Most of us have drunk the Kool-Aid. The prevailing wisdom holds that the AK is an indestructible tire iron while the AR is a finicky sewing machine. Many chair-borne commandos claim that the AR is an expensive paperweight while simultaneously asserting that the AK could be abandoned in the core of the sun for a year with no ill effects. The reality isn’t so simple, however.
I’ve been at this for decades, and I have indeed had lots of failures with AR-platform rifles. I’ve broken a bolt carrier key, dislodged a front sight base and lit up the countryside after a case failed spectacularly and spilled fiery detritus out of the ejection port. However, I also once fired 10,000 rounds through a Battle Rifle Company BR4 Spartan rifle over the course of eight hours with just three easily cleared stovepipes. The modern M4 Carbine is a mature and reliable combat tool.
During that same time, believe it or not, I’ve also had a few AK stoppages. They’re seldom exciting and are typically easily rectified, but the Kalashnikov is not indestructible. Run the thing long enough without any love and it will eventually choke. Determining just how much abuse an AK pistol will endure was the goal with this exercise.
The Contest: Choke an AK Pistol
Make no mistake: This was hardly science. The experimental parameters weren’t adequately controlled, the results weren’t peer reviewed, and the entire exercise wasn’t exposed to even the most rudimentary scientific rigor. I undertook this experiment because I was curious.
Everything has a failure point. Subject a big rock to enough stress and it will become little rocks. What we wanted to do was get a feel for just how far you must push an AK pistol before it will quit. Run the gun clean and lightly lubricated and it will go pretty much forever. Pack the entrails with Quikrete and it becomes a doorstop. I wanted to see specifically where the demarcation between those two extremes might fall.
Our research project involved taking a pristine Kalashnikov and cramming stuff inside it until it choked. Cleaning the thing afterwards was an unimaginable chore. However, the results, though messy, were quite insightful. At the end of our little experiment, I had a greater appreciation for just how durable Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov’s classic ComBloc chopper really was.
Meet The Victim
Our experimental subject was a brand-spanking-new Century Arms C39v2 Blade pistol equipped with a pistol stabilizing brace (PSB). Built around an essentially indestructible milled receiver with premium components, Magpul furniture and a Shockwave Blade PSB, this compact, fire-breathing monster would’ve been unimaginable a generation ago. The Century C39v2 Blade represents the top of the AK heap from America’s most prolific domestic producer of Kalashnikov weapons.
The C39v2 Blade transfers like any otherwise unremarkable pistol. In its raw handgun guise, the weapon is huge, heavy and awkward. You can run the gun on the end of a tail-mounted sling and bring some serious pain. However, really maximizing the gun’s utility requires a PSB.
The PSB is the greatest human achievement since Thomas Crapper perfected the flush toilet (and that’s the guy’s real name). They come in dozens of different flavors these days, but they all first spawned from the fertile mind of U.S. Navy veteran Alex Bosco. Bosco crafted that pioneering PSB to help a disabled veteran buddy run a gun one-handed. The BATFE has been a bit bipolar when it comes to the legality of these things, but in the final analysis, they appear to be here to stay.
The Shockwave Blade affixes rigidly and securely to the back of the receiver of the C39v2. The brace component is held in place with a heavy-duty Allen screw that fits into a series of dimples in the extension tube. Set the brace to the length that best suits your anatomy, tighten it down snug, and it won’t budge. The result represents an unprecedented combination of firepower, portability and ruggedness all wrapped up in a controllable package. For defensive use in the home or truck, few things hit harder.
Our exercise wasn’t particularly dangerous, but we did make a simply epic mess. I had a single overriding rule: I could do anything I wanted to the mechanics of the gun, but I took pains not to corrupt the bore. Because I had no interest in transforming my C39v2 Blade into a bomb.
I started by pouring a gallon of water through the receiver. This made a steamy mess when fired, but the gun did not seem to mind at all. So long as the bore is clear, I don’t think the AK really cares if it gets wet. I was incidentally awestruck by the fireball the gun produced when discharged at dusk.
Our next offending material was enriched bleached flour. Some of the world’s more pitiable locales are so dusty that the stuff seems to get into absolutely everything. It gets underneath your fingernails and into every bodily crevice. I haven’t worn the uniform in more than 20 years, yet I still find this pesky stuff in boxes of my old Army junk.
Adding More Ingredients
Flour seemed a handy substitute with the added benefit of becoming extra gummy when wet. I filled the receiver of the AK pistol with flour, upended it to remove the excess and then ran 10 rounds through the gun without a hitch. The big puff of white powder that belched out of the receiver was adequate to induce the giggles in my long-suffering photographer.
