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First Evaluation of AK74 at Aberdeen Proving Ground 1982

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  • First Evaluation of AK74 at Aberdeen Proving Ground 1982

    I was a Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director at Aberdeen in September 1982 when I got a call from Col Buck Weaver (US Army Retired) of the Army Material Systems Analysis Activity (AMSAA) which was about 100 yards up from our office "behind the fence".
    Buck started off by telling me he had already talked with my Section Chief Bob Connolly who had cleared him to contact me directly. He went on and told me AMSAA had obtained a rifle and they wanted an accuracy analysis study conducted. He asked if I could come up to his office and he would give me more background as they wanted to meet me. I checked with Connolly and he confirmed the contact/approval.
    I had seen their sign walking past their office numerous times but did not actually know what they did. I pulled this up on their website which seems to say it best, " The US Army Materiel Systems Analysis Activity, known as AMSAA, is an Army Materiel Command organization that conducts a variety of critical analyses to provide state-of-the-art analytical solutions to senior level Army and Department of Defense officials. AMSAA's responsive systems analysis supports the "Equipping" and "Sustaining" of weapons and materiel for our Soldiers in the field as well as our Future Army Force."
    When I arrived he introduced me to a number of personnel and we went to his office. First he gave me a little background of what AMSAA did which was to evaluate a wide variety of material, concepts etc and told me they had just received a Russian AK-74 Rifle for analysis and evaluation. Unfortunately they they only had one that the Military Intelligence folks had recently obtained. He asked me if I would help them by conducting an Accuracy-Dispersion Validation on the weekends. I agreed and asked how they picked me.
    The Aberdeen Proving Ground newspaper had just done a big front page spread on me for my being a member of the 1982 US Palma Team and I had just returned from Canada and Camp Perry National Smallbore Championships where I made the US Dewar Team the week prior to going to Canada with the Palma team. When I returned I got a call from the APG Newspaper and they wanted to do an article on me.

    Buck told me the timing of that article was perfect and he called the Army Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM) and they directed him to the Material Test Direcorate Small Arms and Ammunition Test Branch and ultimately to my Section Chief Bob Connolly. Bob was also a NRA Master Class shooter and he told them I was also the Test Director on the M16A1E1 Rifle Technical Feasibility Test which was developed at the behest of the US Marine Corps Firepower Division, Quantico which I had just that week finished the range portion of the Technical Feasibility Test. He also told him I served as the Accuracy -Dispersion "control shooter" for that project and I had just finished the firing phase for the Marine Corps test and had just started the report writing phase.
    BACKGROUND: Aberdeen Proving Ground tests encompass a large variety of weapons and equipment testing. Our branch tested small arms which is defined as every caliber up to and including 40MM Air Defense guns based on Test Operation Procedures (TOPs) developed many years ago. All testing of similar weapons are tested following those procedures in the same manner so accurate system comparisons can be made even though conducted years apart.
    Part of the TOP rifle protocol called for accuracy-dispersion firing of shoulder fired weapons were to be conducted only by personnel that held a National Rifle Association's Master Rifle Classification in Highpower Rifle or Smallbore Rifle" and I held both of those. In the Marine Corps test there were not enough Master Class NRA shooters on the Proving Ground and TECOM was notified and they notified Marine Corps. Thus the Corps would supply additional NRA Master Class shooters from the Marine Corps Rifle Team at Quantico, Virginia.
    That introduced another problem as there was apparently a requirement that their people could not be on long Term TDY and their plan was to rotate shooters. The Aberdeen analytical section indicated they needed to have at least one shooter conduct all phases of the testing and such would give them a solid base line of data and they could work the numbers and give a good analysis. Thus I also became the "control shooter" and shot the initial dispersion groups for each rifle, all the long range work and the indoor 100 yard testing on each rifle. In excess of 244,000 rounds were expended.
    At the end of one Marine shooter's TDY that shooter would leave and another replaced him and so on. The firing took months to accomplish as we had to test the rifles from 100 yards and 200-800 meters at the beginning and every 1200 rounds until 12,000 rounds were on each barrel.

