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9mm AK: Kalashnikov USA KP-9 Review // From America with Love

Until recently, American-built AK pattern firearms weren’t economically viable. The extreme high end of the market was dominated by rifles that worked wonderfully, but priced out of the reach of most shooters — diametrically opposed to the low end, where spurious materials and methodologies were the order of the day and still priced higher than imported variants. It seemed like your average shooter and AK fan couldn’t catch a break. Fortunately, Kalashnikov USA has done quite a bit to change that business model by producing a quality firearm with the Kalashnikov name right here in America, and they’re keeping the retail price at around $1,000.

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

 

It probably doesn’t hurt that they have all the right specs and all the proper tooling. You could say, “They know a guy.” Let’s look at their Kalashnikov USA KP-9, a 9mm AK that’ll give any 9mm carbine a run for its money.

HISTORY

The Kalashnikov USA KP-9 is based on the Russian Vityaz-SN submachine gun, developed for the 1st Special Purpose Unit of the Internal Forces “Vityaz” in 2004. This was a high-speed tactical unit in the Independent Operative Purpose Division of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Russian Federation. Vityaz, by the way, is Russian for “knight.”

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

Vityaz wanted a close-range subgun for CQB. The forerunner to the Vityaz was the Bizon, which was chambered in 9×18 Makarov and used an unusual helical magazine that ran parallel to the barrel. Due to numerous reliability issues with that system, Izmash designed the Vityaz-SN to work with a curved, double-feed magazine similar to those for firearms like the CZ Scorpion and HK MP5.

Although that unit was disbanded in 2008, the Vityaz-SN lives on in semi-automatic mode as the Kalashnikov USA KP-9. It has a 9.25-inch barrel and is a pound or two heavier than the Heckler & Koch MP5, but lacks the German styling.

SON OF THE SUKA

Kalashnikov USA tells us there are a lot of parts that interchange between the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 and the AK-74U, and a casual glance will bear this out. One of these parts happened to be a Franklin Armory BFS III AK-C1 binary trigger.

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

The KP-9 has a hinged top cover just like the Vityaz and AKSU-74.

Another part that was changed out was the factory flash suppressor. Anticipating the foreign 16x1RH of the original Vityaz or another unusual pattern, it was nice to find an all-American 1/2x28mm thread, concentric to the bore. This allows the shooter to mount any muzzle device of his or her choosing in a readily available pattern instead of prowling the web for thread adapters at 3 a.m.

One of the weak spots on the AK platform has always been mounting an optic. The side rail is usually the go-to mount, as the AK top cover doesn’t make for the most secure solution. Steps in the past taken to address this oftentimes result in the loss of zero. Kalashnikov USA has addressed this on the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 by going with a Picatinny rail-style mount with a hinge in the front that’s pinned in place.

A Crimson Trace CTS-1000 red-dot sight was mounted on a mini riser and worked well. This compact sight has a 2-MOA dot with 10 brightness settings, and the mount allows complete co-witness of the existing iron sights.

crimson trace red dot

Despite repeated field-stripping and multiple occasions of opening and closing the cover, there was no detectable loss in zero. Then again, a red-dot sight is much more forgiving than a magnified optic.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 was a simple, blowback-operated system. The outward appearance suggests a gas block and a piston system of some type. When you realize that it’s just a 9mm, it makes a lot of sense from a design and manufacturing perspective.

The Kalashnikov USA KP-9 can be purchased either as a rifle or a pistol — so naturally we rolled with the shorty.

We used a brace, which is a great option for shooters who want to go the Form 1 route (see RECOIL Issue 44 for detailed instructions) with an SBR (short-barreled rifle) and a dedicated stock but want to enjoy shooting it until the tax stamp arrives. It’s a whole lot easier to attach a real buttstock than to chop down a barrel. It’s also handy for shooters who don’t want to be bothered with the NFA process and remain legal.

