There are several benefits to suppressing AK-platform rifles, especially because their piston- driven operating systems are built for reliability and can work very well with the unique functioning characteristics found with suppressed firearms. With a barrel mounted on a short 7.62x39mm barrel, the ballistics will remain effective while reducing your signature and recoil, and managing excess gas. But adding a sound suppressor to an AK is not always a simple operation. It takes some forethought.

Designed for the battlefield, converted for import and built in dozens of countries, the AK may be the least “consistent” rifle on earth. No two ever seem to be the exact same—receivers, barrels, trunnions, sights, you name it. Few were built with precision or consistency in mind. The AK’s tolerances are loose by design to ensure operation in any environment. A few high-quality imports have made their way to our shores, and many companies are now building AKs in the U.S. with high-end parts. In other words, the AKs are getting better, but they are anything but consistent, and that can lead to some problems.

Barrel Woes

AK rifles use several different thread patterns. None of them are compatible with typical suppressor threads. Many AK-47 rifles chambered in 7.62x39mm use 14x1mm LH (left hand) threading. The threaded barrel extends beyond the sight post. Others, including 5.45x39mm AK-74s, use 24×1.5mm-LH-threaded sight posts with a sleeve that extends over the barrel. Romanian AK-74s have 22.5×1.5mm LH threading. Galils and Valmets use 13x1mm RH (right hand) threading. Yugo M92/M85 rifles use 26mm LH threading. All of them can be slightly different in terms of thread depth. Suppressors with 24×1.5mm threading, for example, may fit one rifle and not another. This makes it very difficult for suppressor companies to ensure consistency on AK-pattern rifles.

But this is only the beginning. Imported barrels with 14x1mm LH threading were designed to use slant-type flash suppressors, which typically have a large inner diameter to prohibit any chances of a bullet strike. Your sound suppressor is built more tightly, however, and a bullet strike will be devastating. A misalignment can cause a bullet to skip along the baffles or take off the front of the suppressor. If you are lucky, the suppressor can be repaired. Or, worse, you can suffer a serious injury.

Suppressors are designed to use a “shoulder” to ensure they are square to the bore. But most AK rifles don’t have a shoulder. So, even if you can thread it on, the suppressor may not be square. Just tightening it up against the post may not do it; in fact, it likely won’t.

Threaded sight posts that go over the barrel present similar issues. They are seldom consistent, straight or concentric. Muzzle brakes designed for these units can also have generous tolerances. No two are the same; many are oval, and the thread depth can be inconsistent. Making a suppressor that will fit them all is problematic, even without considering the various thread patterns. Given the size, it is also difficult (if not impossible) to make adapters. These systems fit flush against the sight post, presenting the same issues of trying to square the suppressor to the bore.

Other Concerns

It’s important to remember that the AK is essentially an open gas system. Gas drives a piston down a tube, moving the bolt. Some of that gas escapes, including the sound that goes with it. In other words, suppressed AKs will still make some sound. They will not be as quiet as suppressed direct impingement ARs. Sure, they’re quieter than without a suppressor, but many users are surprised at how loud they can still be when suppressed. Just don’t expect them to be as quiet as movies depict.

Though foreign special operations units have had suppressed AK rifles for decades, the platform was originally designed to be left unsuppressed. These rifles sport thin barrels, so adding a pound or more to your barrel (especially a 16-inch barrel) will make the rifle long and barrel heavy. Just like with an AR, those with short barrels suffer the least in terms of balance and handling.

Doing It Right

Several things have started changing over the last few years. Increased demand along with import bans means AK rifles are increasingly built in the United States. U.S. parts can be built more consistently, including the barrels. With the better makers, threads can be much more concentric and precisely cut. You can also get barrels with common thread patterns, like 1/2×28 and 5/8×24 RH. Both are common suppressor thread patterns, making it easier to install a suppressor. Threads can also be cut with a shoulder for repeatable, consistent suppressor installation. Many custom AK builders offer this along with numerous muzzle device options.

Several suppressor companies use quick-detach (QD) muzzle brakes and flash suppressors that also serve as adaptors to work with typical AK thread patterns. SureFire makes them for its SOCOM line, including the larger sight post threads. Gemtech has a 14x1mm LH adapter for its latest multi-mission suppressor, “The One.” Liberty Suppressors offers a custom thread adapter for its Mystic-X titanium suppressor. There are even a few companies making them specifically for AK rifles, like the Kestrel from Huntertown Arms.

Starting Smart

It is seldom prudent to throw a sound suppressor on any rifle without first making sure the threads are centered to the bore. It is absolutely imperative with an AK, whether you are using a QD or direct-thread design. Make sure the rifle is unloaded, remove the bolt carrier group and attach the suppressor. First take a look with a flashlight, then check the bullet’s path with a dowel or rod. Wood dowels will work from your local hardware store in a pinch. If the suppressor is not absolutely centered, don’t chance it. If everything is lined up properly, you should be good to go.

When you are on the range, make certain you consistently check the suppressor for tightness. Direct-thread suppressors will come loose, as will the attachments used for QD designs. Not only will your accuracy suffer, but you may end up with a catastrophic baffle strike. It just pays to be careful.

Done properly and with some forethought, suppressed AKs can reap the same benefits as any other rifle. It just takes some extra work. As AKs become more popular here in the United States, it should only get better.

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