Are AK-47s Good For Home Defense?

AK in action

For many years, I have kept an AK-type rifle in the safe or attic in order to be able to comment intelligently on the rifle and to provide training and familiarization for trainees. There have been occasional opportunities for articles and reports.

I have to admit that for most of this time, the AK rifle on hand has been an inexpensive—even cheap—example that served the purpose OK. Just owning an AK can be fun and only making brass without purpose is another thing we like to do.

For serious use, such as personal defense, a higher level of expectation is needed. Some AKs are better than others when it comes to home defense. But overall, is it a solid option?

The author’s favorite AK is the Arsenal Underfolder.

Home Defense Advantages of the AK

The AK has become popular in America for the right reasons. The rifle works well, serves a purpose and is affordable. A few makers, such as Arsenal, have taken the AK and elevated the rifle far above the norm.

For those wishing to own a rifle that performs as well as possible, the Arsenal gets the nod. Quality manufacture and attention-to-detail are evident. The Arsenal is a rifle that you might rightly bet your life on, as much as you may any rifle.

The AK has endearing qualities. The rifle is easy to manipulate with simple, intuitive handling. The bolt is easily racked to make the rifle ready. The sights are rugged, no-nonsense units that do not go out of zero. My example is an underfolder.

Unlike the AR, which uses a recoil spring that juts from the rear of the receiver, the AK adapts well to an underfolding stock. The result is an easy-to-stow rifle.

When protection against large animals, armored felons or gangs is needed, nothing quite equals the AK rifle. I don’t wish to start an AR versus AK debate, as all of us should own both.

That being said, I like the AK because the rifle will come up shooting with little to no maintenance and lubrication and works well as a truck gun. It is simply a workhorse.

7.62 x 39mm cartridge
The 7.62x39mm is an efficient cartridge with much to recommend.

The greatest advantage of the 7.62x39mm cartridge in the minds of most Americans was that it was cheap. (Dirt cheap in the early days.) Once we got over the cheap part, over time we realized that the 7.62 x 39mm is a great cartridge.

In rifles of a similar barrel length, the Soviet cartridge develops energy on par or greater than the .30-30 Winchester. (Most comparisons are between a 20-inch barrel .30-30 and a 16-inch barrel 7.62 x 39m.)

Many deer and boar have been taken with this cartridge, usually because this was the rifle on hand. Many of these animals were taken with the humble SKS rifle and others with the AK. The key is using the right load.

While steel-cased ammunition from Wolf or Tula is fine for practice a quality expanding bullet load should be used for hunting and personal defense. A couple of magazines full of quality ammunition isn’t going to impact your lunch money badly.

The Hornady 123-grain SST and the Remington 123-grain JSP are among the American-produced loads that are more accurate than most.

Most commercial rifles designed for hunting and personal defense are designed to sell or to offer a reasonable choice for hunting. The AK-47 rifle was designed for affordable manufacture, but also to survive and thrive in difficult environments.

In a quality rifle with good sights that are properly aligned with the bore and with good furniture, the AK handles quickly and offers excellent hit probability.

expanding ak bullet loads
There are a number of expanding bullet AK loads. This type of loading should be chosen for home defense.

Operating an AK in Home Defense Situations

Getting the rifle into action is simple. Angle the magazine into place, be certain it is locked and control the rifle with the firing hand. The non-dominant hand reaches over to the bolt and racks the bolt to make the rifle ready to fire.

The safety lever is sometimes criticized. This lever is moved to the uppermost position to make the rifle safe. This lever is often very stiff in economy-grade rifles. Modification of the lever at the “V” often works. A few passes with sandpaper cures the stiffness.

The Arsenal works well, is smooth and not overly stiff. It is sometimes overlooked that the AK rifle safety is intended to be operated in all conditions, including harsh winter conditions when soldiers are wearing heavy gloves.

There is nothing about the AK safety that isn’t positive. It is easily manipulated with gross motor movements. If you are left-handed, the support hand (right) sweeps back to the safety easily.

Champion hearing protection
Keep a set of quality hearing protectors at home ready. The new Champion allows normal communication but baffles excellent noise. They’re a great AK-47 accessory.

When firing the rifle, I had to come to grips with the proper technique. When running the AR-15, I keep the support hand forward as far as possible for control. With the AK rifle, I find gripping the front of the magazine is the best technique for me.

I press the stock into the shoulder and maintain my firmest grip. To replace the magazine, the strongly sprung catch must be mastered. If you fumble the load, the magazine will not be half inserted. It falls away.

The magazine latch is very solid and securely locks the magazine in place. The Arsenal rifle features a good crisp trigger that makes getting fast easy for those that practice.

