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By Paul McCain

Like countless other red-blooded American males, I was attracted to the AR-15 rifle platform simply because it has been the rifle of choice for our military for a very long time. Some would say too long. I’ve grown to appreciate the numerous features of the AR in its semi-automatic configuration, the so-called “modern sporting rifle” version, that continues to make it a very popular military, competition and even hunting rifle. The chief features that I find most attractive include the AR’s innate modularity, its accuracy and effectiveness when used in the way it was intended. But . . .

Is it the be-all and end-all in assault rifles? [Note: I’m using the term “assault rifle” in its more technical sense, to describe a select-fire rifle, chambered for a cartridge that falls between a pistol cartridge and a high-power rifle cartridge, and that uses a detachable box magazine]. I’ve also developed a nearly equal admiration and fondness for the AK platform. Is that heresy? Depends on who you ask, I guess. But I’d like to suggest we not make this a matter of either/or, but rather both/and.

My first exposure to the AK came, of course, via media and other news agencies. It seems whenever there is a bad guy in the world there is an AK in his hands. And Hollyweird loves to reinforce that well-earned stereotype. For better or for worse, the AK, in the eyes of most Westerners, is the truly “evil rifle.” I can’t think of a more instantly-recognizable weapon silhouette, even among people who know nothing about rifles, than an AK. Maybe the 1911 handgun comes in second.

There’s absolutely no question that the AK design Mikhail Kalashnikov invented was a masterful use of, and improvement on, existing rifle technology, including of course the revolutionary design of the first true “assault rifle” that Hitler himself dubbed the “Sturmgewehr.” In fact, in more recent years Kalashnikov admitted that he worked side-by-side with the inventor of the StG 44 himself, Hugo Schmeisser, to improve and refine the AK. It seems Mr. Schmeisser was “invited” to take up residence in Ijhevsk after the war, with the Soviet Union making him and a number of other German small arms designers offers they could not refuse.

The M1 Garand was also instrumental in Mr. Kalashnikov’s design. Warning: this paragraph will cause AK fans to go into fits of apoplexy at the thought that the AK design was not handed down from the heavens to Mr. Kalashnikov, you know, like Mr. Browning’s designs were provided to him on golden tablets.

Thanks to Hitler’s stupidity, the Germans only fielded the StG 44 in any appreciable numbers toward the end of World War II. The StG 44 was was chambered for a so-called “intermediate” cartridge, the 7.92x33mm Kurz cartridge, a compromise between the larger 7.92x57mm used in the standard issue bolt-action German Karbiner 98, and the 9×19 pistol round used in their handguns and submachine guns. What put the AK head and shoulders above the Sturmgewehr was the cartridge it was built around: the 7.62 x 39 round which still today remains the hardest hitting standard round used in an assault rifle configuration. There are many valid arguments to be made that the 5.56 NATO cartridge is underpowered for a number of the applications it’s being required to fulfill, and that our troops deserve a more robust round. (Hint: Why not just adopt the 7.62 x 39mm?)

The AK is elegant in its simplicity, with field stripping down to the bolt taking a matter of seconds without requiring a single tool. Cleaning is easily done and reassembly also very simple. The AK is famous for its generous tolerances allowing it to keep functioning in conditions that will cause an AR to sputter and choke.

Reloading the AK is a bit more time consuming than an AR, but with practice you can reload one nearly as rapidly. You have to get used to the fact that you can’t manipulate the bolt with the weapon on safe, and you generally do not have the bolt lock back on the last round, though with Yugoslavian mags it does hold the bolt open for a very positive “out of ammo” indication, other than simply a “click” but no bang when you pull the trigger.

With a folding stock the AK is easily carried snug to the body with minimal length of the weapon banging around. The typical milsurp magazines that are easily available for the AK are built like tanks and unlike an AR’s USGI standard mags, you can load them right up to the top with thirty rounds, rather than needing to download to 29 or 28 rounds to assure seating on a closed bolt. The down side of those tank-like mags is that they’re heavy and when loaded up with 30 rounds of the much more robust 7.62×39 cartridge, you’re carrying quite a load with five or six mags in a chest rig.

