Iran Deploying AK-103 Rifles

One of the benefits of the Iranian nuclear deal — for Iran, like the rest of the benefits — was the opportunity to recapitalize its military small arms, and not just its main priorities, worldwide Islamic terrorism abroad, and nuclear weapons at home.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, an independent armed service modeled on the Nazi SS, has benefited with new AK-103 rifles from Russia. The IRGC has been using the new rifles for some months now. This is an image of one of the IRGC AK-103s, presumably in 5.45 x 39 mm caliber, published by the Iranian Tasnim news agency.

In August, the same agency published this story (as translated by the AEI Critical Threats Project):

  • Iran purchases assault rifles from Russia. Tasnim News Agency reported that Iran has purchased AK-103 assault rifles from Russia. According to reports, “some units” in Iran’s armed forces will be equipped with the new rifle. (Tasnim News Agency)

The original link to Tasnim’s Persian-language story no longer works. More recently, a follow-up shows that the AK-103s have been issued and are being used in training (AEI translation again):

  • IRGC units use AK-103 assault rifles in “Imam Ali” exercise. Some IRGC units used “new AK-103” assault rifles during the IRGC Ground Forces’ “Imam Ali” exercises last week in western Iran. Iran purchased AK-103s from Russia in August 2016. Defense Minister IRGC Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Dehghan stated at the time of the purchase, “Production of light arms has been low in the last ten years due to the prioritization of air and naval projects. This purchase was made due to regional crises.” (Tasnim News Agency)

This link to Tasnim works at present, but may fail soon.

Most intriguing is the suggestion that the Iranian small arms production capacity is insufficient. It may be an indicator that Iran has been starving general purpose forces as it spends lavishly on nuclear armament and terrorism promotion. It may simply mean that the vast infusion of American cash from the pro-Iranian Obama Administration allowed Iran to modernize forces across the board. Or we may be reading far too much into a routine replacement of old rifles.

38 thoughts on “Iran Deploying AK-103 Rifles

  1. Quill_&_Blade

    OK I know zip about this rifle, but I’m assuming it’s piston operated? If so is the piston above the barrel, and why? Is the long skinny thing below the barrel a cleaning rod?

    1. Kirk

      It’s an AK. It’s piston-operated, and pretty much just a slightly modernized/improved version of the standard AK of yore.

      I believe that this is the same model the Russians sold Venezuela the rights to produce.

      Also, yes… Cleaning rod beneath barrel.

        1. Kirk

          It’s an AK… The damn things about as sophisticated as a rock, in some ways. In others, highly sophisticated.

          The balanced-recoil AK is the AK-107. It’s been a Russian/Soviet bugaboo for years, and probably reached the zenith of insanity with regards to the AN-94, complicated weapon that didn’t see much actual deployment.

          I’m honestly not that sure that the balanced-recoil thing is that big a deal. Sure, if you’re habitually firing on full-auto, it’s a nice thing to have, but I’m of the opinion that full-auto in an individual weapon is only something that gets used in extremity, and then usually the actually accuracy of the bursts are really only a matter of academic interest. In other words, when you’re breaking contact or using your rifle as a room-entry tool, you really don’t have a hell of a lot of opportunity to actually use any of the benefit you’d get from a balanced-recoil system in an individual weapon, anyway, so you’re lugging around all that complexity and extra mass for the mechanism to no real tactical benefit. So, it’s a bit of a parlor trick, a gimmick, and one that I think is likely to be relegated to the footnotes of firearms history.

        2. John M.

          Q&B:

          Scratch together several hundred bucks and buy yourself an AK. It’s a system every self-reliant individual should know how to operate and service. (Pro tip: they don’t require much service. Operation is straightforward, but rapid operation requires some technique because the ergos suck.)

          I find mine to be a delight, but YMMV. If you don’t like it, you can probably pull most/all what you put into it back out of it if you sell it later. Ammo is reasonable.

          -John M.

