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Old April 28, 2000, 12:10 AM   #4
4V50 Gary
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Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 16,733
Originally, the only AK action available in this country was the Finnish Valmet. It remains among the best in quality with the early machined receivers being superb. Later Valmets were also well made, but of stamped construction.

The second imported of AKs was Steyr which brought in the Egyptian made AKM in semi-auto. While it was stamped and painted, the Egyptian Maadi was the closest one could get to a Russian AKM without having the full auto feature. About 2,000 were imported before Steyr dropped the project. The problem facing Steyr was the same facing Interarms' imported Valmet: ammo. One thing about the early Maadi, it is one of the most collectible of all AKs and prior to the Y2K panic, was the first AK to be valued at over $1k.

Then, the Chinese invaded and Clayco of Kansas was the first. They brought out a Norinco made AK in both fixed stock and folding stock version. The originals I was told had a reddish-brown plastic stock which wasn't very appealling and was later replaced with black plastic furniture. Further, rather than nickel-dime you, Clayco sold the gun as a package which included 3 30 round magazines, a wire cutting bayonet, sling, oil bottle, cleaning kit and instruction manual. Clayco also was smart in that they imported 7.62 x 39 mm ammo cheap.

Clayco eventually dropped out and others rushed in to fill the void. Soon, AKs of Eurpoean makes came into the country too.

Of the Chinese produced AKs, the Polytech is held in higher esteem than Norinco. Both are owned by the PLA, but the Polytech "Legend" series was a semi-auto version of the AK-47 and not the AKM. The milled Polytech (there are stamped ones too) is considered one of the best AKs around.

Having never owned any of European AKs, I can't tell you which is best amongst them. One thing I will caution about is the underfolder for any AK. They tend to wobble when they get old so while they look cool (like a MP-38/MP-40), they don't age gracefully with use. Better to go with a fixed stock gun.

Finally, there is the ultimate in AK type weapons: the Israeli Galil. What a piece of art. Machining which is nice and clean and without burrs or sharp edges. Robust and solid. Unfortunately, unlike a nice lightweight Maadi or the handy milled Polytech Legend, the Galil weighs a ton. It's foregrip is designed to house the bipod (bottle opener and wirecutter) but is bulky to wield. It's also probably the first to feature flip-up tritium nite sights. Further, while the safety is still quite audible, the Israelis also put a thumb operated safety on the right side so you can engage and disenage the safety one handed. The cocking handle is upswept so it can be engaged easily by either hand. Well thought out and probably the ultimate in refinement for the AK-47.
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