Tula AKS-74U Production Guide (1982-1992)
The Tula AKS-74U Production Guide (1982-1993)
The goal of this guide is to combine the entire community's knowledge on Tula AKS-74U's into a single thread, in the spirit and style of Tantal's invaluable AK-74 guide. The hope is that through a combination of research, debates, and sharing of information- that this may become the definitive resource for AKSU variations through the years for collectors and enthusiasts.
As you page through this, please take note of the overwhelming amount of contributions members here have given in such a short amount of time. No contribution is too small! Also note that this guide is meant to summarize the most common observations that have been made- there's usually going to be that nagging exceptional example that will defy the guide.
Please fire away with criticism, questions, examples, etc!!!
Also note that this is a work in progress and is far from complete. Recommendations for topics covered would be greatly appreciated
Note- images purposely shrunk for ease in navigating this monstrosity of a thread, please be sure to click on the pictures if you are studying them
Section I- Part Variation
[For starters, I'm only going to cover parts that very obviously changed and which I have a rough idea of the timeline. More to come]
Front Sight/Rear Hinge Blocks
The main difference here is the transition from pinned FSB's to punch-pressed FSB's that occurred in the other two main Soviet factories as well. I am almost certain now the the change happened in 1987, and that there was very little or no transitional period.
Images are taken from two 1984 examples. I've seen the Tula star on the barrel on multiple examples. Besides the star, the font of the numbers are a dead give away. [Since the primary source for this document is deacts, most barrels I encounter are destroyed. Any examples you may have saved and wouldn't mind posting would be of help!]
photos courtesy of Justinmcmillion
The transition from Type A to Type B occurred in 1985. The majority of '85 examples display the Type A, so this most likely occurred later in the year.
A one-rivet feed ramp is found on examples from 1982 until they transitioned to a double rivet feed ramp starting in 1989. The ratio of one rivet:two rivet in 1989 is approximately 3:1, so I believe it was in the later quarter of '89. [See 1989 in Section II for serial number range]
photo courtesy of Justinmcmillion
Type A top covers had the top portion riveted on with 2 rivets (only one of the rivets is seen externally) while Type B had 3-rivets (only two seen externally). I believe this transition began in 1984, and was nearly or totally complete by the start of 1985.
Much like the punch pressed barrel parts, the change that occurred to the bolt carriers was one that also occurred at Molot and Izhmash. I believe the transition occurred solely in 1988. I've circled the areas that are different, as these can actually be fairly tricky to distinguish unless you are looking at the left hand side.
Unfortunately, this is another part that I am unsure of if any variation occurred through the years due to them being destroyed in the deact process. Variation occurred however in the numbering system, which is noted for each individual year in Section II.
All Tula AKSU's have the crowned stop plate tab seen in the left image. Also note the single trigger bump on the right hand side. Two diamond proofs (usually it's only one) can also be seen on the receiver section. The picture all the way on the right shows another triangle proof that is found on the actual trigger guard.
Photo courtesy of Justinmcmillion
This transition to Type B occurred in early 1986. The only recorded examples of a 1985 I have with a type B thus far are verified to have been made in 1986 with a leftover trunnion from '85. [See 1986 in Section II for serial range]
This one is from an '86. As of right now, I haven't observed any differences through the years of production. I'd be very interested if anyone with a '93/any year could compare theirs to an '86 for us and let us know if you see any difference
Right-most photo courtesy of Tantal
The Tula trigger (lever) will have no mold markings, and the characteristic shiny black Tula finish. Several variations of the proof mark have been noted- the key is the lack of mold markings. As the picture demonstrates, the early "L-shaped" spacer was replaced early on by the commonly seen spacer which lasted until the end of production. No rate-reducer was found on any year AKSU from the factory.
Photo courtesy of Justinmcmillion
The Type A recoil guide had a beefier profile on the part that latched the top cover. The Type B one was slightly thinner and appears to have had a greater height. This change occurred sometime before or during 1986. I have not noticed any further modifications to the design after that so far
It is very difficult to date transitions for removable parts. I believe the transition happened in 1988, but with that said I have quite a large number of 1987 examples that have the Type B and appear relatively untouched.
Early Vented vs. Late Vented-
Photo courtesy of Jithaca
Type A (vented) lasted from 1982 into 1985. Two versions of vented-era handguards are found - see Jithaca's post (post #16). Type B (commonly referred to as "mid-era" HG's) is essentially the same thing as the vented ones, but lacks the cooling vents. They lasted until 1988, after which Type C ("late era") appeared. Type C has smaller finger grooves. While the fitment proof always occured on the left hand side closest to the receiver, the numbering system evolved several times. From 1982-1985, the last three digits of the serial were added on the LHG. They were stamped on the right side of the LHG in 1982 only, and on the left handside until 1985. A large number of these transitions occured in 1985. First, vented/numbered transitioned to nonvented/numbered, and finally to nonvented/nonnumbered. (more on this will be discussed in the year by year section). With the exception of cooling vents, I have not noticed any difference in upper hand guards.
By 1988, the selector markings became bolder. While not that big of a deal, they actually are extremely useful for roughly dating examples with low quality pictures.
Pistol Grips/Grip Nut
Just about every unaltered example I've seen from 1982-1985 contains a PG from the Type A molds (1-X -> 3-X). I believe that the Type B molds (4-X -> 6-X) were created by 1986, based on the Rguns '86 kits. While no single mold is only correct for one year- each particular year seems to have a mold that was most frequently found on each example (for example- 3-X in 1985, 4-X in 1986, etc). These will be covered in the year-year section.
^ This one is from an '86. Standard triangle proof like most other parts on the gun, along with obvious Tula machining marks