The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Black Rifles that Bleed Red

From the archives: RECOIL Magazine Issue 18, May/June 2015
Photos by Kenda Lenseigne

A PAID OF ARs FOR AK LOVERS

The AR versus the AK. Just seeing that phrase conjures images of 1,000-page-long forum threads and backyard YouTube videos, as each party tries to prove why their chosen rifle is the one gun to rule them all. Luckily for us, and despite what your elected officials may try to tell you, America is still a nation of compromise. For those die-hard AR fans who are willing to try a mile in the other guy’s shoes, two companies now offer black rifles that not only fire the 7.62x39mm cartridge, but run it out of traditional AK-pattern magazines. Before we get down to the brass tacks, it’s worth considering one question…why?

“Because.” In our opinion, this is a perfectly legitimate answer when it comes to guns. It’s popular these days to demand that every new gun a company releases, or every purchase a shooter considers, be justified by a specific need or purpose. If the product can’t be assigned to a deliberate task, it’s somehow less legitimate. But just like big trucks, fast cars, and old wine, sometimes we want it just because it’s new, old, rare, or just plain interesting. If one person is willing to sell it and another is willing to buy it, why get wrapped up in the details? God bless the free-market economy.

All soapbox grandstanding aside, an AR that fires a Russian round out of Russian magazines does offer some unique practical advantages. The AK-47 — and its magazines — are widely popular in many of the regions where American and Allied forces are currently engaged. An AR-pattern rifle, on which many NATO soldiers are already trained up, that can be fed local ammo from magazines picked up off the battlefield has some promise. Especially when one considers that AR-pattern magazines adapted to the Commie cartridge almost universally suck to one degree or another.

For those who hunt with ARs, the 7.62x39mm offers some ballistic advantage over the 5.56mm. Despite a somewhat lazy trajectory and exaggerated bullet drop, it delivers more energy and better penetration on medium game at shorter distances. In a defensive rifle, these same properties give the 7.62x39mm an advantage against intermediate barriers. For competitors and plinkers, AK ammo is almost always cheaper and just as widely available as the 5.56mm, allowing more aggressive training and practice regimens.

Whatever your want or need, there are two currently available options from two respected companies. We lined up samples from both to evaluate the pros and cons of each rifle.

THE VETERAN
Rock-River-Arms-LAR-47-Delta-Carbine

Rock River Arms released their LAR-47 about two years ago. It was not the first 7.62x39mm AR-style rifle. But, to our knowledge, all previous iterations relied on proprietary AR-15-style magazines that had been resized for the shorter, thicker, and tapered case. The normally shallow curve of Stoner’s G.I. magazine had to be steepened unnaturally. They functioned — just barely — but were as reliable as your deadbeat brother-in-law. Also, these magazines were (and are) tough to come by and more expensive when you could get them.

Rock River skirted the feeding problem by housing the ammunition in its natural habitat — and instead redesigning the rifle around the mags. While we don’t know what kind of sales success the LAR-47 has had to date, we haven’t seen or heard anything poor written about them. It has sat comfortably for the last two years as a sort of only-in-class product offering niche capability with no direct competition. Until now.

THE CONTENDER
CMMG-MK47-Mutant-AKM

At the time of writing, the CMMG Mk47 Mutant is less than three weeks old on the open market. CMMG clearly took its time, watching the competition mature in the market for at least two years and, we assume, carefully considering what unique suite of features they would offer on their own model, and no doubt making some last-minute changes prior to launch. The Mutant’s features are in keeping with current trends in the AR community. The forearm is KeyMod, running to the muzzle, and is topped with a compensator as opposed to an A2 birdcage. The furniture is from Magpul, and the top rail is continuous from receiver to forearm. The Mk47 would not look out of place in a three-gun cart or dressed with a bipod and glass.

INTO THE BREACH

Rather than go into this faceoff with a set of parameters or a checklist to run down with each weapon, we decided, this time, we’d just shoot the guns and see how they felt. We ran (or tried to run) each rifle with four different magazines, four different kinds of ammunition, and two different optics.

The magazines were one each of the following: US PALM, PMAG, RRA factory, and a steel surplus mag of indeterminate provenance from some godless heathen nation.

Ammo consisted of Wolf Poly 124-grain FMJ, Silver Bear Match 122-grain FMJ, Federal 122-grain JSP, and Red Army Elite 122-grain FMJ.

