What does milled mean?
The two largest AK importers, Century Arms and Arsenal, are producing new milled and stamped AK rifles, which begs the question: What is better: a stamped AK or a milled AK?
What does it all mean!?
When discussing milled or stamped AKs, a person is referring to the construction method of the gun’s receiver. Milled receivers are manufactured from a solid block of steel and the internals of the receiver are carved from the steel. Whereas, stamped receivers are constructed using a piece of sheet metal that is literally stamped into the shape of the receiver.
All AKM receivers are stamped. This means that the barrel of the rifle must be pressed into the front trunnion, making modification very difficult — especially for the amateur gunsmith. Since stamped guns use sheet metal they are lighter and cheaper to create.
With the exception of Yugo or Serb AKs, all AKs with stamped receivers have fully interchangeable parts, causing an abundance of spare parts. Thanks to the law of supply and demand, this keeps the price of those parts down.
Another advantage due to a stamped gun’s ubiquity, is the knowledge available. There are dozens of forums dedicated to AKM rifles with million of posts about it. Chances are whatever issue you encounter, 50, 000 other people have struggled with it as well. Just hop on the Internet and, most likely, you’ll find someone who has figured out how to fix it.
AK-47s sport milled receivers. Milled AK barrels tend to be threaded and torqued into place, similar to an AR-15. Generally, milled guns have a smoother action because they require more fitting.
They are also are more expensive, considering they start off as a solid block of steel. Due to the the weight of the steel, there is less felt recoil. Additionally, there is no compatibility between parts, meaning only stocks meant for milled guns fit them. They also tend to hold their value longer because they aren’t as common.
Milled AKs are more akin to the original AK-47s whose receivers were milled from a block of steel — like the SKS and Mosin Nagant before it. This wins the adoration of collectors and purists who want their rifles to be as traditionally made as possible.
On the contrary, budget-minded shooters enjoy stamped receivers more because they cost less, weigh half as much and have interchangeable parts.
As for performance shooters, that’s up for debate. Some believe the flexibility of stamped rifles gives their rifle better resilience to contortion and hard use. While advocates of milled rifles believe the increased rigidity aids in accuracy and durability.
Nevertheless, the Russian military uses the lighter stamped AKs and they have proven every bit as durable as their milled counterparts. The truth of the matter is, there are far too many factors aiding or impeding accuracy on any AK rifle to attribute it to the type of receiver.
So… Which is best?
The choice is strangely unscientific and purely subjective. Stamped and milled AKs are so similar, you’ll have to pick whichever one feels better in your hands. Worst case scenario: you buy both and give the one you like less to your significant other or a friend.