The other plus of course is the cost of ammo for the AK. My latest case of AK ammo ran 20 cents a round, including shipping. Compare than to 40 cents or more for commercially loaded 5.56 brass-cased ammo. AKs have no problems with steel-cased rounds because they were designed with looser chamber tolerances to accommodate steel-cased. ARs aren’t as fond of the stuff, though I know many use steel-cased in their ARs. The argument goes that the amount of money you save on steel-cased can be put toward replacing a barrel or other internals if you have to. My AR stops functioning, well, no matter how much lube I have in it, after about 300 rounds of steel-cased ammo. Brass is no problem. I went through 500 rounds the other day in my AK training class without a single problem.

Accuracy? Ah, yes, the AR vs. AK debate is perhaps most fierce when the discussion turns to “accuracy.” It all comes down to what constitutes “good enough” in a combat situation. A two-inch group at 100 yards? Or a six to eight inch group at 100 yards? The purpose of combat accuracy is to deliver as many rounds as necessary on target to stop it and put it down, for good.

It makes no difference how “accurate” a rifle is as long as it’s effectively delivering those rounds on target. Everyone knows that neither an AR nor an AK is intended to be a long-range rifle platform. Granted, you can modify an AR to build yourself a longer range rifle, and you can throw a scope on many AK variants out there. But in either case, the AK and the AR are truly classically designed “assault rifles” with the understanding that modern combat engagements are most often going to happen within 200 yards or less. Gone are the days of masses of infantry slugging it out at 600-1000 yard distances with their long guns.

Let’s wrap this up. A fellow student in our AK operator’s class the other day said to me, “You know, I own a lot of firearms, and a lot of ARs, but if I had to pick just one to ride out a real emergency situation, I’d have to go with the AK. I know it will prove ultimately to be more reliable and have the highest probability of not breaking down on me at a critical moment or malfunctioning on me if I can not keep it squeaky clean and lubed properly at all times. Plus I can afford to keep nearly three times as much ammo for the AK on hand than I can for my AR.” Hard to argue with that.

What about you? Where are you on AR v. AK, or perhaps better put, AR and AK? Does it have to be an either/or proposition? Can we not appreciate the pros and cons of each platform and use them accordingly? For me I’ve come down to the position that it’s AR and AK, not either/or. Must there be an endless cosmic struggle between AR and AK fans until the end of time?

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  1. AKs and M1s for me. I have no personal beef with the AR platform, and there’s some damn fine rifles in the family, they just don’t part me with my money like others do.

    • Both my AKs are chambered in 5.56 NATO….and accurate AND reliable!

      M1A for .308? Well I sold my Valmet, so sure….!!

  2. I’ve got a couple ARs but I have lusty feelings towards the AK47… near the top of my wish list. Especially with red furniture.

  3. “Maybe the 1911 handgun comes in second.” As far as the most recognizable weapon.

    I think the M-16 in its original form would come in second.

    The AK is distinctive, IMO, for its curved magazine and “double barrel” appearance: in silhouette or full light they’re hard to mistake.

    For the M-16, it’s the carry handle on top plus the tapering plastic forestock. Again, pretty unique silhouette that’s not readily confused for another gun not in the same family.

    While I love my 1911, someone who doesn’t know firearms could mistake it at first, second or third glance, for my CZ 75. It’s happened.

  4. I’ve been thinking about an AK. The info on the best values in AK-47s and AK-74s on the Internet all seem to be several years old, and a lot of what’s available now is never mentioned. Conversely, when I look into the recommended variants, many are no longer available.

    Does anyone here have any suggestions on up-to-date best buys on moderate priced AKs?

    • The “Yugo” AKs being imported by Century Arms are all the rage. Despite coming from Century, they’re actually built by Zastava in Serbia, the same folks providing rifles to help the Syrians kill each other. Excellent guns for under $600.

      Arsenal AKs are nice if you can spend $1k+

      If you’re thinking AK74, Waffen Werks and James River are worth a look.

    • My opinion, just get whatever man…

      I’ve shot the super cheap ones and the higher end (if you can call an AK high end) ones, they all work just fine.

      Just check that the front sight isn’t canted too badly and the mag well isn’t milled out too much, it will make the mag wiggle around.

