Red Oktober: AK Culture Kalash

Apocalypse Vegas: Red Oktober has something for everyone.

Red Oktober is an AK shooting competition surrounded by a cultural festival. It is Burning Man with guns. Remarkably apolitical, Red Oktober welcomes all who cherish freedom and history.  Since 2016, attendees from around the world celebrate civil rights, Russian engineering, and AK culture. There are vendors, sponsors, cosplayers, machineguns, tanks, giveaways, food trucks, AKs, and loads of open-minded new friends.

By noon Saturday, I went to a costume party, ate a burrito, bought a parts kit, sat in a tank, fired seven machineguns, shot in a rifle match, and saw what’s new with the US AK manufacturers. It was a great weekend at the happiest place on Earth. If you like the AK or anything related to it, you are going to love Red Oktober.

This was my favorite shooter at Red Oktober.

The primary sponsor, Rifle Dynamics, pulled out all the stops. They organized the range, recruited sponsors for giveaways, imported tanks, and wrangled food trucks. Red Oktober 2021 was held at Pro Gun Vegas in Boulder City, Nevada, (a 20-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip making it ideal for a mini-vacation).  Planning for next year is ongoing, make your reservations early. You have time to get a gun and train up for Oktober 2022!

Russian D-44 Anti-tank Gun from Battlefield Vegas. This 85mm anti-tank gun fires a high velocity armor-piecing tracer BR-372 projectile at 1040 meters per second and can penetrate 185mm of armor at a range of 1000 meters at an angle of obliquity of 90 degrees.

Like a Rorschach test, your reaction to an AK style rifle reveals a lot about your personality. Some people see a murder weapon. Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov was a tractor mechanic who designed a simple tool for farm boys to protect their families and villages from invading Nazis. The AK was designed to kill monsters, not arm them.

The name is deceptive, Red Oktober is a playful allusion to the October Revolution of 1917 which overthrew Czar and brought the blessings of communism to Russia. The theme is AK centered but open to all things related to the defense of Rodina (Russian: родина: the Motherland) and communist block weapons technology.

Starting as a rifle match in 2016 in Saint George, Utah, Red Okober appeals on a number of levels. Some people want to shoot historical weapons and dress in period uniforms. Others want to dress in apocalyptic cosplay or fantastic anime themes. Many attend as spectators to see the carnival.

Hawaiian shirts and Aloha spirit were abundant at Red Oktober.

As a Green Beret, I understand the AK as a symbol of anti-imperialism. I have seen the AK and related communist block weapons on the battlefield. As a student of technology, I am amazed by the clever use of design to optimize simplicity and ruggedness. As a trainer, I see the AK as a part of a system to rapidly field conscripts to protect the Motherland. As a student of history, I see the impact of 75 million AK-47 rifles built in over 40 countries.

Red Oktober: The Match

In the center ring of this circus is a rifle match like no other. Brian Nelson was the first match director and continues to serve as Red Oktober Commandant to his day. The event attracts collectors, shooters, and builders from around the world.  

Perfect for Red Oktober, the SVT-40 was a Russian semi-automatic rifle chambered in 7.62 x 54R. The Russians made 2 million SVT-40s in the Second World War. This shooter is wearing Russian “Amoeba” camouflage.

The match has rules, but the open architecture allows shooters to compete in their own categories with AK rifles, bolt action rifles, stripper clip feed rifles, pistol caliber carbines, and submachine guns. Safety is paramount and all legal communist block derived weapons are welcomed.

This highly modified PKM belt-fed was right at home at Red Oktober.

Match stages are IPSC style challenges requiring marksmanship, athletic prowess and a skilled weapons handling. In 2021 there were eight stages requiring movement, 100 yard steel targets, head shots, barricade shooting, target discrimination, grenade launchers and reloads. Machineguns and suppressors are welcome. Safety is constantly enforced by stage Range Safety Officers. While Red Oktober is all about fun, there is no sense of humor about safety violations.

DJ BLAZE did an awesome video covering the 2021 Red Oktober Kalashnikov Championships with footage of all 8 stages.

