It’s a shame that the 7.62×39 cartridge is so under-utilized in the United States. Sure everyone and their brother has an AK-47 sitting in the back of the closet, but (at least for me) the only time it gets taken out is when there’s a foreigner you need to impress with your tear-inducing level of freedom. It’s a fun range toy, but the lack of rail space for optics, the chunky nature of the platform, and the lack of accuracy are all reasons that it doesn’t come with me to the ranch for hunting season. Which is a shame, since the 7.62×39 cartridge is basically perfect for hog hunting. It seems like CMMG has seen this need for a more accurate and modern AK-47, they have responded by introducing their brand new Mk47 rifle.
I know some of you are thinking to yourselves, “didn’t we just see the press release about this gun like 30 minutes ago?” Yup. CMMG graciously offered to send us one of their new Mk47 rifles to review in advance of the official release date, with the understanding that we would keep mum about the gun until the embargo date has passed. Since that timer ran out at midnight this morning, I now get the opportunity to give y’all a full review of a rifle on the very same day that it was first announced to the public. I thought that was kinda cool.
At first glance, the Mk47 looks like just another AR-15 that someone has crammed an AK-47 magazine into. Scratch that — it looks like the unholy result of a night of drunken passion between Michael Kalashnikov and Eugene Stoner. There are a couple manufacturers who have done something similar, from the MGI Hydra to Rock River Arms’ LAR-47, but this is taking the design to a new level. Instead of sticking with the dimensions of the AR-15 platform, CMMG has decided to simply use the concepts from the AR-15 and reproduce them on an AK-47 scale.
Let’s compare, shall we?
Starting with the most obvious place, the lower receiver, we can definitely see some differences with a standard AR-15 lower receiver. The Mk47 is longer, which precludes the ability to swap out the upper for any standard AR-15 size replacements — you’re stuck with the gun you got. The added length allows for the generous opening for the AK-47 magazine (the gun readily accepts polymer, steel, or bakelite options) and also the magazine release mechanism. Instead of a push-button style release, CMMG has gone with a modified paddle release mechanism very similar to that of the original AK-47. It makes removing and inserting magazines a snap, and while it is definitely different from a normal; AR-15 it isn’t too hard to get used to.
Yes, I said that both steel and plastic magazines work. Normally, using a steel magazine in an aluminum based rifle is a huge no-no, since the harder steel will wear away at the aluminum. In this case, though, CMMG has fitted a steel pin (which appears to be replaceable) to take the brunt of that wear and tear. The pin is visible in the above image just behind the takedown pin. So while the magazine support structure is strengthened, it is also replaceable if it breaks. Nifty.
Just behind the magazine release is an enlarged and permanent metal triggerguard, which I really like as opposed to the USGI or Magpul add-on versions.
One thing that is completely absent on the Mk47 is a bolt hold open feature. On the AR-15 the bolt locks open after the last round has been fired in the magazine. The AK-47 design had no such convenience, and neither does the Mk47 (as the AK magazines aren’t designed to support that). It’s a little annoying, especially since thanks to the stiffer recoil spring in the buffer the gun is harder to charge than a standard AR-15. I would have liked to see some sort of hold open feature, but I get the feeling that it would have required proprietary magazines. I prefer to live without if it means I get standard magazines.
While there are definitely some differences, there are a heck of a lot of things that are still 100% compatible with the good ol’ AR-15 rifle. The fire control group, for example, is compatible with the existing AR-15 parts so you can swap it out for whatever trigger system you prefer. The grip is another AR-15 commonality, in this case a Magpul MOE grip. And while the buffer and spring in the gun might be proprietary to the rifle, the buffer tube and stock are definitely compatible with the existing AR-15 aftermarket parts and so can easily be swapped for whatever strikes your fancy. In short, while the receiver itself is definitely unique to this gun all of the user interface parts can be swapped to match the shooter’s preference.
One nifty feature I want to point out is that it seems like the receiver is specifically designed to be idiot proof. Not only are the takedown pins set wider than with normal AR-15 rifles to keep you from using your old receivers on the gun, the channel appears to be smaller as well. Normal AR-15 upper receivers will not fit into the Mk47 receiver at all, which should keep the end users from mix-and-matching their parts if cleaning multiple guns at the same time.
