The AKM is an assault rifle using the 7.62×39mm Soviet intermediate cartridge. It is gas operated with a rotating bolt. The AKM is capable of selective fire, firing either single shots or automatic at a cyclic rate of 600 rounds/min. Despite being replaced in the late 1970s by the AK-74 the AKM is still in service in some Russian Army reserve and second-line units and several east European countries.
Compared to the AK-47, the AKM features detail improvements and enhancements that optimized the rifle for mass production; some parts and assemblies were conceived using simplified manufacturing methods. Notably, the AK-47's milled steel receiver was replaced by a U-shaped steel stamping. As a result of these modifications, the AKM’s weight was reduced by ≈ 1 kg (2.2 lb), the accuracy during automatic fire was increased and several reliability issues were addressed. The AK-47's chrome-lined barrel was retained, a common feature of Soviet weapons which resists wear and corrosion, particularly under harsh field conditions and near-universal Eastern Bloc use of corrosively primed ammunition.
The AKM’s receiver, compared to the AK-47, is stamped from a smooth 1.0 mm (0.04 in) sheet of steel. To the U-shaped stamped sheet metal receiver housing a rear stock trunnion and forward barrel trunnion are fastened using rivets. The receiver housing also features a rigid tubular cross-section support that adds structural strength. Guide rails that assist the bolt carrier’s movement which also incorporates the ejector are installed inside the receiver through spot welding. As a weight-saving measure, the stamped receiver cover is of thinner gauge metal than that of the AK-47. In order to maintain strength and durability it employs both longitudinal and latitudinal reinforcing ribs.
The forward barrel trunnion has a non-threaded socket for the barrel and a transverse hole for a pin that secures the barrel in place. On some models the rear trunnion has two extended mounting arms on both sides that support the buttstock; other fixed models use a stepped shaped trunnion that covers the full width of the inside of the receiver.
The AKM’s barrel is installed in the forward trunnion and pinned (as opposed to the AK-47, which has a one piece receiver with integral trunnions and a barrel that is screwed-in). Additionally the barrel has horizontal guide slots that help align and secure the handguards in place. To increase the weapon’s accuracy during automatic fire, the AKM was fitted with a slant cut muzzle brake that helps redirect expanding propellant gases upward and to the right during firing, which mitigates the rise of the muzzle during an automatic burst when held by a right-handed firer. The muzzle brake is threaded on to the end of the barrel with a left-hand thread. Not all AKMs had slant muzzle brakes; some were also fitted with the older muzzle nut which came from the AK-47. Most AKMs with muzzle nuts were older production weapons. The AKM's slant brake can also be used on the AK-47, which had a simple nut to cover the threads.
The gas block in the AKM does not have a cleaning rod capture or sling loop but is instead fitted with an integrated bayonet support collar that has a cleaning rod guide hole. The forward sling loop was relocated to the front handguard retainer cap. The handguard retainer also has notches that determine the position of the handguards on the barrel. The AKM’s laminated wood handguards have lateral grooves that help securely grip the rifle.
Gas relief ports that alleviate gas pressure in the piston cylinder (placed horizontally in a row on the gas cylinder in the AK-47) were moved forward to the gas block and placed in a radial arrangement.
The AKM’s bolt carrier is slightly lighter in weight and, despite some minor differences in its shape, it can be used interchangeably with the AK-47’s bolt carrier and bolt.
The buttstock, lower handguard and upper heatguard are manufactured from birch plywood laminates like the later model AK-47 furniture. Such engineered woods are stronger and resist warping better than the conventional one-piece patterns, do not require lengthy maturing, and are cheaper. The wooden buttstock used in the AKM is further hollowed in order to reduce weight and is longer and straighter than that of the AK-47, which assists accuracy for subsequent shots during rapid and automatic fire. The wooden stock also houses the issued cleaning kit, which is a small diameter metal tube with a twist lock cap. The kit normally contains the cleaning jag to which a piece of cloth material is wrapped around and dipped into cleaning solution. It also contains a pin punch, an assembly pin to hold the trigger, disconnector and rate reducer together while putting these back into the receiver after cleaning the weapon, and a barrel brush. The kit is secured inside the butt stock via a spring-loaded trap door in the stock's pressed sheet metal butt cap.
The AKM uses a modified return spring mechanism, which replaces the single recoil spring guide rod with a dual “U”-shaped wire guide.
The AKM has a modified trigger assembly, equipped with a hammer-release delaying device (installed on the same axis pin together with the trigger and disconnector) commonly called a "rate reducer". In fact its primary purpose is not to reduce the rate of automatic fire; it is a safety device to ensure the weapon will only fire on automatic when the bolt is fully locked, as the hammer is tripped by the bolt carrier's last few millimetres of forward movement. The device also reduces "trigger slap" or "trigger bounce" and the weapon’s rate of fire, which also reduces the dispersion of bullets when firing in fully automatic mode. The hammer was also changed and equipped with a protrusion that engages the rate reducer and the trigger has only one notched hammer release arm (compared to two parallel arms in the AK-47).
