Coffee or Die Magazine
By Karen Hunter | September 17, 2019
From the sun-baked deserts of North Africa to the tropics of Central America, the venerable AK47 rifle has been used in international conflicts around the world for decades. Few firearms share the name recognition of the AK47, and Mikhail Kalashnikov’s creation has developed a hardcore following since it was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1949.
While the AK can be found in the hands of freedom fighters and terrorists alike, it also has a massive fan base in the civilian world. The challenge for civilians is finding a quality rifle with true AK DNA that enjoys the benefits of modern manufacturing. Century Arms thrives in this niche market. The company has been a go-to resource since they opened in 1961, offering a variety of AK models.
However, one of their most interesting guns was announced earlier this year. The Century Arms VSKA is an AKM-pattern rifle that is entirely made in America.
Century Arms VSKA AK. Photo courtesy of Century Arms Facebook page.
The VSKA (pronounced vis-kuh ) is a new, heavy-duty AK rifle that has been re-engineered from the ground up. Critical components, such as the bolt carrier, front trunnion, and feed ramp, are made using S7 tool steel — that’s the same steel used in jackhammer tips and excavator teeth. S7 tool steel has maximum shock resistance and high compression strength, while retaining toughness.
The team at Century worked hard to ensure that items such as the front trunnion and the machined-from-billet bolt exceeded the durability goals for the project. The VSKA features a carburized, case-hardened bolt. The process results in a lower coefficient of friction in the carburized surface, which reduces the potential for galling and plastic deformation. The VSKA has a very nice chrome-moly 4150 barrel and sports the RAK-1 Enhanced Trigger group for a better-than-expected trigger press. Wrapped up with a manganese-phosphate finish and an eye-catching American Maple wood buttstock and forend, the VSKA looks as good as it runs.
Range time with the VSKA offered a stellar performance — in the world of AKs, this gun is a solid choice. Chambered in the traditional 7.62x39mm, the fit and feel of the gun said Eastern Bloc fighter, but the tolerances and finish elevate the VSKA to a higher level. Following a quick function check, I ran the gun hard. My first impression was that it was true AK but with serious manufacturing effort behind it.
The author found the Century Arms VSKA to be an accurate and rattle-free AK-pattern rifle. Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die.
Unlike most of the AKs I’ve seen come through my classes, the VSKA has very little play or slop in the action. It was made to meet a serious set of standards — as evidenced by Century becoming an ISO 9001:2015 certified manufacturer in July 2018. While most AKs have a distinct rattle to them when they fire, it’s completely absent in the VSKA. The rifle cycled well and ran anything I fed it, which was predominantly steel-cased stock ammo.
Century includes a 30-round Magpul AK magazine with the VSKA, which lightens the gun and adds another layer of reliability, which is something Century prides themselves on. The company claims to have fired 12,000 rounds through several test guns while maintaining SAAMI headspace specifications and experiencing not a single trunnion failure. While part of the AK’s legacy is the notion that they are indestructible, like any other mechanical device, they will have a breaking point. But 12,000 rounds is a lot to fire through a gun and experience no failures.
“The VSKA is the true definition of American ingenuity and technology meeting Soviet bloc dependability and history,” said Adam Ruonala, Century Arms’ national marketing director.
Graphic by Erik Campbell/Coffee or Die. Photo courtesy of Century Arms.
While the VSKA does have the benefits of modern manufacturing, it is still a traditional AK with the standard flash hider, which looks as if someone cut a piece out of the barrel and angled it to the right. AKs have a tendency to rise toward the right, so the simple answer was to cut the end of the barrel to direct the opposing gas force against the rise. It’s a crude yet effective muzzle-control design feature.
Another aspect of AK legend is that they suffer in regards to accuracy. While ARs can be sub-MOA (minute of angle), AKs are known to be “minute of man.” While this may be true for some AK47 models, it is not the case with the VSKA. In my range time, I managed to obtain 1½-inch groups utilizing less expensive steel-cased ammo — more than enough to get the job done.
The one area where I felt Century had an opportunity to make a solid ergonomic improvement was the safety. They incorporate an old-school safety complete with sharp edges that encourage glove use, even for more rough or masculine hands. While not a major demerit, I personally found it too abrasive.
Overall, the VSKA was a lot of fun. There’s just something badass about stepping onto the range with an AK47 and running it hard, just because you can. And the VSKA’s reliability made it that much sweeter. The VSKA is an affordable, solid performing AK that is truly the best of both worlds.
S7 tool steel, no "AK rattle," American maple furniture, made in the U.S. — Century Arms' VSKA is the AK47 we've been waiting for.