  2. 333North

    What? The Iranians are re-arming?! I thought they were going to use the released money to improve the lives of their people, rebuild their infrastructure and make the world a better place. I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) to hear they used a small boat-borne splodydope to attack what they thought was a U.S. Navy ship. I thought they were now our partners for peace in the Middle East. [sarcasm off]

  3. Blackshoe

    IMHO, Iran’s been in the situation of having a whole bunch of needs in their defense sector, and just having to prioritize biggest threats first. That would mean going towards air and naval weaponry (and terrorism and nukes, of course). Small arms just end up being a lower priority in that case, and it’s not like the Great Satan was most likely to be actually invading. Also, even if you did load up on small arms for your Quds Force et al, you’d be very circumspect about letting them be seen with them.

    Your Point Nr 2 about being infused with cash is probably spot on in this case.

  4. Sommerbiwak

    What? No KH2002 Khaybar? ;-)

    Sure the AK in the photo is iranian? I see a SAW/Minimi style grip and that magazine looks aftermarket too. Never seen similar to this from Russia (I can be wrong of course). And iranian news agencies get their photos often enough from image search. The other photo on the linked site looks like another image search or catalog picture too, but is has a proper 5,45 magazine at least. The photos of the IRGC on enduro bikes it is hard to say if the AK-10x are 7,62 or 5,45. The magazines look more curved like 7,62 to me, but I can be wring of course.

    5,45 is an interesting choice, as the IRGC has been seen with various 5,56 rifles like the chinese CQ (M16 and M4 copies).

  5. LFMayor

    How many did they buy? Were there more long arms sold at the Indy gun shows in 2016?

    Another thought… are they better at maintenance and taking care of their equipment than their neighbors? Not painting with an overly broad brush but most in the region could ruin an anvil with a sand pile.

  6. Bret Stevenson

    Re: “AK 103” in photo. The rifle depicted above is in fact an American converted Saiga. I can’t recall the company at this time. Said rifle above has Tapco grip, BP01 optic mount and a pre-M4 Aimpoint Comp. The barrel is shortend which is why the front sight is next to the gas block. The magazine is a 20 rounder (7.62×39) of Hungarian origin.

    The AK 103 is only available in 7.62×39 per Kalashnikov Concern’s website. The 5.45 variant of the AK 100 family is still referred to as the AK 74M as it was arleady in the system as an updated variant.

    The AK 100 series are as follows:
    AK 74M- full size rifle
    AK 101- full size rifle in 5.56 mm
    AK102- compact 5.56 mm
    AK 103- full size 7.62×39 mm
    AK 104- compact 7.62×39 mm
    AK 105- compact 5.45×39 mm (think next-gen AKS-74U)

    Hope this helps.

    1. Joe

      Looks like a Saiga converted by Arsenal Inc. The furniture looks the same except for the pistol grip. Arsenal tended to use the AK-74 style mussel breaks on all their rifles including the ones in 7.62 x 39.

  7. RostislavDDD

    АК-103 – 7,62х39. Barrel length – 415 mm

    АК-74M – 5.45х39 – 415 mm
    АК-101 – 5,56х45 – 415 mm
    АК-102 – 5,56х45 – 314 mm
    АК-104 – 7,62х39 – 314 mm
    АК-105 – 5,45х39 – 314 mm

    Magazine for 20 rounds, made in Iran.

    1. John M.

      For those who can’t do the math in their heads, or think in metric, 415 mm ~= 16.34″ and 314″ ~= 12.36″.

      -John M.

    2. Ti

      Sir very interesting! Are these parts backward compatible with previous rifles in series? Say AK-105 parts in other 5.45 AK series? same w AK-104 to other AK-74 series?

      The reason I ask is the minute I looked at the gas piston in the posted picture above, I wondered if it was different. Sorta LaFrance M-14k’ish, M60 gas piston on an m-14 riflle, only soviet version.

  8. Bret Stevenson

    Iran also makes 20 round magazines? All of mine are Hungarian. Thanks, Rostislav! I learn something new here all the time.

