Should You Buy an AK-47?
Dr. John Woods 03.06.19
One of the most popular all time debates among “assault” rifle enthusiasts, preppers, and survivalists is which or what rifle to buy. This could be for self-defense, property protection, offensive or defensive action, hunting, target shooting or just fun plinking. You know the choices, but the argument usually boils down to the AR-15 of American origin or the AK-47 developed by the Soviet Union. To feed fuel to the fire, there are actually dozens of other viable choices, too.
So, skipping all the pros and cons of these two choices or even other options, let’s just consider one here. Is the AK-47 a good choice to fill these roles for a prepper or any individual looking for a reliable rifle that has the capability and capacity to halt a threat or reduce it to alternative considerations, withdrawal or a full stand down?
First the sales pitch. The AK-47 was developed in the Soviet Union we know as Russia in 1949 the year before I was born. Behind the Iron Curtain production continued until 1978 when I completed my PhD. Then and since, the AK-47 has been produced to the tune of 100 million rifles, estimated to be one-fifth of the arms in the entire world. It has been manufactured in 32 other countries around the globe and has been or is in current use in 121 countries. What else do you want to know?
You Vietnam and Middle East vets out there faced these weapons head on, so you know their capabilities to deliver harm even under the most arduous conditions afield. They overshadowed the early AR-15 or M-16 so much that some troops took up recovered AKs for their own use. On the nightly news even today, wars in foreign lands everywhere show troops or rebels holding the AK-47. What else do you need to know?
There just is no viable debate about the utility of the AK-47 as a firearm model. It runs well, and often. It has a stellar reputation for functioning in mud, blood, beer, rain forests, deserts, sand, or any other place on Earth. It will do well here among the city streets, urban neighborhoods, and outlying rural areas.
They are easy to maintain, parts are available and ammunition is prolific everywhere in this country. Accessories are readily available like extra magazines, slings, sights, optics, stock variations, hardware, modern furniture, cleaning supplies, kits, and cases. Associated web gear is easy to find as well. You can even get the Chinese helmet if you want that, but it isn’t necessary except to the collector.
So then there is little question about the choice of an AK-47 when discussing reliability, function, utility, and serviceability. It has been proven battle and civilian ready all over the world and it is already equally as popular here in the United States. That too, despite the fact that we are the home to the AR-15 and military M-16 as well as over 450 clones in current production. Let there be no doubt about this proven design, no matter how ugly it looks or sounds when fired.
The platform is good, but what about the cartridge? So long as the rifle can deliver its loaded rounds repeatedly with little effort, then the concern should turn to the cartridge itself. The Soviet M43 round or the 7.62×39 as we commonly recognize it, was adopted by Russian forces in 1943. It came to regular use after WWII.
The standard military load used a 122 grain ball bullet with a muzzle velocity of 2329 feet per second. That generated roughly 1470 foot pounds of energy. Russian ammunition for the AK-47 used steel cases for which the chrome lined chambers of the AKs were designed to handle. Steel cases were much cheaper to manufacture than brass and the materials were more readily available. If by chance you have another type of rifle that uses the 7.62×39, then it is recommended to use brass cased ammo in those and not the steel cased ammo which could stick in non-chrome lined chambers.
So the 7.62×39 is compared to what? With a factory 150 grain load it exceeds common 30-30 loads out beyond 100 yards. Side by side to the .223 (5.56) out of an AR-15, it gens up a MV of 3200 with a ME of 1280. While bullet speed is higher with the .223, the terminal target energy is less, because the .223 uses a standard 55 grain bullet. In these regards, the AK’s 7.62×39 is a better performer with certain range limitations that should be recognized.
The AK-47 and its 7.62×39 ammunition is not a long range affair. It was intended for combat, then modernized with enhanced ammunition to be effective for hunting game sized animals up to white-tailed deer. It makes a grand varmint round for coyotes and even wild hogs at reasonable ranges.
When shopping look for tested foreign made AKs from Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia. New American made or assembled AKs include guns from Inter-Ordnance, Century Arms, and Palmetto State Armory. Atlantic Firearms AKs have been earning a good reputation building new rifles using excellent components from Poland as I understand it. Make sure you buy quality and know what you are buying.
Any drawbacks? As a stock rifle, it is not easy to accessorize as is the AR. It is awkward to add any optical sight or electronic red dot type sight. It has no Picatinny rails to add stuff. Some complain about the trigger. It may be rough, but again it is a rifle intended for combat in harsh conditions. These are not bad things, just features to be aware of if you go to shop for one.
So, finally is the AK-47 and its proprietary round suitable for prepping, survival, personal defense, property protection and even hunting? Our vote is a resolute yes. Though I am stanchly an AR-15 guy, I have owned and used an AK. If you can find one at a reasonable price in new or excellent used condition, buy it. You could do a whole lot worse.