Slabs and Waffles and Bakes, Oh My! A Brief History of AK Mags

In recent months, a couple of interesting developmental varieties of AK mags have appeared on the market here in the US, and I figure folks might be interested in learning about the history of where and when they came from, and why they were used or not used. So today, we will look at the progression from slabside to ribbed to aluminum to “bakelite” magazines for the AK-47, AKM, AK-74, RPK, and RPK-74. Russian ones, anyway – we will leave magazines form other countries for another day!


  1. A fellow I get my 5.45 magazines from has one of the green border patrol magazines. He was asking as much as a Krebs rifle for it.

  2. It’s funny that the various communist block countries apparently never reached any kind of consensus on the issue of “bolt hold open” magazines, and Kalashnikov didn’t appear to believe in the need to integrate such features into the rifle design in order to take full advantage of BHO magazines.

    • You are right and I tried to find understanding for that phenomenon. One might be simplicity of basic AK rifle and trust to its reliability (if it stops, it is only because out of ammo). To contrary, CZ army had bold hold-open built into theirs. It was true exception – something like white crow.

      • Everything on Russian weapons was always designed to be as simple as possible for reliability and ease of manufacture, plus getting the intended result in the hands of a soldier who might be trained by rote but might not even have a common language with the instructor.

        The PPSh-41 SMG’s 71-round drum magazine was due to its high (average 800 R/M) RoF. Simply put, it could empty its magazine in 5 seconds flat, and not every draftee would be able to collect his wits enough to let up on the trigger before it did.

        The “Pay-Pay-Shay” had exactly two settings; “Safe” and “Overdrive”. So it was given a big enough magazine (inherited from the Finnish Suomi by way of the PPD-40)that the result was a blast of lead like a sawed-off shotgun, making fine aiming largely unnecessary.

        The AK went the other way. Most Western selective-fire weapons have their safety/selectors set up, as “SAFE– SINGLE–AUTO”.

        The AK setup is “SAFE-AUTO-SINGLE”.

        The idea being that under stress, a man will tend to mash the selector all the way to the stop, and then mash the trigger. On a Western arm, that results in him emptying the magazine on full auto right at the start of the party.

        On an AK, it fires one round. Giving him time to collect his wits and start actually aiming.

        It also reduces the chances of accidentally going full-auto when you’re out in a Russian winter trying to operate the rifle while wearing heavy gloves or mittens.

        Everything on a Russian small arm is there for a reason. And when you look at it, the reasons are generally based on common sense.



        • I am also of that belief and have encountered similar sounding opinions. While the West was considering us all as “commies”, we were vastly different cultures. But, at the end Ivan had it his way.

          So much more it was unusual that Czechs and Slovaks had their own take and not just in infantry weapons; vehicles, artillery and rocket systems followed – even airplanes to some degree. But this is now history…. and by the way this month it is 25 years since Soviet Union was dismantled and replaced with short lived Commonwealth of Independent states before Russia was reborn.

          Now we can see that new Russian Federation is adopting many similar solutions in small arms as West does. One of such radical steps is adoption of new full size rifle of modern design based on Dragunov’s action. I appreciate your knowledge you share so freely with rest of us.

          • ” One of such radical steps is adoption of new full size rifle of modern design based on Dragunov’s action.”
            Why radical?

          • Radical in sense of construction/ materials and the fact they went with 7.62x54R. It does not carry over ubiquitous AK signs. You should know better than me.

        • There is also a fact that AK safety is not engaged as shit hits a fan that often. What I learned in Serbian army:
          Condition 1 – Mag out of weapon, chamber empty and safety engaged
          Condition 2 – Mag in the weapon, chamber empty and safety engaged
          Condition 3 – Mag in the weapon, chamber empty and safety on single
          Condition 4 – Mag in the weapon, chamber loaded safety on single
          Condition 5 – Mag in the weapon, chamber loaded safety on auto

          SOP for carrying rifle is C2. If patrolling potentially hostile territory it is condition 3. Condition 4 is main one for using rifle in battle. Condition 5 is for specific situation (suppression, final defensive fire, long range engagements by squad grouped fire at area targets etc.).

          It goes this way as it is considered easier in stress of combat to rack a bolt than to fiddle with safety.

          Also, if you want to switch rifle to auto from safe it is considered SOP to go all the way down to semi, then move selector up to auto.

          • BTW, Yugo AK mags have bolt hold open feature. Ofc, once you remove them bolt will slam forward.
            M64 prototypes (not to be confused what is often called M64, but is actually early production milled receiver M70) had built-in bolt hold open that did not allow bolt to slam forward even if mag was removed.

