The AK-74 assault rifle is an updated version of the AK-47, chambered in a specially designed smaller calibre (5.45x39mm as opposed to the 7.62x39mm of the AK-47). The weapon went into use in the mid-1970s and is now the main service rifle for the Russian armed forces.
The AK-74 is really no more than the old AK-47 rechambered for the new 5.45mm ammunition, with a few other minor modifications. The success of the American 5.56mm ammunition prompted a rethink in Russian assault rifle design, resulting in the high velocity 5.45mm round. The new round has much improved penetrative qualities and an increased tendency to tumble inside a soft target, causing maximum injury.
Apart from the change in ammunition, the most important change from the AK-47 is the addition of the large muzzle brake, which decreases the already moderate recoil of the rifle and improves controllability in fully automatic fire. The rear sight is practically the same as on the old model, simply recalibrated for the ballistics of the new round. The wooden stock is raised to bring the shooter’s shoulder more in line with the axis of fire, which decreases muzzle rise when firing and improves the accuracy of sustained fire. The stock is lightened by two oval cuts in either side. The pistol grip is made from plastic, and the fore-end from wood. The stamped steel magazines of the AK-47 have been replaced with plastic magazines.
This rifle is an AK-74M, the most modern variant in the AK family. Apart from some minor improvements in the production process and external finish of the rifle, the main differences from earlier AK-74 rifles are the addition of a side folding polymer stock and the addition of a scope rail on the left side of the receiver.
The AK-74 weighs 3.3kg unloaded and is supplied from a 30 round box magazine. The rifle has a rate of fire of 600-650rpm and has an effective range of about 500 metres.