  5. When people talk of a SHTF gun and they call out any semi-auto (or full giggle-mode) gun, they’ve lost me.

    My SHTF gun would be a 1903[a3] Springfield first, falling block (like a 1874 Sharps) second. No brass resizing to reload, no crimping, simple to fix, don’t need many tools to tear down, etc.

    SHTF means “KISS” to me. As soon as you want a gun to reload itself… you’ve moved way far away from “simple.”

      • Because muzzle loaders are, in fact, not simple. Their lockwork can be simple, but the whole process of loading a muzzle loader, and worse, unloading a muzzle loader, is more complicated than a bolt or falling block single shot.

        If I wanted to simplify things more, then I’d carry an older Sharps designed for paper cartridges. Much simpler than a muzzle loader.

    • Your SHTF gun sounds more like a TEOTWAWKI thing to me. When the fit hits the shan, any reasonably reliable rifle ought to do. For the end of modern civilization, simplicity will definitely rule the day.

  6. I like both rifles, I just like the AK more.

    I would feel adequately armed with either, but if I had to pick one, I’m grabbing the AK.

    • I think I like my AR more, but only because it is what I’ve used more and trained more with, but I also have a warm place in my heart now for my AK, particularly the one I just bought, the SAM7SF.

      • Like you, I have more trigger time with the AR, but I’ve always had a thing for the AK, I just can’t explain it.

      • Excellent choice! I just picked up a SAM7R. Was going to go for the SAM7SF but decided if I’m going to sacrifice a comfortable cheek weld to make an AK compact and portable, I’ll just stick with a lighter folding stamped receiver 5.45 (SLR104 in Arsenal speak). I heart Bulgarian AKs!

        • I put 500 rounds through the SAM7SF during my training class last weekend, and … happy to report there was no cheek weld issue or problem with the folding stock and boy am I glad I went for a folding stock. Nice to be able to make it compact when lugging around.

  7. (Hint: Why not just adopt the 7.62 x 39mm?)

    History gives us 3 reasons:
    1. 7.62×39 is not accurate
    2. 7.62×39 is heavy
    3. “Assaul rifles” don’t need big bullets to take down a target

    These are all the reasons why many countries, including Russia, have converted to smaller and lighter rounds like 5.45×39 and 5.56×45.

      • True, accuracy is subjective, but if you can have a round that’s considerably more accurate and considerably lighter and just as lethal, why not? MK developed the 5.45 round after the Russians saw how effective the m16 was in Vietnam. A soldier can carry many more bullets when they cut the weight in half.

        • Again, you are not explaining what your intended use is for the rifle so I can’t really evaluate your claim that a certain round is “more accurate.” Since the vast majority of engagements occur within 200 yards, the AK is more than plenty accurate for minute of man.

      • The “not accurate” part comes from the quality of the ammunition more than the round. Ammunition held to high QC standards and shot from a halfway decent barrel would shoot pretty well whether it was 7.62×39 or not. I had a batch of Ulyanovsk 7.62×39 once (from a 700 round can) that shot incredibly well. Someone at the Uly factory was trying to impress the boss that day! Groups at 100 yards in the 2″ to 3″ range were common with that ammo and the open-sighted Arsenal AK I was shooting it out of. That’s as good as I’ve gotten from AR’s with open sights, and the AR’s sights are better (even on the carbine I was shooting). That stuff was plenty accurate for my purposes (I was surprised it shot so well, and that I shot it so well), but most of the AK ammo that gets shot is the cheap stuff that often has not so great accuracy.

        As for why we don’t adopt the 7.62×39, why would we? We have lots of M4’s and M-16’s that are already paid for and the ammo to feed them. The AK round does have some advantages, but to re-equip all US forces with a new round right now and retrofit (or maybe replace) all the M4’s and M-16’s in inventory wouldn’t gain us enough to make it worth the trouble. Even then, it’s not as versatile of a round. The 5.56 works up close but can stretch out further if need be. Get past 300 yards with the AK and you’re lobbing rounds in. If you’re going to go to the trouble of replacing it, a round like the 6.8 or 6.5 Grendel makes more sense because it brings in more strengths from both rounds.

