The blend of American components and Russian rugged design shined.
(Photo by Dennis Giacobe)

The AK-47 in its original format is a dated rifle by anyone’s standards. However, that doesn’t mean you need to settle for a gun with crude, antiquated features or drop some real cash to customize it with aftermarket parts. A few AKs have sensible upgrades right from the factory; the Century Arms C39V2 Zhukov model is among the best examples. Named after a Russian General, the C39V2 Zhukov is one of 12 C39Vs AKs in Century’s line and the most advanced thanks to adopting Magpul’s Zhukov buttstock, grip and handguard. Like all of the C39V2 variants, this rifle uses a milled receiver and 100 percent American-made new parts rather than imported parts kits of dubious quality.

Century Arms C39v2 Zhukov

The Century Zhukov weighs 8.65 pounds and measures 35.5 to 38 inches long with the stock unfolded. Folded, this rifle is only 26 inches; this make it a real contender as a car gun that stows neatly alongside the driver, yet is readily deployable or for home defense where it fits discreetly into cabinets and behind easy chairs.

The Zhukov has several design enhancements and a quality of fit and finish that puts it head and shoulders above the milieu of AK-47 variants starting with a receiver milled from a billet of 4140 steel. Milled receivers came in the original AK- 47s (also known as AKMs) and provide stiffness to the barrel mount unobtainable from stamped steel receivers, contributing to superior accuracy. The 16.5-inch barrel utilizes chrome moly 4150 steel and features a nitride coating for corrosion and abrasion resistance. Meanwhile the tail of the bolt carrier comes heat hardened, withstanding thousands of batters by the hammer during recoil.

The muzzle retains the AK’s traditional 14-by-1mm left-hand thread to appeal to those who want to install retro muzzle devices like the AK’s characteristic slant style brake in place of Century’s Chevron brake. Though inauthentic, most of the Chevron compensator vents point upwards. It proved quite effective at reducing muzzle rise during full-auto testing.

The host of Magpul components helped turn the C39v2 into a shooter.
(Photo by Dennis Giacobe)

Improved Ergonomics

Ergonomics and function of this AK are also improved in several areas, most notably by a rail-style scope mount attached to the left side of the receiver with large rivets. This mount is superior to the Soviet style because it is attached better with larger rivets, made from milled steel, and is thicker with more bearing surface. Century sells a scope mount designed for shorter red-dot optics, but I tested one of two versions made by Midwest Industries. The Midwest mount slides onto the receiver rail from the rear and uses a single throw lever to lock in place. Its Picatinny rail for mounting an optic is long enough to attach a magnified optic. It’s also low enough to allow use of the rifle’s iron sights if no optic is mounted. Adjustment for mount tightness is easy, does not require a wrench and does not loosen.

Other enhancements include a large, T-shaped magazine release catch that is more accessible than the original catch for left- and right-handed users, and the safety lever has a notch to retain the charging handle rearward to keep the action open—a real handy feature for cleaning and range use. Though the action won’t stay open after the last round is fired, I replaced the followers on my Chi-Com mags with those from Weapon Tech, which reliably hold the action open while the magazine is in place. These followers work on steel body mags and Tapco plastic mags, but need an easy bit of trimming to work in the Magpul. For the price, they are the single best way to improve an AK’s functionality.

Upgraded Components

The folding, collapsible Magpul Zhukov buttstock is sturdy without any wobble. It has a length of pull over five settings that ranges from 12 to 14.6 inches. The rifle makes ready and fires even when the stock is folded. Four QD sockets, a sling slot and a non-slip rubber buttplate are useful features, but this stock could use an add-on riser to the comb to align your eye easily with a mounted optic.

The MOE grip has a stowage compartment for batteries. The forend has M-Lok slots on the bottom and the front and rear of the sides. It also uses a full-length aluminum chassis under the polymer shell. This chassis provides a rock-solid mount and deflects heat from the barrel. The ventilated gas piston heat shield exhibits no wobble. Overall, the Zhukov stocks shine among Magpul’s best designs. They pair well with the quality and features on the C39v2 rifle.

The Dead Air Wolverine helped tame the recoil during testing.
(Photo by Dennis Giacobe)

Lead Zone

I tested the Zhukov for accuracy with a Sig Sauer 1-6×24 Tango 6 scope, firing off of a Caldwell Precision Turret Shooting Rest. This rest is a newer design and one of the best rests I have used for field testing rifles with pistol grips like ARs and AKs. Just sand bag the front leg for added stability and you are good to go.

