We have a double-feature in this week’s edition of “Weapons” — a pair of Soviet rifles that have cemented their place in the storied history of the AK family. Together, these two guns form an impressively capable set of killing tools designed to meet almost any need on the field of combat.
Nudging their way to the front of the pack during the 0.50 update, the twins brought with them some much-needed variety to the pool of available weapons. Join me as I talk about their differences and find out how to pick the right one for your own needs.
AK-74 & AKS-74U
Both of this week’s guns stem from one design: the original Kalashnikov, the AK-47. The bigger of the two, the AK-74, is based directly on the AKM that followed the original rifle. Beginning its main period of service in the late 1970’s, the AK-74 is a modernized, lightweight take on the basic AK blueprint that fires slightly smaller 5.45x39mm rounds instead of the previous 7.62x39mm.
The smaller caliber AK features a number of changes resulting from experience with previous members of the AK family, in addition to choices made specifically to take advantage of its lighter ammunition. Differences necessitated by the 5.45 round actually resulted in roughly half as much recoil being transferred to the user, and a higher muzzle velocity assists the rifle in achieving an approximate 25% greater effective range compared to the AKM. Perhaps most importantly, the smaller 5.45 rounds can be carried in greater quantities at the same weight versus the previous 7.62x39mm.
The AKS-74U is a special adaptation of the base AK-74 design intended for use by paratroopers, support crews, etc. It came about as a result of the Soviets’ desire for a carbine, and was chosen for the job due to its compatibility with previous AK-74 manufacturing. It weighs almost 0.4kg (1 lb.) less than its full-sized counterpart and is down to nearly half as long with its stock folded, but does suffer reduced muzzle velocity and range as a result of its compact size. The version we get in-game does not include a side mount for optics (a feature reserved for the AKS-74UN variant).
Original images via Wikimedia Commons.
Feed the War Machine
Befitting their origins as mass produced hardware meant to be cheap, reliable, and plentiful, the AK twins can be found all over Chernarus at standard military locations. Ditto for their attachments. Ammunition can be found even more easily, as it spawns not only in military areas but police stations (and cars) as well.
The ability to find and equip these rifles with very little effort is a big part of their popularity. They are some of the most accessible automatic weapons in the game, and require very little investment of your time to keep operational. Their ubiquity makes them nearly disposable, but it’s easy to grow attached to a weapon that both serves you well and supports so much customization.
Tool for the Apocalypse
Reliable, effective, and effortless gunfire is a defining trait of the AK family, and these two examples are no exception. A single full-sized AK-74 will handily dispatch an entire group of approaching infected without much fuss, and can even do it from a safe distance. The AKS will require you to close the gap a bit more and exercise greater recoil control, but it will get the job done just the same (and without taking up your primary weapon slot).
A group of survivors outfitted with these 5.45 rifles is a force to be reckoned with, even if they are relegated to using the standard iron sights. In fact, you should be more afraid of someone toting these instead of the larger AKM because that person is probably more likely to actually hit their target.
Thanks in part to the large array of attachments available, these rifles are very easy to outfit for a particular mission or situation. The AK-74 in particular has access to nearly all of the same parts as bigger brother, the AKM. The AKS is a bit more limited due to a fixed wooden handguard, but still enjoys plenty of visual personalization at the very least.
By having access to so many parts, the AK-74 can be equipped to suit different roles. Close quarters combat is covered by the standard configuration, and ranged fighting can be done with a choice of optics. Suppressors offer a chance at stealth, and between paint and ghillie wraps it can be camouflaged however you like.
One thing the AK twins don’t excel at is long range fighting. They both have the power to throw rounds out to further distances, but they are not accurate enough or consistent enough to be dependable beyond 300m. With that said, they are both probably best equipped for medium-to-close range combat.
Though it can be equipped with the PSO-1/PSO-1-1 scopes from the SVD and VSS, these optics do not fit the standard AK side mount in real life, and neither is particularly well matched to the ballistics of the 5.45 rounds being used here. It’s not something I can recommend with much enthusiasm.
While the AK-74 steals the show in outright performance thanks to its more ideal barrel length and greater range of attachments, the AKS can serve as a full-strength secondary weapon in a way that the larger model absolutely cannot. Simply free up some space in your backpack and you can reserve for yourself what is essentially a backup primary weapon.
With the exception of the submachine guns, no other weapon in the game can boast that kind of stopping power in such a small space. The sawed-off rifles/shotguns tremendously compromise their abilities during their transformation to portability, and anything smaller simply can’t offer power comparable to the 5.45x39mm rounds.
The AKS was designed with portability in mind, but the conversion to a carbine actually makes it better at extremely tight combat. In urban areas at distances under 100m, the shorter rifle is almost preferable to its larger sibling thanks to the way it delivers rounds. This becomes especially important when you are already carrying a dedicated marksman weapon like a scoped hunting rifle. Having an AKS in your inventory allows you to choose the right tool for the job, instead of compromising to find one that is merely adequate in all situations.
The AKS will not accept any optics, nor can it attach a rail — or any of the attachments that come with it. It will still accept suppressors and the buttstock from any AK however, it’s magazines are interchangeable with the full-scale AK-74, and much like that weapon it can be painted from end-to-end in either black or green for a personal touch (or covered in a ghillie wrap!).
Perhaps the biggest advantage these two guns have is each other. Being able to swap most parts back and forth makes it easy to assemble exactly what you want, and if you decide you’d rather have the opposite one, you can take most of your toys with you during switch. It’s two flavors of ice cream with all the same toppings.
Even better, the right tool for the job is always available and never too far away. The AK twins don’t want any excuses, they just beg to be used to their fullest. Find the one that speaks to you and travel Chernarus with it for a while.