Moving on to the upper receiver, the features and the proportions of the part all remain familiar. There’s a full length top rail for optics, a dust cover for Kevin Brittingham to fuss over in his OCD-esque manner every time you spend more than five seconds on safe without closing it, and a nice shell deflector for keeping the steel cased cartridges from flying into your face while firing. The difference here is the bolt on the inside.
While most manufacturers of AR-15 rifles in 7.62×39 simply enlarge the bolt face to accept the larger case head, CMMG has gone the extra mile to make everything about the bolt and bolt carrier bigger. The bolt has been widened to accept the case head, and they have even increased the thickness of the metal surrounding and supporting the head on the bolt. The bolt’s locking lugs are thicker, and sport curved edges instead of the sharp edges on the 5.56 NATO version to reduce the probability that they will crack or shear off. The bolt carrier itself is larger too, offering a heavier reciprocating mass to mimic the chunky AK-47 action and provide a little more reliability.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is the diameter of the rear section of the bolt. In order to make the bolt fit into the AR-15 sized buffer tube, the rear of the bolt is the same diameter as a standard AR-15 bolt. It’s a similar setup to the Colt 901 rifle, and it works well.
One thing that doesn’t work well is the charging handle. The guys at CMMG included a standard size charging handle, and there’s simply not enough space on the latch to allow me to get the leverage I need to cycle the gun, Thanks to the stiffer spring, more force is needed to move the bolt around. And since there’s no last round hold-open, you’ll be doing that for every magazine change. If the CMMG guys are taking notes: BCM Gunfighter. Look into it.
The rifle uses a standard AR-15 style direct impingement / gas expansion system for the operating system, which is nifty to see but might lead to a heavier cleaning schedule than what we are used to with the AK-47 rifles. The only complaint I had about the gun was that it refused to cycle with the expensive Hornady match grade 7.62×39 ammunition, which is strange because it worked perfectly with the dirt cheap stuff. I have mentioned this to the engineers and they are working on a fix.
Out front, the handguard is a keymod affair with a full length top rail. I’m a big fan of the keymod systems, and I think their handguard works very nicely with the gun. The barrel is a fairly light version (although not as light as Adams Arms’ COR Ultra Lite rifle), and there’s a removable muzzle brake out on the end of the gun to keep some of that recoil out of your shoulder.
On paper, the gun looks great. The chunkier parts might make much of the gun proprietary and not easily swappable with aftermarket offerings, but enough of the gun is standard that it can be tuned to fit the particular shooter. The real question, however, is how it shoots on the range.
I spent a good hour just farting around shooting dirt clods in a short range bay at the range, and I gotta say it was a ton of fun. The gun definitely has more recoil than a 5.56 NATO rifle, but the muzzle brake combined with the in-line design of the barrel and stock mean that there’s less recoil than a standard AK-47 and what’s left is channeled directly into your shoulder. Muzzle rise is minimal, and making quick follow-up shots is easy. Even magazine changes were a snap, thanks to the widened magazine release paddle — I was able to work it with my trigger finger while keeping my hand on the fire controls, something I sorely missed with the normal AK-47 style magazine release.
The only thing I’m really not digging is the trigger. The rifle ships with a normal mil-spec style single stage trigger, and it is terrible. There’s enough stacking that it could honestly be called a two-stage trigger, and the break is about as crisp as my Dad’s mashed potatoes. It was a real let-down compared to the rest of the gun, which feels solid and well-built to me. I think that trigger had some impact on the accuracy of the gun (or at least, my ability to shoot groups with the rifle).
As I said, I was using Hornady ammunition for the groups and the gun wouldn’t reliably cycle. It was short stroking — ejecting the spent case but failing to pick up the next round off the magazine. This happened no matter which mag I was using (steel or plastic) so I think it’s an issue with that specific ammo in the gun. Again, the techs are working on it, and in the meantime the steel cased stuff works great.