  9. Y.

    and not just its main priorities, worldwide Islamic terrorism abroad, and nuclear weapons at home.

    Isn’t most, like 99% of the terror courtesy of sunni salafist group?

    IIRC, US doesn’t like Iran bc IRGC works hand in hand with Hezbollah, who is ally of Syria and sworn enemy of the Jews.

    But Hezbollah isn’t that active outside of its core region these days.

    Is it?

    1. Hognose Post author

      IRGC/Hezbollah has been behind terrorism all over the world, mostly trying to murder Jews wherever they are found. Not so much in Eastern Europe because Hitler already did their work for ’em.

      1. Haxo Angmark

        not quite “wherever they are found”. The current Jewish population of Iran, for instance, is c. 9,000. All out in the open, living quite comfortably, mostly in Tehran, and most practicing orthodox Mizrahic Judaism. The rest of Iran’s pre-1979 Jewish population – about 60,000 – now lives equally comfortably and un-murdered, in Beverly Hills CA. BTW, Hognose, what VoxDay said is “SJW’s lie all the time”. Something they have in common with Zionists & neo-conz.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Vox posits three rules of SJWs:
          1. SJWs always lie;
          2. SJWs always double down; and,
          3. SJWs always project.

          We’re very familiar with it in Gun Universe, because gun-banners are often criminals or people who have strong impulses towards violence, and therefore project that other people, too, are like they are. (Some of us can carry a gun for a whole lifetime without killing anyone who doesn’t need killing).

  10. James

    I wish the Obama Administration would’ve just gifted them all of our Century Arms AKs. Talk about a win-win-win!

  11. Ray

    The ONLY changes from the soviet era AKM to the AK-103 are: The AK-74 type vertical gas port/block. And “modern” plastic furniture, and the optics rail. Other than that it is the same AKM the NVA used in 1970. I own a “103” clone. Made at Izmash. I shit canned the plastic and put lumber on mine. I wouldn’t trade it for ten AR-15’s and a case of ammo.

  12. RT

    Damn,

    This is gonna sound weird, but the reason I said damn is that Iran is developing one of the very few “new” guns I find interesting.

    It’s called the Fajr, or you can see pictures of it on TFB by googling this name anyway.

    So why the hell am I interested in an Iranian assault rifle development project?

    Because this gun has the appearance of an Iranian inspired Galil Ace… Hell it’s even got a, no shit, AR15 inspired charging handle!!!

    What can I say I’m perversely into the downright strange.

    Also of note though is Iran going with AK-103 instead of something more like the newly accessorized AK74M the Russian army is running in 5.45 is frighteningly surprising.

    Considering that by all accounts 5.45 is the hot ticket chambering from the fighting in Syria.

    Well, and 7.62×39 being a bad choice compared to 5.56 & 5.45.

    On balanced recoil guns from Russia, the Ak-107/108/109 is nowhere near the gun the AEK-971/972/973 much less the A545/762 upgraded AEK based design!

    Why you ask?

    The ak-107 is a retread first gen balanced recoil AL-7 while the AEK is a full generation ahead maybe more when it comes to balanced recoil systems.

    The big difference being in internal construction with the 2nd generation being WAY mechanically simpler requiring fewer springs gears precision mechanical pivot points etc. Looking at both systems disassembled and their respective patents should be more than enough to change most people’s minds. It goes without saying that the second generation system would also be way cheaper to manufacture.

    Though, since I’m lucky enough to own a 5.45 chambered AK74 pmag using DI AR “thing” with a couple internal updates and tweaks (cam pin replacement with the roller upgrade FTW!) a melonited 16 inch heavy profile barrel and topped with a spare Bulgarian AK74 brake I fished from my parts bin …

    I just may possibly be some sort of deranged gun hipster… I’m thinking that’s likely the case, especially since when I get ready to head to the range I agonize over whether to bring my PK-AS, my Lucid, or whether today’s a magnified optics day .. LOL!

