The AK-74 (Автомат Калашникова образца 1974 года, Avtomat Kalashnikova obraztsa 1974 goda, English: Kalashnikov assault rifle, model 1974), is a Russian assault rifle. Essentially an upgraded and refined version of the AKM, the AK-74 was designed in the early 1970s to replace the AKM in service, which it eventually did. Russia uses the improved AK-74M after Russia had its independence from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Variant with a side-folder wire stock.
The AK-74M is functionally the same rifle as the AK-74; however, the wooden furniture has been upgraded to polymer and the barrel is now cold hammer forged, making it more durable, AK-74M has received a stock, folding to the left. The flash suppressor has been changed too; the new one has open cameras for being able to be cleaned without detaching. The AK-74M also received a side rail, universal for all Russian day/night optics. The rifle is lighter and stronger than its wooden-furniture counterparts. It is the current service rifle of the Russian military.
A new gas block was installed at the muzzle with a new conical flash hider combined with a cylindrical muzzle booster, which features an internal expansion chamber that increases the weapon's reliability by ensuring that the weapon cycles completely upon firing. The booster enhances the recoil impulse by supplying the gas system with residual gases from the barrel. The chrome-lined muzzle booster also burns any remaining propellant, thus reducing the gun's flash signature. The muzzle device locks into the gas block with a spring-loaded detent and features two notches cut into the flash hider cone, used for disassembly using the supplied cleaning rod. The forward sling loop was relocated to the left side of the carbine and the front sight was integrated into the gas block.
The AKS-74U also has a different sighting system, with a U-shaped flip sight instead of the standard sliding notch rear sight. This sight has two settings: "P" (calibrated for firing at 350 m) and "4–5" (used for firing at distances between 400–500 m). The rear sight is housed in a semi-shrouded protective enclosure that is riveted to the receiver's top cover. This top cover is integral with the gas tube cover and hinged from the barrel trunnion, pivoting forward when opened. Both the gas tube and handguard are also of a new type and are shorter than the analogous parts in the AKS-74.