Suppressing an AK-47 is one of those things that sounds both awesome & straightforward on paper but can be daunting once you start.
U.S.A. -(AmmoLand.com)- Suppressing an AK is one of those things that sounds both awesome and straightforward on paper but can be daunting once you’re in the thick of it. This isn’t to say it’s not worth pursuing or incredibly difficult, but your efforts might be in vain before you even begin if you don’t know a few key aspects of the process.
Thankfully, I’ve already done the legwork and both failed and succeeded so you don’t have to make the same mistakes as me. So with that in mind, buckle up, here are five things you must know before suppressing an AK.
The Goal of Suppressing an AK
Before anything else, it’s important to set a concrete metric for success and establish a realistic goal for tossing a can on your favorite Kalashnikov. If your endgame is simply making your Soviet slayer look as cool as possible, many of these limitations won’t truly hold you back. On the other hand, if you’re looking to make a Hollywood-quiet, mouse-farting-in-a-library-unnoticed-carbine, you’ll likely be very disappointed in the end result.
Because unless you somehow have access to a legit Russian VSS and some military super-heavy subsonic 9x19mm ammo, no commercially available configuration will leave you with anything that even approaches the performance of a suppressed pistol-caliber carbine. That said, a pleasantly quiet Kalashnikov is 100% possible. You’ll just need to consider the following:
No, this isn’t a NASCAR-themed sugary beverage, but a phenomenon nearly all suppressed AKs suffer from. For the uninitiated, the AK-47/AKM uses a long-stroke, piston-driven action to strip a spent casing from the chamber, eject it, and rechamber a fresh round. This means that a long piston, not dissimilar to an engine piston, uses some of the hot expanding gas launching a projectile from the barrel to drive the bolt and carrier rearward. Two parts of the AK’s design that make the system so reliable are the fact that the gun is over-gassed, and that it has an automatic gas regulator in the gas block itself.
By which, I mean a few holes upfront that vents some of the hot expanding gas away from the gas tube inside which the piston resides. This gas is naturally much hotter than the atmospheric temperatures, so when it is released the difference in both pressure and temperature causes the air to essentially rip, and sounds like an explosion. This occurs just a few inches behind the muzzle and can be very loud to both onlookers and the shooter themself.
The bad news is that in a stock suppressed AK, this is unavoidable. The good news is that with an adjustable gas system, the shooter can simply dial the internal pressure levels to a point that the majority of the perceived ‘pop‘ is mitigated. My personal suggestion is the KNS Adjustable Gas Piston. It’s available for several AK configurations and even first-generation Galil ACE rifles and pistols.
A Thread-Pitched Battle
Now that we’ve covered the performance-throttling AK piston, next up to bat is the thread pitch. More than 90% of all threaded barrels in America fall into one of two thread-pitches – 1/2×28 and 5/8×24. The first is the common thread pitch for both stand 5.56mm AR-15 barrels and 9mm barrels of American origins. Yes, there are other pitches out there, but the majority of American-made barrels in either 9mm or 5.56/.223 are threaded to a standard 1/2×28.
For 30-caliber barrels like 300 BLK, .308 Win, and 6.5 Creedmoor, nearly every American barrel uses a 5/8×24 thread pitch.
“OK, what’s your point?” You might be thinking.
My point is that with a few exceptions, all AK barrels are threaded to either 14x1LH for standard AKMs or M24x1.5 RH for both the AK-74 and AK-100 series. This means that a shooter will either have to have their barrel re-threaded to a more common pitch or find a suppressor with either an adaptor (bad idea, tolerance stacking) or find a suppressor that features a mount or muzzle device in these pitches.
The problem with the latter is that the number of suppressors with Soviet thread pitch mounts/muzzle devices can be counted on one hand. So if you’ve already got a favorite suppressor you want to use on your AK, odds are you’ll have to have a smith do some work for you. This has the added negative side effect of preventing your AK from using its old muzzle device or any standard ones going forward. (Unless you hate money, and ask a smith to read-thread every Russian brake/comp in your possession.)
The good news is that companies like Dead Air are building suppressors from the ground up for use on AKs, so the market is growing with each passing day.
I mean this is the literal sense, the bores of AK barrels are occasionally not concentrically rifled. Meaning the hole in the barrel isn’t in the center of the barrel itself. This isn’t a real issue when utilizing a standard compensator or slant muzzle brake found on nearly all AKMs, but given the tighter tolerances and greater length of a suppressor, this can be disastrous. After all, it only takes a single baffle strike to potentially irreparably damage your expensive suppressor – especially if said strike leads to a deflection and the round penetrating a sidewall of your can.
Thankfully, preventing this occurrence is a simple matter of checking bore concentricity prior to firing a round through the gun. Shooters can do this in one of two ways. They can either bring it to their gunsmith and have them confirm it, or they can purchase an alignment rod. To use this rod, simply slide it down the barrel flush against the bolt face then visually confirm that the rod is equidistant from all sides of the barrel. To be 100% certain that you’re good to go, install the suppressor and repeat the process. If it doesn’t touch any side of the suppressor when mounted on the rifle, you’re golden.
Limited Ammo Selection
While former com bloc firearms have historically had access to inexpensive-yet-effective ammunition, they have substantially fewer domestically-produced options here in the United States. This is definitely not a coincidence, the abundance of cheap ammo made the production of new ammunition not economically viable.
Normally, this is a non-issue. But if you’re running a suppressed AK, you probably want it to be as quiet as possible. And unfortunately, the two most popular AK calibers, 7.62x39mm, and 5.45x39mm, are anything but subsonic. Meaning that even if you manage to get everything inside your gun perfect in terms of sound reduction, you’ll still hear a supersonic, ‘crack’ as the bullet breaks the sound barrier.
Thankfully a few companies have begun offering subsonic loadings for 7.62x39mm, and even Silver Bear is offering more affordable subsonic ammo. Though “more affordable” is very relative. Since subsonic loadings are still roughly triple the cost of standard velocity steel-cased ammunition at the time of this article. This will obviously change if suppressing the round becomes more popular. But the good news is that even at this increased price point, subsonic 7.62x39mm is still much cheaper than nearly every subsonic 300blk loading available currently.
Is Suppressing an AK Worth it?
If you’re comfortable with the fact that short of a custom-built VSS, your AK will never be the quietest host in the world, then yes. Few guns have access to as reliable magazines and relatively inexpensive ammunition that still hits hard enough out of short barrels to make an effective hunting or self-defense weapon. Not to mention the fact that these are among the most reliable firearms ever built. Sure, they’re a little rough around the edges compared to Western favorites like the AR-15, but the AK makes a serviceable suppressor host as long as a shooter makes a few concessions. Plus, how freakin’ cool does an AK with a suppressor look?
Parts, and Accessories you just saw in this How To:
- KNS Adjustable Gas Piston
- Dead Air Wolverine Silencer
- SilencerCo Saker ASR 762 Suppressor
- Trijicon MRO Optic
- RS Regulate AK47/AKM Optic Mount System
- Brown Bear Subsonic 7.62x39mm Ammunition
- SilencerCo ASR Flash Hider
About Jim Grant
Jim is a freelance writer, editor, and videographer for dozens of publications who loves anything and everything guns. While partial to modern military firearms and their civilian counterparts, he holds a special place in his heart for the greatest battle implement ever devised and other WW2 rifles. When he’s not reviewing guns or shooting for fun and competition, Jim can be found hiking and hunting with his wife Kimberly, and their dog Peanut in the South Carolina low country.