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Pioneer Arms .22 LR AKM: Too Legit To Quit



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For decades, if you were an AR shooter who wanted to run a rimfire version of your rifle for training, you had multiple options, ranging from drop-in bolt conversions to dedicated rifles or upper receivers made for .22LR. AK-47 shooters, on the other hand, were left by the side of the road with cheap versions of their prized Kalashnikovs that were barely a step above airsoft with their polymer or pot metal receivers.

This may have been because, traditionally, AKs were half the price or less than an AR. The same was true for centerfire ammo. This dynamic completely shifted over the past 10 years, and the reverse is now mostly true for a quality AK variant. Yet, building a trainer for a sub $300 rifle in the past seemed like a wasted effort, especially when surplus centerfire ammunition was cheap and plentiful.

Ammunition availability in recent years has only compounded the problem with AKs because 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm ammunition jumped significantly in price — reducing meaningful training time for a lot of shooters who didn’t stock up when prices were low. Long gone are the days when you could grab a 1,400-round battle pack for $69. 

A company called Pioneer Arms decided to change all that with their new AK-47 .22 Military Style Trainer Rifle.

HISTORY

U.S.-made AKs can be hit or miss; when they’re good, they’re great — when they’re bad, you’re wasting money. Rimfire versions can be absolute garbage in many cases, with poor construction, not even suitable for use as toys. 

Even though Pioneer is a U.S.-based manufacturer for certain things, they have a European division: Pioneer Arms Poland.

Nearly 20 years ago, Pioneer Arms Poland bought the facilities of the famed Circle 11 plant in Radom, Poland. They currently own two buildings at that site, totaling over 46,000 square feet.

All of Pioneer’s AK-manufacturing uses the same facilities, equipment, and many of the original employees from that plant when it was Circle 11. 

They have all the technical documentation of the Kalashnikov firearms produced by Circle 11: AK-47, AKM-47, AKMS-47, Tantal (AKM variant in 5.45×39 caliber), Beryl 5.56×45, PPS-43, PM63, and this new release, the AK-47.22 Military Style Trainer Rifle. 

This is a true semi-automatic, .22LR AK-47, an exact 1:1 replica of the standard AK-47 rifle that they sell to their military contracts, with wood furniture and a plastic pistol grip, but chambered in .22LR. With an all-steel construction and Polish laminated wood furniture, it has the exact look and feel of a true AK-47, because it is. The only difference is that it’s chambered in .22LR like a classic military training rifle.

As for its lineage, all of the major manufacturing and heavy lifting for this rifle is performed in Poland and then they’re finished and brought into compliance with U.S. import laws by Pioneer Arms USA.

While the gun looks the same, the mags are a significant deviation.

This is not at all like the various rimfire-type AKs seen in the past that consist of some rando semi auto rimfire wearing the firearm equivalent of a Buffalo Bill AK-47 skin suit. This one is all AK-47 through and through, indistinguishable when sitting on the rack next to a centerfire version.

BREAKDOWN

As you might imagine, field-stripping this rifle is very close to field-stripping an AK-47, with some minor tweaks. Because it’s a blowback-operated rimfire, the gas tube is only there for appearances. The bolt and carrier are somewhat different due to the nature of the rimfire rounds, and the charging handle sits slightly farther forward.

The slant brake attaches just like a typical AK brake with the detent, and the thread pattern is metric, 14x1LH. 

Sights are standard AK-pattern and perfectly aligned with no cant. They appeared very crisp, probably because it wasn’t a former military gun rebuilt into a civilian rifle. This is a brand-new, purpose-built firearm from the ground up. 

Quick! Which one is “real?”

Due to it being an exact replica of an AK-47 externally, standard AKM furniture will fit, allowing for customization with an endless supply of options. If your go-to AK uses Magpul furniture, for example, you can fit that same furniture to the AK-47 Military Style Trainer.

The magazine has a last-round bolt hold-open (BHO) feature, and the selector is cut for this slot as well when the safety is engaged. Some purists don’t like the idea of a BHO on AKs unless they’re Yugo, Serb, or Croat guns, but it makes sense for a rimfire.

