Identifying & Collecting the 7.62×39 AK-47/AKM Magazine
Large scale production of Finland’s version of the AK-47, the M62, began at both the Valmet and Sako factories in 1965. The Finnish produced 30-round steel mags are of the First European Ribbed Type, and have a blued finish. While at first glance they may look similar to any number of mags, they have several unique features that make them easy to pick out. First is a folding rectangular steel ring welded to the floorplate. This ring’s purpose has been variously described as a means of securing the mag to the soldier’s web gear or for attaching a lanyard ring; but a Finnish veteran informed me that it is simply to give a soldier something to grab onto when removing it from a magazine pouch. Secondly, they have both a 10-round and a 30-round witness hole in the back. All other European 30-round ribbed mags have just a 30-round witness hole. An examination of the right side of the rear lug will most often show a “T” proof mark, which reportedly comes from the Finnish word “Taisteluväline” or War Material. Much less common are commercial mags marked with an “S” instead – believed to represent either Sako or Sporter.
A unique 15-round steel mag was developed for export sale with the semi-auto 7.62X39mm Valmet M76 rifles. The mag’s body will show only three horizontal ribs on it. The floorplate ring was also left off these mags. The rear of the floorplate is thus left distinctively flat while other European ribbed mags have a round shaped stamping there.
During the early 1990s the Finnish began developing a polymer AK mag for its military. These mags bear a strong resemblance to the Bulgarian Waffle mags in that they have crisscrossing horizontal and vertical ribs on their sides. Likewise; steel front and rear lugs were molded into the body along with thin sheets of metal to strengthen the feed lips. Unlike the Bulgarian Waffle mag, the Finnish Waffle design uses a polymer floorplate.
Finnish Trial Waffle Mags were dark green in color. Shortly after trial production began a polymer loop was molded into the bottom front of the mag and the floorplate was strengthened. When finally adopted, the color was changed to black, and a date code was molded into one side. The few Finnish Black Waffle Mags I have seen were made during the 1994-97 time period. A few of these black mags, made for commercial sale in Europe, were laser engraved “SAKO” on the bottom right side.
Hungarian 30-round mags are all of the First European Ribbed Type. Early mags had a blued finish and will often be found with an “02” and a smiley-faced quarter-moon stamping on the spine. These early mags have a very distinctive bulge in the follower that is flattened at both ends. These early follower bulges also have a noticeable large hole in the front left side. The takedown plate’s button also stands out as it is clearly flattened when viewed through the hole in the floorplate. At some point the finish on all the mag’s components was changed to black enamel.
Few changes will be noted in the Hungarian 30-round mag during its long production span. The first design change was apparently to a follower with a more traditionally oval bulge shape. This was followed by a small “M” in circle inspector stamp on the spine, and a new floorplate with a thinner oval shaped stamping at its front. Large quantities of these late mags will also be found with takedown plates having only a gray phosphate finish, and even with no finish.
Only a few of the late Hungarian AK mags present a challenge to identify. These mags were generally made for commercial sale in the U.S. and are unmarked. An easy way to identify these mags, as well as any Hungarian mag, is to disassemble the mag and look at its keeper. Hungarian AK mag keepers are unique among the European and Egyptian steel mags in that it lacks a spring guide protruding from it.
In 1965, the Hungarians adopted a compact version of the AK called the AMD-65. It was designed for specialized troops and so that a soldier could easily exit an armored vehicles using it. A 20-round AK mag was developed for use with the AMD-65 and featured three vertical ribs and no horizontal ribs on its side. All of the mags that I have seen were finished in a black enamel finish. Changes in markings, follower shape, takedown plate finish, and floorplate stamping followed the 30-round mag.
The Hungarian FEG plant produced a superb 5-round mag with a dedicated body die for its post ban SA 85M rifles. These mags clearly show superior welding and a near flawless flat black baked-on enamel finish. The mag’s body features three vertical ribs, but no horizontal ribs. The inward facing rib at the rear, as on all Hungarian mags, is of the First European Ribbed Type. The followers and floorplates on these are the same as used on late Hungarian 30-round mags. The keeper, with its button showing through the floorplate, has just a gray phosphate finish.
