AK Wars – Stamped vs Milled!

Image courtesy TAPCO

Image courtesy TAPCO

There is no more controversial topic in AK Operators community than discussion about “Stamped versus Milled” receivers. Both sides tried to use hundreds of “proofs” and “reasons” to justify to other group, why their solution is superior to other. Let’s quickly try to sort out some main difference between both types. So called “milled” type is basically AK receiver made during machining process out of solid block of metal by use of different milling machines. On the other hand, so called “stamped” Ak receiver is made by use of stamping press, where receivers, literally are stamp out in sheet metal. This is as basic description of manufacturing processes as it gets. Supporters of “milled” version very often appeal to “purists” crowd by falsely stating that first AK was manufactured based on machined receiver. According to them, this is the only “acceptable” way how AK rifles should be built. This argument can’t be farther from the truth. In reality, AK 46 (yes, “46”), was produced as two prototypes: one with a milled receiver (AK-1) and one with a stamped receiver (AK-2). AK-2 was to be an end product while AK-1 was to be used during field testing by the Red Army. Because of these field trials and based on feedback from the testing units, other AK versions were produced. Finally, in 1949 (yes it was 1949), the prototype AK-47 number 2 and number 4 were accepted by the Red Army and their official designations became AK (with fixed stock) and AKS (with under-folding stock). As my friend Bart “Sergei” Norman wrote in one of his articles on this subject “Both the AK-47 number 2 and number 4 had a specific receiver that was deep stamped.

AK Type 1. Picture from Bart "Sergei" Norman

AK Type 1. Picture from Bart “Sergei” Norman

These were called AK type I”. So there you have it, AK type 1 was made on stamped receiver and not machined one, like “milled” supporters and “purists” would like you to believe. Originally AK was designed to be made on stamped receiver; however, at that time the Izhevsk factory that was awarded production of the AK rifles did not have the capacity for a mass production using deep stamping (deep drawing) method. So out of necessity, the AK type II was created based on machined receivers. Now, let’s have a look at some other arguments used in these “Stamped vs Milled” discussions. One of the points used to support “milled” way of thinking is claim that only machined receivers can give durability to survive decades of battlefield abuse. This is another “stretched” argument.

Scout from Russian 45th Regiment (Spetsnaz group). Photo by Михаил Михин

Scout from Russian 45th Regiment (Spetsnaz group). Photo by Михаил Михин

Today you can find in Russian armories “stamped AK’s” made decades ago and they still are used in active service…many of these AK’s have seen intense action in combat zones across the world. When on that subject, majority of Russian AK operators, when asked about it, will tell you that they prefer stamped versions, simply because of the weight increase associated with milled AK’s (fact very often ignored in many of these discussions). But going back to the “durability” claim, theoretically it is true, that milled receiver will last for longer period of time, but nobody can accurately predict how much longer it will be, or how many more rounds milled receiver can withstand than stamped version. As I said above, millions of “stamped” AK rifles were made around the world through decades and they still continue to kick ass on daily basis. Honestly, how much more “durability” we need? Finally, very often people will throw against stamped receivers fact that AK’s manufactured through stamping process, are prone to flexing. Well, this is true, stamped receivers will flex, however, they forgetting to tell us that milled receivers will flex as well. As a matter of fact, flexing on milled receivers was a problem in early production stages and led to yet another changes in design and production process. Now, with all that said, I love both versions: milled and stamped. There is room for all of these in my heart. I don’t understand why so many people are being so easily divided by small differences. At the end of the day all it matters is that our AK rifles will probably outlast us all and they will continue to shoot long time after I will turn into the dust…;-)

Please don’t forget to voice your opinion in our “Stamped vs Milled” voting poll.

-Rob Ski

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15 thoughts on “AK Wars – Stamped vs Milled!

  1. I’m really glad you talked about this, I’m a gun noob, I know pretty much how to take one apart having seen it done but never shot one. I want one for various reasons, the AK-47 was made for uneducated Russians to wield and maintain easily so a nub like me should be able to use it as easily as I do the bolt-action K-98k. It’s reliable and while not as accurate as the design coined by Eugene Stoner it’s a great design and I really like the AKMs with the wood furniture they can really be a pretty family of rifles.

    I’m a noob, but knew about stamped and milled AKs but didn’t know what the pros and cons are with both.

  2. Enjoyed the article. While my AKs are stamped, I don’t feel even slightly dogmatic on the issue. Obviously too much flex isn’t good but neither is too much rigidity. Weight matters to me and that has mildly influenced my decisions when buying, but at some point, I’d like to add a nice SAM7 to the collection. Again, thanks for the article.

    Best,
    KB

  3. This is as much an emotional matter as the better between two religions, sports teams, or Coke and Pepsi. Great guns on either side! Fortunately we don’t wage wars based on our relative opinions in this country.
    Great article!

  4. I like/have both but my #1 choice will always be the Yugo M70AB2 with its 1.6mm stamped receiver, which seems to be the best of both worlds. The vast majority of stamped AK’s have 1.mm thick receivers… does this mean 1.6mm stamped receivers are better or the best? No, of coarse not. 1.mm stamped receivers work just fine and have been in service for decades… BUT (and that’s a big “but) there is just something truly special about a Yugo which seems so much better than other stamped AK’s; one needs to simply pick-up a 1.mm vs a 1.6mm and you will understand…
    The bottom line is that it’s just all personal preference (for the most part) and what each of us likes.
    Thanks for a great read OP.

  5. I just purchased my first AK47 after watching a lot of your videos comparing stamped and milled being put to the torture test and I ended up buying the Century Arms AK63D….One of the reasons I chose this AK was because I started looking for a used AK to be my first but then I watched one of your videos and you said something about making sure to have someone inspect an AK, however I did not know what you meant by that and what does someone look for when buying a AK new or used that is stamped receiver?…..Your answer might help me in the future if I were to buy another AK.

  6. One reason I would prefer a milled over a stamped receiver, is there are no rivets. I have seen some pictures of them being installed improperly in the stamped receiver. That may only be a cosmetic problem, but if the rivet is weaker because of it, I would prefer a milled receiver. The other reason is that the milled looks better than the stamped. However, if the milled has sharp corners instead of rounded corners, that would be a place more apt to tearing. I have notice this type of thing happening on torque converters in some cars. The notches that have sharp corners, like 90 degrees, can split, but if the corners are rounded, it is less likely to tear. If the material on the stamped one is made like a samurai sword, basically laminated, then it should be stronger than a milled one, provided that it is the same material and density. But bending steel weakens it. Milled is not bent. Until I can look at both, I can’t make a call one way or another. For now, it is six of one, half a dozen of the other.

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  8. The only thing I’d mention, as far a very high round count durability, is that on a stamped receiver, the spot welds for the receiver rails tend to loosen as 100.000 rounds or so, goes down the tube, and this obviously can’t happen with a milled receiver. Yes, the stamped gun’s lighter, but the milled gun really is more “durable”, in the long run.

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