Training With the Century Arms BFT47 at Gunsite

by Vern Evans

I’ve never been an AK guy, but you have to respect the most ubiquitous rifle in the world. I’ve always considered my education a little lacking in that department, so I jumped at the chance to T&E a Century Arms BFT47 at a week-long Gunsite course titled AK-47 Armorer Operator Course, taught by Jim Fuller, a legend in the AK world, and Rangemaster Freddie Blish.

Shooting the Century Arms BFT47

For years I have met up with the guys from Century Arms at the yearly Athlon Outdoors Rendezvous. They showed me their updated AK’s that had improvements like being able to flick off the safety with your trigger finger. I got on their website and decided the BFT47 was what I needed for this course. The features on the website looked impressive, but I will admit, I didn’t know a steel front trunnion from a bag of Funyuns. I figured Jim would square me away once I got to Gunsite.

Next, I decided I wanted to get a few upgrades to add to the rifle. I grew up shooting iron sights, but I learned a long time ago that I can shoot an AR a lot faster and more accurately with a red dot sight. I got a hold of Shield Sights, who sent me their SIS2 Switchable Interface Sight. It has four different reticles to choose from and a robust closed emitter to hold up to rough treatment. Midwest Industries provided their MI AK Side Railed Scope Mount. F.A.B. Defense sent me their Gradus Rubberized Ergonomic AK Pistol Grip (easily my favorite grip of all the one’s I have tried), their locking AK/AKM Picatinny Scope-Mount Dust Cover (I loaned it to a buddy in the class to mount his red dot and it held zero all week), and the F.A.B. Defense Vanguard M-LOK Compatible AK/AKM Handguard.

This was the only accessory I was unable to use because it will not fit on a bulged front trunnion. It was a shame because it would have been perfect to attach my weapon light for the low light portion of training at Gunsite. Blackhawk provided their Commando Chest Harness, which I loaned to another participant in the Gunsite class who did not have a chest rig. Having magazines on your chest for faster reloads was the preferred method for most of the participants in the class.

The BFT47 Rifle

The rifle itself has a number of features that made it more than your average American AK47. First, as I learned, one of the key features of a quality AK is a forged steel trunnion. It is stronger than non-forged and will last longer. The BFT47 trunnion is not only forged, it is bulged or oversized, which makes it stronger and helps with heat dissipation. Next, the rifle has an extended T-Shape magazine catch/release. During training, this mag release ran circles around the AKs with a “recessed” mag release. It also has a RAK-1 Enhanced Trigger Group.

I am no expert on AK triggers, but it seemed decently smooth with a solid reset. I prefer a shorter break and reset on my competition guns, but for a combat weapon, it was great. It also has a side optics mount, which proved invaluable when running the Shield SIS2. My absolute favorite feature turned out to be the enhanced safety selector. Not only did it allow the bolt to be locked open, it also allows the use of the trigger finger to flip it off safe in a fast and easy manner. Running the gun next to guys who were using traditional AK safeties made it obvious that the enhanced safety selector was a huge benefit.

Gunsite’s AK47 Armorer Operator Course

I got to spend five days at Gunsite’s once-a-year AK47 Armorer Operator Course. The first day was spent tearing the guns apart, polishing pieces and putting them back together under Jim Fuller’s watchful eye. Jim started Rifle Dynamics back in 2007 and more recently Fuller Phoenix, which specializes in building the highest quality AKs of all varieties as well as designing parts to upgrade an AK. After sanding the internal rails and learning where to lubricate it with white lithium grease, I traded out the stock pistol grip and clamped the sight mount and Shield SIS2 onto the gun. It was time to get to shooting.

The next day Rangemaster Freddie Blish and Instructor Monte Gould started us out sighting in our rifles and going over ballistics. The Shield SIS2 mounted on the Midwest Industries AK Side Rail Mount proved an excellent combination that had zero hiccups. I would have preferred tactile click adjustments on the SIS2, but once it was sighted in, I never needed to move it again. Before we were done that week, I ran well over a case of 7.62×39 steel case ammo through the BFT47, and the only firearm malfunctions were the ones we purposely induced during training. You think every AK runs that well? Think again. We had plenty of light primer hits, firing out of battery, and separated cases in other guns to dispense with any notions that these guns never malfunction.

Accurate AK Fire!

Another myth is the AK47 isn’t accurate. I’ll admit some of my targets over the first few days looked like someone had been firing buckshot at 100 yards, but the instructors were first rate and the groups tightened up considerably while the speed and smoothness increased dramatically. Shooting targets at unknown distances on the Military Crest was a blast. Even better was the Scrambler, where we ran station to station engaging targets from improvised platforms while racing the clock. I was very surprised on the final day at the Crimson Trace Range to find hitting Caldwell 8-inch steel targets at around 100 yards and Caldwell IPSC steel targets out to 300 yards was actually pretty easy.

Conclusion

While I still consider myself an AR guy, I must say, I have a genuine fondness in my heart for the BFT47. Like any weapon system, you need to learn the manual of arms and you need to practice. When I failed a drill, it wasn’t the gun that needed to be fixed, it was me. When I missed a target, it wasn’t because the gun wasn’t accurate enough, it was me. I never cleaned the gun and I only lubed it at the beginning of the week with a pee-sized amount of white lithium grease.

By the end of the week, when I picked up the BFT47, it no longer felt foreign. It felt like it belonged. There are still a lot more iconic guns out there that I would like to train on and become proficient. I can only hope that my experience with them will be half as smooth as it was with Century Arms BFT47.

For more information, visit centuryarms.com.

Century Arms BFT47 Specs

  • Caliber: 7.62x39mm
  • Modes of Fire: semi-auto
  • Barrel Length: 16.25 inches
  • Twist Rate: 1:10
  • Barrel Material: Chrome-Moly lined 4150 steel
  • Front Sight: Adjustable 
  • Muzzle Device: Slant Compensator
  • Handguard: American Hard Wood
  • Fire Control Group: RAK-1 Enhanced Trigger Group
  • Trigger Weight: 4 pounds, 14 ounces (average of 10 pulls on Lyman Trigger Gauge)
  • Capacity: 30+1
  • Buttstock: American Hard Wood
  • Pistol Grip: Standard AK style Black Polymer
  • Action: Long stroke piston
  • MSRP: $829.99
Load Velocity Average Accuracy Average Accuracy Best
Wolf Polyformance FMJ 123-grain 2,300 fps 2.39 inches 2.02 inches
Wolf Performance FMJ 123-grain 2,443 fps 3.72 inches 2.87 inches
Wolf Military Classic FMJ 124-grain 2,362 fps 2.60 incges 1.67 inches

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