    Buck said when he read the article in the APG Newspaper he realized he had a extremely rare combination of things that would not only give him quality test data but after talking with Connolly he realized he had the opportunity to get data that would give a direct comparison to the M16A1E1 which had just been adopted as the M16A2. At the same time the M16A1 would be tested again with all shot by the same control shooter on the same range, with the same light conditions, same elevation, same targets, same weather conditions. On many tests over the years it is basically an "apples and oranges" comparison but this time it was going to be apples and apples all picked from the same tree by the same picker so to speak. He said it just didn't get any better. I agreed.
    Buck stressed that he wanted me to test the AK-74 in the exact same way as I did the M16 variants and I assured him that could be done and that I would make sure I had the exact same gun crew supervisor and gun crew to change the targets, the same targets and their dispersions would be measured with the same calibrated steel metric tape exactly as had been done in the previous months fired on the same target board which was still in place on the same range. It was 8X12 feet and completely covered in paper.
    Buck wanted to conduct the testing on the weekend and I concurred since little or no testing on adjacent ranges were likely to interfere. He arranged for me to get the weapon and that came with a nice surprise. The intelligence boys had 55 gal drums of 5.45 genuine Russian arsenal produced ammo, all battlefield pick up just waiting for a rifle.
    Sights: They were very crude and the previous owner(s) had not protected them and the finish was deteriorated to where they were bright and shiny. In shooting iron sights you want the flattest black surface you can get and even better no direct sun light on them. After blackening the sights I fabricated hoods from gun tape for the front and rear sight to give me the best sight picture I could get.
    It did however have a scope mount but alas no scope came with the rifle. I would estimate a good scope on that system could really enhance hit probability at long range (upwards of 1000 Yards)
    Muzzle Brake: The muzzle brake was very interesting in that it is not fitted to be tight and no way to tighten it. Apparently being loose was part of the design and not detrimental to accuracy.
    Position Disclosure: We shot it at night to get familiarized with it and noted the flash signature was for lack of a better description unbelievable. Anyone firing that weapon at night is sure to bring grief on themselves in short order and by today's conditions could probably been seen by personnel in orbit at night.
    Trigger Pull: The trigger pull was typical AK and not a marksman's trigger by any stretch of the imagination and took intense concentration to control it so that the movement could be stopped right before sear off to get the best sight alignment.
    Magazines: Without a doubt the most durable magazine I have ever seen/used. One could probably use them as a weapon alone. The design and construction was superb. The only fault I would say was it is too long and doesn't allow for a low position in prone firing. I saw a demonstration on the military channel where it was being utilized as a monopod and rammed into the ground. It was clearly capable of taking such abuse. Also saw a former Russian operator utilizing one as a push up aid which was impressive.
    Length of Pull: The butt stock was the right length for personnel wearing heavy clothing, body armor or with short necks.
    Case Ejection: It is a reloader's nightmare. I estimate the brass ejection at perhaps 35 feet. It was hitting my spotting scope chipping paint from it and chipped my rear lens. It was ejecting cases out into the marsh area on the side of the range we were on. Anyone having a AK74 civilian version and located brass cases with boxer primers to feed it will find it will get quite costly in a hurry because "the hunt would be on" when they went to retrieve fired cases.
    Barrel: We had no idea of the number of rounds on that barrel before I got it. A visual examination was the best I could do and the barrel appeared to be acceptable with no signs of mistreatment.
    Accuracy-Dispersion: Semi auto firing was commenced after we spent considerable time tweaking the sights to get POA/POI (point of aim/point of impact) at 100 meters and I shot group after group till we were convinced it was zeroed for me.
    As we moved to the next meter line I adjusted the rear sight to coincide with the range markings on the sight. Aberdeen Test Operating Procedures will identify not on group sizes but the relation of the various sight settings at various ranges to determine how close the sights were in relation to the point of aim/point of impact.
    Bottom line is if you have opposition upwards of 800 meters from you and they possess a highly skilled shooter that has a good zero, no wind condition, good lighting and target acquisition and a rifle comparable to the one I fired exposing the upper half of your body will in all probability win you a trip home in a body bag or Purple Heart. I would estimate at 800 Meters utilizing a E silhouette target a good shooter and ideal conditions could expect a first round hit about 1/3rd of the time. If the shooter had optics and a good zero and good conditions I would estimate a first shot hit about 50% of the time.
    Conclusion: There were things I was not impressed with however the dispersion at 800 meters with battlefield pick up ammo was equal to the M16A2 using FN SS109 ball ammo. The SS109 ammo loaded by FN is the most impressive ammo I have yet to fire in a 5.56 M16A2. The Marine Program Manager told me he had the same opinion of that ammo.
    Wound lethality (M16 5.56 ammo) Per Col Martin Fackler MD Army Wound Ballistic Lab testing showed the 5.56 ball ammo has the highest lethality in the first 95 yards. I would not be surprised to learn the Russian ammo would exhibit similar wound capability as the M16 with M855 ammo.
    The best part of this test was the relationship I established with Buck Weaver and his wife. I was invited to their home for Sunday Dinners and holidays as they adopted me and I learned a great deal more about other testing he had done and it was fascinating work.
    We got into a conversation about hit probability with full auto from a magazine fed shoulder fired rifle (not a belt gun) and he told me, "If you ever see a study conducted that indicates full auto fire is more effective than semi auto fire, it was a rigged test." He said AMSAA had conducted many such tests thus he knew exactly what the hit probability was utilizing full auto fire.
    Buck authored three studies of the AK74 in the next eight years. Only one is available on line and reflects the hit probability of the accuracy-dispersion validation I conducted for him.
    Scroll down to page 8, see paragraph 2.1 and 2.3 for the data reference this project.
    Last edited by Hummer; 10-22-2017, 07:32 AM.
    Distinguished Rifleman High Power , Distinguished Rifleman Smallbore Prone, Presidents Hundred (Rifle), Palma Teams Member (2), Dewar Teams Member (2), Member 4 Man National Championship Smallbore AnySight Team, Certified Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director Aberdeen Proving Ground , Eagle Scout, AC4HT, NRA Benefactor Member, Firefighter I, Shriner


