Book Review: AK47 – The Grim Reaper (Second Edition)

The expanded second edition of Frank Iannamico’s “AK47: The Grim Reaper” is a hefty 1100-page tome which tackles the ambition goal of being a single reference for all things Kalashnikov. Ot begins with a section on Soviet development of the AK rifle starting at the Type 1 and proceeding through the milled-receiver Type 2 and 3, the AKM, the AK-74, and into the modern rifles like the AK-107/8, AEK, and AN-94. Also included are the RPK and RPK-74, the PK, and the Dragunov. Next is a series of chapters covering AK production by other countries in the Warsaw Pact, and then an set of chapter on production by countries outside the Pact. Finally are chapters on the AK in the US (both imports and domestic production), accessories, ammunition, and magazines.

Overall, I think the book is the best single reference book on the AK platform. Its coverage of American Ads in particular is unmatched, and it does a good job of covering the main variations made across the world. I am a bit disappointed by the black and white pictures (the color ID photo profiles at the end are better than nothing, but not what I would prefer). I would also prefer to have a bit denser book, with less white space on every page…but that is getting rather nit-picky.

As good as Iannamico’s book is, the serious AK enthusiast will still want to also have copies of the other two good AK reference books on the market. “The Grim Reaper” cannot match Roodhorst’s “Kalashnikov Encyclopedia” sheer volume of odd variants covered, not does it match (or attempt to match) the technical and developmental information in Ezell’s “Kalashnikov: The Arms And The Man”. Still, I think it is the best rounded of the three and would be my recommendation for the person who only wants one AK book – and at $70, it is pretty economical for over a thousand pages.


  1. [triggered]
    Hmm… English-speakers must be chaos spreaders. It is AK. Also why including number in title if book also cover AK-74? Also reason to include SVD is totally beyond my understanding. These guns are much different and moreover M.T.Kalashnikov and E.F.Dragunov are different entities. Also why there is “Grim Reaper” in title? It is pun intended against HMS Reaper?

  2. Superb review! I may actually get one myself.
    I think Frank I. was wise to take on a specific slice this being the iconic “47”. The rest of family is growing, as we all know exponentially. I do not consider versions with balanced dynamics to be true AKs, but that is my one man’s view. It is a challenge to create great book and what is clear to me is that specialisation is order of the day. You can cover only that much in one volume.

    When comes to my own favored version of Kalashnikov, it would be probably this one
    ..boom, boom, boom! 🙂

  3. I have to respectfully disagree with you regarding the layout of the book. The amount of white space seems just about right. Too little white space makes books and documents hard to read and unpleasant to look at. Too much is, you are correct in noting, a waste of space and resources, but this isn’t too much. The layout here is attractive and reader-friendly.

  4. Adopted for service 29 June 1949. Avtomat Kalashnikova.

    Nonetheless, the first one, e.g. “AK-47 No. 1” appears in Gary Paul Johnston and Thomas B. Nelson’s book, _The World’s Assault Rifles_ with the markings “AK-47 No.1” clearly stamped into the receiver cover?

    Apparently it reposes in a military museum in St. Petersburg? Certainly most sources tend to agree that the final version was *designed* in 1947.
    Maxim Popenker noted–accurately–that there really is little to differentiate any Kalashnikov, including the 5.45mm models–from those first engineered in 1949 apart from various improvements in manufacturing and economy.

    Of course when the AKM with more stamped parts came out in the late 1950s, ol’ German A. Korobov had his Kiraly-type lever-delayed blowback TKB 517 that was cheaper (by 30%!) to build, more accurate, easier to control in full-auto, and lighter in weight… “the best is the enemy of the good?”

    Personally, I really like C.J. Chiver’s _The Gun_.

    • “Nonetheless, the first one, e.g. “AK-47 No. 1” appears in Gary Paul Johnston and Thomas B. Nelson’s book, _The World’s Assault Rifles_ with the markings “AK-47 No.1” clearly stamped into the receiver cover?”
      Designation with dash and digits in this case is name of this particular prototype only.
      There existed also “AK-46”

    • Also please note that this new line of rifles (shown sniper version is its culmination) has brand new architecture. There is a none of sheet-metal we were use to. Instead, the core of receiver is steel back-bone created by pic rail – trunnion integration. The action is running on it as well. The rest is light metal alloy. It may not be as light as some modern ‘plastic’ rifles, but it is probably very strong and durable.

      This design had been influenced by original “small size automatic rifle” designed by Yevgenyi Dragunov. Daweo mentioned it in past discussions.

  5. Anyone know where I can purchase this book for a normal price? Would love to give this to my son on his 18th Birthday.

  6. I know Frank, great guy. I took my 1st edition copy to Afghanistan in 2010. I’ve got pics with Polish and Afghan soldiers with it along with pics of a real Type 1 and many Pakistan “home built” ones that might end up in a possible 3rd edition.

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