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AK-47 vs. AK-74: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 12, 2023
The AK-47, developed in 1947, uses 7.62x39mm rounds; the AK-74, introduced in 1974, uses smaller 5.45x39mm rounds, and has different features for improved performance.

Key Differences

The AK-47 and AK-74 are both assault rifles developed in the Soviet Union, gaining recognition for their durability and widespread use in various global conflicts. The AK-47, designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov and introduced in 1947, was admired for its simplicity, reliability, and ease of use under harsh conditions. The AK-74, while also designed by Kalashnikov and entering service in 1974, was developed to address certain deficiencies in the AK-47, integrating advancements in firearm technology and utilizing a different caliber of ammunition.
Fundamentally, the AK-47 was renowned for its significant firepower, provided by the 7.62x39mm cartridge, which is known for its substantial stopping power and effective range. In contrast, the AK-74 uses a smaller, lighter 5.45x39mm cartridge, which provides a higher velocity and is recognized for its flat trajectory and reduced recoil. This notable difference in ammunition type between the AK-47 and AK-74 contributes distinctly to their respective performance, tactical usage, and strategic implications on the battlefield.
In terms of design philosophy, the AK-47 was crafted with the objective of providing a robust, easy-to-manufacture, and straightforward-to-operate weapon for infantry use across varied terrains and combat scenarios. The AK-74, while maintaining the foundational principles of reliability and simplicity, aimed to improve upon the AK-47 by offering superior accuracy, controllability, and logistical ease due to the utilization of a smaller, lighter round, which allows soldiers to carry more ammunition.
A crucial aspect in which the AK-47 and AK-74 diverge is in their global distribution and variant production. The AK-47 has been produced in larger quantities and has seen more widespread use across numerous nations and conflicts, symbolizing the very essence of a universal assault rifle. Meanwhile, the AK-74, though also disseminated broadly, has been somewhat eclipsed by the iconic status of the AK-47, despite its technical and tactical advancements over its predecessor.
In the current global landscape, the AK-47 continues to symbolize revolutionary movements and remains deeply embedded within global cultural and historical narratives. The AK-74, while sharing a lineage with the AK-47, is often seen as a refined, albeit less recognized, iteration of the Kalashnikov series. Both weapons, however, persist as representations of the enduring legacy of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s design principles, influencing contemporary firearm development and military doctrine.

Comparison Chart


Uses 7.62x39mm cartridges.
Uses 5.45x39mm cartridges.

Year of Introduction

Introduced in 1947.
Adopted in 1974.


Widely distributed and recognized globally.
Less widespread than the AK-47.


Extensively used in various global conflicts.
Used mainly by Soviet and successor states.


Symbolic of revolutionary movements.
Less iconic, symbolizes modernization.

AK-47 and AK-74 Definitions


AK-47, standing for "Kalashnikov’s Automatic Rifle Model 1947," reflects its designer and year of introduction.
The AK-47 has become one of the most prolific firearms in the world since its introduction.


The AK-74, developed in the Soviet Union, is recognized for its utilization of the smaller 5.45x39mm cartridge.
The AK-74 was adopted by the Soviet military as a response to experiences in global conflicts.


The AK-47 is a gas-operated, selective-fire rifle developed in the Soviet Union.
The AK-47 has been used in numerous conflicts due to its renowned reliability.


Mikhail Kalashnikov, the developer of the AK-47, also engineered the AK-74, continuing the legacy of rugged, reliable firearms.
The AK-74, while less iconic than the AK-47, represents an evolution of Kalashnikov’s design philosophy.


Famed for its durability, the AK-47 can function effectively in adverse conditions like mud, sand, and water.
Soldiers value the AK-47 for its ability to endure harsh battlefield environments.


Characterized by its lighter weight and improved accuracy over its predecessor, the AK-74 often features a distinctive orange magazine.
Soldiers found the AK-74 to be more manageable due to its reduced weight and recoil.


The AK-47 is renowned for its relatively simple design and ease of use, facilitating its widespread adoption.
Revolutionary groups often utilized the AK-47 due to its straightforward operation and maintenance.


Originally developed to counter adversaries’ small-caliber rounds, the AK-74 was introduced in 1974 by the Soviet Union.
The AK-74 was designed to provide a tactical response to the ballistic advantages of smaller, faster rounds.


Notable for its distinctive curved magazine, the AK-47 is iconic and easily recognizable.
Images of the AK-47 often symbolize armed struggles and resistance movements.


The AK-74 often incorporates a muzzle brake, which is designed to reduce recoil and muzzle rise during firing.
The distinctive muzzle brake of the AK-74 contributes to its improved controllability during rapid fire.


A clip-fed, gas-operated assault rifle of Soviet design having a caliber of 7.62 millimeters and used throughout the world by armed forces and paramilitary organizations.


How do the calibers of the AK-47 and AK-74 compare?

The AK-47 uses 7.62x39mm rounds, whereas the AK-74 uses smaller and faster 5.45x39mm rounds.

Why was the AK-74 developed after the AK-47?

The AK-74 was developed to provide improved range, accuracy, and controllability, addressing some limitations of the AK-47.

What are the visible differences between the AK-47 and AK-74?

Differences include magazine curvature and color, and the AK-74 commonly having a muzzle brake.

Is the AK-47 or the AK-74 considered more accurate?

The AK-74 is often considered more accurate due to its reduced recoil and flatter trajectory.

Are the AK-47 and AK-74 used by specific countries or groups?

Both rifles have been widely used; the AK-47 globally and prolifically, the AK-74 mainly by Soviet and successor states.

Is the AK-74 simply an upgraded AK-47?

While they share design principles, the AK-74 features numerous modifications, including caliber change and design refinements.

Can AK-47 magazines and ammunition be used in an AK-74?

No, due to the different calibers, the magazines and ammunition are not interchangeable between the AK-47 and AK-74.

Can the AK-47 and AK-74 be modified for different roles?

Yes, both can be modified with various attachments and accessories for diversified tactical applications.

What does AK stand for in AK-47 and AK-74?

"AK" stands for "Avtomat Kalashnikova," named after the designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov.

Are there civilian versions of the AK-47 and AK-74?

Yes, civilian versions, often semi-automatic, of both the AK-47 and AK-74 are available in various countries.

How many rounds does a standard AK-47 and AK-74 magazine hold?

Typically, the AK-47 has a 30-round magazine, while the AK-74 can also commonly be found with a 30 or 45-round magazine.

Which firearm, AK-47 or AK-74, is more globally recognized?

The AK-47 is more globally recognized, often symbolizing armed resistance and revolutionary movements.

Have the AK-47 and AK-74 been used in opposition in conflicts?

Yes, notably in conflicts like the Afghan Civil War, where factions utilized different models.

What is a notable tactical advantage of the AK-74 over the AK-47?

The AK-74 typically provides improved control during automatic fire due to its reduced recoil and specific design features.

Which rifle, the AK-47 or AK-74, has seen more widespread use?

The AK-47 has seen more widespread use and is recognized as one of the most used firearms globally.

Are the AK-47 and AK-74 still in production?

Yes, various models and derivatives of both the AK-47 and AK-74 continue to be produced globally.

Why does the AK-74 use a smaller caliber than the AK-47?

The smaller caliber provides greater range and accuracy, with less weight per cartridge, allowing soldiers to carry more ammunition.

How has the AK-47 influenced modern firearm design?

The AK-47’s design, prioritizing reliability and simplicity, has influenced various modern firearm developments.

Which firearm, AK-47 or AK-74, is typically heavier?

The AK-47 is typically heavier due to its larger, heavier ammunition.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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