Talking about the group specifically, my best of the day was this 1.5 MoA group (shot at 100 yards off a rest). It’s definitely not the tightest group I have ever shot, but considering the tools it’s not that bad at all. James Grant reviewed Arsenal’s SGL-21 (a modern production AK-47 in 7.62×39) and was only able to get 2 MoA groups out of it, so 1.5 is definitely an improvement. I get the feeling that a better trigger and some practice will get those groups down to the much sought after 1 MoA size.
The very first moment I picked this gun up from the FFL, I knew its place in the world: hog gun. Personally I prefer my 300 AAC Blackout firearms for all hunting related purposes, but the prohibitive price of the ammo combined with the spotty availability means investing in that caliber can be a bit of a leap of faith. Using that 7.62×39 caliber cartridge in this gun removes that barrier to entry, and offers a ballistic profile similar (if not superior) to the 300 BLK cartridge. And since the gun uses standard AK-47 magazines, there’s no need to worry about finding proprietary magazines or potential feeding issues.
Ammunition cheap enough that you can throw tons of it downrange without batting an eyelash. Hard-hitting projectiles with deadly terminal ballistics, an 30 of them on tap (more with a drum). Reliability. Easy to use. All it needs is a shorter barrel and you’ve got yourself a real winner, but then we get into the world of the tax stamps and ATF funtimes. That endless supply of cheap ammunition does come with a price, namely a lot of proprietary parts and the inability to change calibers (yet — fingers crossed for 5.45). But as-is, on its own merits, this is a pretty cool piece of kit. A bit expensive, but novelty has its price.
Specifications: CMMG Mk47 “Mutant” AKM
Barrel: 16.1″ Medium profile
Weight: 7.2 lbs
Length: 33.5 Inches (collapsed)
Magazine: Standard AK-47
Ratings (out of five stars):
Accuracy: * * *
Good for an AK, substandard for an AR-15. The trigger has a lot to do with it though, I think. Upgrade the trigger and I’m confident you can get it under 1 MoA.
Ergonomics: * * * *
Caveat: I’m a big guy. But I really like it. It handles well, the stock is adjustable, and the magazine release is well thought out. The only problem is the charging handle, which has too small a latch to get any good leverage on while charging the rifle, and the lack of a bolt hold open.
Ease of Use: * * * * *
Like the best parts of an AR-15 and an AK-47.
Reliability: * * * *
One star off for the issues with Hornady ammunition, but the issue seems isolated to that one brand. Otherwise it works beautifully. I’d like to see a piston version of this rifle in the future, but as-is the gas expansion system isn’t too bad. More dirty than an AK-47, but not as bad as a suppressed 5.56 gun. The above pictures were taken after 200 rounds with no cleaning, by the way.
Customization: * * * *
The barrel, bolt, bolt carrier, and the receivers are all proprietary and unchangeable. Everything else, though, is easily swapped to the version of your choice.
Overall Rating: * * * *
The catch with this gun is that, while it looks like an AR-15, you don’t get all of the associated caliber swapping awesomeness inherent in that platform. You’re pretty much stuck with 7.62×39. But if you’re happy with that caliber, then this is a pretty awesome gun. It runs well, shoots well, and is easy to use. If you’re looking for the perfect hog hunting gun, then look no further. Heck, even for deer hunting this would be pretty sweet. I’m still partial to 300 BLK, but as soon as there’s an SBR version of the Mk47 available I’ll be all over that.
As for the final rating, the gun is just a touch above the average price range for the other AK-47 / AR-15 love children, but offers better features and better looks. RRA wants $1,500 for their LAR-47, but the magazine release is all wonky and the handguard doesn’t strike my fancy. MGI wants $1,300 for their Hydra in 7.62×39, but the accuracy sucks and the system isn’t ideal. CMMG has a better product at a reasonable price, but it still has a few issues like a crappy trigger and a charging handle latch that’s too small to do the job. All replaceable with aftermarket parts, but we judge guns by how they come from the factory and not some idealized possibility. The only gun that really gives this a run for its money is the SIG SAUER 556XI Russian, but it doesn’t have all the features and parts commonality that the CMMG offers. So four stars — above average, but needs work to be perfect.