Totally American-made, Century’s RAS47 further hones Kalashnikov’s classic design.
If the modern equivalent of the Japanese katana is the AR-15, the AK-47 is a battle-axe. It's not as precise or refined, but it's inarguably effective. This metaphorical chopper originally rose to prominence among American shooters with a combination of its near-mythic reliability and its affordable nature. Most shooters who bought one in the last 30 years did so from a single company: Century Arms.
For decades, the Century Arms business model for Avtomats was to import parts kits from military AKMs, then rebuild them stateside with enough U.S. parts to make them 922r compliant. As these rifles became sparser for political and other reasons, their cost increased along with the end product’s price. The budget-priced WASR rifle of the early 21st century quickly rose to the price of an entry-level AR-15.
In response, Century future-proofed its AK carbine sales by moving all production stateside. Thus, the milled C39 was born. Now, Century has used this experience coupled with decades of AK-construction knowhow to develop and produce a 100-percent American-made AKM rifle — one incorporating desirable features, classic aesthetics and the same unequalled reliability that made the rifle famous more than half a century ago.
Enter the RAS47
The RAS47, or Red Army Standard, is a semi-automatic, long-stroke, piston-driven carbine chambered in the AKM standard 7.62x39mm. It feeds from detachable box-type, staggered column AK-47 magazines ranging in capacity from 5 to 100 rounds. The RAS47 ships with two 30-round polymer AK PMAGs made by Magpul. While the most common types are made from steel stampings, they’re also available in polymer, aluminum and even imitation Bakelite.
The RAS47 represents a clear departure from Century’s initial entry into the all-American avtomat market, the C39. Where the C39 is a modernized milled rifle designed to offer shooters not concerned with traditional aesthetics the next evolution of the AK, the RAS47 instead appeals to traditionalists and pragmatists concerned with weight and modularity.
This is why it’s available in two basic configurations: one with traditional blonde wooden furniture and another donned in Magpul polymer furniture. Aside from the furniture, Century’s newest carbine is a Mil-Spec AK carbine. As such, it accepts standard AKM furniture and accessories. By doing so, it opens itself to a tremendous array of aftermarket parts, allowing shooters to configure the Soviet-inspired rifle to suit their needs.
Like all Mil-Spec AKM carbines, the RAS47 uses post-and-notch iron sights. The front post is adjustable for both windage and elevation, while the rear notch features elevation settings ranging from point blank out to 1,000 meters. While somewhat rudimentary, these sights are all but bomb proof, and surprisingly effective at close to medium range.
Another military-grade feature is the Russian-type side rail. This rail allows shooters to mount optics to the carbine using any standard AKM mount or optic. While the number of mounting options available for the AK is somewhat limited by comparison to the ubiquitous AR-15, there are more than enough choices available to suit virtually every occasion. If you’re scratching your head wondering why anyone would mount optics on such an inaccurate rifle, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.
Tales of AKs producing “minute-of-bad-guy” groups are grossly overstated, though older mil-surp AK builds are often unimpressively accurate. In an attempt to remedy this, Century builds its RAS47 with a 4150 Green Mountain black nitrided barrel. The results are incredible.
In testing, the RAS47 proved more accurate than nearly every AK commercially available. In fact, I was capable of regularly engaging 8-inch steel gong targets out to 300 yards with iron sights. When coupled with a 4x Primary Arms optic with 7.62x39mm BDC reticle, 12-inch targets were successfully hit at nearly 500 yards.
The RAS47’s black nitride barrel is lacking one thing though: a bayonet mount. Functionally unimportant to most shooters, purists may find its absence upsetting. It’s one of only four areas where the RAS47 makes a serious departure from Mil-Spec, and arguably the only one that could be interpreted as a downside.
The other non-Mil-Spec areas include the magazine release latch, the safety lever and the pistol grip. The release latch is slightly longer than usual and about three times as wide. This is a definite step up from Mil-Spec, as it allows shooters to more easily remove magazines from the rifle.
In the same vein of improved ergonomics are the safety selector and the pistol grip. The lever features a small square cut that permits it to double as a bolt hold open when engaged, a must at some ranges that require firearms be placed in this condition. The grip is built from polymer and features molded finger grooves and aggressive checkering for better retention. Shooters not enamored with either of these can swap them with Mil-Spec parts or any AKM-compatible replacements.
The same can also be said of furniture. Whereas, in the past, AK owners were limited to either Mil-Spec options or limited offerings from U.S. makers, the current AK aftermarket furniture business is rapidly catching up to the prolific AR-15.
This is so much so that Magpul, the most prolific accessory maker for the AR-15 family of rifles, now also makes furniture and magazines for the AKM. Century clearly understands that this is a popular upgrade to AK carbines, offering the RAS not only with traditional wood but also black polymer Magpul furniture from the factory.
Accurate, modular and modern, the AKM has truly evolved since its introduction more than half a century ago. Thankfully, during this metamorphosis, the engineers at Century haven’t forgotten what made the AK great: reliability. The RAS47 was fed half a dozen varieties of ammo from as many different magazines and ran without issue. The self-regulating ventilated gas tube and robust long-stroke piston action hungrily devoured everything it was fed. This is a rifle a shooter can count on even in the worst of conditions.
The RAS47 is the result of taking a great design and further honing it to a fine point. It may not have the razor-sharp accuracy of the AR-15, but it more than holds its own. Shooters looking for a solid bug-out rifle, an inexpensive plinker or a dependable ranch rifle won’t be let down by Century’s RAS47. Whether adorned in wood or polymer, the RAS provides an affordable, reliable rifle to the masses, something its progenitor sought to accomplish nearly 70 years ago.
Editor's Note: This article is an excerpt from the May 2016 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.