AK Accuracy, can it do 500 Yards?

The AK is a solid platform but like all rifles it has limits, what are they truly?

Henry and Josh are back with another practical accuracy video and this time they are taking the AK-103, a modern AKM… which was the modern AK-47.. so much modern.. anyway. They take the AK-103 with standard Russian ball ammo through their 150-500 course of fire.

People are quick to point out that both the 7.62×39 AKs and the M4’s are really, “practically speaking” 300 yard/meter guns and so on and so forth. All of which has merit given context.

C O N T E X T

Yes, both the AK and AR platforms work best as 300m and in rifles. In fact most fighting type rifles, including the lauded ‘Battle Rifle’ category, work best as 300m and in rifles.

Why?

Trajectory.

A trajectory diagram showing bullet flight paths to hit a level target at various distances
Basic Trajectory Diagram via CyberSniper

The majority of rifle rounds in major service weapons travel between 2,400 feet per second and 3,000 feet per second. They vary in their ballistic coefficients and drag characteristics and all the like, but the long and short of it is that inside 300 meters/yards most rifle rounds have a fairly flat trajectory with a 50m/yd or 100m/yd zero.

The round will travel up to the line of sight (the sights or optic), somewhere between 2.5-4″ and then a few inches above the line of sight before coming back down to cross it again around ~200m/yd and be just below the point of aim at 300. Given specific caliber, ammunition, and muzzle velocity you can refine this zero to narrow the deviation to your particular liking, but the point is most rifle calibers can be given an trajectory that is fairly flat between 0-300.

That flat trajectory makes them point of aim point of impact friendly and simplifies what a shooter needs to understand to operate the weapon. Again, most rifles in typical fighting calibers can work with this minor deviation up and down from the line of sight to generate a very useable point of aim/point of impact system.

It’s when we push beyond 300m that more mathematics take over and all the various variances start to become more important in landing hits at distance. Gravity has accelerated the bullet downward for longer, wind has had longer to influence the flight, and the other atmospherics have had longer to really start slowing the bullet’s velocity. We are beyond the ‘easy’ distances because of time of flight and just how much air the round has passed through.

External and Terminal Ballistics

When someone says it’s ‘good to 300m’ they’re usually talking a combination of two things, external ballistics and terminal ballistics. External ballistics are how well the round zips through the air and for how long. Terminal ballistics are what it can do to a target once it gets there.

‘Good 0-300’ generally means that the rifle has both easy external ballistics and good terminal ballistics within that range. The 7.62×39’s external ballistics get more complex past 300 because the round isn’t moving fast to begin with. The short chonk little 120-125gr projectiles aren’t known for ballistic excellence or even greatly for consistency, which is another consideration. Does that mean an AK, or any 7.62×39 rifle can’t do work at 500 yards?

Not at all, it just means you have to understand what you’re doing and what you’re realistically asking the rifle to do. Can I expect a reliable first round hit from the AK at that distance? No. Is that different from most comparable rifles and ammunition at that distance? Also, no. Are there rounds that would be better suited for making that further distance if that was a requirement? Yes.

Can you make it work if this is the system you have?

Yes.

You might not be pulling out first round hits or putting a proud group on the target but for engaging and suppressing someone roughly equivalently armed and trying to do the same to you, you can absolutely make it work. It might take a couple rounds but so does missing because you called the wind wrong, misjudged the distance, or pulled the shot.

We like to over extrapolate data in non-contextualized manners and we naturally let these fill our biases when it comes to liking or disliking rifles, calibers, optics, etc. This manifests as an overt dislike of something due to ascribed flaws that are, at best, out of context and at worst completely false (AK aren’t accurate, the M16 jams all the time) or as an overt like of something given mythical levels of prestige beyond its actual capability (AK’s never jam, the M14 was the greatest battle rifle and we never should have changed) and both are equally false positions. Whether you are on the positive or negative train of out of context information it is usually still just as wrong and just as useless as a data point for forming a well rounded opinion of a particular item.