Poland received its license to build the AK-47 in 1956 and probably started production shortly afterwards. The earliest Polish 30-round mags are of the First European Ribbed Type and bear a strong resemblance to the earliest Russian and Bulgarian Ribbed mags. The follower’s bulge, however, more closely resembles that of the earliest Bulgarian mag. Unfortunately, no factory mark will be found on these, and inspector stamps vary more than other manufacturers. Large round inspector stamps, with numbers and letters inside, are often found stamped on the spine of the very earliest mags. I have observed “K1” over “S/59”, “PW” over “3”, “K1” over “1/055”, and even large simple numbers such as a “2” or “4” stamped within these circles. A letter, a number, or a combination (such as “S2” or “S7”) will also often be found stamped on the spine or lower sides of the mag. Later examples are commonly seen with an “11” or “12” in a triangle stamped on the spine. Disassembly of one of these mags will often show inspector stamps on the side of the followers; something not found on either Russian or Bulgarian mags. Polish mags also generally show very small weld marks (or none) on the front lug while the Russian and Bulgarian mags have large/obvious weld marks on the front lug.
Late Polish Mags are of the Second European Ribbed Type, and have a black phosphate finish. They feature new followers with an elongated bulge without hole. A few of the earliest mags of this type will be found with an “11” or “12” in triangle stamped on the spine like the earlier Polish mags.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of these Late Polish Mags are unmarked, and bear a strong resemblance to those from Rumania. Polish mags will have less evident weld marks, show generally more care in construction, and have a follower that differs slightly. The front of the oval bulge on the follower, that cuts inward, is shorter, slants less, and generally is less noticeable than on a Rumanian. The cutout on the floorplate’s rear for clearance of the mag’s spine is also noticeably smaller on a Polish mag.
Poland also manufactured a 30-round black polymer mag; apparently during the late 1990s. The body, follower, and takedown plate were made from polymer while the floorplate remained a steel stamping. The front and rear lugs on the mag were steel embedded within the polymer body. “7.62×39” was molded into the mag’s body on the upper left side. All the mags I have observed had a mold number of “1” or “2” on the lower left side. Unfortunately, cracked feed lips have been a serious problem with these Polish Polymer Mags.
Rumania appears to have started manufacturing AKs around 1963 with its MD63 variant. All Rumanian AK-47/AKM mags, because of the late start in manufacturing, are of the Second European Ribbed Type. Some of the earliest 30-round blued mags will be found with a Cugir factory mark of an “arrowhead with shaft within a triangle” on their spine that’s often confused with Izhmash’s complete feathered arrow in triangle. Most of these early blued mags just have a couple of letters and numbers stamped on the spine and lower side. After a time, the finish was changed to a black phosphate. Then the factory seems to have adopted an “O” stamped distinctively low on the spine’s side as a standard inspector stamp. Many of these “O’ marked mags will also be found with a large “22” stamped on the rear spine.
Rumanian mags show incredibly little change in their construction over their long production history. New dies were clearly made to mimic earlier ones and welding patterns remained consistent. These mags are sometimes derided for their very visible welds and poor finish. These issues are only cosmetic and they function as well, and sometimes better than, steel mags made by any other country.
Rumanian semi-auto AKs imported into the US generally came with either a 5 or 10-round shortened mag. These mags differ in length, although slightly, according to their capacity. Interestingly, the 5-round mags have a witness hole to show when it is fully loaded, but the 10-round mags do not. Unfortunately, they were made simply by cutting down a regular 30-round mag and forming crude lips for the floorplate to slide onto. Because some of the side ribs still remained on these new lips, removing or installing a floorplate generally requires a little effort. They retain the black phosphate finish found on the larger 30-round military mags. An examination of these mags clearly shows that the Rumanian Cugir factory did not take special care when producing mags for the commercial market.
The Chinese started production of the AK-47 in 1956. The earliest Chinese AK-47/Type 56 mag is generally referred to as the “Sino-Soviet Model” by collectors. The body is of the First European Ribbed Type and has a blued floorplate that is very similar to a number of Warsaw Pact types. The biggest difference is the use of a blued stepped-follower instead of the elongated oval bulge pattern follower found on European type mags. The body of the mag carries a black phosphate finish. A check of the bottom rear of the mag will almost always show a “66” in a triangle stamping that represents Factory 626 in the Hei Long Jing Province of China.
