AK-47 vs. AK-74: What’s the Difference?

  • Jack Collins

The AK is one of the most iconic guns in the history of the world. If you threw a dart at a globe and found a random person living there, there’s a good chance they’d be able to recognize an AK. However, the AK platform isn’t as monolithic as it might seem at first glance. Let’s take a look at the two most common AK variants, the AK-47 and the AK-74, and explore their differences and similarities.

AK-47 vs. AK-74: What’s the Difference?


Can you tell the difference between these two guns?


To the untrained eye, they might appear to both be AK-47s. However, that’s incorrect. Sure, the rifle on the left is an AK-47 variant (an AK-104 to be exact). But the rifle on the right is an AIMS-74 clone — a type of AK-74.

So, what exactly is the difference between these guns?


The most glaring contrast between the AK-47 and the AK-74 is caliber. The AK-47 was originally designed around the 7.62×39 cartridge, and it still uses this same type of ammunition to this day.

In contrast, the AK-74 is chambered in 5.45×39. The Soviet Union invented this cartridge to give it a caliber similar to NATO’s 5.56×45. The 5.45×39 cartridge is smaller than the 7.62×39, giving it a higher velocity and the ability to shoot flatter. It also has less perceived recoil (even less than 5.56×45). However, the 7.62×39 is a heavier bullet with more mass. That makes it more effective from shorter barrels.

If it helps, think of the difference between 5.45×39 and 7.62×39 as analogous to 5.56×45 vs. 300 Blackout.

Other Differences

One more major difference between the AK-47 and AK-74 is weight. The AK-74 weighs about 7 lbs., while the AK-47 clocks in at about 9 lbs. Here’s one last small difference: the AK-74 was designed with an iconic muzzle break that replaced the standard AK-47’s slanted muzzle break.

Outside of that, there’s not actually much difference between these two rifles. In fact, Mikhail Kalashnikov, who designed both of them, intentionally made both the AK-47 and AK-74 use many of the same parts. The barrels and gas pistons are different, but nearly everything else is exactly the same.

This way, parts were interchangeable between rifles. It also meant that factories didn’t need to significantly re-tool their assembly lines to churn out new weapons. It’s a testament to Kalashnikov’s genius as a designer.

Learn More About AKs at SDI

If you’re enamored with the AK platform like I am, you want to learn everything you can about this legendary weapon. SDI can help you do that, with its new AK introductory course. To learn more about all the others that SDI offers, click here.

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