The magazines are proprietary and made by Kalashnikov USA. There were internet rumors of the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 being able to run Scorpion magazines, but no such luck. Factory 10- and 30-round magazines are available at $46 a pop, and 50-round drums are also available for $129. While the mags aren’t AR-cheap, once you step outside the Glock/AR realm these mag prices are rather typical.

SHOOTING BINARY

In the past, we’ve tried numerous binary triggers from Franklin Armory but were a bit skeptical on the AK-type triggers, because there are so many differences between rifles and pistols based on that platform. The Franklin Armory BFS III AK-C1 will put your mind at ease if you run it in the Kalashnikov USA KP-9.

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

First, there’s very little to no recoil with the Kalashnikov USA KP-9, and if you learn how to run the AK-C1 trigger properly, you can shoot it pretty fast. The trigger’s safety has three settings: safe, semi, and binary. Binary is in the third position, and fires one shot with each pull of the trigger and a second shot when the trigger returns to the forward position.

That’s not too practical in a tactical, life-or-death situation, but it’s a whole lot of fun on the range.

ON THE RANGE

We would’ve liked to have had a more diverse assortment of ammunition for testing, but when there’s supply chain issues due to panic buying, you have to use what you have on hand. That said, we had previously run several hundred rounds of Freedom Munitions Hush 165-grain subsonics through it while testing a Bowers K-9 Wardog suppressor without a hitch.

Using Federal 115-grain FMJ, we put the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 through its paces in rapid-fire as well as binary modes. Out of all the different firearms that we’ve tried with a binary trigger, we find those in 9mm the most satisfying. The low recoil of a 9mm from a firearm such as this and the shorter length of the round when compared to a true rifle caliber allows the binary trigger to run slightly faster without the risk of outrunning the bolt.

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

The Crimson Trace sight sat high enough to allow use of the existing sights; after firing less than a mag with irons, it became clear that a red dot is the way to go with a setup like this. Some folks might like the fact that the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 is ready to go “out of the box” (and it truly is), but it’s worth the extra bucks for a quality red dot and mount. We averaged 1.5-inch groups at 75 yards.

Another thing to note was the ease of loading the Kalashnikov USA KP-9 magazines. The rounds showed very little resistance to the magazine spring even when they were almost full. At times, the brace had a bit too much flex in it. This particular pistol is a great candidate for an SBR conversion — it’d perform even better with a true stock.

While the binary trigger from Franklin Armory may not provide a true full-auto experience, it still packs a lot of fun into the whole package.

We may not have gone through a 7,000-round evaluation, but 800 rounds is a solid test. There wasn’t a single malfunction — but would you even expect one with the name Kalashnikov on the side of the gun?

LOOSE ROUNDS

Some shooters have little practical use for a pistol-caliber carbine. However, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely useless. For indoor ranges or small range bays that don’t allow full-sized rifle cartridges, the 9mm PCC is a great alternative. There are competitive shooting divisions dedicated to PCCs. For some shooters, it comes down to simply using cheaper ammunition or looking for less recoil than a rifle caliber.

It does have great potential as a personal defense weapon inside of 50 yards. That was really the nature of the KP-9’s origin as the Vityaz-SN. From all of our research, this is as close to the original design as you can get.

The Kalashnikov USA KP-9 fits the bill for all of these needs, especially for shooters entrenched in the AK family of firearms who want a similar manual of arms as their AK-47/74 type rifles. It’s also one of the growing numbers of firearms laying waste to the myth that U.S.-produced AKs are inferior to their overseas counterparts.

Kalashnikov USA is definitely doing something right. 

Kalashnikov USA KP-9

[Editor's Note: This article first appeared in RECOIL #51]


Kalashnikov USA KP-9

Cartridge: 9mm Luger
Overall Length: 18.25 inches
Action: Blowback
Barrel length: 9.25 inches
MSRP: $1,000
Magazine Capacity: 10, 30
URL: Kalashnikov-usa.com


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2 responses to “9mm AK: Kalashnikov USA KP-9 Review // From America with Love”

  1. Nathan williamsen says:

    What flash suppressor is that?
    Thank you

  2. Rick Carriere says:

    A nice weapon, Great article!

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