A few years ago I would have mocked the notion of being an AK guy. I looked down on the Kalash life as nothing but uninformed hype. Less than two years after building one myself, I’ve put thousands and thousands of rounds through a brace of different AKs. I’ve taken dozens of deer, even more pigs, and a big Catalina ram with my home-brewed AK.
With ballistics matching my .30-30 lever rifles, the AK’s enough gun for most of the shots I take here in Hill Country, and dang it, it’s just handy. I’ve come to enjoy the simplicity of the manual of arms and I’ve learned a lot about the engineering of the rifle as a system. After shooting a variety of models, I’ve also gotten a better idea of what I really want — which just happens to be not exactly what I have. Imagine that.
With a better build in mind, I called the guys at Dead Goose Society and asked if they’d make me one of their in-house, fixed-stock AKM-47s. As the pre-election panic buying was in full swing, took DGS about two months to complete the build. It was worth the wait. The rifle was better than I would’ve ever guessed.
DGS started with a choice Romanian AKM Model 63, vintage 1976. This is not a WASR rifle; it’s the model for those guns. The AKM Model 63 rifle isn’t a “sporter” version either, it’s an all-serial-number-matching gun, including the bolt, carrier and barrel trunnions.
The receiver’s grey worn patina and dust cover were slightly polished, but otherwise left alone, maintaining the “battlefield pick-up” look. I’ve done some stock carving and engraving for DGS in the past. They’d sent me a set of reddish-purple original Russian lacquer furniture. I asked if they still had it, and they did.
Not having seen the stock, I was iffy on what it would look like on the grey metal — that I’d also not seen. I told DGS what I was thinking, and let them use their judgment. Their judgment was sound. The receiver’s steely grey is perfect with the purple of the wood.
There’s plenty not to like about an original Russian stock. They’re too short (for me) and there is obviously no adjustment for length of pull or drop at comb. But dear sweet Lord if you’re used to the bare metal of a side-folder (as I am), commie laminate is absolute heaven.
Not only can I actually have some semblance of a cheek/stock weld, but it’s so much more comfortable after long strings than my home build. Gone are the scrapes and bruises from firing a combat load wearing a T-shirt.
There’s also room for engraving and embellishment. I chose to laser engrave a Javelina on one side and a Buffalo on the other. The fore-stock is wide and comfortable to hold, although it also gets warm after long strings. This one has a jack-rabbit engraved on the right side.
There’s no mistaking this for a ComBloc rifle. The rifle looks — it’s weird to say this about an AK — classic. Dark and gleaming, it says “machine” as much as it does “gun.” Yet there’s no mistaking that it is either. Everyone I let handle it– including anti-AR Fudds — love the way it looks. The most frequent comment: “Now this is a real gun”.
Since I asked for the best rifle DGS could make, they included the ALG Enhanced trigger. The ALG trigger kit is worlds away from a stock AK trigger. To make it even better, DGS put a high polish on the underside of the bolt carrier, as well as all of the surfaces of the trigger itself. The result is a single stage trigger with a small amount of pre-travel, followed by zero stacking and a light, crisp break.
This isn’t a trigger that’s “good for an AK.” This is an AK trigger that’s far better than many AR pattern rifles and the better factory bolt action rifles. I’ll be reviewing the CMC AK47 trigger soon; this trigger will be the standard by which I judge it and all other Kalashnikov triggers.
While the manual of arms is the same as my first AK, the Model 63 is so much more fun to shoot. The rifle’s rear sight is cut a bit wider than the stock sight on my original home build; the front sight is sharp, serrated, and dark. I’ll either polish it bright or swap it out with a fiber optic front sight, as it still disappears on a dark target for a snap shot.
The action is spectacular. I don’t know if it’s just that this was built more expertly than I built mine, or that DGS spent the time to carefully fit and polish all the internals. Maybe both. In any case, this rifle is Sean Connery 007 smooth. The bolt literally glides on the rails. With the superior trigger, controlled pairs on 19″ silhouettes all the way out to the 100 yard were a breeze. Mag dumps at 25 were just giggly fun.
This Romy has lived up to the vaunted Kalashnikov reputation for reliability. I put 500 rounds through it the first two days, and another 500 over the rest of the week.
I shot several different brands of FMJ and HP surplus rounds, as well as my own hand loads using PPU brass and soft point rounds, ranging from 123gr to 180gr. I had zero malfunctions of any kind with any round. I used Magpul P-Mags, as well as multiple types of surplus magazines made in several different countries.
