Airsoft Basics: What is an AK?
What is an AK?
Put simply, an Airsoft AK is a visually accurate replica of a Kalashnikov pattern Assault Rifle which uses either compressed air or gas to shoot 6mm BBs at Airsoft skirmish safe velocities. Like the real AK, Airsoft AKs are available in various different styles, ranging from authentic Russian AKs with wooden furniture to modern tactical AKs designed to go toe to toe with the latest M4 platforms.
Airsoft AKs are appreciated by skirmishers primarily due to being a mature platform internally, offering a wide range of upgrade parts and customisation options, and because the real AK is so prolific. There are few, if any, combat zones in the world where the AK is not present, and it is also extremely popular amongst US civilian shooters for competition and tactical training.
With so many Airsoft AKs on the market and the wide variety of internal systems, it is important that when searching for your dream AK you do so equipped with the knowledge you need to make the right call. With our sights set on this aim, let's get into the different AK Airsoft rifle types and what type of skirmisher would appreciate their unique attributes!
AK Assault Rifle Types
What type of AK suits your playstyle? We can't decide for you, but we can give you some useful intel on what each AK replica does best!
The AK AEG is the most common type of AK Airsoft rifle out there and is a sure choice for new players with a passion for Kalashnikov rifles. AK AEGs are prolific on skirmish sites, perhaps falling behind the M4 slightly in numbers but still being one of the most popular Airsoft platforms in existence.
AK AEGs come in all shapes and sizes, from the super compact AKS-74U to the Machinegun variant, the longboi RPK, and can be had in super slick and modern configurations or classic real wood and steel for those who appreciate the rifle as its designer intended.
AEGs are the perfect tool for a new player to start the sport, and are also commonly used by veteran Airsofters for their wide availability of parts and magazines, their wealth of customisation opportunities and the fact that they look pretty darned awesome however they are dressed up!
AEGs use a gearbox to pull the internal piston back and compress the spring via a powerful electric motor, using a rechargeable battery as a power source. Being powered by a battery means AEGs can fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, with no need to cock the rifle before each shot.
For performance in-game, AEGs are hard to beat, and this is the main reason they still form the bedrock of Airsoft as a sport. AEGs just work, require comparatively little maintenance and are realistic and exciting to operate without overwhelming newer players with advanced features they may see little advantage in using.
GBBR stands for Gas Blow-Back Rifle, and GBBRs are considered a great choice for advanced Airsofters who are looking for more of a challenge, both in-game and in the technical aspects.
Like their AEG counterparts, AK GBBRs follow the external form of the real AK but are closer in dimensions to the real AK thanks to their lack of a gearbox. This means the pistol grip of GBBR AKs is real sized, and a fair bit slimmer than the AEG AK grips. The balance of a GBBR is different as well, being heavier up front and lighter at the rear than an AEG, making the GBBR a closer match to the feel and handling of a real AK rifle.
The prime feature of GBBRs is their realistic functionality and the immersive recoil they provide when fired. The incredibly realistic bolt carrier cycles back, providing a realistic "clank clank clank" sound and shooting a dramatic cloud of excess gas out of the ejection port with each shot.
This is extra special on an AK, as you can see the action operating from the outside, and seeing the charging handle fly back and forth really makes the experience of firing that much more vivid.
Though shooting a GBBR is the most realistic Airsoft experience you can get, it doesn't come without its drawbacks. GBBRs operate just like real rifles and usually are restricted to low capacity magazines, meaning an AK GBBR will have a hard time keeping up with an AK AEG user in the volume of fire they can put out.
Before shooting you need to pull the charging handle back to load the first BB, which makes the AK GBBR perfectly realistic but much more work to run in game, especially when your magazines are 1/20th the capacity of an AK AEG high-cap. If you want to use a GBBR you will have to practice your reloads or prepare to have AEG users run rings around you!
For Milsim skirmishes a GBBR is the best thing to give you the feel of using a real steel AK rifle and is without equal in this area. Though not ideal for new users, a GBBR can be a superb primary skirmishing weapon for an experienced user, though when the ice cold of winter arrives these AKs tend to hibernate in favour of AEGs due to their gas power source being less capable of performing well in the cold.