    P.S: Somebody please talk me about buying a Rus optics eagle eye bifocal 1x/3.5x optic! Someone here in the west finally has the little bastards in stock, and at $2000 it’s still what $1200 less than an Elcan Spectre DR?

    1. Max Popenker

      I always like to read expertz from the netz, as it gives me good laugs
      You compare select-fire AK-107, which is long gone and dead, with the AEK-971/A-545 that was in constant development over recent 2 decades… No shit, man
      OTOH, I wish we could compare the Saiga MK-107 (which is a last generation balanced action from Kalashnikov, but adapted to IPSC sport and semi-auto only), but, alas, ZiD does not make any civilian guns. And the key issue with AEK is, TTBOMK, that ZiD does not posess a ready-to-go manufacturing capabilities to make A-545 if/when adopted. Furthermore, it was found hard way (who likes to re-read school physics textbooks, anyway?) that balanced action works reasonably well only with low-impulse ammo like 5.45 or 5.56. When you go to 7.62, it’s effect is noticeably less, and hardly worth additional expence

      1. RT

        Max!!!

        On every one of those things you wouldn’t catch me disagreeing!

        However you did actually give me a whole ton of new information that I very much appreciate!

        To clarify one or two things…

        1. I mostly picked A545 because it’s so PRETTY!!! I kinda wondered how economically feasible it was though….

        2. I was obliquely referring to the Saiga mk107, but only because a PDF from IWA a couple years ago had a nice partially dimensioned mk107 combined carrier and gas system drawing that I could reference.

        3. On the ak-107 vs AEK system comparisons, trying to “level the field” by stating the AK74M chassis, using information I primarily gathered from your site and an all4shooters article you did about the history and back story, and throwing in that the 2 patents combined with the other information I’ve found shows the AEK system to be “less complex and have fewer individual parts”

        4. I threw in the anecdote about my crazy trips to go shooting, because having access to both 5.45 & 5.56 AR’s as well as a 5.45&5.56 Ak … And having shot all the relevant combinations with 74 brakes and AR birdcage flash hiders… I was lucky enough to gain some very educational but ear hurting first hand experience in why exactly the AK74 has a standard muzzle brake and the AR15 a flash hider…

        P.S. firing a 5.56 round out of something with a 74 muzzle brake… Holy crap!!! Loud and I could physically feel the THUMP of the brake gases bouncing off flat surfaces back towards me!!!

        Question though?

        Have you heard of anyone testing either balanced recoil system on 7.62 NATO or x54?

  13. Ray

    Why an AK in 7.62X39? The Ammo is cheap and everywhere. Mine shoots a respectable 1.5 to 2 MOA out to the AK’s maximum effective 400 meter range with pretty much anything I can get in the mag. The mags are dirt cheap and everywhere and the damn things are built like an anvil. I figure Iran went with the AK-103 for pretty much the same reasons. Shure you could go with a finicky dirt sensitive high maintenance parts whore to get .05 MOA better . But WHY? Just to get a “modern” “range Barbie” that you can hang bling off of and look like an “operator”? I went with cost effective and reliable. I’ll bet Iran did too.

  14. Docduracoat

    AK 103… Excellent choice
    Rugged, reliable, in a hard hitting caliber
    Side rail with red dot brings it into the 20th century by greatly increasing hit probability
    My Arsenal 103 clone does ( five shot) 2 to 4 m o a from a rest at 100 yards with a red dot. That is all head shots. Sure my AR’s can do left eye or right eye
    How much accuracy do you really need?
    Every gun guy should have at least one AK type rifle
    A Romanian Wasr 10 is a low end AK and will give you thousands of rounds of shooting pleasure with cheap ammo
    And keep working after the apocalypse

    1. Hognose Post author

      It’s kind of the cockroach of firearms, and survives being run over with a T-55 although the furniture will suffer and you’ll lose zero (if you ever had it, unlike most insurgent AK operators).

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