  • #2
    Your posts are always amazing! Thanks so much!

    I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


    • #3
      So bottom line: would you buy one? You have forgotten more about these weapons than most of us will ever know. AK47; AK74; AR15; which one gets the nod? Pros and Cons of each?

      It is a very impressive review. Thanks for the post.
      The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

      Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.


      • #4
        Of the many AK varieties I still like the SKS with a good barrel. Shooting 7.62x39mm will get a hit at 100 meters. Trying to shoot a carbine with a light round beyond 200 meters is just crazy. That is what they make sniper rifles and large rounds for. The 5.45 mm, and the 5.56 mm rounds are NOT as good as the 7.62x39mm when hitting leaves, twigs, branches etc..

        When the US went from using a round that will kill, to a round that will wound it started having major problems. The best thing the Army can do now is find a round that will shoot accurate like the 5.56 but has more weight built into it..

        SO say I RICHFL, GySgt USMC Retired


        • #5
          RichFL you have a good point. It is a bit late in the game but I believe a rework of the 5.56 with a 100 gr. 6MM bullet would be viable. I would make the neck of the 5.56 longer to hold the bullet straight in the feed cycle.

          Morgan101, not sure what you are asking. Do you mean what I would take as a survival piece?

          While I have five ARs they would not be my out the door rifle. All mine are target grade and very accurate with nice triggers but not a SHTF candidate IMHO. Why? Limited lethality range. The 5.56 with 55 or 62 grain bullets give much lower terminal ballistic performance after 95 yards. If you are stuck with one better not fall down etc because you are very likely to break it in half. I have broken them in drop testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

          Not impressed with AKs for reasons I stated above and for others have said.

          I believe if you are going to bet your life on it you need to have a rifle that you can be extremely dangerous with to at least 600 yards. In other words one good solid thoracic cavity hit ends their activity.

          With a 30.06 or 308 for that matter if you are zeroed at 300 yards for POA/POI you need only to aim over a target 12" at 400 yards and about 4 to 6" low at 200 and 300 yards.

          The 30.06 is IMHO the best all around cartridge. It has a long neck so it is good for cast bullets. You can load bullets from 110 grains to 220 grains and feed/fire them.

          You can develop cat sneeze loads that are extremely effective and no louder than a 22 that you can hit well with at 100 yards and achieve significant penetration if your velocity at muzzle is about 1125 fps or less.
          Last edited by Hummer; 01-01-2018, 04:11 AM.
          Distinguished Rifleman High Power , Distinguished Rifleman Smallbore Prone, Presidents Hundred (Rifle), Palma Teams Member (2), Dewar Teams Member (2), Member 4 Man National Championship Smallbore AnySight Team, Certified Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director Aberdeen Proving Ground , Eagle Scout, AC4HT, NRA Benefactor Member, Firefighter I, Shriner



          • #6
            Thanks, Hummer. That answers my questions.
            The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

            Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.


            • #7
              Hammer - Are you wanting us to go back to a modified M-1 rifle?

              What is the matter with the M-14 using the 7.62 mm x 51 mm. When I first entered service (A long time ago) my first weapons as the M-14. You knew you were using a true rifle because of the recoil of the rounds. With modern rounds that approach the same as the current 5.56 mm it could be done.

              US Marines who never throw any thing away, brought out of storage their M-14's for use in Afghanistan in 2013. This was because of the power of the round out to 600 meters. It is doing the job. Once again each 4 man fire team has the necessary long range power to reach out and tough someone as needed!!!!