There’s a different barrel, bolt system, and recoil spring lurking beneath the stamped sheet metal dust cover and a modified trigger group for the .22LR bolt. Its barrel and receiver are made from 4140 steel with a twist rate of 1:16, optimized for .22LR. 

These rifles come standard with enhanced safety selectors with manipulation shelves — a nice touch. The 25-round .22LR magazines were designed by Pioneer Arms to be reliable and practical and show the remaining round count via an open window in the middle of the magazine. The bayonet lug is absent, but we don’t think anyone is going to storm the beach at Normandy with a .22 trainer anytime soon.

ON THE RANGE

After unpacking, slight clean up, and a little bit of oil, a range trip was in order. Pioneer and their dealer network have certainly talked this one up, but those impressions often change when the first rounds are fired downrange.

Thankfully, the rifle didn’t disappoint. It fed everything, including plated and lead bullets and showed no signs of letting up. The rugged qualities that AK-47s are known for with regard to reliability rings true in the AK-47 .22 Military Style Trainer Rifle. 

Pioneer Arms recommends using high-velocity .22LR, but we had no problems at all using lead match-grade or subsonic ammunition. After all, AK-47s are prized for their reliability, so throwing everything from Norma subsonic match and Gemtech subsonic, CCI Stingers, and Federal Punch only made sense.

At 50 yards and rested on a bench, the average group size was within 2 inches, making this a 3 to 4 MOA rifle, just like its daddy. The high-

velocity rounds appeared to group better than the rounds with unplated lead projectiles, which was surprising as the subsonic and match tend to be more accurate in other .22LR rifles. Sure, there are more accurate rimfire rifles out there, but none of them have the look and feel of an AK.

However, if you want to fire it true AK-style, standing away from a bench and just blasting away at targets in rapid fire mode, this rifle runs like a typewriter and about as fast. The only thing that can improve its fun factor could be adding a binary trigger or an SOT building a full-auto from this.

The rifle is equipped with an AK-style cleaning rod, which came in handy as rimfire ammunition, especially subsonic, is notoriously dirty. The bolt did seem to slow down after 500 or so rounds without cleaning, but spraying the chamber with Ballistol and punching the bore quickly resolved this.

LOOSE ROUNDS

The Pioneer Arms is accurate enough to have fun, and the zero recoil impulse combined with the cheap cost of .22LR make it even more so. The one main gripe for a lot of us will be that the thread pattern on the muzzle being 14x1M LH instead of ½x28. 

Maybe that’s the lone ranting of a silencer nerd, but it’s a detail manufacturers should consider for the U.S. market. In the meantime, there are thread adapters out there that’ll serve in a pinch.

At the time of writing, spare magazines seem hard to come by, and 10 rounders for folks in communist states don’t seem to be available. Pioneer says these will be coming shortly, perhaps by the time we go to press with this article.

All of the classic looks but with some enhancement like a safety selector you can lock the bolt with.

Like a full-fledged AK-47, options for mounting a scope are limited. This would probably be fun with a reflex type of sight mounted on it, and as the gas system is non-functional, sticking a red dot on a gas tube mount wouldn’t entail the electronics-roasting temperatures found on centerfire AKs. 

An interesting configuration might be with a Draganov-type stock and a good scope mounted via a side rail. Hopefully, some of these will be available by the time of publication.

If you’re an AK-47 shooter, collector, or just a fan of the platform, this is a very interesting variant that’s well-made and functions like its bigger brother. It’s a great way to introduce new shooters or young shooters to the AK world, and besides, .22s are just plain fun. 

Pioneer Arms AK-47.22 Military Style Trainer Rifle

  • Type: Rifle
  • Action: Semi-automatic, blow-back
  • Caliber: .22 LR
  • Capacity: 25 rounds
  • Barrel Twist: 1:16
  • Barrel Length: 16.3 inches
  • Overall length: 34 inches
  • Weight: 6.9 pounds
  • Finish: Black nitride
  • Furniture: Laminated wood
  • Muzzle Thread Pattern: 14X1M LH
  • Muzzle Device: Traditional slant compensator
  • Magazine Capacity: 25 rounds
  • MSRP: $700

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