Typically, scoped high-power rifles are accuracy tested at no less than 100 yards. However, persistent, moderately windy range conditions over the course of four range sessions made me go to 50 to minimize any wind effects. I used three loads during testing. Hornady’s SST and Wolf Military Classic turned in respective best/mean five-shot groups of 0.41/1.09 inches and 0.51/1.34 inches. Century’s Red Army Standard tested least accurate with 1.33 inches/2.01 inches, using Ukrainian ammunition. Century now imports it from Russia, so it might perform differently. There were no stoppages during the course of over 400 rounds fired. The trigger stroke was long, smooth and broke after 4.75 pounds of resistance measured using a Lyman electronic gauge. This rifle functioned with magazines from Magpul, Tapco and Arsenale. It also fed from steel Red-Chinese 30-round mags and 75-round drums, though they fit looser than the others.

Quieting The AK

Dead Air’s Wolverine is a very durable, high-quality suppressor. It’s intentionally designed to work on AKs with barrel and muzzle variations that can create baffle strikes on many suppressors. These variations are found on some imported rifles and include non-concentric bores and muzzles that are not square to the bore, which will launch the bullet at an angle to the baffle bore. The Wolverine neutralizes these issues with a certain V-shaped baffle geometry that Dead Air tested on a broad range of AK rifles including lesser quality imports. The Wolverine also overcomes the other hurdle to suppressing AK rifles: over-gassed operating systems that spew obnoxious amounts of back blast from the chamber if a suppressor is mounted or batter the rifle with higher than needed bolt carrier speed.

Though the Century C39V2 proves neither over-gassed nor suffers from a non-concentric bore or non-square muzzle, its Russian lineage begs for a suppressor with the look of the Soviet PBS-1 suppressor first made in the 1950s; the Wolverine certainly plays the part well. However, claiming that the Wolverine is a “modernized” PBS-1 is misleading. Why? Because although the two share appearances, Dead Air never used the Russian design as a starting point, and the Wolverine uses far superior materials like a stainless tube and Stellite baffles instead of flat steel washers.

It handles calibers up to 7.62x54R with no barrel length restrictions and full-auto rated for 7.62x39mm. Meanwhile, the Soviet PBS-1 works with subsonic 7.62x39mm only. Moreover, the U.S.-made can is more effective than the Russian with sound reduction of 19.5 to 30dB depending on the host rifle, according to the company and other published tests, compared to 15 dB for the original.

Direct Thread Mount

The Wolverine uses a unique secondary means of retention. It keeps it from loosening, proving especially useful when used on a full auto AK-47, which obviously vibrates more. This method uses a direct thread mount that also locks onto the spring-loaded front sight pin used to secure the rifle’s flash suppressor.

The Wolverine did not increase back pressure noticeably, but shot groups at 50 yards using Wolf ammo landed 3 inches below the non-suppressed zero point. However, the shift was consistent so you can dial in the correction on your scope when using the Wolverine, then reverse the setting without it. Group size sometimes shrank, and sometimes dramatically. Since the improved groups were more pronounced when shooting the rifle off-hand and off of sandbags instead of the Caldwell Turret Rest, which secures the forend in vise-like jaws, the effect could be caused by the Wolverine dampening recoil and muzzle rise. Naturally, the added weight made this a muzzle-heavy rifle. However, that unavoidable byproduct evaporates on a bipod mounted AK or an RPK or RPD. Find out more at

Final Notes

You don’t have to be an AK aficionado to appreciate the features and quality of this rifle; that goes double when adding the Weapon Tech magazine followers and Midwest Industries optic mount. More accurate and certainly better built than most AKs, the C39V2 Zhukov breathes new life into the 70-plus year old design. Check them out at

Century Arms C39V2 Zhukov Specs

  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm
  • Barrel: 16.5 inches
  • Overall Length: 26 to 38 inches
  • Weight: 8.65 pounds (empty)
  • Sights: Adjustable rear, post front
  • Action: Gas piston semi-auto
  • Stocks: Magpul
  • Finish: Nitride
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • MSRP: $1,085

Century Arms C39V2 Zhukov Performance

Hornady 123 SST2,1790.41 inches
Red Army Standard 123 FMJ2,2961.33 inches
Wolf Military Classic 124 FMJ2,1790.51 inches
Bullet weight in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for the best five-shot groups at 50 yards.

Dead Air Wolverine PBS-1 Suppressor Specs

  • Bore: 7.62 mm
  • OA Length: 7.4 inches
  • Width: 1.93 inches (mount), 1.5 inches (tube)
  • Weight: 19.8 to 24.4 ounces (depending on mount)
  • Construction: 17-4 stainless steel
  • Finish: Black nitride (mount), Cerakote (tube)
  • MSRP: $1,099

This article is from the Aug/Sept 2020 issue of Tactical Life magazine. Grab your copy at

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