              I believe that a rebuilt M-14 will be come the standard long range rifle for the rest of this decade until the ARMY gets it game together. The US Marines already have gotten rid of the M-4 for the new M-27 modified from the XM-16A4.


              • #8
                Anything that is gas operated can (and will) become a liability. I also have M1As and would not use them either. Also I have M1s. In a bad situation (SHTF) you want the simplest thing you can get hold of you can work on yourself without special tooling to keep it going.

                Think about it, does the member of the fire team carry a spare striker,extractor, extractor springs etc? Ask them to show you how they disassemble a bolt in the field and replace them. I have seen one person in my life that could strip a M1/M14 bolt with bare hands and I went to his funeral two years ago. Do they carry a allen wrench to tighten the front sight if rifle is dropped and sight moves or becomes loose. Middle eastern dust is some very bad stuff and I tell people it will cause a 100 lb anvil to malfunction. If you mistreat a M14 that thin barrel exposed on the front can bend and I have seen bent barrels on them.

                Basically in a bad situation you want to follow the KISS principle so it won't go down and leave you.

                Everything on a 1903 that might fail can be carried in the butt compartment and replaced by the user with one tool which was issued with the M1903 and that was a screwdriver. Most guys carry Leatherman tools and there is your screwdriver.

                The 1903 is the simplest rifle and was designed for continuous rebuilds year after year. The M1/M14 was not.

                That is why the ordnance vans have field test bolts, bridge gages, op rod gages and other gages.

                I was at the Navy Van at Camp Perry once and a guy bought a after market M1 receiver and brought it to the Armorer's van who ran a bridge gage on it and it was beyond rebuild and never had a barrel screwed into it ! ! ! !

                In the commercial side of weapons the only requirement is that you buy it. SAAMI specs are basically guidelines and they have suggestions. For instance they now suggest .016" indent for striker energy. On a rifle I am risking my life with I want it delivering a min of .020" as primers will (before misfiring) start giving erratic ignition causing vertical stringing of shots at long range.

                At the very best a M1A is a wannabee and doctored by a fine mechanic are very accurate for a relatively short period but they will never be in the league with a genuine M14 except for looks. I still have two, had I guess four more. The only thing is M14 parts are interchangeable but that is not the only requirement of a good system.

                The Chief Engineer of M14 was Al Cole (who was a friend) and the chief draftsman for the M14 was Julio Savioli and our desks were about 8 feet apart in the same vault/office we worked in. I know things about the M14 that are not in the M14 books. Can't remember his name (Blake Stevens???) and he came to Picatinny and interviewed people from Springfield Armory and Savvy was one of them. Guy that trained me was another. I sat there and watched the interview.

                Or think about it this way, there are pictures of Ordnance Maintenance trucks available that shows several hundred rifles piled up outside the vans waiting to be worked on. They have to have ordnance maintenance follow the troops to keep the rifles going and this includes the ARs. I have seen lines of folks at Camp Perry 50 yards long behind multiple ordnance trucks getting them worked on during the National Matches.

                A gas gun is going to go down on you sooner or later. I could keep one going in a survival application but don't want to have to carry the tooling to do so. The absolute simplest thing to keep going is a 1903A3 Springfield, followed by a 98 Mauser and probably next a Mosin Nagant. The sights suck big time on Mosins but their reliability is right up there. The COMBLOC ammo will take barrels out quickly. I have seen a SKS with chrome barrel eaten away on the inside and it wasn't from ammo erosion. On a commercial rifle it would be a pre 64 Mod 70 Winchester.

                Ammo acceptance platforms for 7.62 far as I know is still 1903A3 actions. They replace the barrels on them between 15,000 and 18,000 rounds and keep on shooting them. There are probably 03 actions at Lake City with 300,000 rounds on them.

                I know a guy that last I heard had his 12th barrel on the same rifle and never a failure. He was replacing barrels at 5000 to 6000 rounds. (Pre 64 Win). It is also simple to maintain system but then again it was designed to replace the 1903 Springfield.

                I have Mod 70s on their third barrel, never a failure. I have had three failures on Post 64 actions. Broke two cocking cams on strikers and one extractor. I have heard of one extractor failure on a pre 64 but never saw one.

                As well they all launch rounds that will remove you quickly if tagged at 1000 yards.

                Anybody ever hear of more than one barrel being replaced on an AR? They are only required to have a 6000 round life and can be thrown away and the MILSPEC gov't contract receivers are Martin Hard Coated. I am not aware of any after market AR that is except Colt.

