American-Made Hellhound Tactical and Sporter 7.62x39mm AK Rifles from I.O., Inc.

by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 9th, 2012





Click pictures for a larger version.


I.O., Inc. Sporter (bottom) and Hellhound (top) AKs.


Hellhound Tactical.



Hellhound Picatinny rail covers.



Leupold 2.5 power Scout Scope was used for accuracy testing the Hellhound Tactical rifle.



Hellhound 100 yard groups.



I. O. flashlight/laser sight combo.



I. O. vertical foregrip attaches easily to any Picatinny rail.

The generic term “AK-47” refers to a group of the most popular rifles ever designed and produced on Earth, and while referring to the whole lot as AK-47 rifles is not technically correct, this group includes the AK, AKM, AKS, as well as the later AK-74 and AK-100 series rifles. Officially adopted in one form or another by at least seventy-five different nations around the globe, the AK is the most prolific shoulder-fired weapon ever produced. Designed and developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov at the end of World War II, the AK was inspired by the German Sturmgewehr. At the end of that war, the Soviets recognized the usefulness of a close to moderate range rifle that offered a lot of firepower using a cartridge that was less powerful than the cartridges chambered in the battle rifles of the time, and having the option of automatic fire like a submachine gun. The AK, like its German inspiration, was somewhat of a cross between a battle rifle and a submachine gun, and has proven itself very successful at filling both roles admirably.

The AK has been manufactured in many countries, both licensed and unlicensed, and for decades, the Soviets and Chinese would freely give the weapons to any nation with Communist-leaning governments. Today, most 7.62x39mm variants of the AK are called AK-47, even though they are closer to the AKM, as most use a stamped receiver and have the angled muzzle brake of that modernized version of the AK.

For many years, several varieties of the AK in semi-automatic form have been sold in the United States for civilian ownership, and they have proven to be quite popular. Most are not nearly as refined as our AR rifles, and are crudely finished and wear stocks made wood that has all of the quality and charm of a shipping crate. However, the AK continues to be very popular, but quality varies greatly, depending upon both the manufacturer and the importer of the weapons. The traits that best describe an AK are simplicity, reliability, ruggedness, and durability. When put together correctly, the weapon will work under adverse conditions, with little maintenance, and with a minimal amount of training for the operator.

Now, I.O., Inc. of Monroe, North Carolina is manufacturing AK style semi-automatic rifles in the United States. Offered in several variants with either polymer or wood furniture, the I.O. rifles are built using AKM-style (stamped) receivers, and are offered in a Sporter version which is very close to military style design, and also the new Hellhound Tactical with modernized Phantom flash suppressor and a railed hand guard for the attachment of optical sights and accessories. The I.O. rifles, with the exception of the Sporter Econ, also have the AK-style scope mount rail base on the left side of the receiver, and I.O. sells a very good Picatinny rail mount to fit that base.

The I.O. rifles have a manganese phosphate (Parkerized) steel finish, and the internal gas system is chromed. The barrels measure 16.25 inches in length, and have a one-in-ten inch right-hand twist. The furniture on the Sporter rifle is available in laminated wood for the classic military AK look, or various colors of polymer. Weight varies depending upon the particular model chosen, between seven and eight and one-half pounds. The two rifles shown here; the Sporter and Hellhound Tactical, weigh in at six pounds, fourteen ounces for the Sporter, with the Hellhound weighing one ounce more. Both were weighed without magazines. All I.O. rifles come with a waffle-design thirty-round magazine, except where normal-capacity magazines are banned, in which case they ship with a low-capacity ten-round magazine. All I.O. rifles can also be purchased with a “bullet button” magazine release, making them legal for sale in California.

The I.O. rifles are built to Polish blueprints, and the rear sight is graduated in meters out to 1000. Disassembly is pure AK, is quick and easy to do, and exposes no small parts to loss. The safety is also typical AK, doing double duty as a dust cover for the charging handle raceway between the upper and lower receiver halves, effectively sealing the internals from dust, sand, and other stuff which does not belong in there. A downward movement of the right-handed shooter’s trigger finger easily disengages the safety, with the familiar audible “click” as the safety lever is lowered. For a left-handed shooter, disengaging the safety is a bit more awkward, but with either hand, the lever is large and easy to operate, even while wearing thick gloves. The charging handle is attached to the bolt carrier, and cycles with the firing of the weapon.

