Are left handed people more prevalent in Russia?


Ragnar Danneskjold
December 30, 2011, 09:45 PM
Worldwide, about 10-15% of the population is left-handed. But when looking at the AK-47, designed by a native Russian for the Red Army, it is clearly easier to manipulate for someone who is left handed. The placement of the charging handle and the safety, requires a significant change in the shooting grip for a right handed shooter. But when shooting an AK left hand, the right hand become the support hand and can actuate that controls much easier. You can keep your left hand on the grip and trigger, and use the right hand to operate the controls.

For those who are familiar with the Kalashnikov's history, is there a reason it was designed this way? Did tactics at the time of its design make this more sensible vs. the way shooters are taught to reload and use the weapon today?

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December 30, 2011, 10:08 PM
Having just acquired an AK, I notice that it is indeed easy for a lefty such as myself to operate. Even throws the empties out toward the front, instead of back and down my collar like the M16 did. Having said that, I don't think that Kalashnikov had left handed shooters in mind when he designed the AK. I have often wondered if other armies, the Soviet Army in particular, were as tolerant of left-handed soldiers as the US Army tried to be. Somehow, I doubt that they were.

December 30, 2011, 10:14 PM
Even if there are/were more southpaws in Russia, I seriously doubt that the Red Army cares. Catering to your troops' handedness is a bourgeois indulgence.

December 30, 2011, 10:15 PM
Ain't never saw a left handed mosin, so I guess not.

December 30, 2011, 10:21 PM
I'm pretty sure they have the same percentage of lefties as the rest of the world :D If I remember, the official training regimen for the Soviet soldiers was that only the right hand was used to manipulate controls of the weapon. I'm not sure if it extended to inserting the magazine, but several Mongolian (former soviet union) soldiers I shot with were very adamant that I not touch the charging handle with my left hand. I believe the phrase was "No, No, No, RIGHT hand only!"

I think the main reason for the charging handle being on the right side is for the ejection of spent casings. RH shooter needs the casings to eject on the right going away from them, and it is much easier to just put a handle on the bolt on that side rather than machining a slot on the other side of the gun and putting the charging handle over there.

There are several workarounds like the Galil charging handle and the "AK Lightning Bolt" that let a right handed shooter use their left hand to cycle the bolt. Or you could just rotate the gun so that the ejection port is facing downward and reach under to cycle the bolt on a gun without those upgrades.

I'm not too sure about the safety lever, but I think it owes its design to a Remington design from a few years before kalashnikov began his work. It is fairly easy to disengage if you keep your thumb hooked around the pistol grip but use two fingers to sweep the safety down.

A good thing to remember about Russian weapons is that while they were really big on reliability and ease of maintenance, ease of manufacture was very high on their lists as well. If they could save a little bit of money or time by eliminating a feature that was not absolutely necessary, they did it (left side charging handle). And they were manufacturing mostly for large bodies of conscripts with little or no education, so small numbers of large, durable parts were their friend (so no small thumb safeties to be lost or broken).

December 30, 2011, 11:13 PM
Thanks for pointing out that an AK is easier to use for a lefty, this is a point I had never considered before. I believe that its merely coincidence and nothing by design. Form follows function and because the ejection should be to the right for a right sided shooter, the opening should be to the right, and since there's an opening there, it provides clearance for the reciprocating charging handle.

I want to add that shooting is not connected with hand dominance. It is connected with eye dominance. I have a strong left hand dominance but shoot with my right eye. A child may want to place their strong hand on the trigger but if they are putting their whole head across the stock to use the opposite eye, it is very easy for them to correct. Using a trigger does not require the level of manual dexterity which would make it hard to switch to the other hand.
I really don't think that the terms right handed shoother and left handed shooter are accurate. It implies that a person using their left eye and left side to shoot are left handed which quite often is incorrect and vise versa. I read where 32.5% of righties were left eye dominant and 50% of lefties were right eye dominant.

Still Shooting
December 31, 2011, 12:35 AM
As Mshootnit said, eye dominance is what should determine which shoulder the gun gets put on. This wasn't generally known way back when I was a kid. The first time my dad handed me a .22 to shoot, he said, "Son, you can put this rifle on your left shoulder, or your right shoulder. But if you decide on your left shoulder, in the course of your life you're gonna spend a LOT of money on guns, and there are some nice ones you won't be able to own."

I put the gun on my right shoulder, even though I'm a lefty. But as it turns out, I'm right eye dominant. My youngest daughter is very right-handed, but she's left eye dominant, and that's the shoulder she wants to put the rifle up to. -Go figure?!:rolleyes:

December 31, 2011, 12:54 AM
Thats right, AK is best for left handers. The AR and FAL are great for right handers but worst for left handers.

Sergeant Sabre
December 31, 2011, 03:09 AM
The placement of the charging handle and the safety, requires a significant change in the shooting grip for a right handed shooter

The doctrine of always keeping your firing hand in place on the rifle is a very modern one, and wasn't a concern when the AK was developed. Handedness had everything to do with the placement of the AK's controls, in that they were designed for right handed shooters to manipulate with their right hands.

