After more than half a century of duty, Kalashnikov has become Russian for resilience. Mud, neglect, un-mechanized peasants—there is little that slows down the iconic battle rifles and even less that stops them.
There is no free lunch, however. And the rock-solid reliability of this family of rifles comes at a cost. In the Kalashnikov’s case, it’s the firearm's tolerances. To put it mildly, they’re loose.
This is more than notable in this beautifully shot video by Vickers Tactical. It’s hard not to notice the flex in the Arsenal AK-74 after each round Larry Vickers throws down range. It almost seems like each time the rifle is fired it is ready to vibrate into a pile of stamped metal and wood.
Of course, it never does. The long-stroke piston system just keeps chewing through the ammo and asking for more.
Another interesting point brought out through the slow-motion footage at the :25 and 1:06 marks is the 5.45x39mm round’s ballistics. If you happen to be a precision shooter, the yaw and tumble is enough to give you a case of the vapors. This is especially true of the first instance in which the bullet can be seen tumbling less than a foot away from the muzzle.
This is a trait that was intentionally engineered into the round with the expectation of greater tissue damage. And it is the main reason why the 5.45x39mm became known as the “Poison Bullet” during the Soviet’s Afghan War.