I fired the Sporter and the Hellhound Tactical rifles for function and accuracy. For function testing, I loaded the magazines with several types of 7.62x39mm ammunition, both foreign and domestic, brass-cased and lacquered steel case types. I fired three types of ammunition over the chronograph for velocity testing, at an elevation of 541 feet above sea level, a temperature of fifty-four degrees Fahrenheit, and fifty-one percent humidity. The chronograph was set ten feet from the muzzles of the two rifles. I had zero malfunctions with the two I.O. rifles. Every type of ammo presented fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. The magazines are durable polymer, and load easily. The USA 123 grain full-metal-jacket ammo clocked an average of 2265 feet-per-second (fps), with the Winchester 123 grain soft point ammo right behind it at 2254 fps, and the Cor-Bon DPX ammo averaged 2238 fps. The Russian Brown Bear steel-cased 123 grain FMJ averaged 2224.

For accuracy testing, I fired from a Target Shooting, Inc. Model 500 rifle rest. I wanted to try a scope on the Hellhound Tactical, as I do much better work using a scope. Having no mount for the side rail, I mounted my 2.5 power Leupold Scout Scope to the top Picatinny rail on the hand guard using Warne quick-detach rings. Starting with a couple of quick shots to get on paper at twenty-five yards, I proceeded to fire upon the 50 yard target. I.O. states on their website that their rifles have match-grade barrels, and will shoot two-inch groups at 100 yards, but I had my doubts. After all, these are AK rifles, which are not known for accuracy. Shooting the first group using the Leupold scope and Cor-Bon hunting ammo, I fired three quick shots, then looked through the spotting scope to make adjustments of the scope settings. Expecting at least a three-inch group, I stated something like “I don’t believe this _ _ _ _!” All three bullet holes were touching, fired from an AK at fifty yards! I then turned to the 100 yard target, and settled down and fired another group, then another. I was sitting there at the shooting bench, laid the rifle down, and sat back thinking “I can’t write this. No one will believe it.” I didn’t believe it myself. From the Hellhound, every 100 yard group was well under one inch. I opened a box of Winchester USA ammo, the cheap stuff, and fired another group. Still excellent accuracy. Same with the Winchester soft points. Then I tried the cheap Russian Brown Bear ammo. Finally, the groups opened up to between one and one-quarter and one and three-quarters inches.

Knowing that my eyes would never let me see the target dot using the open sights at 100 yards, for testing the Sporter I set the target at fifty. The open sight picture is very good, and I took a six-o’clock hold just under the two-inch target dot, and squeezed the Sporter’s trigger. By the way, the trigger pulls on these rifles are butter-smooth. Typically AK style with a long pull, but very smooth and light, breaking between three, and three and three-quarters pounds on both rifles, with the Sporter’s being the lighter of the two. The groups with the open sights were also very rewarding, and amazed me, as again, I don’t do very well shooting open sights, and this was an AK, which are not known for exceptional accuracy. However, once again, the I.O. Sporter performed much better than expected, turning in very respectable groups at fifty yards, especially with me pulling the trigger. I could pretty much do at fifty yards with open sights as well as I did at 100 using the scope. As you can see from the groups pictured, these are both very accurate rifles, and they both greatly exceeded my accuracy expectations.

These AK rifles from I.O., Inc. have changed the way that I think about AK rifles. My experience up to now had been that the Kalashnikov design was reliable and rugged, but inaccurate when compared to other rifles, such as an AR. After firing these American-made I.O. rifles, I now know that AKs can also be very accurate, as well.

Check out the line of rifles, pistols, and accessories online at

To buy quality 7.62x39mm ammunition, go to

Jeff Quinn

Got something to say about this article? Want to agree (or disagree) with it? Click the following link to go to the GUNBlast Feedback Page.

Click pictures for a larger version.


I. O. Sporter rifle.



Disassembly is quick, easy, and exposes no small parts to loss or damage.





Author used a variety of ammo for testing.



Sporter 50 yard groups with open sights.



Trijicon Reflex sight is a good choice for close-range shooting.