Rock-River-Arms-LAR-47-Delta-Carbine-1

The optics were an EOTech 558.A65 and a Hi-Lux CMR-AK762 1-4x. Without making this a scope review, it’s worth saying something about the Hi-Lux before we go any further. Hi-Lux has been around for a long time, but never really been on this gunner’s radar. We’re publicly admitting right now that this was a mistake. While a lot of people turn their nose up at gear made overseas, if you want to run magnified glass on an AK-type rifle, the Hi-Lux CMR would be an excellent choice. The BDC reticle is illuminated and pre-set for the 7.62x39mm’s trajectory. The turret clicks are loud, positive, and tool-less. Optical clarity is impressive — the picture is bright and the colors are true. If you purchase either of the rifles in this review, or any other 7.62x39mm platform, the CMR-AK will serve you well in a variety of roles.

We started with the Mk47 Mutant. One of the first things to strike the shooter about this weapon right out of the box is how heavy it feels. It may be a combination of barrel profile and the longer handguard, but firing this weapon from the shoulder was not particularly enjoyable. All magazines locked in place and fed well. The RRA factory mag and the surplus steel mag both had some very mild play in the magwell, front to back, and laterally. The PMAG and US PALM locked up tight, with no play at all. Considering that AK mags vary widely in their tolerances, it seems that CMMG found a happy medium when it dimensioned the magwell.

We also really like the design of its magazine release, an improved version of the traditional AK paddle. The paddle is flared on both sides so it can be hit by either trigger finger. It can also be run by the thumb or leading edge of a fresh mag, as the current AK manual-of-arms would dictate. All ammunition fed and grouped about 2 MOA. We experienced one malfunction in the first magazine fired — a brass-over-bolt that required the shooter to collapse the stock and mortar the weapon to clear it. Neither gun was lubricated prior to testing and, after clearing this jam, we did not experience any other malfunctions with the CMMG.

CMMG-MK47-Mutant-AKM-01

The compensator up front and rubber padded Magpul stock in the back made the 7.62’s recoil a non-issue. What was an issue was the Mutant’s trigger. If your metric is a stock AR trigger, then it’s not atrocious. But were we going to put one of these in our safe, a new trigger would be mandatory. The break was crisp…when we eventually found it. But there was a ton of stacking, and it was hardly consistent. On the range, we spent long pauses waiting for the break and the grouping exercise was a fairly intensive study in trigger prep.

The Rock River features a 7-inch quad rail with exposed gas block — a pet peeve of ours, but no effect on function. It’s not quite as easy on the hands as a KeyMod piece, but its shorter length definitely gave the LAR-47 a better sense of balance. The furniture is Rock River OEM. The LAR magwell is cut on a steep slant, creating a sort of natural funnel and loads and unloads were noticeably quicker than with the CMMG. Unfortunately, this limits your magazine selection. The RRA factory mag seated perfectly, as did the surplus steel mag. The US PALM magazine would not seat at all. The PMAG seated, but would double-feed every time we tried to chamber a round.

After several stoppages, we finally broke down, lubricated the LAR-47 and tried the PMAG again with the same result. After several attempts, the Magpul mag was benched for the remainder of the LAR-47’s testing. In contrast to the Mutant, the LAR-47’s magazine release is an upside down T-shaped paddle located inside the trigger guard. In theory, this makes for easy access by either trigger finger. In practice, the latch on our test gun was so stiff that it made trigger fingers sore after just a few mag changes, and we wound up just using the support-side thumb, using a fresh mag to dump the empty is impossible due to the design.

The trigger is a two-stage Rock River National Match trigger — quite possibly the nicest off-the-shelf trigger we’ve experienced on an AR. The slack is easy to manage and stops dead against a solid wall, breaking crisply and resetting quickly every single time. We hoped that this would result in tighter groups but, alas, 2 MOA was still about the best we could manage, though those results were substantially easier to achieve with the RRA match trigger than the CMMG. The barrel is topped with an A2-style flash hider, which seemed to have no effect one way or the other on recoil. The Rock River’s BCG is hard chromed, making cleanup a little easier. No malfunctions of any kind were experienced while shooting the LAR-47.

SURVEY SAYS…

It’s safe to say that neither one of these rifles came through unscathed. Both are going to require some compromises on your part, depending on personal preference.

Rock-River-Arms-LAR-47-1

If I had to take one home today, it would be the LAR-47 hands down. Magazine choices and rail space would be limited. I would also have to train on my reload technique a little harder, but the Rock River’s quick handling and easy trigger meet the prime directives for any serious-use carbine. Of course, you should buy the rifle that fits you best, not this writer. And either choice will give you a modular, hard-hitting rifle that can satisfy shooters on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Subscribe to the Free
Newsletter