Next came sugar, a substitute for sand. I realize sugar is not nearly so abrasive as sand. However, this is my gun, and I didn’t want to literally destroy it in the name of science. We used the same protocol, filling the guts with sugar and then pouring out the excess. By now, the entrails of the weapon were liberally coated with ick. I then slapped a Magpul polymer magazine in place and proceeded to light up the countryside.
I obviously had kind of a kitchen vibe going, so next came a raw egg. This was frankly stupid. While we indeed had the basic ingredients to make a birthday cake, shooting a military weapon with an egg inside it makes an all but intractable mess.
I wasn’t real keen on firing the thing close to my face. I had no concerns about a catastrophic failure, but I didn’t want to get covered in raw egg, either. The subsequent 10 rounds did effectively scramble the egg, but there wasn’t a stoppage. Now it was time to amp everything up a notch.
All responsible citizens know that you should brush your teeth after eating sweets for good dental hygiene. As such, our next offending material was toothpaste. We squirted about a quarter-tube into the AK’s action, popped the top cover back on and went to town. By now, the guts of our accommodating pistol included flour, sugar, a raw egg and a massive dollop of toothpaste. I could tell all that stuff was in there when I charged the gun, but the bolt still miraculously closed of its own accord.
When I began firing, I got three rounds downrange before the magazine dropped out of the AK pistol. I suspect all the ancillary crud kept the magazine catch from seating properly. I fished the mag out of the weeds and replaced it. This time, I got two rounds downrange before the gun called it quits for good. I could’ve scooped the sticky bilge out of the action and tried again, but that would’ve defeated the purpose.
For the record, I had peanut butter standing by just in case. This semi-fluid paste is formed from dry roasted peanuts, sugar and a few lesser ingredients. As anyone who has ever gotten a gob of this stuff stuck to the roof of his or her mouth can attest, peanut butter can be tenacious indeed. Thank the Lord I didn’t have to try to tease that stuff out of my gun later.
The AK is universally extolled as the most reliable autoloading firearm ever made. However, it turns out that you cannot stuff the guts of a Kalashnikov with the makings of a proper cake, follow it up with a quarter-tube of toothpaste and still expect the gun to render reliable service on the battlefield. Anyone planning on going to war inside a bakery alongside a dentist should take note.
AK Pistol Aftermath
The recovery from our bit of junk science was unspeakably horrible. Most of it took place in the shower. A handheld showerhead with a “pulse” mode can be a lifesaver.
Be forewarned that there is no right way to bathe an AK in the guest bathroom. Your bride will not be happy no matter how vigorously you tidy up afterwards. Oily toothpaste is also almost supernaturally tenacious. It’s brown and ugly and clings to absolutely everything. Ask me how I know this.
It took a couple of hours using everything from Q-tips to a garden hose to get the last of our experimental material out of the Century C39v2 pistol. I detail-stripped the gun and removed anything I could get loose. There’s a sheet-steel heat shield in the Magpul forearm that was already starting to turn orange. A quick wipe down and some Hurley’s Gold gun lubricant saved the day.
There was still quite a lot of toothpaste squirreled within the hammer spring and underneath the pistol grip. A lot of scrubbing with Hurley’s Gold and a toothbrush finally got the last scrap. I’ll give it a sniff next week and let you know if I got out all the egg residue. Toothpaste is by nature abrasive. In retrospect, it is likely not the best material to use for gun cleaning chores.
So what have we learned here today? While the AK rifle (and AK pistol) is certainly neither indestructible nor immortal, it will indeed run a long, long time in the face of some absolutely egregious abuse. Show the gun just a little love and some trivial lubrication, and it will render reliable service for your great-grandchildren’s children. However, you cannot mix a cake in the weapon and expect it to keep chugging along. Pack enough wet stuff inside a Kalashnikov and it will indeed eventually choke.
Like the Energizer bunny, this rugged Century Arms AK pistol just kept going and going. The gun made it through the water, flour, sugar and egg and still launched five rounds downrange despite being filled to the gunwales with toothpaste. I bet old Mikhail never imagined such stuff back in 1947.
For more information, visit centuryarms.com.
Century Arms C39v2 Blade AK Pistol Specifications
- Caliber: 7.62x39mm
- Barrel: 10.6 inches
- Overall Length: 28.75-31.25 inches
- Overall Weight: 7.6 pounds (empty)
- Grip: Magpul MOE
- Sights: Front post, adjustable rear
- Action: Piston-operated semi-auto
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 30+1
- MSRP: $950