Does Russia’s Newest Combat Rifle Kinda Suck?

The AK has a long and interesting history and unfortunately, we’ve seen them in current action in Ukraine in its newest version, the AK12. But does it kind of suck compared to other modern weapons? In his recent video, Brandon Herrera takes a look at how the AK12 stacks up against its namesake and what the Russians could have done better.

Brandon Herrera takes a look at Russia’s newest combat rifle, the AK12. While there are some improvements, overall, Brandon said there are things they definitely could have done better.

Brandon’s channel does a lot on the AK rifle platform and he’s no stranger to them. The AK has been around since 1947 in Russia. In the video, he points out that over the years the furniture and appearance may have changed, but that the heart of the gun had stayed the same. The thought is “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” Well, they wanted to fix it.

The next major version was the AK74 which changed things for the AK. With the AK74 they switched over to shooting 5.45 ammo, around the same time the Americans switched over to 5.56. The major changes were the 90-degree gas block update along with the front sight block with threads to attach the muzzle device. With the AK74 and the 100 series, they tried to standardize things but the changes didn’t stick.

AK Variants
The story of the AK12 goes back to the original AK rifles. There have been updates over the years, including the AK74 and 100 Series, that kept the heart of the rifle the same but with updates to the furniture.

The AK series of rifles needed to evolve and update in order to keep up with the West—enter the AK12 in 2018. Prior to the AK12, there was no way to attach lasers, flashlights, easily mounted optics, or IR to the AK platform. Brandon points out that the earliest visions of the AK12 can be seen in early Call of Duty or Battlefield video games and were pretty sexy. Sadly, real-life AK12s did not have the optic option. He said that you either get an optic or a rail to mount one, but not both.

The AK12 gives a few updates to previous variants. The first update was the folding stock, similar to the stock on the AK74, with a button release. Another update that was found on the AK12 is the dust cover with an integrated rail for optics. The new furniture, like adjustable stock, polymer handguard with rails, gas block combo with sight and muzzle brake helped bring it to a newer look. The one item Brandon says he really likes is the updated flat edge bottom magazine that makes it less awkward to shoot prone and helps keep it pretty level.

Brandon shooting AK12
The AK12 does have some good things going for it, like the updated dustcover with integrated rails for easier mounting of accessories, the combo gas block and sight, and the thread on the muzzle brake.

So what makes the AK12 not so awesome?

Like most reviewers of the video state, the AK12 is outdated even with the updates. One said, “The AK-12 is a perfect example of the military adopting something that has problems which the civilian market has already solved before its adoption.”

AK12 fire control group
One of the issues Brandon has with the AK12 is the fire control group. There is significant resistance present in the middle racking the weapon that requires a decent amount of force to break through it.

Brandon thinks the AK12 is definitely not a perfect rifle. His reasons:

  1. The AK12 has what looks like an AR buffer tube for the stock, with adjustments, etc. But it isn’t. It is not even compatible with other AR accessories. He said it’s remarkably ok.
  2. The fire control group isn’t great. If the hammer is forward, there is significant resistance in the middle part of the gun. If you rack through it, it’ll be fine. But you have to use significantly more force to get through the resistance point.
  3. The selector override switch has major issues. You can override the setting and push it off the gun, meaning it’ll go past its stopping point on the receiver and go down towards the trigger area and can actually block it. This isn’t a hypothetical problem in that there are actual photos from the field with the selector over the trigger area.
  4. The handguard is lackluster. Brandon said it was neat to have the Picatinny rail for mounting things on the rifle. However, it’s made of plastic and free-floating of the barrel with a lot of play. Definitely not ideal for things you want to keep zeroed and it doesn’t take much pressure to move it around.
  5. The gas block combo is great, in theory. The gas plug was designed to be removed to clean the tube. But the tube assembly isn’t meant to be removed from the gun. Given the fact that the rifle is issued with corrosive ammo that requires the rifle to be cleaned, it’s a bit weird that you can’t really access it to clean it properly.
AK12 override selector
Brandon ultimately says that while the updates are good, it’s still not so great. Another issue that isn’t great is the selector switch can override the stopping point on the rifle, leading to the selector switch covering part of the trigger area in some instances.

Brandon goes on to discuss options that the Russians could have done to make the AK12 much better but didn’t. The first option was using Zenitco accessories. Even though Zenitico is a Russian company with loads of accessories like a long handguard so the shooter can hold the rifle further forward, the Russians didn’t adopt their stuff. If you tried to do that hold with the existing handguard, you’ll burn your hand.

The other option is SureShot accessories. Another Russian-based company, Brandon says they have a good dustcover/handrail system and other sturdy furniture for the AK12. Both options allow for optics or lasers holding zero on the rifle, something that doesn’t happen now with the handguard.

Overall, does it suck?

Brandon states that it does not entirely suck. It allows for things that the AK74 doesn’t do as well. But what does suck is that they had every opportunity to make the AK12 something good, and they didn’t. He said it was a good example of progression, but it could have been a lot better.