The AKM’s notched rear tangent iron sight is calibrated in 100 m (109 yd) increments from 100 to 1,000 m (109 to 1,094 yd) and compared to the AK-47 the leaf’s position teeth that secure the sliding adjustable notch were transferred over from the right to the left edge of the ramp. The front sight is a post adjustable for elevation in the field and has a slightly different shape and its bottom portion is more narrow compared to the AK-47. Horizontal adjustment requires a special drift tool and is done by the armory before issue or if the need arises by an armorer after issue. The sight line elements are approximately 48.5 mm (1.9 in) over the bore axis. The "point-blank range" battle zero setting "П" on the 7.62×39mm AKM rear tangent sight element corresponds to a 300 m (328 yd) zero. For the AKM combined with service cartridges the 300 m battle zero setting limits the apparent "bullet rise" within approximately −5 to +31 cm (−2.0 to 12.2 in) relative to the line of sight. Soldiers are instructed to fire at any target within this range by simply placing the sights on the center of mass (the belt buckle) of the enemy target. Any errors in range estimation are tactically irrelevant, as a well-aimed shot will hit the torso of the enemy soldier.
The early slab-sided steel AK-47 30-round detachable box magazines had 1 mm (0.039 in) sheet-metal bodies and weigh 0.43 kg (0.95 lb) empty. The later steel AKM 30-round magazines had lighter sheet-metal bodies with prominent reinforcing ribs weighing 0.33 kg (0.73 lb) empty. To further reduce weight a light weight magazine with an aluminum body with a prominent reinforcing waffle rib pattern weighing 0.19 kg (0.42 lb) empty was developed for the AKM that proved to be too fragile and the small issued amount of these magazines were quickly withdrawn from service. As a replacement steel-reinforced 30-round plastic 7.62×39mm box magazines were introduced. These rust-colored magazines weigh 0.24 kg (0.53 lb) empty and are often mistakenly identified as being made of Bakelite (a phenolic resin), but were actually fabricated from two-parts of AG-S4 molding compound (a glass-reinforced phenol-formaldehyde binder impregnated composite), assembled using an epoxy resin adhesive. Noted for their durability, these magazines did, however, compromise the rifle's camouflage and lacked the small horizontal reinforcing ribs running down both sides of the magazine body near the front that were added on all later plastic magazine generations. A second generation steel-reinforced dark-brown (color shades vary from maroon to plum to near black) 30-round 7.62×39mm magazine was introduced in the early 1980s, fabricated from ABS plastic. The third generation steel-reinforced 30-round 7.62×39mm magazine is similar to the second generation, but is darker colored and has a matte nonreflective surface finish. The current issue steel-reinforced matte true black nonreflective surface finished 7.62×39mm 30-round magazines, fabricated from ABS plastic weigh 0.25 kg (0.55 lb) empty. Early steel AK-47 magazines are 9.75 in (248 mm) long, and the later ribbed steel AKM and newer plastic 7.62×39mm magazines are about 1 in (25 mm) shorter.
The transition from steel to mainly plastic magazines yielded a significant weight reduction and allow a soldier to carry more rounds for the same weight.
Note: All, 7.62×39mm AK magazines are backwards compatible with older AK variants.
Note *: 10.12 kg (22.3 lb) is the maximum amount of ammo that the average soldier can comfortably carry. It also allows for best comparison of the three most common 7.62×39mm AK-style magazines.
The AKM comes supplied with a different accessory kit that contains a M1959 6X4 or 6X3-type bayonet and comes with synthetic or steel magazines. The 6X3-type bayonet blade forms a wire-cutting device when coupled with its scabbard. The polymer grip and upper part of the scabbard provide insulation from the metal blade and bottom part of the metal scabbard, using a rubber insulator sleeve, to safely cut electrified wire. The kit also comes with a punch used to drive out various pins and a device that aids in assembling the rate reducing mechanism. The GP-25 Grenade launcher can also be fitted onto the AKM.
The weapon uses the same ammunition as the AK-47: the 7.62×39mm M43 intermediate rifle cartridge. The AKM mechanism's design principles and procedures for loading and firing are practically identical to those of the AK-47, the only difference being the trigger assembly (during the return stage of the bolt carrier on fully automatic mode) as a result of incorporating the rate reducer device.
The main variant of the AKM is the AKMS (S – Skladnoy – Folding), which was equipped with an under-folding metal shoulder stock in place of the fixed wooden stock. The metal stock of the AKMS is somewhat different from the folding stock of the previous AKS-47 model as it has a modified locking mechanism, which locks both support arms of the AKMS stock instead of just one (left arm) as in the AKS-47 folding model. It is also made of riveted steel pressings, instead of the milled versions of most AKS-47s.
The AKM was produced in the following versions: AKMP, AKML and AKMLP, whereas the AKMS led to the following models – AKMSP, AKMSN and AKMSNP. It is designed especially for use by paratroopers–as the folding stock permits more space for other equipment when jumping from a plane and then landing.
