SIDENOTE: You’ll hear me refer to the original and most popularly known AK-47 rifle as the AK, AKM, AK-47, Kalashnikov, Kalash and maybe a few others in this writeup. If you’re relatively unfamiliar with AK rifles or a n00b altogether, please understand that all monikers pay tribute to the original design by Mr. Kalashnikov’s team but the more correct reference would be AKM (“M” for Modernized) as the updated receiver is stamped and wears a slanted muzzle brake. A design addition that came following improvements made to help work around manufacturing difficulties in post WW2 eastern soviet bloc countries.
FROZEN LAKE OF FIRE
A couple of months ago my Dad announced to me that he had put in an order for an American Made AK pattern rifle through one of the distributors he works with. The fact that my true blood America through and through father was even considering an AK of any sort prompted me to check the weather forecast and see if indeed Hell had frozen over. After a little bit of digging I found that I.O. Inc has been in the AK game for around 15 years but in 2008 decided that because of the condition of many crappy imported rifles coupled with the exorbitant prices of Arsenal AKs they should start building their own rifles. A lot of the early interweb-speak I churned up about I.O. Inc (or more specifically International Ordnance/Inter-Ordnance early on) was not positive and the general opinion was that they should leave the AKM building to ex-soviet eastern bloc countries. Fortunately for I.O. and Haus of Guns it’s 2012 and we believe everyone should get a second chance at one time or another. The “Sporter” model, which is the one dad bought built to Polish specs and very similar in appearance to the all wood furniture original AKs, comes in at around $600-ish in retail price point which, for an all American made AKM seems pretty reasonable.
SOME WELCOME FEATURES
Unlike the standard AK battle grip which looks like it’s engineered for the hands of a 5 year old, the I.O. Sporter is a bit thicker and longer and introduces a couple subtle finger grooves. It’s nothing monumental, but for an out-of-the-box feature it’s a welcome addition. The wood on the handguard is well fitted and the butt stock has a nice red color that pays homage to the dark red stocks of old. Matching the rust colored orange-red grip is 2 (YES COUNT THEM, 2!) waffle style polymer magazines that match the same quality in construction and reliability as the rifle itself. I can’t speak to the torturable reliability of these mags as I’ve not run them over or dropped a ten pound sledge in their direction, but first impression is strong and the reliability was perfect.
FIT & FUNCTION
We ran a few hundred rounds of mixed TULA Ammo (both hollow point and FMJ, my old Yugo steel mags have a penchant for hating the HPs) and Herter’s steel cased ammo through the rifle on its inaugural voyage and experienced satisfactory accuracy and perfect reliability in that span. The I.O. website claims a 2″ group on this rifle at 100 yards with the iron sights. We only tested it at 50 yards (the results of which are pictured below), but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that maybe on the PERFECT day with 100% PERFECT conditions, cold bore, a rock solid rest and the right ammo this may be possible. But with the stock trigger, which is long, soft and a bit gritty and not quite up to snuff with the Tapco G2 (my primary beef with the rifle’s function as I’ve become a bit of an AK trigger snob), slant brake I’d be very impressed to see it print 2″ groups at 100 yards with the stock iron sights and trigger as is. Despite this, it’s still far more accurate than your average off the shelf stock wood furniture endowed AK. And further, our test rifle rifle seems to have fully ignored rumors of break-in periods for I.O. rifles
I’ve heard tales of the workmanship and function displayed on these rifles to be rough at times and not up to par for what a Made in the USA AK should look like. Some of these stories are from a reliable source and others have been through the grapevine, so it is what it is. However, this AK proved to be quite the contrary from which you’ll see fully disclosed in the pictures contained herein. All steel on the rifle had a nice “complete” feel to it with no burs, no paint swirls or ugly finish marks of any kind on the metal or the wood. This included the manganese phosphated (fancy way of saying PARKERIZED) finish on all external parts. Overall it had a nice grey carbon hue to it and everything down to the slant muzzle brake, safety, mag release, front sight post and rear sight were very nicely done.
THE FEEL GOOD ENDING
Perhaps you’re sitting on the edge of your seat reading this and you feel a bit like my Dad has for the past several years as I’ve faithfully resounded the chant “AK! AK! AK! AK! AK!” into the crevasses of his ear canals. Without question feelings of betrayal and guilt would bounce against the walls of his cranium… Are AKs really as reliable as people say? They’re really heavy too, right? Oh man, and 7.62x39mm ammo is so cheap! But I can’t really get that whole communist thing out of my mind! DANG YOU STALIN!
I understand, some things are hard to overcome. Sooner or later prejudices have to be removed and there needs to be respect for outstanding design. The Kalashnikov is undoubtedly in my mind one of the best ever. So mate that respect with Made in the USA goodness and you’ve got the I.O. Inc Sporter AKM pattern rifle or in other words, the AK you always dreamed you wouldn’t feel guilty about owning.
I know my Pops is 100% satisfied with his rifle, and being more of a traditionalist than a mall ninja, the all wood furniture Polish-styled Sporter model fits the bill for him. In the end the I.O. Inc AK isn’t the best I’ve ever fired nor is it the most accurate or have the best trigger of a few other stock and some custom AKs, but when it’s all said and done I.O. Inc really does make a great rifle. I’ll shut up now and let the pics and video do the rest of my talking.