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American AK Showdown: Century Arms RAS47 vs. DDI AK-47F

by Jim Grant   |  June 17th, 2015 5

One corner of the American arms industry experiencing explosive growth is the civilian Avtomat Kalashnikova market. In the past, companies have either imported hunting variants of AK rifles and modified them stateside or simply purchased foreign AK parts kits and assembled them with enough US-made parts to meet 922r compliance. In both instances, companies sought to recreate semiauto facsimiles of military-issue AK carbines – until recently. With the ever-growing instability of the Eastern European countries that supply these parts and rifles, a few companies have sought stability by building rifles with limited or no reliance on foreign supplies. These companies are effectively building American AKM rifles, and like any good entrepreneur, they aren’t satisfied to simply rest on their laurels.

Two fine examples of these American AKM rifles are the AK-47F from industry newcomer Destructive Devices Industries (DDI) and the RAS47 from long-standing importer Century Arms. While the two rifles share magazines, bolts and most furniture, they represent different approaches to building a better AK.

How can two different rifles be objectively compared to determine the superior make? By ignoring subjective elements such as appearance, and focusing on absolute factors like performance, modularity and cost. To arrive at a solution, these elements are further divided into AK-specific criteria to determine the best atypical American avtomat.

Despite their names, neither of these carbines are AK-47s, and not just because they lack a selector switch. True AK-47 rifles differ substantially from them in the construction of their receivers, which are milled from a solid block of steel. Additionally, AK-47s also utilize different furniture, pistol grip and gas block design.

These two rifles are semiautomatic examples of the Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy, or AKM rifles. Unlike true AK-47s, the receivers on these rifles are built from a flat piece of steel that is bent and heat-treated. This both makes them lighter and increases their tensile strength. The vast majority of AK rifles on the market today are AKM-pattern; this includes WASRs, most Bulgarian Arsenals and Saiga carbines. However, these AKM rifles too are made to slightly different standards, with the Russian Saiga differing slightly from both Bulgarian and Romanian carbines.


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Confusing Soviet nomenclature aside, these rifles function like any other semiautomatic AK rifle, but include some noteworthy features that help separate them from other similar offerings. The most noticeable divergence from their military cousins is the matte nitride finish on the carbines. The Century product sports a black nitride finish, while the DDI rifle features a grey Fennocite finish on the barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, cleaning rod and rear sight and a KG Gun Coat spray finish on the rest of the gun.

The finish is the result of a thermochemical process that diffuses nitrogen and carbon into the surface of ferrous metals at the same time. This produces a two-part outer finish consisting of an iron-nitride shell over a nitrogen-diffused layer. Basically, it’s similar in application to a rust-bluing or parkerizing finish, though with more than triple the durability. The difference in color between the two is a result of the method of nitrogen application and the host metals beneath it. Both add an unparalleled level of corrosion resistance at the expense of a slightly different-colored finish than traditional AKM rifles. This is further exaggerated by the contrast of the furniture of both rifles against said finish. Especially the DDI AK-47F  whose black rubber Hogue furniture and Phoenix Arms polymer stock make its dark gray finish appear very light.

On the other side, the RAS47 ships with handsome blonde wooden handguards, buttstock and the same American-made proprietary finger-grooved polymer pistol grip as Century-imported N-PAP rifles. Though it’s important to note the RAS47 is also available with the new Magpul Zhukov furniture for more tactical-minded shooters.

Differences from mil-spec rifles notwithstanding, the first area any firearm should be evaluated on, is reliability. Without dependable reliability, the rest of the firearm’s performance is meaningless; having a 600-horsepower sports car isn’t very impressive if it won’t turn over.

Since the carbines are of legendary lineage, I suspected that neither would have any issues functioning. To confirm this, I fed the RAS47 and DDI AK-47F 500 rounds of various types of 7.62x39mm ammunition provided by and Century Arms. Neither rifle had any lubrication applied to it aside from what it ships with from the factory. The carbines ate everything without a hiccup, ranging from brass-cased Privi Partizan and ballistic tip Hornady to Tulammo and Red Army Standard steel-cased FMJ rounds. Both lived up to the Kalashnikov name, experiencing no malfunctions.

American AK Showdown Continued After Photo Gallery:

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