    • Russia still uses 7.62×39, the cartridge was never abandoned. just supplemented with 5.45×39. Most common uses are by police and interior forces, and a number of AKM with PBS suppressors are still used.

        • absolutely, 7.62×39 addresses the gap between 5.45×39 and 7.62x54r, and there are many applications for it – particularly use in urban settings, with short ranges and heavy barriers, which is why it’s still heavily used by police/interior forces in Russia and former Soviet states.

          unfortunately, this is all too obvious in recent events in Ukraine – you can still see old AKMs in heavy use even when AK-74s are standard issue arms of the Ukraine army and police.

          western militaries and police would do themselves a huge favor by adopting a similar cartridge, and it appears in many respects that .300 AAC may be exactly that in the near future.

    • “Why not just adopt the 7.62×39?”
      Well from a civilian standpoint, exactly just do it.
      From a military and government stand point. There is one reason. It’s the same reason the FBI started fielding new handgun cartages in the late 70s instead of ‘just going back to the .45’.
      The 7.62×39 was invented in Russia before the 5.56. If the government chose that round now it would be an admission that the Russians had the right round all along and that we were just too stupid to know. Because it’s old, and foreign, from government eyes, it will never be the answer for anything. Im not getting into the argument of which is ballistically better. I am saying that no U.S. government organization will ever even consider the 7.62×39 round for their testing. When ever government is involved it’s not an issue of a better round (or anything), there are politics and history that color every decision the government makes. So, the government HAS to look for something new, that doesn’t already have wide acceptance, service record, and isn’t foreign. Especially not Warsaw Pact. I know we don’t think of the world in NATO v Warsaw anymore, but they still do.
      Thankfully, for now, we civilians can argue till our keyboards break and pick the one we like, for now.

      • @A samurai: I see your point on this and I have to agree. Rather than admitting another country, (especially such a big rival as Russia), had a better round, we would rather come up with something superior on our own. Obviously that hasn’t happened yet in terms of the 5.56/.223. With the Army’s new M855A1, we have another example of trying to improve something that has inherent non-capable characteristics. I’m an AR-15/10 fan, but I’ve been wanting to buy an AK for the increased hitting power of the 7.62. But your point about the US never adopting it makes sense to me. My main concerns are accurate target shooting (for my own sense of accomplishment), and home defense. There are plenty of 5.56 variant rounds to do the HD job. Originally I was almost anti-AK, but I’m coming to respect it a lot more.

  8. “with the Soviet Union making him and a number of other German small arms designers offers they could not refuse.”

    This sentence has a very negative connotation but you can’t condemn them for it and not the US for Operation Paperclip; we did the exact same thing. “Come with us if you want to live”.

    • Nothing negative about it at all, simply reality. Can’t blame ’em, even as we brought on Germans to build our rockets and get our space program off the ground, though, we treated our Germans better than they ever treated their Germans.

      : )

    • The difference is, our Nazis made good money, had comfortable American lives and didn’t live under constant suspicion in the Soviet Union, unlike Schmeisser.

      • Oh so we payed our Nazi War criminals – so it’s all good…

        Right. And that’s kinda where my whole problem was. Operation Paperclip – was not a good thing.

        Perhaps I worded my original post poorly – The Soviets SHOULD be condemned for that – As should we here in the US. but they shouldn’t be singled out for that – any negative mention that they did should be “countered” by the But we did the same, and are just as guilty for crimes against humanity then. “Aiding and abetting” as it were.

        • First understand there’s a distinction between “German” & “Nazi”.

          Second understand that we brought in actual Nazi “leadership” not just rank & file “I was only following orders” paperclip brought in planners & implementers;

          So yes, instead of giving them a job and a “good wage” they should have been given a trial & appropriate punishment. Fir some certainly, death was certainly warranted, others prison terms.

          You don’t get my point. My point is we can, and should blame them. Just as we can and should blame our own government for their illegal and immoral actions.

          Paperclip was not good policy; and if we blow it off it will happen again in the future.

          Those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them.

          This is one of those lessons that should nit be forgotten: given the chance our keadership is little better than theirs.

    • Hard to argue with a $150 rifle, to be sure, but … I think there’s a reason the Soviets skeedaddled away from it as quickly as they could after their experiences in WWII.

