AEK-971 vs. AK-12: Which Will the Ministry of Defence Opt For?

PHOTO by Wikimedia Commons / NPO Izhmash / RIA Novosti
AEK-971 (top) and AK-12 (bottom) assault rifles. Both from similar stock, but with different capabilities

Kalashnikov Concern will begin to carry out service tests of the AK-12, according to the company’s marketing director Vladimir Dmitriev. Some blogs have highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of both weapons.

The rifles are products of two different plants, both designed on the famous AK-74, but with some significant differences between them. The AEK is considered more technically advanced, but is therefore more complicated. The unit employs a balancing system that reduces the negative effects of recoil. Thanks to this innovation, the automatic firing accuracy from unstable positions improved by 150-200% compared with the AK-74.

“During my time in the army I had the chance to use the AKM, AKMS, AK-74, AKC-74 and AK-74M. The latter is the most comfortable and familiar for me. But the AEK has made quite an impression. It uses a balanced automatic system. It is 160 grammes heavier than its AK-74M counterpart, but feels lighter, probably due to its ergonomic design: a massive hand-guard and comfortable pistol grip.

The selector is located on the right hand side, so your right thumb can conveniently take off the safety catch and choose the fire mode: ПР- lock, ОД- single, ГР- three-shot burst, AB- automatic fire. Although, in my view, it would be much easier if the selector were placed on the left hand side like on the Makarov Pistol.

To fire in burst mode, pull and hold the trigger. Pulling and releasing sharply prompts 1 or 2 rounds per burst, pulling again releases another 1 or 2 rounds.

The balanced recoil system shifts the mass toward the muzzle of the rifle as the bolt and bolt carrier recoil rearward by way of a counter-weight that reverses the impulse of the gas piston and bolt carrier, resulting in more controllable automatic fire.

We were shooting at a 40x50cm target from 70 metres away, discharging the entire magazine in a continuous burst. All of the bullets hit. The stock is folded to the right and is held by spring. In a folded position it’s easy to chamber the cartridge. It takes less effort to switch the stock from marching into combat mode than on the AKC-74 or AK-74M, but folding is harder.

The AEK-971's muzzle velocity is 880 m/s, compared to the 74M-AK's 900 m/s. The fire sound is noticeably louder, for better or worse.

You can (supposedly) easily attach the GP-25, but we didn’t manage to.

7050507 original
AEK-971 take-out assembly

After we released 1,080 rounds almost continuously, the rifle jammed. Having examined it, we found that a rod acting as a piston was fixed to the rocker through thread and the locking pin, had become loose and popped out during shooting. After it was removed, everything worked without a hitch.

The first sergeant said the machine gun was not for army conscripts. After the test, we wrote a report and pointed out (only few) visible faults. Consequently, the AEK-971 was adopted by the Ministry of Justice.

Later I saw a photo of an AEK-971 on the Internet. Our recommendation to move the selector to the left side had been taken into account, and in fact, I think it was mounted on both sides.”

Experts consider the AK-12 to be simpler to use, but many say it’s just a tuned-up AK-74.

I talked with a designer from Izhevsk. We mentioned the AK-12 and I became a little sad. In a nutshell, there is nothing there to it: just wrapping paper and beautiful parts.

Firstly, it doesn’t work the way it should.

Secondly, there’s no surprise on fire effectiveness. Army weaponry is a very complex issue as well as a costly one. Putting the AK-12 into military service just because it looks cool is an expensive business.

However, the manufacturers claim that the AK-12 is the result of hard work, and does not suffer the shortcomings of its predecessor, the AK-74.

The AK-12 has an elongated receiver cover that is stiffer and hinged on the receiver’s front. When taken apart, the cover swings up and forward. This enables the installation of a telescopic sight and other accessories on the receiver’s cover.

The assault rifle is equipped with several Picatinny rails, set on the lid of the receiver, hand-guard’s top and sides, and gas chamber. The bolt handle can be transposed to the left side (previously it was only on the right side, causing issues for left-handed people). The AK-12 is also more resistant to dust and sand. The test was conducted by LJ-user ONEPAMOP.

Aek 971 with gp 25 03

Government-tested AK-12 assault rifle with “Narodovolets” telescopic sight.

A pleasant shooting experience but the recoil is somewhat troublesome. A four-mode fire selector: safety bolt, automatic fire, single fire and a two-round burst.

Ak 12
A soldier with AK-12

A little lighter, a little more accurate (based on our day’s impressions), coaxial telescopic stock and barrel, stock can be folded to either side, now with a slide stop. You can install domestic grenade launchers or even fire overseas-made grenades (where do I get one?)

The decision is a tight one and it could be that the price will be the decisive factor. Apparently, the more complex AEK will carry a steeper price tag. According to the latest information, it will exceed $750, but would be cheaper should it be produced on a mass scale. The AK-12 will allegedly be in the $150-230 range. It is conceivable that the Ministry will bet on the AK-12 as a standard weapon, whereas AEK-971 will be procured in limited numbers by specialist military units.

Background Info:

AEK-971 main features:
  • Calibre: 5.45mm
  • Barrel length: 420mm
  • Weight (unloaded): 3.3kg
  • Rate of fire: 900 rounds/min
  • Feed system: 30-round magazine

AK-12 main features:
  • Calibre: 5.45mm
  • Barrel length: 415mm
  • Weight (unloaded): 3.2kg
  • Rate of fire: 1,000 rounds/min
  • Feed system: 30-round magazine