AK Ammunition Selection

I have tested several 7.62x39mm loads with either hollow-point or soft-point bullet. The Wolf 122-grain HP opens quickly with excellent wound potential. The Remington 123-grain JSP offers a good balance of expansion and penetration.

The Hornady SST is another good choice, well-suited to taking game if this is part of the rifle’s mission. Among a very few purpose-designed personal defense loads is the Winchester PDX.

Practice with FMJ and use the expanding bullet loads for duty, hunting and personal defense. The AK rifle (in general) and the Arsenal, in particular, is a fine choice for personal defense and among the most versatile firearms available.

Hornady Steel Match ammo
Hornady Steel Match with the SST bullet is a first-class choice for most uses.

There are a few improvements that may be made without breaking the bank. For those with an older AK rifle, the CMC trigger offers a match-grade trigger at a fair price. The trigger may be adjusted to a crisp 3.5 pounds.

Another option I like very much is the TRUGLO Tritium front post. This makes for all-around utility in dim light. TRUGLO also offers a “predator light.”

While the kit may be mounted on the rifle and a pressure switch-mounted, I like the easy on-and-off flashlight option. TRUGLO offers good quality for the price and doesn’t break the bank.

Hornady SST load
These are expanded Hornady SST loads at different ranges and velocity. This is an outstanding loading.


I like the AK for home defense, area defense and for keeping predators away from the homestead. While the rifle would not be ideal for defense in a crowded complex, for my scenario, the AK is ideal.

The AK is a modern rifle that makes for a good house gun for those at risk.

Do you own an AK? Do you use it for home defense? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author:

Wilburn Roberts

When Wilburn Roberts was a young peace officer, he adopted his present pen name at the suggestion of his chief, as some of the brass was leery of what he might write. This was also adopted out of respect for families of both victims and criminals. The pen name is the same and the man remains an outspoken proponent of using enough gun for the job.

He has been on the hit list of a well-known hate group, traveled in a dozen countries and written on many subjects, including investigating hate crimes and adopting the patrol carbine. He graduated second in his class with a degree in Police Science. It took him 20 years to work himself from Lieutenant to Sergeant and he calls it as he sees it.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (19)

  1. Haha well in 2021 any gun you have next to you is good enough, man if younger me knew the future of ammo and prices I woulda sold every single thing in my possession and stocked up. An AK is a great self defense weapon, so is an SKS or a nagant or an ar or whatever you have. Any gun you can use is better than no gun in any instance.

  2. Having read numerous comments about the x39 round being overpowered for home use, two comments quickly come to mind: A, know whats behind your target before pulling the trigger (a primary responsibility & optimum choice but likely driven by reality of a violent and sudden home invasion), and B, reports of home invasions by multiple attackers are on the rise. If you only get one bullet in an invader before he takes cover make it a big one not a “.410 with bird shot”. That isn’t going to do crap against an attacker that is fortified with narcotics or even their own adrenaline. My Mossberg 500 410 holds 5 rounds. An AK magazine options are significantly more.

  3. I disagree on this for self defense. As self defense in my state is legally within 25’. The shots fired will over penetrate. Go through the wall. Through someone in the next room. Into a neighbors home & possibly through someone there. A .410 with bird shot would be better for home defense. At close range it would take a head off & less worry about where else your shot can land. I don’t understand why everyone thinks that they need a massive round for home defense.

  4. Once upon a time, a fixed-stock I.O.C. AK ready to go with 20-round magazines could have been first choice for filling my hands while investigating troubling noises in the night, with a few key points factored into that decision:
    1) Someone not familiar with an AK (99+ percent of the domestic population) will usually fumble a bit trying to take it off safe, providing a window of opportunity if a visitor gets to it before I do;
    2) That fixed stock is very sturdy, both for holding on to in a rough-and-tumble encounter and when applied with anatomical meaning;
    3) If push comes to shoot, each round from that AK would have been much more audible to God and everybody who can dial 911 than any 5.56mm announcement that I have unwanted company;
    4) It was inexpensive, so I won’t cry excessively if it winds up spending an indeterminate amount of time in an evidence storage room.
    Nowadays, the more likely choice would be a Kel-Tec SUB-2000, which was even less expensive than the AK and might have some nifty 9mm non-incendiary tracer rounds loaded so I can be more sure where any fired rounds went. And unfolding a loaded SUB-2000 to make it ready to shoot is even less intuitive to someone who hasn’t handled one before.

  5. I agree on all points, however prefer the M1 Carbine for home defense. Lighter weight, same mag capacity, less likely to over penetrate and great natural handling characteristics. Can also attach a bayonet for enhanced weapon retention.

  6. The writer doesn’t stress one point enough : The AK is UGLY AND DANGEROUS LOOKING. It has much more of an intimidation factor than a more expensive pistol. Moreover, its looks are iconic, Everyone knows that the AK-47 is a nasty, effective weapon.