The second pattern Chinese mag, the “Spine-Back Transitional,” is a unique design. The mag’s body is similar to the earlier mag but lacks the three short horizontal ribs that wrap around the bottom-back of the mag. The remaining two horizontal ribs along the bottom side of the magazines are much longer than normal and go from almost the very front to the very rear. Like the Sino-Soviet model, the body is phosphated while the follower, floorplate, and keeper are blued. The follower remains the Chinese stepped pattern. All the examples I have examined are unmarked, but its design is so unique that they are easy to pick out.
A third type of Chinese mag was revealed during the Vietnam War that is called the “Chinese Spineless” by collectors. The mags two halves simply interlock, and are then spot welded together – thus eliminating the normal spine. The ribbing pattern stamped into the sides remains the same as the earlier Chinese Spine-Back Transitional. I believe this design is slightly less expensive to make and offers a slight weight savings over previous steel types; both important considerations when you’re planning on making the millions of mags that the Chinese have. Add in that they are actually easier to remove from webbing, grasp, and insert in a rifle, and you have an AK mag that has probably been seen in every post 1970 conflict featuring an AK. These mags, however, are sometimes criticized because it is felt that the lack of a spine running down the back somehow weakens them, but in reality they have proved themselves more than durable. Some of these mags made during the early 1990s, specifically for export to the US, will be found with “Made in China” stamped on the floorplate. Other examples will be found with unique stamped rear lugs instead of the normal milled type.
The Chinese Poly Tech Corporation made special high grade 30-round versions of the Chinese Spineless mag for commercial sale in the US. These “Poly Tech Mags” show superior quality control when it comes to welding and blueing, have “Poly” and “China” stamped on their floorplates, and will have three witness holes in the back to show when 10, 20, and 30 rounds are loaded. At an additional cost they were also available with a chromed follower for easier cleaning and smoother function.
The Chinese continued to seek ways to cut cost while arming its huge and expanding military forces. Sometime, probably during the 1970s, they modified the Chinese Spineless mag to make it even faster and cheaper to produce. Called the “Chinese All-Stamped” by collectors, it eliminated the re-enforcement plates welded to the top of the mag and uses a stamped rear lug. This mag eliminated the need for the feed lip reinforcement plates, usually welded to the top of the mag, by stamping a pattern at the top of the mag that added both strength and tightened its fit in a rifle’s magazine well. Only a few made it in directly from China before President Clinton sent a letter to the BATF in May of 1994 outlawing imports of Chinese ammo and guns. However, large numbers of these once rare mags were imported from the former Yugoslavia in 2007.
The Chinese Norinco Corporation also produced a 30-round brown polymer mag for the US commercial market that was designed to take advantage of the popularity of the Russian AG4 plastic mag that it clearly resembles. These mags were strengthened by having thin sheets of steel, as well as steel front and rear lugs, embedded within the polymer body. The follower, floorplate, and takedown plate remained of steel construction. These “Chinese Phenolic” mags will be found with the Norinco trademark molded into the bottom left side, and the “66” in triangle factory marking on the bottom right side.
The Chinese, always eager to fill a perceived need, developed a 20-round AK mag for the US market. Stamped from special dies, it features three vertical ribs that stop just short of the bottom and no horizontal ribs. Both 10 and 20-round witness holes are drilled into its back. Other than the above changes; the Chinese 20-round AK mag characteristics are the same as the Chinese Spineless 30-round mag.
China produced a special 5-round mag for sale with its post ban AKs meant for the US market. Stamped with special dies, it has two vertical ribs and one horizontal rib at the bottom. The Chinese 5-round AK mag uses the Chinese stepped follower, are blued, lack a witness hole, and have “China” stamped on the floorplate. “China” will be found stamped in two different sizes on the floorplate. Huge numbers of these mags were imported before the ban, and many dealers still have these new-in-wrapper for sale.