If you are the type of player who values realism above all else a GBBR would suit you well, though we always advise starting out with an AEG and moving up to a GBBR when you are ready for the extra challenges the platform presents!
Designed as the next evolution of the AEG platform, the Tokyo Marui NGRS AK series is an electrically powered AK with several advanced features built in. Tokyo Marui literally invented the AEG, and are definitely the right people to give us the next generation of electrically powered Airsoft rifles.
The NGRS AK works similarly to an AK AEG, but adds in a moving recoil weight inside the receiver, and has a "stop firing on empty" feature, giving you a dead trigger to let you know when the magazine has run dry just like a real AK. This also prevents you from being caught out with no ammo and dry firing at the enemy as you might well with an AEG if you aren't keeping track!
While not even close to the recoil a GBBR provides, the NGRS system gives a nice bit of feedback with each shot, and also has an EBB system which cycles the mock bolt carrier and charging handle, making an NGRS AK far more fun to shoot than a comparatively lethargic AEG. The NGRS AK bolt carrier is quite big compared to the NGRS M4, and gives an enjoyable "clank" sound with each shot which drowns out the motor noise and makes the NGRS sound far more real than a normal AEG.
With the NGRS system, the bar to entry is high, and NGRS rifles generally cost much more than an AEG and use their own proprietary magazines which are less common than AEG magazines. Pricy though they may be, NGRS AEGs are also known for their superb HOP-up units and awesome accuracy and range, and come with the Tokyo Marui pedigree guaranteeing a lifetime of smooth and flawless function.
Why use an AK?
The popularity of Airsoft AK platforms is almost entirely due to the iconic status of the Kalashnikov rifle and its reputation in both popular culture and world history.
The AK is the one rifle you can show to almost anyone and they will immediately recognise it as the Kalashnikov, the almost timeless, ultra-reliable assault rifle of the Soviet Union, modern Russian Army and an almost never-ending list of other users from across the globe.
The sheer variety of AK Airsoft guns available means that no matter your playstyle or aesthetic leaning, there will be an AK out there to suit your needs. It may not be as easy to chop and change as the M4, but if you want your Airsoft AK to be unique you will have no trouble configuring it as such in the modern age of Airsofting.
AKs have also come a long way when it comes to customisation options, and many AKs now have railed handguards, scope mounts and alternative stocks available, with even more when you count those that use M4 stocks. The AK can absolutely cut it in the modern world, but can also provide something the M4 can't; the brutal and utilitarian feel of steel and wood.
Holding a classic real wood and steel AK gives you a sense of the heft and feel of the real weapon, and offers an option which is simply not available to M4 users with their space-aged polymer and aluminium carbines. Of course, M4s are available in full metal, but like the real M4, these are generally lightweight alloys and don't have the same feel or finish as a steel-bodied AK.
When it comes to in game performance, the AK offers a lot for a design based on one of the earliest assault rifles. The controls are weird when compared to an M4, but they are super simple and easy to use, especially the magazine catch which is centrally positioned to allow for either left or right-handed shooters. Even the full length AK rifles are quite manageable in length and often come with a folding stock to make CQB skirmishing in tight conditions easier.
AK AEGs also use a slider adjustable HOP-up, which is known for being one of the better designs for accuracy and range. Newer AK platforms like the G&G and Arcturus AKs use a new top dead centre style gear adjuster which has great potential for stability and minimising left to right shot deviation.
The magazine capacity of AK AEGs is hard to beat, being able to equip high-capacity magazines with a whopping 600 rounds inside, and that's for the standard length! Bigger magazines are available, including the iconic RPK drum magazine, so if you like laying down some firepower an AK would suit you!
Not to forget, the GBBR and NGRS AKs platforms are well liked by Milsim skirmishers, thanks to their advanced features and availability of real capacity magazines. These AKs are hard to master for a beginner but are a great choice once you have got your eye in for skirmishing and you are seeking a more challenging playstyle.
With a bit more knowledge under your belt you should now know what you need to know to narrow down what kind of AK platform fits you best. If you are ready to start browsing and begin your search for your dream AK, check out the plethora of AK rifles available currently below!