AK Culture

Arms Control experts claim that there are about 500 million firearms worldwide. 75 million of these guns are AK-47s. This cements the AK-47’s position as the most popular weapon since the sharp stick. Rooted in WW2, it blossomed during the insurgencies of the cold war and spread to conflicts in every corner of the world.

Chinese uniforms and weapons are welcome too.

Among gun people, AK fans are known for their commitment. As homemade guns have become popular, many builders are attracted to semi-automatic AK designs. While simple in concept, the sheet metal and rivet technology requires artful construction. This forbidding path attracts a special kind of enthusiast. AK people are passionate about reliability and fiercely loyal to their gun.

Sponsors and Vendors

Sponsor Rifle Dynamics brought out TFBTV’s James Reeves to cover the festivities.
KCI USA makes magazines. What better way to show them off than to have a collection of full auto guns available for mag dumps? This is one of their RPKs.
Kalashnikov USA™ brought out a full auto KP-9. They sell a civilian legal, 9mm semi-auto only AK style pistol based upon the Russian Vityaz submachine gun. They were doing a 20,000 round test and invited attendees to help.
Battlefield Vegas brought out their venerable T-62. It drove around and even fired a few rounds.
APEX was selling their parts kits. In addition to many AK variants, they had these beautiful Polish PPs43 and Spanish CETME kits. I am thinking that PPs43 would be great for Red Oktober 2022.
Gun Owners of America had a fundraiser with a number of guns you could shoot. My favorite was an RPG-7 trainer which fired a 7.62×39 round at a scaled tank target.
Pioneer brought out their line of AKs.
IWI displayed its full inventory and offered test shooting.
Battle Arms Development was there shooting their AKs and other stuff.

Red Oktober is an amazing collection of unique individuals and organizations coming together to celebrate freedom and fun. I have been to three Red Oktober’s and I will be back in 2022 with better gear. If you shoot, collect uniforms, like tanks, or just enjoy hearing machineguns, make plans to come out to Vegas next Oktober.

The Battlefield Vegas T-62 was a crowd favorite.

Photos courtesy of Mark Miller.

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About the author: Mark Miller is a former Customs Agent and a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and a number of other live fire locations. A student of firearms and shooting, he is an FFL and a SOT. The guiding philosophy of his life is that terrain and situation dictate tactics and the enemy always gets a vote on any plan.

{ 14 comments… add one }
  • J November 22, 2021, 3:20 pm

    This event sounds really cool! I’d love to make it to one!

    • Mark Miller November 22, 2021, 9:20 pm

      I tried to post some representative pictures. AK people are the best and the costumes and uniforms are just fun.

  • Bill November 22, 2021, 3:02 pm

    I own many AK variants and would love to join in one day

    • Mark Miller November 22, 2021, 9:21 pm

      The hardest part is picking just one gun to bring.

  • Travis November 22, 2021, 12:39 pm

    Thinking I am gonna have to make it for the 2022 event!

    • Mark Miller November 22, 2021, 9:23 pm

      It always fills up fast, they start announcing dates and such about six months out.

  • Jim Bradley November 22, 2021, 10:54 am

    What are the dates next year ???

  • Hub Whitt November 22, 2021, 9:27 am

    This looks like a fun deal! I don’t own an AK-47, but you may have just inspired me to save up enough to buy one, and come out next Oct! Thanks for the great article!

    • Travis November 22, 2021, 12:38 pm

      I highly suggest you get a Yugo m70 if you want a rifle or 92 if you want a pistol I wound up buying one and they are an absolute bargain. You get the most ak for your money hands down.

      • Mark Miller November 22, 2021, 9:24 pm

        I love the Yugos, I have one. but remember that they don’t take common AK furniture and many accesories.

    • Mark Miller November 22, 2021, 9:26 pm

      It is even more fun than it looks. I have never seen a more open or friendly shooting event.

  • Robert D McCowen November 22, 2021, 8:57 am

    Good Article. It sounds Like it was a blast. It would be Enjoyable to attend. I enjoy watching people have a good time. Remember A bad day at the range (this obviously was a great day) is better than a good day at anything else.

    • Mark Miller November 22, 2021, 9:28 pm

      Pro-Gun club is a great facility and the sponsors: Rifle Dynamics, KCI USA and Kalashnikov USA put a lot of work into the fun.

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