by Josh Wayner
Josh reviews the Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal AK74 Rifle once in service with the Polish Army as the 5,45 mm karabinek wz. 1988 (kbk wz. 88).
U.S.A. –-(Ammoland.com)- The Polish Kbk wz. 88 occupies a fascinating place in the development and use of modern military rifles.
It is a successor to the Polish WBP AK47 Rifle or AKM reviewed in my previous article and represented a significant phase in the final days of the Soviet influence over Polish arms development.
The Kbk wz. 88 is commonly called the Tantal in today’s shooting circles. The weapon is unique from other AK rifles in that it’s not a true member of the AK74 family, despite it being of the same caliber. The design is closer to the AKM than the Russian AK74 or Krink-style weapons and has it’s own dedicated features that set it apart.
Chambered in 5.45×39, the rifles were intended to modernize the Polish armed forces with a weapon of domestic design rather than continued dependency on Russian concepts as had been the case for many years.
What is very interesting about the Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal AK74 Rifle is that it is essentially an old world rifle designed and used in the modern era. The weapon was formally adopted as the Soviet Union collapsed, making it one of the last reminders of eastern influences on Polish arms.
The weapons were produced through the 1990s and saw use in several theaters of war including modern conflicts in Syria and Kurdistan. My example from Atlantic Firearms has a triunion that was made in 1993.
The replica weapon from Atlantic is, much like the WBP AKM in my previous article, and about as close to an original Kbk wz. 88 as one can get in the states. The rifle features many original Polish parts and original furniture.
The US made nitride-treated barrel is fitted with an extremely effective muzzle brake. It removes virtually all of the 5.45×39’s already minimal recoil, which makes this rifle a joy to shoot.
The Kbk wz. 88 has a unique handguard arrangement that was designed to interface with an underbarrel grenade launcher. Unlike other AK rifles, the upper and lower handguards, and thus the gas tube, are rigidly linked by a single barrel band. This feature gives the rifle a feeling of solidness that isn’t apparent when handling other AK rifles.
Much like the WBP AKM, the sights, gas block, and barrel pins are all perfectly aligned. I again discovered that this rifle had benefited from Atlantic’s in-house bore sighting and was shooting dead-center with a six-o-clock hold at 100 yards.
The exterior of the rifle is finished in manganese phosphate with a Teflon coating. All rivets are rounded and without deformation or unsightly blemishes.
Using great attention to detail, Atlantic Firearms supplied the Polish Tantal AK74 Rifle with a period correct smooth dust cover and action spring. The bolt carrier is finished in phosphate like the originals. All internal surfaces are smooth and as evenly coated as the exterior. A Tapco trigger compliments the slick action.
The final elements of the rifle are a Bakelite grip and a wire-type folding stock. The stock appears flimsy compared to other options, but it locks up rock-solid and offers quick handling thanks to how minimal it is.
There are several variances between this rifle and the originals. The most obvious difference is in the gun’s safety. The Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal AK74 Rifle has an optics rail mounted on the left side of the rifle. An original Kbk wz. 88 has a barely functional selector lever that was part of the safety on the left side. I have used these in the past but found that it was an odd feature considering how difficult it can be to operate an AK safety with your thumb and forefinger, to begin with. The optics rail is a welcome addition that doesn’t interrupt the historical lines of the weapon.
I was only able to fire a single type of ammunition in this rifle. Hornady was kind enough to supply me with a quantity of their excellent 60gr VMAX Black load. The Hornady variety is probably the best available today.
I recorded the velocity over an Oehler 35p chronograph and came out at an average of 2843fps with an extremely low standard deviation of only 12fps. Despite the low recoil and consistent velocity, the weapon was only able to manage about 4MOA off the bench, however firing it in a 3-Gun style setting brought out its inherently good qualities.
This thing handles like a dream in an action shooting scenario. Since there is virtually no recoil and a fast trigger reset, the rifle is capable of truly amazing split times and, due to the flat 5.45 trajectory, you’re able to pretty much hold right on out to 200 yards and score hits. The weapon had zero reliability issues and fed from both a classic steel magazine and new translucent polymer Polish versions.
The stock is both the saving grace and downfall of the Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal AK74 Rifle. It’s not a traditional stock and a cheekweld is just about impossible to maintain, which has a negative impact on group shooting. It is, however, an exceptional stock for shooting quickly and recovering through what recoil there is. The fact that the stock folds is a plus.
The Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal is a great rifle for your dollar. Grab a sling and a few mags and you’re ready to hit the range or trail right out of the box. 5.45×39 may be a bit hard to get these days, but it is a great round and has many advantages, especially in a rifle like the Atlantic Firearms Polish Tantal AK74 Rifle.
About Josh Wayner:
Josh Wayner has been writing in the gun industry for five years. He is an active competition shooter with 14 medals from Camp Perry. In addition to firearms-related work, Josh enjoys working with animals and researching conservation projects in his home state of Michigan.