        • I differ with you on at least one point: the selector on an M16 is so far around it takes extra effort to get to full auto. The semi is the natural position to pop into when in a hurry. Getting to full auto requires me to almost release the grip, and was always a deliberate action. Placing auto as the first position out of safe seems to encourage it’s use, as though it were intended to replace the SMG first and be an aimed fire weapon second. Given several historical accounts of actual field usage ( Is Drang in 1965 for one), that seems to have been the practice as well. Soviet doctrine and the current Russian correlates may agree with your statement of course!

        • “The AK setup is “SAFE-AUTO-SINGLE””
          When introduced automatic mode was considering default, in Наставление по стрелковому делу 7,62-мм автомат Калашникова (АК) you can read that:
          (starting at page 136)
          143. (…) Near or less dangerous targets smite with single fire. More dangerous or farther target, longer burst. Fire until target is destroy or hide.

          144. (…) Appearing targets smite with bursts (single shots), fired rapidly one-after-another [my note: notice what is in brackets]
          145. Group targets with good visible invisible figures pelt by bursts, with changing figure [which is pelt] one-after-another.
          146. Wide target without clearly visible figures or camouflaged target pelt with spraying of bullets(…)
          147. Fire against attacking enemy manpower at distance up to 100m long bursts with spraying of bullets(…)
          148. Spraying of bullets is achieved by angular horizontal movement of avtomat
          Speed of angular movement is determined by distance and required density of fire – no less that 2 bullet at each meter of front of target

          User of avtomat is in this manual called автоматчик

          Notice also that in all development of Soviet avtomat main concerns was mainly effectiveness of AUTO fire not SINGLE, notice for example BARS of AK-107

  3. I’d like to have a AK but I can’t find one for less than $700 with the wood furniture which is the kind I’d want. Great general overview.

    • If Trump cancels Obama’s 2014 executive order that banned Saiga rifles and other Russian imports, then overall AK prices should go down as supplies go up. There’s no guarantee, but it might not hurt to wait and see if anything might change in the upcoming year.

      • Please tell me there will at least be some safeguard against selling AK’s to mentally unstable people (or anyone closely related to such people) prone to shooting kids in schools. Said maniacs give law-abiding gun owners a bad name. I blame the Left Wing for claiming that guns make people evil and the Right Wing for identifying mental illness as a cause while the Right Wing does NOTHING to get mentally ill people less inclined to go out on shooting sprees…

        • The best safeguard against that is called, “straitjackets, padded cells, and Chlorpromazine”.

          I’ve dealt with dangerously mentally unbalanced people on a professional basis (i.e., after they’d committed a crime and I had to collect evidence).

          In just about every case, I learned that their friends and/or relations had warned the authorities that the suspect was behaving in a dangerously irrational manner before the incident. But due to the changes in the laws in the late Seventies, when “mainstreaming the mentally challenged” was the battle cry of “reformers”, there literally was nothing anyone could do. And there still isn’t.

          The “reformers” make no distinction between somebody with an IQ under 80 who is OK to be in a halfway house and work at a menial job under supervision, and a Type IIA Paranoid Schizophrenic (I think they call it something different now) who wants to kill anybody and everybody he sees because he KNOWS they are all trying to kill him- on orders from the Secret Masters Of The Planet Neptune. Or because doing so will make him King of the World. Or whatever.

          Over the years, I’ve dealt with both sorts. The T2A-PS can’t be cured- unless you count frontal lobotomy, which results in a drooling basket case who may turn violent anyway.

          If I had time and space I could tell you a few tales about the old Athens, OH, State Mental Hospital down “across South Bridge”. Suffice it to say that Arkham Asylum in DC Comics would have been considered a relaxing place to work by anybody who ever worked at ASMH.

          The biggest problem law enforcement has always had with psychiatric cases are the psychiatrists. Entirely too many brush off warnings from patient’s Next of Kin with lectures about how the kin should be “valuing their insights into the TRUE nature of reality”, and saying that “they shouldn’t be locked away just for seeing the world through different eyes”. Some even openly admire the delusional for being able to achieve “higher states of consciousness” without the use of “chemical enhancement” (drugs like LSD-25, etc.).

          NB1; Yes, I have had “shrinks” say this to my face.

          By comparison, these same psychiatrists habitually state that all cops and military personnel should be locked up- because anyone who wants to carry a gun for a living is, ipso facto, dangerously crazy.

          I and other sworn personnel used to get this all the time from the psychs the state hired to do our biannual psych reviews. One told the state review board that everyone on the Athens PD was dangerous and should locked up immediately. This was and is more typical of the psychiatric profession than you might think or want to believe.

          Simply put, “modern” psychiatry’s answer to the dangerously insane is… lock up everybody else but do not impede the mentally unbalanced in their “search for enlightenment”.

