AK-103 is the BEAST among the Kalashnikov family of rifles, but before diving into that.. here’s a brief history of its origins.
AK-103 is the fourth generation of the AK (Avtomat Kalashnikova) gas-operated assault rifles designed by Russian small-arms designer Mikhail Kalashnikov—a Soviet and later, a Russian lieutenant-general—under the AK-100 series in 1994, based upon the third generation AK-74M. Like the second generation AKM, the AK-100 rifles chambers the rimless, bottleneck 7.62x39mm cartridge. Completing the generational package, the AK-103 can fit the metal magazine of the first generation AK-47. Now that’s an all-around rifle!
But what’s so special about it anyway? For starters, it’s a hybrid rifle with a muzzle brake, compensator, and flash hider that can minimize muzzle climb and felt recoil while retaining the 7.62’s power and penetrating capabilities as well as suppressing flash.
The advent of technology has also given AK-103 the edge, now equipped with sophisticated barrel technology. Compared to the AK-47 and AKM’s traditional button rifling, the fourth generation AK features a cold hammer forging – which most industry also used since it became standard. According to experts, the latter proves to provide not only “great productivity” but also “precision measurements of the barrel,” which ensures “an excellent dimensional accuracy and surface quality” to the modern rifle. Another feature of the AK-103 is its chrome lining, which “ensures that the barrel will never rust,” even if the user fails to clean and maintain the rifle as advised.
The AK-103, like other modern AKs, has a polymer handguard made of glass-filled polymers that, unlike the traditional wooden handguard, does not crack or catch fire when firing continuously. When submerged in water (including salt water), it also does not shrink. Moreover, it is lighter, more durable, and has a special heat shield that protects the handler’s palms from burning when using full auto. Finally, let’s not forget the folding stock feature that makes it easier to transport (e.g., in cramped vehicles, inside tanks, etc.) while maintaining its standard use capabilities.
- Action: Gas-operated, rotating bolt
- Cartridge: 7.62x39mm
- Weight: 3.6 kg (empty)
- Length: 943mm; 705mm (when folded)
- Barrel length: 415mm
In addition, there are plenty of options regarding accessories for the AK-103, especially on the newer versions where Picatinny rails can be fitted on the right side and one on the bottom. Those who want to add an under-barrel grenade launcher like the GP-34 or a knife-bayonet can do so too.
One of the noticeable changes from the first generation to the fourth generation is the use of polymer material in the magazine. Having to identify the disadvantages of the metal magazine, such as its invisible dent that causes stoppage, the polymer mag offers a more reliable option, plus the fact that it is lighter and can better absorb solar energy. Also, as mentioned earlier, AK-47 magazines are compatible with AK-103, so if you own one, you can use it without a problem (except, of course, if it has invisible dents).
Watch the torture test below, where the shooter placed the AK-103 (manufactured in 2019) under continuous firing pressure of up to 1400 rounds to see and test its durability.
In the video, the AK-103 has shown its vermin side. After 300 rounds, the bolt started getting jammed, but nevertheless, it continued firing. A hundred cartridge later, the shooter amusingly pound the rifle on the table to fully cock it. At 630, the piping hot barrel is now in flames, yet AK-103 remains fully functioning. Despite melting its handguard, the barrel of the AK-103 continues to operate rather well (with less accuracy) after 1154 rounds. Even the testers were surprised because they didn’t expect the rifle to last that long, and even after 1400 rounds (and some time to cool down), the AK-103 remained fully operational. It’s a pretty solid basic rifle that can definitely withstand quite a long day on a battlefield, yeah?
Unfortunately, the AK-103 is unavailable in the US since the Russian-made rifles by Kalashnikov Concern are not allowed to enter the country since 2014—effectively excluding the American gun market to mass-produced non-boutique semiautomatic, authentic Kalashnikov guns.
Kalashnikov USA (KUSA) recreated the AK-103 with a US twist to serve the growing demand and severed the AK enthusiasts in the country, calling it the KR-103.
It has the same authentic design and features as the Russian rifle chambered in 7.62×39mm and feeds on a 30-round polymer magazine, minus the select-fire option. Not to mention that it is compatible with a wide range of AKM and AK-74 rifle accessories, which gun owners can also customize. As of writing, the MSRP of the KR-103 is $1,180.