When Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena stared down the barrel of a Romanian AK 47, they never could have predicted that the pride of Communist Romania’s army would one day tear them apart.
From 1963, Communist Romania had been manufacturing domestic Kalashnikovs to defend themselves against an invasion from the West.
As Nicolae and Elena lay slumped on the grounds of a military barracks in Targoviste, just 40 klicks outside of the capital Bucharest, the country and its domestic Romanian AK 47 were to begin a new journey.
Despite being a member of the Warsaw Pact, Romania differed from other AK-producing Eastern Bloc countries, such as neighbouring Bulgaria.
For example, Nicolae Ceausescu (at least initially) maintained relations with the West and even visited Queen Elizabeth II in London. The late monarch, however, was far from a fan.
Despite this, the Romanian AK and its iconic “donkey dong” foregrip became a notorious feature of global conflicts. They were seen in the hands of the IRA and Colonel Gaddafi’s troops.
In this article, we’ll delve into the bizarre and fascinating journey of the Romanian AK, from its origins and violent role in guerilla wars and revolutions to its current position today.
Plus, we’ll also reveal how to identify one correctly, should you wish to add one to your collection if you’re legally able to do so.
For those in the states, the Romanian AK might be more familiar to you as the WASR series.
This stands for Wassenaar Arrangement Semi-automatic Rifles sold by Century International Arms.
WASR series rifles are a semi-automatic variant of Romania’s Model 1963/1965, a licensed version of the original Soviet AKM assault rifle made in Romania’s Cugir gun factory.
To comply with U.S. gun controls, Century Arms imports these Romanian AKs before modifying them for legal sale to the public.
The Birthplace of WASR: The History of the Romanian Kalashnikov
Amongst Kalashnikov enthusiasts in the United States, the WASR is often a standard feature of any firearms collection.
The WASR, imported by Century Arms, is a parts kit made up of kit that was originally made from the Romanian Model 63 Kalashnikov.
Like neighbouring Bulgaria and the other Warsaw Pact countries, Romania was granted a license from the USSR to manufacture their own domestic AK in case the Cold War turned hot.
In 1963, Romania designated the Cugir Arms Factory as the place where they would manufacture the Romanian Kalashnikov, known as the Model 63.
Over the course of two years, the Communist Romanian arms industry crafted a domestic AK variant that would become one of the most popular, instantly recognizable, and widely used worldwide.
The Model 63 AK variant was particularly notable for the following unique features and aspects:
- The well-loved under-folder design
- An automatic pistol variant
After 1965, Romania continued to add innovative features and updates to their domestic Kalashnikov to keep up with the demands of modern warfare.
From improving the technology of the under folder and side folder stocks and adding more ergonomic handguards to chambering the weapon in 5.45, the weapon went from strength to strength.
However, one of the most unique and, at the time, revolutionary additions to the weapon was that of the iconic “donkey dong” foregrip.
Before the violent anti-Communist revolution that swept the country in 1989, Romania didn’t see conflict throughout the Cold War. But its domestic AK certainly did!
The Combat History of The Romanian AK 47, From The IRA to The U.S. Army
Well-made, robust, and tactically designed, the Romanian Model 63 Kalashnikov has seen action all over the world in the hands of guerrillas, soldiers, and paramilitary forces alike,
However, one of the most notorious examples of the weapon’s use in modern warfare was in the hands of the Irish Republic Army (IRA) during the troubles. A tale that began in Gaddafi’s Libya.
With a doctrine NAME based around Islam, Gaddafi and the anti-religion Soviet Union didn’t see eye to eye. Romania, however, was a bit more open-minded when it came to allies.
Nicolae Ceausescu and Colonel Gaddafi met multiple times during the Cold War, and in exchange for engineers, Romania offloaded stockpiles of its Kalashnikovs to Libya.
In his mission to destabilize the West by any means possible, Gaddafi saw a perfect opportunity in the IRA, who were then engaged in a guerrilla war against British forces in Northern Ireland.
As well as advanced military training, Gaddafi supplied the IRA with semtex, RPGs, and his beloved Romanian AKs to further their fight against the UK government.
The U.S. Army also used the Romanian Kalashnikov during the 1980s to train their soldiers to be proficient in enemy weapons handling.
From El Salvador to Paraguay, the Romanian AK has also seen widespread use across South and Central America, both by police and criminal elements.
The WASR-10 was the weapon of choice for Mexican cartels to use in the country’s ongoing drug war.
In fact, between 2006 and 2011, the weapon was “the most common gun purchased in the United States to be traced to crimes in Mexico.”
