GUNS: The Kalashnikov Rifle in Security Contracting - Part 2

security contractors in iraq carrying ak-47
security contractors in iraq carrying ak-47

My bro did a great overview of humping the AK in International Security Contracting so in this article I wanted to go over some of the issues one will run into when using an AK on contracts overseas, specifically in Iraq.

Unlike most other contractors I am fortunate enough to be in a unique position where I am able to fire thousands of rounds through an AK here in Iraq every week due to the generous range time allotted to my team. Believe it or not most contractors are lucky to get range time a few times a year.

I know some guys over here that have not fired their weapons in way over a year and some who have never even fired the rifle they were issued. I am sure it sounds crazy to some of the folks reading this, but to the old hands in contracting who are reading this you are probably saying “yep – just like that”.

Before I started contracting in Iraq I really didn’t have much experience with the AK outside of some AK’s I owned and didn’t shoot much [I actually bought them as an investment]. And on my first couple of gigs in the Middle East I mostly carried and M4, so when I started working in Iraq this time around the AK was a relativity new weapons platform to me.

So after a shit-load of time training, humping and shooting the AK in Iraq I have noted several operational quirks that folks who are planning to hump an AK in Iraq should know about.

Ammo is Your Worst Enemy

Finding good brass cased quality controlled manufactured 7.62X39 ammo for your AK in Iraq is like finding a virgin the day after prom back home. Most of the AK ammo you get here is cheap steel cased Russian crap made from melted down manhole covers manufactured back when parachute pants were still in style [nothing like seeing a Hammer and Sickle stamped on a tin of ammo to make you weary about that ride through the red zone].

This steel cased ammo has a problem with blowing out in the chamber and getting stuck, like kick-starting won’t even pop the case out. From what I can tell certain rounds will have weak points on the sides and lips of the cases that will bulge or blow a hole completely through the side of the case sometimes.

From my experience this will happen around one time per 1400 rounds. I see AK’s go down almost every day with blown-out rounds in the chamber because of this problem.

Either way around when the case blows-out it is stuck in your AK like a mo-fo; that rifle will be down for the fight. The only way to clear the chamber is to pop the top cover off, yank out the Recoil Spring Assembly, kick-start the bolt open and ram a rod down the barrel then put it all back together. This is a hell of a thing to pull off in the middle of a fight.

Also the ramrod that comes with the AK is too short [I found out that one the hard way].

Another problem with the Russian ammo you get here is accuracy problems. Somewhere around 285 to 310 meters the ammo substantially loses accuracy to the point that taking a shot past 300 meters is just a waste of ammo.

I don’t have the same problem with good US made 7.62X39 ammo so it must be the poor manufacturing quality of the crap ammo that comes out of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Additionally, any ammo with Arabic markings on it should immediately be considered bad

Magazines Are Your Second Worst Enemy

Just like the ammo the AK magazines here in Iraq are made of melted down manhole covers and are so soft that simply dropping one will dent it to the point it is unusable. The springs are also shit, the feed lips break off and many don’t feed reliably for any other reason than they just don’t feed reliably.

Have a Second AK Within Arms Reach

Packing 2 of the same weapon is an old tried and true solution; I believe it is called the “New York Backup”. Because of the above problems and unless you have nerves of steel and a full minute to clear a blown-out round from the chamber while under fire it is better just to pick up the same weapon and stay in the fight.

I know a ton of guys that keep as many as 3 extra AK’s in their trucks; I keep one more AK handy and an M4 for shots outside of 300 meters.

Carry 2 Ramrods

As I mentioned above the ramrods that come with AK’s [at least on the ones here] are a few inches short of the actual length of the barrel. I am not sure what genius decided to design a rod that is made to ram down the barrel of a rifle that is not long enough to ram down the barrel of a rifle. But whoever he is that shit almost got me killed once so fuck him in his fucking face.

Beg, borrow and Steal Good US Made Brass Cased Ammo

That’s pretty much it, call all of your buddies in country and track down good US made 7.62X39 ammo. Then do whatever to get a few cases - booze and use of your apartment in Bangkok tend to work best but cold hard cash never fails.

Test Each Mag Thoroughly

If you have access to a range then fire 3 to 6 full loads through each of your mags, if you don’t have access to a range then do the same but just rack the rounds out. This is a pain but it will pay off later.

Unfortunately this is not a fool proof way to test magazine reliability, like most things in Iraq mags are quirky and sometimes they just wont work.

Also make sure to load each mag with a full 30 rounds, let them sit for 24 hours and test inserting them into each of the AK’s you will carry. Another problem with magazines here is they will fit fine when unloaded, freshly loaded or even with 29 rounds in them but when fully loaded or a day later no amount of force will make them fit.

One solution that works for me most of the time is only loading AK mags with 25 rounds, sure you loose a few shots but the extra 5 rounds won’t help if you cant get the mag in the first place.

You can try and mail high-quality AK mags like the ones made by US Palm to your APO but the chances of them getting seized or not making it to Iraq are damn close to 100%. I lost 5 US Palm mags that I mailed to myself that simply never made it, my guess is they were seized as “Weapon Parts” by the Army Mail.

And don’t even think about flying commercial with AK mags in your luggage or you will go to jail in some shitty Middle Eastern prison. Basically you just have to work with what you got.

And just like the AK New York Backup have a big ass bag full of AK mags within arm’s reach. Pretty much when you are having problems with a mag don’t even bother trying to work it, immediately drop that mag and go for another.

Learn the Basics of AK Gunsmithing

Knowing how to replace a trigger guard, straighten a front sight and even changing out a barrel will save you a headache and prevent you from having a really cool AK paperweight instead of a mission ready weapon.

I am not saying that you need to have the knowledge to machine parts for an AK, but you should know how to do a bit more than just break it down and replace a cracked stock. Rally car drivers know how to change the transmission in their car, so you should know how to break an AK down to its individual parts. You do this shit for a living, be a professional, know your tools.

Romanian AK’s are the bomb

Out of all the AK’s here in Iraq the Romanian AK’s are far superior to all others I have used. I tested 6 Romanian AK’s by firing thousands of rounds through them every week and then storing them in a damp conex over a 6 month period without a single cleaning and they still ran like new.

Those Romanian AK’s are still going to this day [coming up on 8 months without cleaning]. Even more impressive some of the Romanian AK’s I use and test were made as far back as 1961.

So if you are working in Iraq and you have a choice, get your hands on Romanian made AK’s

On a side note I tried to do the same thing with an M4 and it didn’t make it to the second week before it stopped feeding rounds completely.

In Conclusion

The AK is a great weapon for humping on a gig in Iraq, it is by no means a trouble free weapon system, but most of its faults are due to issues with ammunition and magazines that are not necessarily the fault of the weapon itself [more of the environment].

Overall it is a great low to no-maintenance weapon that is perfectly capable of engaging targets within 280 meters accurately.

But be warned, just because you think know the AK from shooting it in the States it is a completely different ball game when you use one in Iraq.


~James G Founder - Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long; he has traveled to over 50 countries chasing fortune and glory. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and Trading Brass Ammo for Booze. James G. on FACEBOOK