    I’d rather not shoot anyone so if I can make an intruder say “Holy S**T! ” and beat it by pointing one of my AKs at him, that’s fine with me, (Totally agree that the AK-47 is NOT a good idea for home defense in an apartment complex. The 7.62 X 39 slug can go through a bunch of walls)

    Very good article

  7. Wilburn,
    As a Vietnam veteran, and a former range officer at an indoor range, I can’t agree with you more on the rugged reliably of the AK. The only thing I would disagree with is the premise of using the AK for home defences. Having seen what the 7.62 x 39 is capable of, homeowners must be aware of the fact that a fired round may not stay within the confines of their homes. The possiblity of penetrating a neighboring home can have devastating consequences. Or penetrating a wall in your own home without knowing if a family is on the other side. Those living in a very rural area might not even reach the closest neighbors home.
    My preference is the pump 12 guage shotgun. Two reasons why- the first round in the chamber is #71/2 bird shot. The second reason is , that if they haven’t left upon hearing you rack the slide, they need to be removed from the gene pool. At that point you should then chamber the second round, #4 buckshot. Again being aware of where you are aiming and that buck shot will penetrate a common interior wall.
    Taking another human’s life is not the easiest thing to do, with emotional and legal consequences for those protecting their home and family. Unfortunately, what is common sense to us, is not always applicable in the courtroom.

  8. I am not that keen on the AK platform The cartridge performs well but I prefer the AR platform in the .300BLK which is identical to the 7.62×39. I have two rifles chambered in that cartridge, the SKS and the AK but prefer the AR platform I have a carbine length rifle and pistol (for home defense) configurations

  9. If you already own one get best self defense ammo, and cheap ammo to practice with.
    Not all are wealthy enough to have ranch or homesteads, and as a self defence weapon for most it is only good for when SHTF scenario and chaos reigns.
    It will be illegal in near future and they who say no way, you know not what nation is like.
    Buy a good 9mm multi round pistol or better yet a pump shotgun and a pistol. The pistol even limited to 10 rounds and a pump shotgun to 3 or less in future will be last home defense weapons to be owned legally.
    Unless you are part and parcel, ex police and senior military or politicly connected, if in that group your legal social credit is seperate priveledge status and use it best you can.

  10. Yes, I own an AK.
    It’s not my primary home defense weapon.
    I enjoyed reading this article because it stayed on subject rather than drifting off to other guns that might be better or different. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  11. As an AK and SK collector I love the rifle. I have a Draco beside my bed for home defense and a wooden stock Russian AK that I keep in my Mother’s house. They are fun too shoot. The accessories are simple. Drum magazines and fold under or fold out stocks. And the ammo is cheap enough to play at the range all day if you wanted. I like them better than my AR.

  12. I do own a. AK variant for home defense. All the furniture has been upgraded to MagPul FDE with a Zukoff folding stock which when folded I can still manipulate and fire the rifle. Mine is a Century Arms C39 v2 with milled receiver. It is s.ooth in operation without the rattle trap of stamped and folded receiver rifles. The trigger is an upgrade installed at manufacture and there is a bracket for a proprietary optic mount. Fit and finish is far above most surplus examples and the rifle is 100% US manufacture.
    It’s a little pricey at just over $700, but worth it.

  13. I acquired a Chinese made 12 Gauge semi auto variant recently and am currently experimenting with differing shell lengths and loads. I am finding it doesn’t cycle 2-3/4 small game loads, not enough pressure even with the adjustable gas port set to the largest opening. It runs 3 inch #2 flawlessly with surprisingly little recoil.

  14. I have a Galil version , ( I wanted the upright bolt knob and milled receiver) . Love it , had the bolt polished and got an aftermarket trigger ( cheap) , now it’s soft as butter with quite a bit of creep – but i like it. Wish i could find an AR stock adapter that is reasonably priced , my folding stock is a bit long , with no effective way to shorten it . The fwd handgrip now has a rail with a Holosun sight. I use steel cased for practice , brass for action : Igman , Lapua are my most accurate ( and yes , overpriced for AK ammo ,but /shrugs ). I tried suppressing it , but it throws the bullet high right by 10-12 inches consistently ( worried about baffle strikes , sooo ). Talk to me .

  15. I don’t own one, being a AR platform guy with several different calibers in the safe, but it’s not because I think the AK is inferior, but that my local store just doesn’t carry any Sovblock or Chiblock weapons, so I’ve never had the opportunity to buy one. I have handled and fired several though, from cheap to more moderate priced, so I agree with all the points you made in its defense. What you load it with is a key factor, just as much as the AR platform. GI Ball isn’t a good choice for home defense in either platform. It’s why my go to is an AR15 in .300 AAC loaded with Fiocchi 125gr SST.

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