I had no issues with loading, feeding or excessive wobble with any mag, including a Croatian-made bolt-hold open magazine. As with all my reviews, I sprayed some RAA gun lube prior to shooting, and never cleaned or lubed the gun again throughout the review process. I did my accuracy testing at the 500 round mark.
The AK has has a rep for being an inaccurate rifle. That’s a shame, since the design itself isn’t inherently inaccurate. I’ve also heard — often from people who should know better — that the problem is the 7.62X39 round itself. It’s poor workmanship, not poor design that led to false assumptions.
For rebuilt de-militarized guns like the WASRs, the case for poor accuracy is based on poorly fitting parts. The Dead Goose Society guns don’t have that problem. Their rifles are built by pressing each rivet by hand, the same with the barrel, and then checking to ensure a tight headspace after firing.
I’ve gone through this with Travis before, and I’ve even watched a major manufacturer come to the DGS shop to watch and learn how he does it. It’s not a secret. It’s just attention to detail and taking the necessary time.
Another factor leading to the bad rep: surplus barrels. In short, they suck. Some are bad due to wear, but many are bad right from the start, thanks to the famous ComBloc attention to detail QC. As in bores not centered in the barrel, which also makes them unsafe to use with a suppressor.
DGS’s rifles are made with brand new 4150v, black nitride 1:9 twist Green Mountain barrels made here in the USA.
The result of all the good materials and good workmanship: an AKM-47 that shoots 2 ¾” five-round groups at 100 yards off of bags with surplus ammo. Not bad, but not great either. Which brings us to round selection. I’ll say it yet again: half of all your accuracy is due to the round.
After a day of careful load development, I built a hunting round that prints 1.5” groups with DGS’s rifle. Open sight, five-rounds groups, off (many) bags, at 100 yards. That’s better than my issued M4s, which were usually not better than 2MOA (and that was with a 4X scope).
Considering the ballistics of the round, that makes this Romanian AKM-47 a legitimate hunting round for deer or pigs out past 300 yards. It’s limited only by the terminal ballistics of the round, not accuracy. Those ballistics, by the way, almost perfectly match a 150gr .30-30 round fired from my Winchester Model 94.
This rifle showed me the huge delta between the quality of my home build compared to the DGS build. Yes, I like the AK I built myself in a garage. It’s got over 10,000 rounds through it and it’s still going strong. That’s awesome, and it highlights the absolute futility of gun control. But as much as I like it, there’s just no comparison to the DGS Romy.
The DGS finish is better (a pretty low bar since I left mine unfinished). The wood-to-metal fit is better, the trunnions are riveted evenly, tightly and without marring the rivets (unlike mine).
There’s a massive difference in the action. I thought mine was smooth after 10,000 rounds. I didn’t know what smooth was. Apparently if the rails are both polished and the rails are welded in correctly, everything just glides in place. (Who knew?)
Once again, I’m reminded that there really is something to be said for leaving it to the professionals.
Specifications: Dead Goose Society AKM-47 Model 63
Receiver: 1.0mm stamped steel, kiln treated
Barrel: 16.25” 4140v Green Mountain, Black Nitride, 1:9 twist, standard LH thread
Stock: Original surplus Russian lacquered wood
Trigger: ALG Enhanced Single Stage (shop polished)
Handle: Surplus Bakelite
Sights: surplus front post, adjustable, surplus rear, elevation adjustable and marked
Length: overall 34.25”
Muzzle device: Surplus slant
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * * *
This gun has soul. Every person I handed it to admired it as a physical thing, if not a weapon. Even people who don’t like guns. There’s just something about that hard fought finish. It’s still smooth, machine like, but the wood and patina add a rawness and a realness to it that Cerkakote and plastic just won’t ever bring t0 the table. I dig the engraving.
Reliability * * * * *
This is not my surprised face. Zero problems, any round, any magazine, including the weird bolt hold open Croatian model for a thousand rounds.
Accuracy * * * * and * * * * *
With surplus rounds, this gun hangs with any open sighted military carbine out there. With careful hand-loads, it blows them away.
Overall * * * * *
When I called the Dead Goose Society, I asked them to make me the best AKM-47 they could. I expected good. I didn’t expect this good. I really like my homemade “Khyber Pass” rifle, and it’s got some charm, but this outclasses it in every sense. Now, which one do I leave in the truck?