The AKMP rifle uses subdued Radium-illuminated aiming points integrated into the front and rear sight. These sights enable targets to be engaged in low-light conditions, e.g. when the battlefield is illuminated with flares, fires or muzzle flashes or when the target is visible as a shadow against an illuminated background. The sliding notch on the sight arm is then moved to the “S” setting (which corresponds to the “3” setting in the AKM). The sight itself is guided on the sliding scale and has a socket, which contains a tritium gas-filled capsule directly beneath the day-time notch. The tritium front post installs into the front sight base using a detent and spring.
The AKML comes equipped with a side-rail used to attach a night vision device. The mount comprises a flat plate riveted to the left wall of the receiver housing and a support bracket fixed to the mounting base with screws. To shield the light-sensitive photo detector plate of the night vision sight, the weapon uses a slotted flash suppressor, which replaces the standard recoil compensator. The AKML can also be deployed in the prone position with a detachable barrel-mounted bipod that helps stabilize the weapon and reduces operator fatigue during prolonged periods of observation. The bipod is supplied as an accessory and is carried in a holster attached to the duty belt.
The AKMN comes equipped with a side-rail used to attach a night vision device. The model designated AKMN-1 can thus mount the multi-model night vision scope 1PN51 and the AKMN2 the multi-model night vision scope 1PN58.
The AKMLP is a version of the AKML with tritium sights (as in the AKMP).
The AKMSP rifle is based on the folding stock AKMS variant but fitted with tritium night sights, as in the AKMP.
The AKMSN model is derived from the AKMS and features an accessory rail used to mount a night vision sensor as seen on the AKML and additionally a flash hider and bipod. The left arm of the AKMSN’s folding stock is bent outwards in order to avoid the sight mount bracket during folding and the sling loop was moved further to the rear. Similarly to the AKMN-1, the AKMSN-1 can mount the multi-model night vision scope 1PN51 and the AKMSN2 the multi-model night vision scope 1PN58.
A version of the AKMSN additionally supplied with factory tritium night sights is called the AKMSNP.
A version of the AKM with a modified lower handguard designed to accept the 40 mm wz. 1974 Pallad grenade launcher was developed in Poland and designated the karabinek-granatnik wz. 1974.
The WASR-10 is a semi-automatic only variant developed from the AKM series rifle but is not another version rather a derivative or variant due to significant changes. The lack of the dimple over the magazine well is a peculiar WASR feature helpful in identification of WASR series rifles. The WASR series are manufactured in Romania by the arms-maker Cugir and widely imported into the United States for the sporting gun market by importer Century International Arms who modifies them with Tapco of Georgia stocks. Century began installing the TAPCO Intrafuse AK G2 trigger group in 2007 to eliminate bolt slap trigger finger injuries.
The following countries and combatants use the AKM, unless information is provided on a local version that is used alongside it or instead: Afghanistan
Bulgaria: Produced locally.
Central African Republic
Cuba: Produced locally under license.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
East Germany: Produced locally. Examples include the MPi-KM (fixed stock) and MPi-KMS-72 (side-folding stock)
Egypt: The Misr is an Egyptian copy of the AKM, manufactured by Factory 54 of the Maadi Company for Engineering Industries in Cairo for the Egyptian Army and for export sales.
Estonia: Still in limited military/police use. Replaced by AK-74.
Finland: Holds stocks of imported AKM clones for wartime reserve service (the Chinese Type 56 known as the RK 56 TP and the East German MPi-KM as the RK 72) along with locally designed AK derivatives (the Rk 62 and the Rk 95 TP).
Hungary: There is a Hungarian copy of the AKM called 'AK-63' manufactured by FÉG. The AK-63 comes with a fixed wooden or plastic stock, but there is a version with an under-folding metal stock called AK-63D.
India Various models of AKM and AKM style rifle in use. A local variant developed and manufactured by the Rifle Factory Ishapore.
Iran from Chinese manufactures
Iraq from Soviet and Romanian manufactures
Israel: Captured from Arab armies over the course of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
Mali – Armed and Security Forces of Mali
North Korea: Type 68 variant. The variant does not have a rate reducer.
Oman: Some captured from Dhofari rebels.
Pakistan: Type 56 variant.
Palestinian Authority: M70 variant
People's Republic of China: Type 56 variant.
Poland: Produced locally. Replaced by Kbs wz. 1996 Beryl and soon by MSBS.
Republic of Macedonia
Rhodesia: Captured AKM rifles were issued primarily to helicopter crews.
Romania: Produced locally as the PM md. 63.
Russia: Still in limited military and police use. Officially replaced in most Russian military units by the AK-74. Some usage mainly in urban environments due to the ability to penetrate heavy cover.
São Tomé and Príncipe
Sweden A small number of AKM's are used by the Swedish Armed Forces for familiarization training, but they are not issued to combat units.
Ukraine still in limited use, officially replaced in most Ukrainian military units by the AK-74. AKMS used by Ukrainian Security Service
United Arab Emirates
United States, captured rifles were used in Vietnam and other conflicts.
Venezuela Purchased in 2005
Vietnam Chinese Type 56 variant and North Korean Type 68 variant. Standard infantry rifle of the Vietnamese Army.
South Vietnam, the ARVN were supplied with captured AKM rifles.
Yugoslavia: Several variants based on the AKM built by Zastava Arms factory, most notably the M70 and M70B.