There is no doubt that the AR-15 — with its gazillion variants — is truly “America’s rifle.” This means that other fine semi-automatic rifles, such as the AK-47 and its variants, sometimes get short shrift in today’s firearms marketplace. Because of the AR phenomenon, I have been a bit lax covering AKs lately. Let me correct that oversight with a review of what is likely the finest AK on the market: the American-made Century Arms VSKA (pronounced “vis-kuh”) 7.62×39.

I love the AR. It’s an excellent rifle-carbine-handgun that is exceptionally versatile and easy to shoot. But if I were living in harsh conditions, without a supply chain and support (think post-EMP), and the only gun-cleaning equipment available were a quart of motor oil and a dirty rag, then my weapon of choice would be an AK. And the VSKA would be my (current) No. 1.

VSKA Improved Upon a Rugged Classic

The VSKA has several new upgrades that enhance the already rugged AK platform. Here is what separates the VSKA from other AKs:

  1. The bolt carrier, front trunnion and feed ramp are all machined from S7 tool steel and specially heat-treated for maximum durability.
  2. The bolt is machined from carburized 4140 steel.
  3. The barrel is chrome-moly 4150 steel.

In addition to these key upgrades, the VSKA features Century’s excellent RAK-1 enhanced trigger group, which produces a crisp “un-AK-like” trigger pull. Additionally, an enhancement that didn’t exist on the C39-V1 I tested a few years ago was noticeable right from the box. In a stroke of brilliance, Century cut a U-shaped notch into the top of the safety lever to serve as a bolt hold-open safety device. The notch holds the charging handle in place when it is aligned with the handle and pushed up. It doesn’t lock the bolt open on the last shot.

Twenty Is Plenty

I headed to the range with a quantity of Century’s Red Army Standard 7.62×39 FMJ ammo leftover from my C39 test several years ago. The ammo I had featured brass cases (loads that are no longer available under the Red Army Standard label). All current loads are steel-case, which is not a concern considering the robust construction of the AK.

My range bag included a pair of nicely made 20-round steel AK mags from Cheaper Than Dirt. I wanted to evaluate the handling of the AK with the shorter 20-round magazine. In my opinion, the pointability of the AK rifle suffers when loaded with standard 30-round magazines.

I loaded a 20-rounder and popped it in place. It latched smoothly and securely. The VSKA was much more pointable than with a fully loaded 30-rounder, yet it retained the legendary AK profile. The shorter magazine is also much more user-friendly when fired from the prone position. Twenty-round magazines will be the staple for my AK, just as they are for my ARs.

*The above photo shows the VSKA with a 20-round magazine.

VSKA AK Has Adequate Sights; Improved Trigger

Of course, the VSKA functioned flawlessly. Cycling was very smooth, even though I fired the VSKA right out of the box with no lubrication added. The VSKA ships with one 30-round Magpul PMag, which functioned with total reliability.

The open sights were dead-on at 25 yards. It was easy to keep all 20 rounds in the head from the standing position, though if I were keeping the VSKA, I would mark the front sight with a Birchwood Casey front-sight pen for better visibility. XS Tritium Sights would make an even better addition. The RAK-1 trigger was excellent and lacked the mushy feel found on bargain-basement AKs. Russian AKs from the ‘90s had particularly atrocious triggers. This VSKA featured perfectly proportioned and attractive maple wood stocks.

Current MSRP of the VSKA is only $735.95. No matter how many rifles you currently have in your long-gun armory, you should have at least one AK. You can’t go wrong with the VSKA.


  • Carburized 4140 steel bolt
  • Heat-treated S7 steel carrier, feed ramp and front trunnion
  • RAK-1 Enhanced Trigger Grip
  • Chrome-moly 4150 barrel
  • 1/16” stamped steel receiver
  • Wood stock and foregrips made of American maple
  • Shipped with one 30-round magazine


Century Arms:
XS Sights:
Birchwood Casey:
Cheaper Than Dirt: