barrel and muzzle device. Its barrel is trimmed to 12.4 inches.
Instead of a 74 style brake, we see an AKS-74U-style muzzle device. This muzzle device helps reduce blast and limits concussion and muzzle flash. As the 5.56 generates quite a bit of blast and concussion from short barrels, the muzzle device is a wise option.
The AK-102 series served alongside the AK-101 in Indonesia and was also purchased by Thailand and Malaysia. It’s one of several AK-100 carbines to have seen wartime service.
Russia never let go of the classic 7.62x39mm round, and when it created the AK-100 series, it brought it back. I imagine the Russians have billions of 7.62×39 rounds floating around and could use a modernized AK variant in the caliber for both domestic use and export. The AK-103 is a rifle variant and features an AK-74 style muzzle brake.
While the AK-103 utilizes a new steel-reinforced polymer magazine, it can also use the classic steel magazines without issue. (Old AKs are also compatible with the new polymer magazines.)
There exist a few variants of the AK-103, which is uncommon for the AK-100 series.
There is a traditional selective-fire variant (the regular AK-103); the AK-103-1, which is semi-auto only; and an AK-103-2 that has a three-round burst feature.
The AK-103 series has been one of the popular options for export since plenty of countries are sitting on old stocks of 7.62×39 and want new rifles. Many Middle Eastern countries adopted the rifle, as well as countries like Venezuela and Vietnam.
The AK-104 is the second in the AK-100 series of rifles to utilize the 7.62x39mm round. It’s the carbine variant of the AK-103 and features a 12.4-inch barrel. The 7.62x39mm round is one of the best short-barrel cartridges out there and doesn’t have the classic downsides to a short barrel that most cartridges experience.
The AK-104 utilizes the same muzzle device we see on AKS-74U rifles and again this helps contain muzzle blast and concussion.
The AK-104 is an excellent rifle for urban combat. Its short nature coupled with the barrier-busting power of the 7.62×39 makes it a natural urban warfighter.
It’s been exported heavily to the Middle East and serves with the Russian Protective Service.
The final rifle in the AK-100 series is the AK-105. It’s a short carbine variant with a 12.4-inch barrel. It chambers the 5.45x39mm cartridge that’s standard in the Russian military. This carbine sits between the AK-74M and the AKS-74U in size. Its barrel is four inches shorter than 74M’s and four inches longer than the AKS-74U’s.
The AK-105 presents a good compromise of barrel length and overall size. It’s still quite compact but easier to wield than the fireball-spitting AKS-74U. The AK-105 also uses the AKS-74U muzzle device.
This gun presents a very controllable option for an infantry carbine.
Russia adopted it in limited numbers for the Russian Army. It’s also used by federal police forces. Some Middle Eastern countries also adopted the platform, but it’s not Russia’s most popular AK-100 for export.
Modernizing the Army
While the AK-100 series presented a welcome step forward in the AK design. This series of rifles came to be in 1994, and since then, we’ve seen the Russian military continue to upgrade and adopt new configurations of their old rifle.
Watch this space for more on the future of the AK series.
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