The Best AK Pistols in 2023
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The AK platform is, arguably, more popular than ever. The original (and nearly indestructible) rifle as developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, the AK, has been the firearm of choice for militaries, revolutionaries, and guerillas across the globe for generations.
The pistol variant has been shortened down and modernized, giving us the AK-47 pistol — a fun and formidable weapon for a number of applications.
But, there’s a lot to learn about these small semi-auto guns chambered in 7.62×39. These days, they’re offered in Section 922R compliant builds by several companies; from Zastava Arms to Century Arms and Palmetto State Armory.
Everyone is familiar with AK rifles — and the AK pistol is just as ugly — but shorter, easier to handle, and with a few mods can make for a homely little CQB or home defense weapon.
The AK pistol is a concept worth considering because, much like an AR pistol, it allows you to get a short-barreled AK without filing the paperwork to build a short-barreled rifle, and doling out even more to the alphabet agencies of the world.
In This Article
AK Pistol Comparison
Below is my list of the best AK pistols. I list the best choices in terms of value, performance, design, and cost.
Click on the name to head to the product page, read reviews and check prices or skip ahead to the list of pistols.
7.62x39mm Pistol Pick
5.56 NATO Pistol Pick
Best Side Folder
AK Pistol Reviews
1. Best Overall: Palmetto State Armory AK-P MOE
Speaking of firearms that merge AR elements into the AK, let us introduce you to the AK-P MOE edition.
PSA has been cranking out the AK models, and design-wise, this PSA creation is pure Kalash, with one exception; an AR buffer tube protrudes out of the back.
Functionally there’s nothing to write home about, but it does open the door to AR-style pistol braces, giving users a huge pool of options to pull from.
2. 7.62x39mm Pistol Pick: Century Arms Draco
2023 Awards & Rankings
One of the classic AK variants in the pistol realm, the Draco pistol offers a stamped-receiver AK paired with a short 7-3/4″ threaded barrel, making it half flame thrower.
While it doesn’t have tons of frills, it does deliver in terms of fun and performance. If you want a straightforward AK pistol, love short barrels, have no interest in a rear sight, and aren’t planning on accessorizing it to the hilt, this is the one for you.
Century also offers a Micro version, which lops off 1 ½” from the barrel for even more 7.62 sturm und drang.
Their C39v2 is also more than worth a look.
3. 5.56 NATO Pistol Pick: Zastava AK Pistol
The AK world is an interesting one, and the M85 is a great example of just how interesting things can get. This is an AK pistol with a 10” barrel chambered in 5.56 and plumbed for standard AR-15 magazines, giving you an “Amerikanski Kalash” in pistol format.
To manage the recoil, the Zastrava uses a Krinkov-style muzzle brake , just like the one on the big daddy AK-74. All in all, the M85 blends several different designs that come together in a fascinating firearm.
4. Best Side Folder: Palmetto State Armory Side Folder
The AK74u is one of the coolest looking firearms of all time, and about the closest you can come to owning one in pistol format is this side-folder AK pistol from PSA.
They’ve taken one big step to modernize it and added a top cover with a Picatinny rail: making optics mounting much easier than with older versions of the top cover.
5. Polymer Pick: Century Arms RAS
2023 Awards & Rankings
For another most modern takes on this concept, the RAS 47 in all black polymer certainly fits the bill. In addition to the 10.6” barreled and black furniture giving this an “I’ll be back” quality, an extended magazine release gears this toward performance and rapid reloads.
It will get the job done and look great doing it.
6. Also Great: IWI Galil Ace
While more AK inspired than true AK, the Galil does deserve a place on this list.
Using SR25 magazines and based on the original Galil rifle developed by IMI 1960’s, this is effectively the 21st-century version of an AK with all the trimmings. The steel, left-hand side-charging milled receiver and the ACE has a ton of rail space for accessories and attachments.
This is one of those firearms that’s a little unusual, but certainly worth a try.
Why an AK Pistol
Uh, they’re super fun.
First and foremost, AK pistols are some of the most fun firearms to shoot that I have ever encountered. In 7.62mm, you can expect nearly every AK pistol to spit a reasonably large fireball out of the end of the muzzle every few rounds.
Often, folks in the firearms world take things rather seriously, but I think it’s important to remember that a lot of us got into firearms because shooting things is fun.
I defy you not to smile at the idea of shooting a 1’ flame out of the end of an AK.
And reasonable self-defense options.
Second, AK pistols are reasonably good options for self-defense.
Keeping in mind the aforementioned fireballs and the fact an AK pistol is rather loud, it would likely be an excellent idea it put a muzzle brake or a suppressor on an AK pistol that you’d want to use for self-defense.
