Book Review: V10N5


THE GRIM REAPER: The Story of the Weapon of Choice for Many of the World’s Armies

This is a very large and thorough book on the history of the AK-47 and all its facets. It is the best resource currently available. There are 1,086 pages of information and a large number of high quality detailed photographs of various weapons and military photographs. This is the second edition of the AK-47 The Grim Reaper.

The first edition was published in 2008 and takes the reader through the development of the assault rifle, manufacturers in Russia, detailed looks at the 1st-3rd generation AK-47 rifles, AKM update, AK-74 family of weapons, AK-100 series, other Kalashnikov designs, Warsaw Pact countries manufacturing AK-type rifles, AK-derivatives, AK comes to America, made in USA AK-47 rifles, magazine and ammunition variations. The second edition greatly enhances the reader’s knowledge by the addition of many detailed photographs of various models, additional information and updated information of the current status of this family of weapons.

AK-47 The Grim Reaper (Second Edition)

The book begins with Chapter 1 on the development of the modern day assault rifle with discussion of the U.S. Army Weapons Command Research & Engineering Directorate Small Arms System Laboratory testing on the AK-47 rifle from experience in Vietnam. It also parallels the development of the AK-47 with parallel to U.S. small arms development and ammunition development. Included are detailed historical descriptions of the German Sturmgewehr and its 7.92x33mm intermediate round and its influence on Kalashnikov’s design as well as the introduction to Kalashnikov’s story of his development of the rifle and its trail to the hands of the Soviet soldier.

Chapter 2 gives an introduction to the numerous Russian weapons factories spread out over the vast lands of the former Soviet Union. The arsenal marks are shown and how to identify the weapon with the factory that produced it. The second edition adds photographs of current manufacturing of the rifle.

Chapter 3 begins the analysis of the developmental history of the AK-47. There are thorough descriptions and photographs of the first, second and third generation rifles. The second edition offers more detailed photographs of the first and second generation rifles to help the reader understand how they were built and what the exact differences are. Attention is given to every detail and every change. This includes both fixed and underfolding stock variations of all three generations of the rifle.

Chapter 4 introduces the AKM and its derivatives. All changes are documented on the 3rd generation machined receivers’ transformation into the lower weight (2.5 pounds less) stamped AKM rifle. Many detailed photographs and drawings clearly define the changes that make up the AKM.

Chapter 5 documents the development and history of the small caliber 5.45x39mm cartridge and the new AK-74 which would eventually replace the AK-47/AKM family of weapons in the Soviet Army. The AK-74 has gone through many incremental changes and continues to this very day. Through this chapter the reader will see the advancements in Soviet/Russian manufacturing capabilities.

Chapter 6 takes the reader through the latest developments in the AK-series of rifles, the AK-100 Series. Designed for export use, the rifle goes through an update in furniture as well as the introduction of rifles that will fire the NATO 5.56x45mm cartridge. Additional gas systems, stocks and barrels are introduced. The end of this chapter also introduces and describes in detail the AN-94 rifle, the rifle that was supposed to replace the AK-74.

Chapter 7 shows other Kalashnikov developed weapons including the Bizon submachine gun, RPK, RPKS, RPK-74, RPKS-74, PK, PKM and SVD.

Chapter 8 documents the Warsaw Pact countries that the Soviet Union set up manufacturing facilities in their country to produce the array of Kalashnikov weapons. Russia states now that many of the rifles produced are illegal clones that were not licensed by Russia for the use of their technical data. The proliferation of sales throughout all these former Warsaw Pact countries have hurt Russian companies from selling the rifle that originated with them. This chapter details description of all of the countries the Soviet Union licensed manufacturing rights to the AK-47 family of weapons and their variations. There are significant numbers of new photographs added to this chapter from the first edition.

Chapter 9 discusses production of AK-type rifles outside of the former Warsaw Pact countries–one of the largest being China. China has many different variations of the AK-type rifle and sold them abroad in large numbers. Egypt is another large producer. Greatly expanded information about AK-production in Iraq including many new photographs not found in the first edition. Also included are North Korea, Pakistan-Khyber Pass-Afghanistan, Yugoslavia/Serbia and Croatia.

Chapter 10 goes into Kalashnikov design derivatives which are rifles that closely copy or borrow a significant number of features from the design. These countries include Czechoslovakia, Finland Valmet rifles, Israeli Galil and South African R-4 series.

Chapter 11 takes the reader through the AK introduction to the American market with the history of the imported sporting rifles into the U.S. starting with the Finish Valmet and Egyptian Maadi versions. Additionally, for all the “Wolverines!” fans out there, the second edition gives the historical details of the rifles that were used in the movie “Red Dawn.” The introduction of Chinese rifles to the U.S. market was vast and in different variations, which are all documented and photographed in the book. Descriptions and photographs follow with Hungarian and Yugoslavian sporting versions of the AK rifle.

The first Soviet (Type 1) 7.62x39mm AK rifle receivers were made from stamped sheet metal. This example is dated 1951. Apparently, there were problems encountered as the stamped receiver was replaced by a Type 2 milled receiver. Note: the nomenclatures Type 1, 2 and 3 are used in the West to identify the different AK models; they are not Soviet designations.

Chapter 12 marks the dark days of the Assault Weapon Ban. This marked the 1989 importation ban and all the legalities of assembling post ban rifles with pre-ban configuration parts. Also included is the discussion of all the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, The 1994 Assault Weapon Ban and its sunset in 2004. Descriptions and photographs of the numerous imported AK-type rifles are contained in this chapter.

Chapter 13 chronicles AK’s that are made in the USA. Many are American made receivers built up with foreign parts kits. Many American companies are listed who either manufacture or modify different variations of the rifles mixing in American made parts.

Chapter 14 delves into the magazine variations of all generations and all caliber AK-type rifles with detailed photos and descriptions of the magazines made in numerous countries.

Chapter 15 gives detailed descriptions of ammunition. This will include identification of ammunition types as well as the arsenals in which they were manufactured. This covers both 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm.

Chapter 16 gives a collectors description of accouterments including bayonets, grenade launchers, rifle grenades, sound suppressors, night vision, scopes, carrying cases, cleaning kits, blank firing adapters, magazine pouches and slings.

This book is a must have for any student of the AK-family of weapons. This book also would be well put to use by law enforcement and crime laboratory reference libraries where identification of these rifles and accessories are needed. There has never been a more thorough study of the AK-series ever put in print. For those who already have the first edition, it is well worth upgrading to the second. There is significantly enough material added to make it worthwhile. The photographs are of the highest quality and no stone is left unturned.

This book may be purchased directly from Chipotle Publishing for $69.95 plus shipping at, on or at your local bookseller.

AK-47 The Grim Reaper
(Second Edition)
1,086 PAGES
$69.95 USD
ISBN: 978-0-9823918-5-3