As to your original question, the answer is "no". Left-handedness is rare throughout all populations worldwide, save for a few isolated pockets of left-handed dominance. Nobody knows why.

December 31, 2011, 10:07 AM
The AK is the way it is because it was designed with poor ergonomics

December 31, 2011, 03:35 PM
There is also an old cultural connotation that 'left' is bad. (Russians working the black market and gray market economies during the soviet era were 'living on the left'--this is a very old convention)

Doubt anyone in Russia, soviet or imperial would design a mass issued rifle for a left hander.

December 31, 2011, 04:46 PM
As a southpaw my ak has this "KREBS CUSTOM ENHANCED AK SELECTOR LEVER" super easy to control and on my sgl it looks cool :cool:. No russia does not have more lefties. Their thought process with the ak was if there is too many, make more. If you want to make a gun that skrews us lefties over join the british army....L85 :fire:

December 31, 2011, 04:50 PM
The controls are designed to be worked with the right hand, while the left hand holds the fore grip providing a second point of contact, the first being the shoulder to the stock. The shooting hand can work the safety, mag changes and charging handle without ever lowering the rifle off it's target.

A lefty has to drop the muzzle to work the controls with the support hand.

With an AR, as a lefty, I had to work the controls with my firing hand, while keeping the muzzle supported with my right hand. By bringing my thumb around to the left side, I can work the safety, my trigger finger or middle finger can reach the bolt release and mag release.

As a lefty, I'd honestly choose an AR over an AK. So I bought an SKS. :rolleyes: :D

December 31, 2011, 08:11 PM
As far as I know, pretty much all infantry rifles/carbines and many subguns designed prior to the 1950's were designed to be cycled with the right hand, including American guns such as the M1 Garand, the M1 Carbine, the M1941 Johnson, etc. The AK's Russian predecessors were all operated with the right hand---Mosin-Nagant, PPSh, SKS. It was not until somewhat later that gun designers realized the advantages of reloading and charging the gun with the support hand.

This means that if you run a Garand/M1 carbine/M1A/AK, and you want to charge it with the hand that loads the magazine, you have to either run it left handed, or else reach over/under the rifle to charge it with the left hand when shooting right handed.

December 31, 2011, 08:34 PM
+1 on what benEzra and USAF_Vet said. The AK is meant to be held with the left hand while manipulated with the right. If done that way, its actually very easy to operate.

After all, every rifle and sub machine gun up to that point (early 1950's) has been meant to be run with the right and held with the left.

As for lack of education, this always tickles me. One of the required courses in Soviet schools was military preparation. By the time the average 16 year old finished high school in Russia, they knew how to maintain and fire an AKM rifle, prepare a fighting position, employ grenades and a few other handy things. Also, under Soviet rule, literacy in Russia reached 97%+ versus below 70% in imperial times. Rationale was you want your citizens literate to be able to read your propaganda ;). So, I am always baffled by this whole "illiterate conscripts" comments. Fact being, Soviet conscripts were all quite literate and already knew how to maintain their rifles before being conscripted.

December 31, 2011, 09:04 PM
As for lack of education, this always tickles me. One of the required courses in Soviet schools was military preparation.

That's pretty interesting, I wasn't aware that they did that in high school. I assumed they saved that for the basic training with the mandatory military service. While I agree that it is very likely that Russia had a high literacy rate (I haven't looked it up so I guess I'll take your word for it) I would bet that number is from later in the century. I don't think that would apply to the late 1940's Soviet military, I think it would be a stretch to call them highly literate. Since this thread is more about design than later use, I think that it is safe to say that while the rifle was designed for the 1940's soviet army of less than literate conscripts, those conscripts later became literate and trained on the weapon over the 20 or 25 years that the AKM was still in service before they transitioned to the AK 74.

December 31, 2011, 09:12 PM
Then again, we have a way of dumbing down our enemies to a subhuman level. Calling our Cold War opposition nothing more than illiterate conscripts was a far cry from reality in many cases, even back in the late 40's. Still, ask the Nazi's how they fared against those under supplied illiterates. Were there some Russian conscripts who were barely literate? Probably, but then again, there have been American soldiers who could barely read or write when they were drafted, too.

Dmitri Popov
December 31, 2011, 09:38 PM
Also consider that the rifles the soldiers were already familiar with (Mosin Nagant, SKS)
all had right side controls. Therefore, they would have already been used to manipulating the firearms controls with their right hands. No sense trying to teach old dogs new tricks...

January 1, 2012, 12:49 AM
Try avoiding Garand thumb with your left hand. It's clearly designed to take your right hand, put the heel of said hand against the charging handle with the bolt locked open, wrap your fingers around the underside of the stock, and press a new clip in with your thumb.

The AK has greater longevity, not any particular difference.

And to my mind, that's where the FAL, which is almost perfect, fails so heavily. The left-side charging handle, and a non-reciprocating one at that, is a terrible "feature" for a left handed shooter. If it was fixed right-side charging, and had better sights, it would be perfect in every regard.

January 1, 2012, 12:04 PM
I'm not saying that it's an AK variant, but from what I've seen (never shot one) the Vz-58 is the perfect lefty rifle. AR type safety on the right side. I thought it was close enough to the other commie guns to be included here.

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