Regarding global militaries, Model 63 has also seen widespread deployment with local forces in the likes of Israel, Bangladesh, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Unique Things To Look For When Identifying a Romanian Kalashnikov
If you want to correctly identify a Romanian AK 47 (or another Romanian variant of the weapon), take a look at the receiver.
On a standard AKM, you’ll find that there is a small dimple on either side of the receiver located just above the magazine well.
This is to help the shooter centre the mag and allow for more seamless magazine loading. However, aside from some of the earlier models, Romanian AKs lack this feature.
Instead, to make the manufacture of the weapon more straightforward, Romania opted for a welded spacer on the receiver’s interior to allow for better magazine insertion.
The downside to this, as you’ve probably guessed, is that the magazine well is often fraught with inconsistencies regarding tolerance.
So some AK magazines fit Romanian weapons better than others. For example, I’ve found that the spacers make it too tight to fit polymer magazines, whereas steel mags have excess space and tend to shake around in the magazine well.
Ammo Fact! In 2016, Romania still hadn’t transitioned to using NATO-standard ammo and was still using Soviet-era 5.45×39mm. Weapons chambered for the standard NATO 5.56×45 and 7.62×51 mm is only used by the country’s special forces.
The Stamps on a Romanian AK
After checking for lack of dimples on the receiver, the next way to identify a Romanian AK is through the stamps on the weapon. First, take a look at the front trunnion.
Any AK made in Romania will have one of two variants of a triangle marking stamped into the trunnion.
- Variant 1: A triangle with a blank centre.
- Variant 2: A triangle with an arrow pointing upwards in the centre. This was later stopped to help identify AK parts made for the 5.45 chambering.
This triangle stamp designates that the weapon was created in the Cugir factory (the one I mentioned earlier) and shows it was inspected and cleared for military standards.
Directly after the stamp is the weapon’s serial number, the serial number on a Romanian AK begins with the year of manufacture, followed by a set of alphanumeric characters.
Naturally, this makes dating a Romanian AKM very straightforward. But this numbering method stopped when military production of Romanian AKs halted and was instead made to be exported abroad.
You will often find numbers stamped into various weapon parts on Romanian AKs. The Cugir factory did this to ensure the parts were made according to tolerances.
These markings will be made up of 3-4 numbers, and they’re designed to instruct factory workers on how loose or tight to push the parts together during manufacture.
If you find a “G” marked into the base of the rear sight, this shows that the Romanian AK in question was for the Romanian National Guard.
The Romanian Guard was a communist-era paramilitary group who were ready to provide additional defence in case of a foreign attack and wage guerrilla warfare against occupiers if Romania fell.
As with any AK, there are some rare stamp variations on the Romanian AK too. Such as:
- A missing triangle: This was one of the few Romanian AK 47s that were manufactured for civilian use. Naturally, gun control was immensely strict in communist Romania, so these weapons were likely destined for the most trusted people among the party elite.
- Rare triangle variants: Sometimes, you can find a curved bottom triangle stamp with the number “11” inside. These are rare Romanian AK variants made strictly for the country’s military by the Carfil Arsenal.
Now we’ve looked into the unique ways to identify AKs and the numerous quirky differences surrounding their stamps, let’s look into the Romanian AK variants!
Romanian AK Variants
As well as the Model 1963/1965, Communist Romania created a range of other AK variants. Such as:
- AIMS-74: A Romanian copy of the Soviet-made AK 74 was chambered for 5.45×39 ammunition rather than 7.62×39. Interestingly, unlike the Model 1963/1965, this was unlicensed.
- AIMR-74: A variant of the AIMS-74 that dropped the iconic foregrip. Apparently, this variant was favoured by Romanian combat divers who found the “donkey dong” foregrip a nightmare during amphibious missions.
The Dictator Is Dead, But The Romanian AK 47 (And Its Variants) Is Still Going Strong!
From its birth under the watchful eye of the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, the Romanian AK 47 has featured in conflicts worldwide.
In the modern Kalashnikov scene, the Romanian AK 47 is sometimes looked down upon as one of the lesser-quality AK variants or “Beginner AKs”.
However, the Romanian AK can serve you well. Although not as well-made as the Bulgarian or Russian variants, it will still serve as a trusty weapon.
Further Reading On Firearms History
- AR15 vs M16: What Are The Most Important Differences?
- Why Mikhail Kalashnikov Gave His Watch To a Rhodesian Soldier
- Egyptian AK 47: Meet The Iconic Maadi AKM!
Romanian parts are not hard to get hold of, so they naturally feature in poor AK builds and high-end AK builds alike. But the former doesn’t help the weapon’s reputation.