                Shotguns can have same problem. How many single shot break downs you ever see that don't work? I have seen pumps and autos go down often. That is precisely why when I saw a brand new New England 12 ga 3" magnum for sale for 100.00 about two months ago I bought it. It is just sitting up getting slowly prepared for SHTF and I have the bore lightly coated with Grease Auto and Artillery. It is also protected with a M16 muzzle cap plug. Next I will put a M16 silent sling on it and have the hardware inbound.

                The good news is the M16 silent sling is probably the best thing to come from that system as they never fail and can be used as replacement material for the M1 cotton slings that only seem to hold up for 40 years.

                To be perfectly clear I used to shoot at Quantico and PI with your people all the time and some of my best friends are Gunny's and Os.

                While at Aberdeen Proving Ground I was told to go to TECOM HQ to conference room to a meeting and told I was being named Test Director for the new M16 variant.

                I went over and walked in and there stood Maj Bruce Wincentsen from the Corps. We both started grinning and we shook hands and he asked me what I was doing there and I told him I was going to be the Test Director and I asked him what he was doing there and he said he was the Project Manager and he had to come Aberdeen to see exactly who was going to run his test and he immediately said he was very happy it was me. See we had been shooting together for years at Quantico, Camp Perry etc and he wanted a shooter running his test and at that time was held two Master Cards with NRA as did Bruce. We still keep in touch.
                At the end of the test I got a message I was getting a Commendation from Commandant for "exceptional performance" for my work I did for the Corps. One other person at Aberdeen (liaison officer) was to get one and neither of us ever did as we transferred, I forgot about mine and he never knew it was coming. I found a DF when I got my 201 file sent to me confirming it I had never seen before. The other guy retired as 06 and we are both figuring somebody was jealous we were getting them and trashed the ones from the Commandant. The 06 has his 201 file and there is nothing in his at all so I sent him a copy of DF I got.
                Last edited by Hummer; 10-22-2017, 09:59 AM.
                Distinguished Rifleman High Power , Distinguished Rifleman Smallbore Prone, Presidents Hundred (Rifle), Palma Teams Member (2), Dewar Teams Member (2), Member 4 Man National Championship Smallbore AnySight Team, Certified Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director Aberdeen Proving Ground , Eagle Scout, AC4HT, NRA Benefactor Member, Firefighter I, Shriner



                • #9
                  Hummer! Please discuss Jeff Cooper's scout rifle concept and how it translates to the modern era? Thanks!

                  I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


                  • #10
                    I met Jeff at the Shot Show in Vegas about 89 and we talked for about 45 minutes.
                    I came very very close to ordering a left hand Ruger Scout in 308 about six weeks ago but I wound up getting a left hand Tikka I have not shot yet.

                    I have at least 5 rifles made up as Scout RIfle, some with longer/heavier barrels. Attached is a el cheapo Scout which I carry when out walking in the morning.

                    This is a Pattern 14 rebarreled to medium heavy barrel with a min dimension 303 chamber. Barrel is 24" , weighs 9.2 lbs and shoots very well. Barrel is stainless steel so I can walk with it in the rain. It has also been bedded with Marinetex.

                    Killed a copphead with it Oct 1st, day before my triple bypass.

                    Bottom line is I love the Scout Rifle Concept for the quick first shot capability and in the right hands is dangerous to 600 yards minimum.

                    Just last night I reworked the lower sling swivel on the above rifle as the one I put in originally turned and was uncomfortable to carry muzzle down on right shoulder. It was a single screw mount and kept reorienting so I pulled off and inletted the stock for a lower sling swivel from a P14 stock I would never use and inletted it. I just went out and used Devcon 2 Ton epoxy to secure one of the two screws as I used the single hole I had put in for the first one and the hole was oversize so I filled hole with Devon and coated the screw good and eased it into oversize hold which I figure should work.

                    I am going to refinish the stock after the Devcon sets up and recoat outside with polyurethane semi gloss as I have carred the above so much and with the heat here in the south the sweat from my wet hands and taken off the finish it had someone else had put on it when the Bubbatized the stock.

                    I have probably carried this rifle about a thousand miles now out walking much to the disappointment of a copperhead and several rattlers.

                    I am toying with the idea of getting this rifle Cerakote coated. I think I have a neighbor that does it.
                    Last edited by Hummer; 07-18-2018, 08:45 AM.
                    Distinguished Rifleman High Power , Distinguished Rifleman Smallbore Prone, Presidents Hundred (Rifle), Palma Teams Member (2), Dewar Teams Member (2), Member 4 Man National Championship Smallbore AnySight Team, Certified Small Arms and Ammunition Test Director Aberdeen Proving Ground , Eagle Scout, AC4HT, NRA Benefactor Member, Firefighter I, Shriner