Romanian AK History
Romanian AKs are some of the most popular variants available in the US market due to their availability and price. While some elitists may not be impressed by these rifles, it is very common for some of the best US manufactured AKs to be produced using Romanian parts kits. Many manufactures will in fact boast the fact that they use virgin parts kits from Romania to build their rifles with. Let’s dig deeper into the history of a Romanian AK-47, how to identify one, and why you might want one in your collection.
One of the most popular Romanian AK variants in the US is the WASR 10 or WASR 10/63, depending on when the rifle was imported and assembled by Century Arms. The WASR is made from parts originally manufactured for the Romanian Model 63, which was produced in the Cugir Arms Factory. As part of the Warsaw pact, each formerly Combloc nation was required to manufacture their own weapons.
The Model 63 was manufactured from 1963-1965 in the Cugir Factory and featured notable variants such as the popular under-folder and the automatic pistol version. This rifle has since been used by dozens of countries around the world such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Israel, and even the United States Army. The US Army used them in limited capacity as a weapon for opposing forces units during training events in the 1980’s.
As Romanian manufacturing of the AKM continued, several other variants have been created. Some of these include modifications that improved the operation of the under-folding stock, vertical grips on the lower handguard, more ergonomic handguards, 5.45 chambering, a side folder, and increased modularity for optics mounting. You can also find variations with bakelite furniture, 3-round burst capability, and even a 5.56 chambering.
Beninese peacekeepers have been using the Model 63 as a primary weapon in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Iraqi police continue to use the Model 63. Since 2016, the National Civilian Police of El Salvador have been using this rifle as many of them were recovered from busts against organized gangs. Of course, the Romanian military issued the rifle to their service members, mostly to Navy personnel, tank crew members, and reservists.
The Model 63 has been used in limited numbers by the Paraguay Police. Most notably, two of them were used in a shoot out between police and drug traffickers at the Paraguay-Brazil boarder.
The Irish Republican Army, IRA, acquired these rifles in a deal with Libya, and they continue to be used by some of the remaining splinter groups from the organization.
How to Identify a Romanian AK
One of the easiest ways to spot a Romanian AKM from a distance is on the receiver. Most AKM receivers have a dimple on either side above the magazine well. This dimple is used to help center the magazine and improve magazine lock up, reliable magazine insertion, and reliability. Romanian receivers lack this dimple, and instead use a welded spacer on the inside of the receiver to achieve the same goal. Some earlier models of Romanian made AKs do include the dimple, but most rifles that are found in the US market will be stamped and use the spacers.
This variation on to the original AK receiver design conceivably makes manufacture simpler but does leave room for a lack of consistency in the tolerances within the magazine well. Due to change in design, some Romanian AKMs will tend to favor some magazines over others. In fact, some users will report that they are not able to insert some polymer magazines due to the spacers creating too tight of a fit. Others will report excess magazine wobble when using steel magazines because the welded spacers leave too much room inside the magazine well.
The markings on the rifle are the most effective way to properly identify its origin most specifically on the front trunnion. All Romanian manufactured AKs will feature a triangle stamped into the trunnion. This triangle will either be blank in the center, or have a small arrow pointing up in the middle. The triangle indicates that the trunnion was manufactured in the Cugir factory and was approved for milspec production after inspection. The arrow in the middle of the triangle was part of the original Cugir markings but was dropped to help identify parts manufactured for the 5.45 chambering. There are rare cases where the triangle is missing on trunnions manufactured after the 1980’s but these are very uncommon and were built for civilian circulation. Even more rare are variations to the triangle such as a curved bottom with the number “11” stamped inside. These would have been manufactured by the Carfil Arsenal and were meant only for military use.
The serial number will immediately follow the Cugir or Carfil stamp on most Romanian AKMs, and normally start with the year of production, and then a series of alpha-numeric characters. This makes it very easy to date many Romanian AKMs, but this format was dropped when the Model 63 parts ceased production for military application and were manufactured with the intent on exporting them; for this reason many WASR variants may have a different format for the serial number stamped by Century Arms.
Due to the lack of consistency in the manufacturing process, the Cugir factory took the effort of stamping numbers on the trunnion, the gas block, the RSB, and the FSB to make sure the parts were assembled with acceptable tolerances. The numbers will be a sequence of 3-4 digits and indicate how loose or tight to press the parts together during assembly.
Another common marking on Romanian AKMs is the “G” marking stamped on the rear sight base. This signifies that the rifle was produced for the Romanian National Guard. You can often identify if your AKM was an early or late production based on the quality of this stamp. Early rifles will have a very cleanly stamped and colored G, while later rifles tend to have a much messier G with hastily completed color fill.
While some AK enthusiasts think of Romanian AKs as “starter” AKs, or cheap variants when compared to some other countries of origin, there are many WASRs serving their owners well today. Many high-quality US based manufactures still prefer to use Romanian parts kits in their production today, but some less reputable builds also feature some of the same parts. Romanian parts are used to make some fantastic rifles, but be sure to research the reputation of the company assembling your rifle prior to making your purchase is if you plan to put your rifle through hard use, regardless of the origin of the parts.