      • By that same logic the 1903 must be questionable, as must the k98 (West German) and the Einfield, and the… well you get the picture, each of these was more or less abandoned after a world war. The Nagant is just about as good as any of the bolt actions of the time. I do think the Einfield beat them all simply for its 10 round magazine.

        • Yes, obviously…all the bolt guns of WWII served their purpose at the time, but the Garand was far superior in combat to any of them.

          And again, if the bolt guns of WWII truly were adequate for modern combat, and other situations, I’m sure they never would have been replaced.

          In my opinion, you are clinging to a romantic view of the bolt action rifles of last century.

        • All those rifles are great rifles. Probably the pinnacle of general issue military bolt gun technologies. But then the Garand happened, and the Stg, and the nature of tactics changed so they became relics.

          Yep I know that they soldiered on for decades after the war in the hands of various forces and people running around in rice paddies wearing PJs, but they are still relics passed on by changing tactics and technology.

      • It was before WW2 even. Soviets noticed the Garand, acknowledged the superiority of semi auto, and had their own work well underway. The plan was to have the entire Red Army on SVT by 1942. The only reason why it didn’t happen is because they needed to crank out a lot of guns fast during the war, and Mosins were better suited for that.

  9. The AR is an excellent range toy. Because of the insane level of modularity of the platform, I always love taking my AR to the range, because I have everything tweaked to be exactly what I want. However, for a combat rifle, I’d much rather take my AK. Sure, the accuracy isn’t as good, but IMO, it is “good enough”. In a SHTF situation, if I could only take one of my rifles, I’d grab my AK. The difference in reliability is simply too much. I absolutely despise the iron sights on the AK platform (their restrictiveness makes tracking a moving target much more difficult, and rapid target acquisition also isn’t easy with them). But everything else is exactly what I’d need from a combat rifle, especially in a SHTF situation, where I probably wouldn’t be able to keep it lubed properly at all times, and where limited availability of bullets would mean that high tolerances for different types of ammo would be a non-trivial advantage.

  10. AKs are ok rifles… But the ergonomics and controls of the AR, not to mention the modular nature of the platform win out for me.

    I can’t stand the controls of the AK, the safety sucks, the charging handle is on the wrong side, I’m no fan of paddle mag releases, they’re harder to modify and you have less options, and no bolt hold open? What?

    I notice a lot of guys who choose AKs do so because of its reputation for reliability, but the AR is more reliable than a lot of people give it credit for, and IMHO it’s a better all around rifle.

      • Two words, Ma Deuce…

        The charging handle is exactly where it’s supposed to be and as God intended.

        • Just make sure you charge it twice.

          And the infantry version has no safety – so wedge a round between the butterfly trigger and the receiver.

      • I don’t know about all the other guns, but the charging handle on AK is where it is by design. It was actually originally on the left side (I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the few actual StG-44 influences on it), but soldiers complained during testing that, when they wore the gun slung across the chest, like e.g. on guard duty, it poked them in the ribs and was hard to rack quickly. So the testing commission required Kalashnikov to move it.

    • I feel the opposite. My hands are too large to thumb flip the AR selector. I hate having to pull my head back to charge it.

      I can run the safety on an AK without taking my hand off of the grip, and I can charge it without even taking the stock off of my shoulder.

      Mag changes about the same for both.

    • “AR’s are more reliable than people think, AK’s are more accurate than people think” or something along those lines.

      I use my AR a lot when going to the range, showing new people to shoot rifles, local club matches, and the like. But I do like the feel of my M44 and 91/30.

    • “I can’t stand the controls of the AK, the safety sucks, the charging handle is on the wrong side, I’m no fan of paddle mag releases, they’re harder to modify and you have less options, and no bolt hold open? What?”

