Before we begin, I think perhaps I should ask, “What is an AK?” The original rifle the AK-47 was introduced in 1947. The rifle features gas-piston operation. You pay extra for a gas piston in the AR and a lot for the gas piston M1A. However, AKs were once cheaper than the AR. Today, the situation seems reversed.
The AK-47, AKM, AK-74 and others earned a tremendous reputation for reliability. But they are not faultless — particularly with the cheap versions. AK stands for Avtomat Kalashnikova, or just Kalashnikov’s Automatic. Most AK rifles have stamped steel receivers. The bolt, trunnion, and barrel are manufactured of quality steel forgings. (Although there are cast trunnions.)
There are milled and forged variants. Forgings are more robust and more expensive. Most rifles are manufactured well enough for reliability, but also to looser tolerances to enhance reliability.
The history of the AK is interesting. If you own one, you may wish to collect historical pieces. You may also simply wish to own a good/reliable shooter. Avoid pitfalls and understand what you really want before you purchase.
I have seen more AK malfunctions over the years than M1 Garand, AR-15 or M1A1 malfunctions. Then again, I have fired a lot of cheap AKs, well-worn AKs, and used a lot of cheap steel-case loadings. I remember the first wave of $300 AK rifles and Chinese ammunition. Pow! Bang! Pow! Bang! Pow! and an SD all over the place was normal. However, I must admit that the rifle usually ran.
Some military surplus loads were service grade and high quality. Wolf offered a wicked 7.62x39mm hollow point load. In contrast to most foreign ammunition, it functioned, produced good accuracy, and expanded well. Bullets fired into water looked like razors.
My friend Barry killed several deer with clean shots to 75 yards with this load. The AK was a working man’s gun for many years offering affordable protection and a reasonable pig and deer gun. Recreation was a good reason for purchasing the rifle, as ammunition was very cheap.
Along the way, we learned that rust, dirt, mud, and muck WILL stop an AK. But then it will eventually stop a Jeep or a Tacoma as well. The bottom line… while the AK is a big R and small M gun (reliability and maintenance), maintain, clean, and lubricate the piece, and it will run a long, long time.
The AK rifle is simple to field strip and maintain. There are few small parts, and the rifle is designed to be acclimated to quickly. As far as I can tell, parts interchangeability is excellent.
The AK rifle was used by old Soviet Socialist Republic, China, and practically every nation that fell under Soviet/Communist influence. At one time it was estimated that every fifth firearm in the entire world was an AK! Israel has thousands of captured AK rifles in storage and chances are other nations do as well.
Only a few rifles offer pride of ownership, the ability to take game, and a good shot at personal defense. At one time, the Winchester 94 .30-30 was a standard for this type of rifle. Today an AK may fill that niche.
Power is not much, if any, below the .30-30 class. Likewise, if the rifle is not as accurate as the Model 94, it is accurate enough for most chores. The .30-30 WCF is usually clocked from a 20-inch barrel. If the Trapper carbine with 16-inch barrel is compared to the AK-47 with 16-inch barrel, the power and energy are remarkably similar.
At one time, Cor Bon offered a 150-grain AK load breaking a true 2,450 fps in the AK, outstripping a 20-inch barrel Winchester 94 .30-30 by more than 150 fps. The AK is quite a rifle given sufficient load development.
While beyond the scope of this feature article, handloads really bring out the potential of the 7.62x39mm cartridge. Another advantage — if you choose an under folder rifle — you have an easily stored and carried rifle that makes a good truck gun or bag gun with a large enough bag.
While the rifle’s sights are crude, they are useful to about 120 yards. Many AK rifles have the option of mounting a red dot or rifle scope. A quad rail is easily adapted to the AK rifle. TecSights and XS sights are an upgrade.
Let’s look at a few reasons to own an AK rifle. I added a Midwest Industries quad rail to my personal Interordnance AK. The result is a rifle well suited to mounting red dot optics and combat lights.
Because you can. Don’t underrate this simplistic reason. They — the liberals, the left, the Socialists, the Bund, the boogey man in Washington, or whatever you choose to call them, don’t want us to have the AK. While they haven’t been on the ban AK bandwagon — a dubious honor for the Armalite rifle — most ‘assault weapon’ bans cover the AK. So, get an AK to exercise your rights and because you can.
About a billion freedom starved downtrodden and horribly mistreated citizens in China, Iran, Mexico, North Korea, and Ireland to name a few wishes they had that right.
Because the AK works. While the AK isn’t as magically reliable and durable as its greatest fans make it out to be, a quality AK rifle is a very reliable workmanlike firearm. The maintenance required is minimal. I clean and lubricate my rifles. Just the same, a quality AK will go a long time between cleaning and lubrication.
The AK is one helluva a defensive firearm. It is a SHTF rifle with few equals. It is overlooked that the AK is a great rifle for animal defense. You don’t need a lot of range. An alligator, feral dog, or bear must get close enough before it can bite. You may put a lot of jacketed bullets into them long before they get that close.
The AK is accurate enough for most chores relating to personal defense and close-range hunting. An economy rifle with the least expensive steel-cased ammunition isn’t very accurate. A four-inch group at 100 yards for three shots is actually good for these rifles, some are worse. A better quality AK may get the groups into the three inch range — if you use quality ammunition. Fiocchi ammunition offers the single most accurate FMJ load I have fired. Hornady offers an SST loading suitable for game animals.
Firing the AK is affordable. Ammunition is below $10 a box at CheaperThanDirt! Then again, you don’t have to use a 7.62x39mm rifle. The 5.56mm round is also available in the AK platform as well.