When we read about certain firearms, particularly in the biased media or even in the popular gun press, we read terms such as ‘deadly’ efficiency. As a professional, I know that any projectile or firearm, beginning with a .177 Pellet at 450 fps, have killed human beings. It is the operator that is the real weapon. Just the same there are some firearms that have earned a well-deserved reputation for reliability and effect. Enter the AK47.
While there are other firearms, we may prefer we also have respect for the performance, design or efficiency of other firearms. Some firearms are very similar, and both are good, but there are differences that appeal to one shooter or the other. The Remington 870 and the Mossberg 590 shotguns are similar in operation and both will achieve the same result.
Tactically, there is little that may be done with the Beretta 92 that the SIG P226 will not do and vice versa. On the other hand, the primary competing rifles of the free world versus the world in chains—east versus west, good versus evil, the AR15 versus the AK47 rifle, differ greatly in operation and performance. Each has its adherents in the professional community, and there have been a few rifles such as the Israeli Galil that morph together features of each. Let’s look at the AK47.
We may say AK, AK47, or Kalashnikov but we know what we are talking about, and some discussion is in order. The AK was not designed by a committee or a gifted engineer with plenty of support but rather a wounded veteran of World War II, and the design owes some features to previous designs. The AK47 works better than the others did, and with more ammunition reserve. It uses a cartridge that excels in the intermediate cartridge, close quarters battle role. The 7.62x39mm cartridge is a trade off in some ways, with penetration taking prevalence over wound potential.
The rifle has been used by many nations, both in the original Russian version and versions manufactured in most of the old Soviet Union Satellites, China, the United States, and other nations. Crude copies have been manufactured in Afghanistan by insurgent gunsmiths. They appear to be beat out on a rock but by all reports function.
In factory AK-type rifles, quality of manufacture varies. Fit and finish range from credible to poor. Early Russian examples were very well made. Parts guns and welded receivers are the roughest. The best examples are the Arsenal-type AK rifles, in my opinion. The reputation of the AK rifle for reliability is maintained in these rifles with superior accuracy potential.
The AK rifle has been in service since 1948. It is the primary arm of our adversaries in the war on Terror, although many of the modern rifles are AK74s chambered for 5.45x39mm cartridges. The military rifles are capable of fully automatic fire. The rifles imported in the United States are semi-automatic only. Each pull of the trigger fires one cartridge and spews one bullet only.
In full auto fire, the trigger is pressed and will fire continuously until the trigger is released. Some fully automatic firearms, such as the UZI 9mm submachine gun and a few others, lose a lot when converted to semi-automatic fire. In common with the AR-15, the AK remains a formidable rifle with the semi-auto-only firing design. One may argue that an AR-15 isn’t a true Armalite, M4, or M16, and the semi-automatic isn’t a true AK-47. I am sure we can all (except the gun grabbers) agree, but I think we all know what we mean when we say AK or AR though.
The Appeal of the AK47
Certainly, there are a million AK-type rifles in safes, trucks, and attics over the country. The AK47, like the German Mauser, is interesting (as it was the enemy’s gun), and we collect such things. The AK47 is a reliable firearm. The AK will survive in the worst conditions. This makes for a reliable firearm that has certain advantages.
Even if dropped in sand, the piece has enough free space between the moving parts to keep working. Just as we adopted the Tomahawk and put it to good use, our own soldiers have adopted the AK, mostly special forces troops. Many more soldiers have obtained an AK when returning home. No weapons system will survive without cleaning and lubrication, but the AK is simpler than most any other rifle.
The AK weighs a pound more than the AR, and if you hunt with the piece or carry it all day, this may be an issue. The ergonomics are certainly different than the AR. This makes for a less ergonomic rifle for some users. However, the AK47 has many adherents. If you are a devotee to the AR, you would be wise to thoroughly evaluate this feel before you purchase an AK47 for serious use.
As for myself, the AK (Arsenal version) with underfolder stock does things the AR cannot. For recreation and collecting, I use both rifles. Several years ago, aftermarket stocks and accessories were not generally available for the AK rifle. Today, you have plenty of options—another consideration. It would also be prudent to note that the AK is a historic firearm and well worth collecting. I may not collect in the traditional sense of the word, but I do like to have examples of famous, even iconic, firearms.
The 7.62x39mm is a medium-power cartridge, for use at medium ranges, and designed to be controllable in selective-fire rifles. There are few cartridges as well suited to the task. The Soviet development is based on the German 8mm Short or Kurz. Overall, the cartridge has changed little.
The standard AK load is a 122- or 123-grain bullet at 2,300 fps. Some loads are a little slower at 2,200 fps. The AK rifle, in general, is capable of 4 MOA at 100 yards. Some will do a little better and some are worse. Arsenal’s new AK20 promises to make me completely rethink this statement with accuracy not seen with AKs of the past.
The various foreign-produced steel-cased loads are fine for plinking and general target practice. There hasn’t been a demand for accurate 7.62x39mm loadings. Fiocchi manufactures a FMJ load that is slightly more expensive than the steel-cased loads but up to twice as accurate in the right rifle. A superior hunting load is the Hornady Steel Match—a steel cased loading with a 123-grain SST bullet and a good balance of expansion and penetration.
For practice and plinking, the cheapest bulk ammunition is just fine. For hunting deer-sized game to perhaps 100 yards, within the accuracy limitations of the AK-type, the Hornady SST is a great loading. For personal defense, the AR and the .223 have superior wound ballistics, and the cartridge is a better and safer urban round.
The .223 gives up some of its lethality at ranges over 100 yards. The 7.62x39mm’s wound ballistics with a FMJ loading are poor. With expanding loads, the situation is much modified. Some loads, such as the Wolf 122-grain HP, expand rapidly and offer excellent wound ballistics in the 7.62x39mm caliber. The Arsenal AK rifle exhibits much greater accuracy potential, but that is another story.
Operating the AK
The AK is a simple rifle to maintain and operate. Remember, the bolt doesn’t hold open on the last shot. Be certain to rack the bolt—when the magazine isn’t inserted—to ensure the chamber isn’t loaded. The standard magazine may be loaded with up to 30 rounds of 7.62x39mm ammunition. In order to properly seat the cartridges, I usually load three to four rounds, and then tap the back of the magazine. Repeat this procedure until all the cartridges are loaded.
The magazine is loaded by placing the front lip of the magazine into the magazine well and rocking the magazine into place. Next, rack the bolt to load the chamber. The rifle is then ready to fire.
To make the rifle safe, there is a safety lever on the right hand side that is moved upward. The safety is moved downward to fire. This safety is often quite stiff. This may be addressed by removing the safety lever and filing the two halves at the junction point until the lever isn’t as stiff.
The AK trigger is often stiff as well. While this isn’t a hinderance to most types of recreational shooting, it is a good bet to replace the trigger action with FIME Group’s Enhanced trigger action to obtain a crisp and more reliable trigger action. If you choose an Arsenal rifle in the first place, the safety and trigger will be clean and crisp in operation.
The AK rifle is a formidable option for home defense, area defense, and as a hunting rifle or pest and varmint rifle for close range use. The rifle is also a great plinker and recreational rifle. It is rugged, and even if you choose a less expensive example, the rifle is reliable. Take a hard look at the AK-47 rifle. You may just find your next go-to rifle. At the least, you will find an interesting rifle well worth its price.
Which do you prefer the AK47 or AR15 platform and why. Make your best case in the comment section.
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