          NB2; By their standards, everybody on this board from Ian on down to…me… deserves to be locked away for life. Because an interest in “evil guns” is by their definition evidence of…evil.

          Just FYI.

          clear ether


  4. This is apparently a big subject, almost on level of AK rifle itself. I got into it partly in past and was amazed. I appreciate showing ‘some’ of them; there are numerous ones in terms of origin and detail features, as Ian pointed out. Apparently the East German were, without surprise, of the highest manufacturing precision.

    As I recall, during their “friendly visit” Red army used in big numbers brand new plastic magazines and I could not believe how stupid idea it was – it was making soldier visible at distance due to its bright red-brown colour (samples here are well aged and thus bleached by UV light). My first thought was that these were just dummies or for ‘training’; but did not dare to prove it in practice as we faced then head to head.

    Czechoslovakia’s military had well developed all-aluminum magazine which, as I recall from my limited experience (and in ‘peace time’ of cold war tensions), were and probably still are, by wide margin best what I have seen up to so far. When I first encountered 5.556 GI mag I felt temptation to lough – it looked pitiful in comparison. But the, you can say, it lived thru all kinds of wars and invasions since its introduction.

  5. The Czechs never made an AK, so they never made AK magazines. They did make a VZ58, which looks externally similar to an AK, but the only thing between them that interchanges is the ammunition.

  6. Strange that the fiberglass mags were produced in a weird beige or even red colour, was adding a dye too expensive ? Could they not have painted them ?

    • Industrial standards. Everything made of AG-4 polymer was supposed to be that color, from mags, parts of rockets to tank composite armor (yes, closely related composite was used in the glacis armor of the T-64/72/80).

    • They tried adding a black dye at first, but a chemical reaction with it degraded the resin over time, causing it to crack with changes in temperature and humidity. Eventually, they found a dye that was compatible, hence the later “black” plastic magazines.

      The East Germans more sensibly came up with an even tougher resin formula that would not have an adverse reaction with dyes. My guess is they got help from BASF on “the other side of the Wall”.

      On both sides, throughout the Cold War, they were Germans first and everything else second. Which explains the speed with which reunification happened in 1989; the two German governments had been planning it together for over a decade.

      (NB: Yes, U.S. and Russian intelligence knew perfectly well what they were getting up to. Neither side had any interest in sticking its nose in. Some bear traps can do more than just hurt you.)



      • I find that story with dye making problems with plastic to be problematic as AG- is notoriously chemically inert, to the point that seals for dangerous chemicals pipes are made out of it.
        Plum and black Soviet/Russian mags are actually not same type of plastic as orange ones… All are glass reinforced, but plastic is different. And orange ones are colored, AG-4 is yellowish in natural state:

  7. Notice that, together with competitors for new avtomat, sometimes new magazine were created.
    See for example here:
    photo described
    Опытный четырехрядный магазин емкостью 30 патронов к 7,62-мм автомату Константинова 2Б-А-30 (слева); двухрядный стандартный магазин емкостью 30 патронов к 7,62-мм автомату Калашникова АКМ.
    is experimental 4-row magazine for 30 cartridges for 7.62-mm Konstantinov Avtomat 2Б-А-30 compared to default 30 round magazine for AKM

  8. In 1950s there was requirement for developing avtomat-machinegun pair (both firing 7.62×39 cartridge), 2Б-П-40 machine gun developed by Konstantinov can use:
    see here:
    photo described
    Два образца опытных дисковых магазинов емкостью 75 патронов (вид снизу) к 7,62-мм ручному пулемету Константинова 2Б-П-40.
    are 75 round disc magazine (attached under weapon) for that machine gun

    photo described
    Опытные образны секторных магазинов к 7,62-мм ручному пулемету Константинова 2Б-П-40 (вид спереди): слева — двухрядный емкостью 40 патронов; справа — четырехрядный емкостью 75 натронов.
    are experimental magazines: 2-row 40-round and 4-row 75-round

    thus considering chronology it seems that idea of 4-row magazine was inspired by Konstantinov

  9. For more recent magazine for 5.45-mm AK-derived* see 6Л31 magazine for 60 rounds,
    notice that (image 2nd from top, 3rd from left) this magazine has one spring for moving cartridge, common for both columns (drawing from patent RU2158890)
    *it also compatible with Nikonov Avtomat (AN-94)

    • Addendum: 6Л31 magazine was developed by Ю.А.Широбоков, В.Н.Паранин and Н.А.Безбородов from ОАО “Ижмаш” in 1990s

  10. ‘pigment’ vs. ‘dye’

    I keep seeing the word “dye” in posts and I wasn’t sure if people were thinking of the colloquial or the technical meaning of the word, as I would assume that the “bakelite” magazines –unlike transparent plastics– would be colored by pigments and not dyes.

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