      Can’t we all just get along?
      OK, now that I have been all pacifist, I have to give some push back for the AK.
      Ergonomic. Hey everyone who ever owned an AR, stop just assigning this word to your gun because it has a thumb safety. All the time I hear “THE AR IS MOST ERGONOMIC RIFLE OF WORLD!” Well actually guys it’s not (GASP!). Ergonomic does not mean what everyone seem to think. Ergonomic means DESIGNED to fit the human body. Yes, ARs have thumb safeties, and you may like that and it might even be more comfortable for you, but it wasn’t put there for you. Stoner said repeatedly that he designed the AR to make everything recoil in a straight line to reduce muzzle rise in full auto fire. So the trigger and hammer ended up below and behind the bolt and the safety needed to be right there too, congrats. I actually like the AK’s safety better, its easier for me to reach, and whenever I take a new shooter shooting I don’t have to explain the safety positions of the AK like a million times. If you Like the AR thats fine, but it’s not “more ergonomic” in fact nether gun was designed to fit the human body, stop trying to reenforce your preference by labeling AKs unergonomic.
      No, the charging handle is NOT on the WRONG side. It was put on the same side of the rife as the bolt handle on a bolt action so that troops trained with the Nagant rifle could switch over easily. If you don’t like it there thats fine, but its not wrong, it’s more right than having the charging handle come out the ass end of the gun.
      As for modifying mags, AK mags are great you don’t need to mess with them. And when you aren’t using them as mags they make great hammers, door wedges and boomerangs.
      Finally, the feature that all AR guys have to have an aneurism about. The last round bolt hold open. Everyone has to have a fit that the AK doesn’t have one…. So I did a lot of research on the topic. And I discovered something pretty shocking. Outside the world of AR clones and pistols, the last round bolt hold open is actually quite a rare feature. But AR guys alway have to show up and squeal that the gun doesn’t have this one thing that they seem to think every gun should have. Sometimes guns don’t hold open on the last round, sometimes…. Even ARs don’t, because the mag doesn’t cam the bolt catch (GASP!). The LRBHO is the only thing about the AR that redeems the placement of the charging handle, because the LRBHO saves you from having to use the CH as much. If it ever broke, which does happen, you would lament the CH more then the right side handle on the AK.
      If you prefer one, that’s fine. I say shoot both. But at the very least, just smile about yours and don’t bash other people’s preferences.

  11. Seeing as how I will be safe and sound in my zombie bunker when SHTF, I see no problem keeping an AR and giving the rest to all the family members I didn’t invite…

  12. My go to rifle, if I could only have one, would be my FAL with folding stock, fore grip, light and the awesome Elcan Specter DR-1-4x. It’s hard to kill the FAL, it will eat just about any ammo, steel case/brass case, it doesn’t care. Is it as accurate as a AR, no, it’s not meant to be. I’ve never had a problem with the surplus 20 rd mags, in fact I had four of them loaded for 3 years, took them out to the range and had zero problems. I have a nice AR and a Krink AK, I love them both and have a very healthy respect for them having been on the receiving end of both. (The Army needs to learn that friendly fire isn’t friendly.) I’m building another AR this year and will pick up a full sized AK-47 this year as well. Though I am planning on 4-6 FAL builds if I can scrape up the money for them, there’s just something about the FAL that tickles my fancy. (I just wish that part kits were easier to find!) If you get a chance to shoot one, give it a try, for a rifle in 7.62×51 it has surprisingly little recoil.

    • During our AK operator’s class last weekend our instructor also expressed his fondness for the FAL. Not sure about the ELCAN optic, but if you have the means, why not?

      • I decided to make an updated tactical FAL, so while I was on active duty and had money, I grade VLTOR rails and the Elcan. The Elcan is a great optic IF you have the money, it’s a pricey optic. I liked the ACOG and used it in Iraq but never loved it. I have an Aimpoint with magnifier set up on my AR and that works very well, but if I could afford it I’d put an Elcan on it. The dual role is sweet, flip a lever and it goes from 1x to 4x, the reticle works very well in both magnifications. The FAL bug bit me early when I started to buy guns, I have enough mags to last several lifetimes, I just wish I bought some more parts kits!

    • Though a little on the heavy side, the FAL with the gas regulator properly adjusted is one soft shooting rifle.