While a short barrel does cut down on velocity and overall effectiveness of most of the cartridges you’ll commonly find used in AK pistols, these are handy little firearms that could serve you well at short ranges.
Add a red dot sight, canted sights, or muzzle brake, and you’d have an excellent weapon for close ranges.
Are AK pistols accurate?
Accuracy is a subjective topic. Rather than generalities, it makes more sense to get specific. The right question is: is an AK pistol accurate enough for a given task?
If your objective is to be on target at 1,000 yards, then, no an AK pistol is not the firearm you’re looking for (nor is the AK rifle for that matter). The best you’re going to do in the AK world (if you can find one) is a Romanian PSL, which is effectively an up-scaled AK47 chambered in 7.62x54mm (the world’s second-oldest cartridge still in regular combat service, FWIW). That, however interesting, isn’t what we’re talking about here.
If your goal is something more along the lines of a super-portable truck gun or home defense, then the AK pistol makes more sense. The 7.62 round is heavy and, when compared to its counterpart in 5.56mm, is slower moving. This slower muzzle velocity comes at the cost of range, but the weight of the projectile brings a load of kinetic energy to the party at close to medial ranges.
In terms of getting on target, a reasonably well-constructed AK pistol could be accurate enough for defensive shooting out to about 200 yards with decent glass and junior varsity-level practice.
While not the most accurate weapons on the planet, they are effective fighting tools that you would do well to consider in home defense planning.
The one downside (and this applies to both AR and AK pistols) — they’re loud. The shorter barrel is going to give you a serious report and muzzle flash, so while they will certainly stop an intruder, there are better home defense options if you want to preserve your hearing.
Types of AK Pistols
Here, I’ll distinguish AK pistols primarily by caliber, though there are a few wild cards in this arena as well.
Classically, you’ll find AK pistols in 7.62x39mm: this is the standard chambering for an AKM or AK47, and thus the ones that come as “pistols” in the eyes of the ATF also share the original action and chambering. These are the oldest and most common AK pistols to find in the wild, and I do always have a soft spot for the original AK design and caliber, which works well with a short barrel in close-range engagements.
Of course, the AK platform has changed over time, as has its chamberings. In the Mid 1970s, the Soviets adopted 5.45×39 as an update to more contemporary ballistic thinking, and it is certainly possible to find an AK pistol in this chambering.
However, it is uncommon in the civilian market in the US simply because it is a relatively uncommon bullet size here. In the future, I expect that AK Pistols in 5.45 will become more common, as the AK74 and its various iterations become more widespread.
A little more commonly than those chambered in 5.45, AK pistols, made mainly for the US market, come in 5.56mm. A barrel as short as the ones that come on some AK pistols does not get the velocity and accuracy that you’d like to see out of the 5.56mm NATO cartridge, but they are relatively soft shooting, easy to control pistols that are becoming popular with shooters here in the US.
As a nice bonus, some of them even take standard AR15 magazines, which makes life much more convenient, and often cheaper than buying AK mags.
The popularity of the 9mm knows no bounds. 9mm AK pistols often look like AKs and can use some AK furniture, but I’ll not quite ready to call them AK pistols as such.
This is because the 9mm AK pistols are often direct blowback, whereas the AK 47 design uses a gas-piston design.
With the fundamentally different recoil systems and lack of compatible parts, we’d more happily call AK-looking pistols in 9mm pistol caliber carbines rather than AK pistols. All of the same, there are some awesome AK-shaped pistol caliber carbines in 9mm out there these days.
AK pistols vs AR pistols
At the moment, AR pistols are all the rage, and I certainly see why. Much like the AK pistol, AR pistols offer a lot of semi-automatic firepower in a small, highly maneuverable package. But there are several advantages the AK has over the AR pistols.
First and foremost, the AK will much more readily accept a folding stock or brace. The AR platform’s buffer tube behind the bolt and bolt carrier means you will always have that tube protruding 6” out of the back of the receiver.
Piston-driven ARs, which borrow heavily from AK designs, try to get around this.
The Soviets, on the other hand, saw this problem coming in 1947 and contained the operational components right at the butt of the milled or stamped receiver. This means, in our context, an overall shorter and handier package.
Second, because the 7.62 round is already slower moving than 5.56mm, it suffers less from the drop in velocity that comes with shorter barrels. The 7.62 will see 2,300 to 2,400 fps in a 16.3-inch barrel and only loses 150-200 fps when the barrel is cut down to 11-inches, so you retain most of the longer-barreled velocity in the pistol format with the fatter bore.
AR carbines have been notorious since the Vietnam era for less than optimal muzzle velocity: that’s part of why the CAR 15 had accuracy and fouling issues and wasn’t revived as the M4 for several decades.
