Best AK Variants: the AIMS-74

  • Jack Collins

At this point, any regular visitor to SDI’s website over the last few months has noticed my deep dive into the AK platform. While my last few posts were fairly technical, this one is going to zoom in on the history and design of a single AK variant: the AIMS-74. If you’re an AK enthusiast like I am, you’ve probably at least heard of this gun before. If not, buckle up as we take a deep dive into possibly my favorite AK of all time: the AIMS-74.

What is the AIMS-74?

Simply put, the AIMS-74 is an AK variant from Romania. It’s based on the AK-74 platform, specifically the Romanian Army’s PM-86. “AIMS-74” is the name that the gun’s manufacturers gave to civilian-legal export versions of the PM-86. While all AIMS-74s were originally made in the same factory in Cugir, Romana, some American companies have built their own AK-74s made with Romanian parts under the AIMS-74 moniker.

Appearance and Unique Features

You can tell an AIMS-74 instantly by looking at it. It has a few features that make it distinct from other AK-74s out there. The most obvious is the “dong” handguard, which isn’t technically a foregrip. The wire-folding stock is another feature that’s unique to a few AK-74s, including the AIMS. It also has a pistol grip made from Bakelite.

One characteristic that’s totally unique to the AIMS-74 — and is very cool — is its upswept charging handle. On every other AK variant, the charging handle protrudes perpendicularly from the bolt carrier. With an AIMS-74, though, the charging handle turns upwards.

This makes it much easier for a right-handed shooter to load, since they need to reach over the top of the gun to grab the charging handle. It also leaves more room for the gun’s wire stock to fold up against the receiver.

AIMS-74 Barrels and Front Sight Blocks

The AIMS-74 isn’t perfect, though. Its shortcoming falls on its barrel. While these guns are definitely “AK accurate,” their barrels have an external diameter of 22mm. This is 2mm less than literally every other AK-74 in the entire world, all of which have 24mm diameter barrels.

This is a huge problem if you ever want to replace your front sight block or muzzle device. Tracking down one of these 22mm front sight blocks or muzzle devices is a doozy, and these parts regularly fetch hundreds of dollars online.

It’s also an issue for nearly everyone who’s trying to make a clone-correct AIMS-74 (like yours truly). Because the majority of affordable Romanian AK-74s on the market these days were imported back during the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, the threading on their front sight blocks were welded to prevent them from accepting a muzzle device.

If you want to get a clone-correct muzzle device, you need to get a new front sight block. If you have one of these, hit me up — I’ve been hunting for one for nearly two years.


I mentioned before that the AIMS-74 is an AK-74, not an AK-47/AKM. The biggest difference between these two platforms is the kind of cartridge they shoot.

The AK-74 is chambered in 5.45×39 instead of the better-known 7.62×39. These two cartridges excel in two very different scenarios, sort of like the 5.56×45 and .300 Blackout. The 5.45 cartridge has higher velocity but is a lighter bullet than the 7.62. This gives it better penetration and makes it shoot flatter. In contrast, the heavier 7.62 cartridge can impart more force on the target.

Additionally, the 5.45 also gained a reputation during the Russo-Afghan War as a “poison bullet.” This comes from the bullet’s tendency to tumble upon impact with a target, creating a wider wound channel.

Here’s how the two cartridges break down in a head-to-head comparison.





Usual Weight

60 grains

124 grains

Muzzle Velocity

2,622 fps

2,350 fps

Muzzle Energy

1060 lbs/ft

1,520 lbs/ft


AK-74 Magazines and the AIMS-74

The first batches of AK-74s imported into the U.S. were technically AIMS-74s. Although they didn’t have a folding stock, pistol grip, or dong handguard, they were made in Cugir (the same factory that makes AIMS-74s), used the same 22mm barrels, and had an upswept charging handle.

These imports were sold on the civilian market with a single East German Bakelite magazine. These mags are now getting pretty scarce, but you can still find them if you look around. If you can snag a Bakelite mag for your AIMS-74, definitely buy it!

Additionally, Cugir also makes metal magazines for PM-86s and AIMS-74s. If you really want a clone correct AIMS, you need to pick up one of these metal AK-74 magazines.

Learn More About Firearms at SDI

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