Centurion AK-47: A Classic Comes Home

Centurion AK-47: A Classic Comes Home
The AK-47 by Centurion: American-built all the way.
Century Arms Centurion AK-47
The AK-47 by Centurion: American-built all the way.

Different from all other AK-47 variants manufactured in other countries, the Centurion is assembled with American-made parts making it  unique in the long list of examples of the most-produced rifle in the history of firearms.

Previous wars have proven that any peasant with no education can learn how to use the AK-47 within an hour and thus, the gun has found a home throughout the world’s revolutions, uprisings, and insurgencies. When Mikhail Kalashnikov designed it in 1947 he was just trying to fill a need for the Russian army.  Often referred to as the Kalash in Russian, this rifle has been picked up by more countries then I can count as a standard military rifle.

The Centurion 39 is chambered for the 7.62X 39 cartridge, which delivers a strong downrange punch and penetrating ability; unlike its rival the 5.56 NATO.  In my opinion, the only reason our military doesn’t use the same cartridge is that pride just won’t let the powers that be admit that this is one hell of a round.

The folks at Century Arms have seen the light by offering a completely American-made rifle where the level of quality can be controlled and production planning can be addressed. The end result is the shooter has a high-quality AK-47 that shoots straight with the dependability of its forerunners. This thing never quits in the field.

In some grades the receivers on AK’s tend to be a bit sloppy to say the least.  Not so with the Centurion 39.  This rifle makes use of a completely machined receiver from an 11-pound block of high-grade 4140 ordnance steel.  This is the heart of the rifle’s quality and the basis for its ability to deliver accuracy down range. With a 16.5-inch barrel with a 1-in-9.5 twist, the rifle stabilizes bullets in the neighborhood of 125 grains very well.

Sights on this rifle are far better than most standard AK-47 systems. This rifle carries a red high-glow bright front sight post and is fully adjustable for elevation to 800 yards, with windage adjustment as well.

With a complete set of Weaver rails on the forend the rifle can be fitted with lights, lasers, broomhandles, or scopes.

The composite stock has an upgraded design that is an inch longer at the butt making a better fit for larger-frame shooters and yet is still fast handling in tight quarters. Century Arms uses a special flash suppressor, the V -shaped Chevron Compensator, that is designed to drive spent gas away from the muzzle, which aids in reducing muzzle jump when firing rapidly.  The controls on the rifle are standard and simple like those on other AK-47 rifles.

Accuracy and Field Testing

Testing the Centurion AK-47
Groups at 100 yards were much tighter with the use of a red-dot sight.

Test firing consisted of using Remington factory loads with a 123-grain full metal jacket bullet. We fired at 100 yards to test for accuracy.

Shooting 100-yard groups of five rounds with the standard open sights from a light bench rest produced a 4.182-inch group.  Not fancy, but with a heavy front-sight blade, keeping everything level and on the money was a bit of a chore.

Later with an Aimpoint Comp M4 mounted on a QRP2 with a spacer and killflash, the groups shrunk to 2.821 inches.  During additional testing the use of the Aimpoint would be very significant regarding raw, on-target, combat-related scores.

The Other Blue Man Group

During a series of test firings I used a new silhouette combat target offered by Birchwood Casey that I call “ Blue Targets” or “Blue Men” and simulated an advance group of 15 riflemen.  The drill consisted of firing 15 rounds, five at each of three targets, then counting the hits.

The first target was at 100 yards, the second at 150, and the third at 200.  Some would say this is a stretch for the AK and iron sights, but I was counting on the fact that these sights were better then the standard designs found on foreign-made rifles and the rifle was built tighter and more accurate. All shots had to be delivered down range within 30 seconds.

As a control, my volunteer shooter had military training and experience firing the M1-Garand at Camp Perry. It didn’t help him much.  The game was on after a three-shot group fired at 100 yards confirmed the sights were adjusted correctly.

My test subject hit with two rounds at 100 yards. One round at 150 yards, and blanked out with a zero at 200 yards.  During a second timed attempt he did a bit better but went way over on the time limit.  The 200-yard target was still blank, indicating that he or the sights were the problem. Since most of his hits were a bit off to the left this indicated some trigger control problems.  While the trigger did tend to creep a bit it has a very solid crisp let off at about six pounds.

Blue Man Targets
Blue man targets from 100 to 200 yards. Better sights are required for longer distances.

My turn: I had an edge because I shot and handled the rifle earlier. I ended up with five kills on the 100-yard blue man, three on the 150-yard target, and zero on the 200-yard target. I could not seem to find the kill zone over those basic sights at 200 yards.

With my failure to hit the 200-yard blue man I decided to lock down my Aimpoint M4s TM.  This is a red-dot battle sight with a sniper screen to reduce glare in a combat environment.  The Aimpoint is not classed as a target variant in sighting equipment. Instead it is a tool that can get on a target quickly and keep you there until the threat has been eliminated.  With the Centurion equipped with Weaver rails I had the Aimpoint up and shooting within several minutes while never leaving my station.

The zero work was fast in that the impact point with a test round at 100 yards was about 8 inches low. With windage dead on, I cranked up the elevation a bit, and then planted the next round dead on the target center.   Now with a magazine loaded with 15 rounds I was back at my timed event against those three targets.

The target at 100 yards took five fast hits, and the 200-yard target showed another five kills. Reloading several times I selected random ranges and found the better target acquisition system to be a very distinct advantage.  However, this is where a real flaw revealed itself.  After firing quite a bit that day I noticed that the upper forward hand guard that retained the red-dot sight rail had become loose and sloppy. This was seriously impacting the sighting system.

ARs of Russion Inspiration
Click the image to read an article about ARs of Russian inspiration.

A possible solution for this is the attachment of a left-side receiver rail that mounts a quick-release scope base directly in line with the top of the rifle’s dust cover.  An example is of this outfit is common on the 54-C Dragunov sniper rifle.  With this addition I believe the Model 39 could shoot tighter groups and extend its range. If I owned this rifle I would have a competent gunsmith install a side rail.

The Centurion Model 39 is a very solid combat and general defense rifle.   In terms of function there were no issues with feeding or ejection, and all controls functioned perfectly. Furniture needs to be addressed for a tighter fit, and when cleaning it I found the bolt stiff when returning it to the receiver. That is the result of a well-machined receiver and bolt assembly.

When aligned correctly, and that means right on the nose, the bolt assembly drops in like the parts in a Swiss watch. Priced under $800 this is a lot of rifle for the money if you have your sights set on an AK-47.


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  1. Accuracy is not much to speak of, then again, the rear sight is still a notch set way too far forward to be useful. The manufacturer should have mounted a peep sight on the rear cover of the receiver. Maybe a good scope and better ammo will help this rifle a bit.


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