AKs, on the other hand, suffer little with shorter barrels, which makes them great choices for smaller form factors.
This is absolutely an area where purpose and personal preference will come into play.
Uses for an AK Pistol
- Range Fun. An AK pistol doesn’t take itself too seriously, and the most straightforward use might be as a truck gun — which sounds like a lot of fun. They also work well as part of a bugout bag or emergency plan, as they’re built like a tank and are legendarily reliable. If you prefer to carry a firearm in your vehicle, one that will fit under your seat or in a car/truck safe is undoubtedly desirable — just pack your cleaning rod.
- Competition Potential. Thinking a little more creatively, an AK competition gun would be a bit of a shocker — but hold on. An AK pistol is a quick and reasonably accurate firearm for shorter ranges, and running one on a carbine course could be a good fit. Slap on a muzzle brake always to keep the muzzle down and that red dot, and you’re running and gunning with the best of them. Check out what some Kalash enthusiasts can do at the Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championship and you’ll see what I mean.
- Home Defense. AK pistols’ diminutive form factor provides big-bore semi-automatic firepower in small size, so it would be, at a minimum, effective for home defense, especially when paired with a red dot given AK iron sights aren’t going to be super usable in the dark. The report would be ear-splitting, but if paired with a suppressor there’s a reasonable case to be made on the home defense front as well.
Features of AK pistols
When looking at an AK pistol, the first thing that I consider is the caliber. If you want something more along the lines of Soviet military usage, then the classics in 7.62mm or 5.45 are the way to go: the downside is that they can be a little hard to find from time to time, depending on economics and the political climate. A 5.56mm AK pistol is a lot less traditional but can be seen as the combination of many intriguing ideas and applications and is usually a lot chapter to find than the other calibers in the US.
Since these come as pistols, you’ll also want to think about what kind of braces will be available for your AK pistol. I love that braces look like traditional AK74u folding stocks, but as far as getting a brace goes, the option to have a slice of Picatinny rail on the back of the receiver to add a wide variety of aftermarket braces is also an excellent option.
Some people also choose to forgo the brace entirely, opting instead for something like a quick-detach sling mount.
Barrel length is a significant consideration. In rifle calibers, the longer the barrel you can get, the better the performance you can expect to get out of the cartridge. The other side of that here is that the longer the barrel is, the less compact your AK pistol will be overall.
Since I’ll not be concealed carrying them, I tend to err on the side of longer barrels for my top picks in AK pistols, but I can certainly understand the argument for going for shorter ones. Also, shorter barrels make much better fireballs.
Finally, the ability to mount optics can be a little tricky in AKs of all sizes. Generally, you’ll find one of two things on your AK these days. Either the side of the receiver will have a bracket for traditional AK style mounting of optics, or the top cover will have Picatinny rail meant to accomplish something akin to what’s common on an AR. Either way, we’d advise making sure that your AK pistol has some easy means of mounting optics, and know that if you go with the receiver mount, you might end up spending a fair bit on brackets and adapters.
Pricing of AK Pistols
- Around $500. For about the $500 mark, you’ll likely be looking at the cheaper end of AK pistols, usually imported and sold under the moniker of “Draco:” some of these are just fine and will do you well, and others might be of dubious quality. Either way, do not expect a ton of bells and whistles at this price range in AK pistols.
- Under $1,000. Around $1,000, and you’ll be getting into recently produced AK pistols with modern furniture and available in several calibers to fit your needs. Some might come with a brace at this price range, though that’s less common these days.
- $1,500-$2,000. At the $2,000 mark, you’ll be able to get the best AK pistols on the market, for example, the Galil ACE, or a clone of an AKS74u with a folding brace. These will likely come from the factory with a brace already attached, and there will be some way to attach optics.
AK pistols, and AKs more broadly, are not the cheapest guns on the US market, but there are options at several budgetary ranges to help you get the AK pistol you want and that will meet your self-defense or fireball spitting needs.
- Springfield, Armory Museum, Russian Assault Rifle AK47 7.62MM
- Vietnam War Wiki, CAR-15
- The High Road, AR vs AK Pistol Ballistics, November 12, 2005
- Ballistic Magazine, Robert Jordan, 300 Blackout vs 308 vs 7.62×39: Which Caliber Is Best for Short Barrels?, April 27, 2020
- Wikipedia, 7.62×54mmR
- Cornell Law School, Legal Information Institute, 18 US Code § 922 – Unlawful acts
March 12, 2023 — Our AK pistol recommendations remain unchanged after a thorough review of this guide. We’ve updated images and links where appropriate.
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