      Accuracy can range from so-so to very good. I have a pic of a target I shot with a FAL I owned that has two groups on it. One is just over 1″ and one group is 7/8″, both shot at 100 yards with South African surplus ammo and iron sights. I don’t know about you guys, but a group under an inch with issue sights and surplus ammo is about as good as it’s ever gonna get for me. That’s why I saved a pic of that target… no one would have ever believed me if I hadn’t.
      I had a Para rear sight on it because I liked the simplicity and didn’t like the little bit of slop in the original FAL rear sight and man that thing would shoot!

    • If you are going 7.62 NATO, wouldn’t the SCAR17 be a better choice than a FAL? Yes, there’s the money thing but…

  13. Who ever told you that the AK stand head and shoulders about the MP 44 (Sturmgewehr 44) is a complete moron with no common sense. The MP44 is a much better made firearm than the AK. The MP 44 is the BEST GAS OPERATED Assault rifle. Talking in stock configuration that is. It has the no recoil of the AR15 coupled with the hard hitting .30 cal round and has NO muzzle climb what so ever.

      • Considering the nation that designed it was broken in half at teh end of WWII and the gun itself has connotations with a darker time, global popularity was not to be its fate. It’s legacy lives on in the G3 series of firearms. The 7.92 kurz has as much punch as the x39.

        • Re. the “punch” of the 7.92 Kurtz, you sure about that? Can you cite any ballistic table comparisons or videos? I’m curious to see that kind of comparison. I’ve handled both rounds and it sure seems to me the 7.62 x 39 is the more formidable one.

        • The 7.92×33 has 10% less velocity and at least 15% less muzzle energy than the 7.62 x 39 for bullets of comparable weight. The .3mm of diameter increase does not buy you that much in terminal ballistics. The extra 6mm of space for powder has to mean something.

          There are reasons that StG44s are replicas and AKs continue to come off the line. The grip on a StG44 is a joke, the ergonomics on the AK are better, and there are reasons that absent the pressures of war the AK and AR don’t use the same components as the ’44. The designers had time to make improvements, and they did. For 1944, the StG is a Blas-Tech E11 compared to the Garand. But for 2014, with 70 years of improvements in engineering, metallurgy and ballistics the StG is not the design of choice. It’s a couple of pounds heavier than an AR at just over 10 pounds unloaded.

          An AR in .300 Blackout will beat it in ballistics, ergonomics, accuracy and in pretty much every other way that counts.

    • Even if that’s true, and I can’t say one way or the other, there is no support for the ol’ STG.

      Once you run out of ammo, you’re out. You may have a few magazines but if one of them breaks, can you just go to the LGS and get a replacement?
      In my area, I could even get a 30 round P-Mag at Wal-Mart.
      If your firing pin or extractor fails, can you find a replacement?

      While there is some support for the AK, the AR is “our” rifle. They’re everywhere and so are parts and magazines.

      • This. It adresses all the shortcommings of the AK. I just happen to buy one this Monday and shot it yesterday for the first time. Vz. 58 is the gun AK 47 wants to be when it grows up! And for just $500 from AIM surplus.

        • Vz 58 is a completely different design altogether, how can it be “addressing shortcomings” in AK?

          If anything, it’s rather the pinnacle of the evolution of SKS – they have much more in common.

  14. An AR is the girl you date when you’re in your 20’s; sexy as hell, but high maintenance. An AK is the girl you marry in your 30’s; maybe not quite as sexy, but she’ll never leave you with your ass hanging in the breeze.

    • So what would you say to a guy who got married in his 20s? Oh. Never mind!

      I knew it was off topic, but I wanted to thank you for the laugh. I think my post-divorce recovery is going well.

      • What do you say to a guy married in his twenties who then got divorced? Welcome to the club. 🙂

        Chin up friend, life gets good again, and even better than before. Just no more trips down the aisle. Is better to do a simple lease than rent to own. 🙂

  15. Shooters should own both. If forced to choose between them, I would select the AR. I have a vastly larger amount of training time on it than I do the AK. If I don’t have to haul my AR through a Tough Mudder race with the dust cover open I can keep it clean and functional. The modularity of the AR also allows one to configure it for any number of missions. AK ammo is less expensive, but there are far more different types of AR ammunition available. Plus, those of us who are Americans should have at least a passing familiarity with the primary rifle of our military forces.

    • the caliber argument really means nothing for either rifle. since both th AK and AR are available in all most common NATO and Warsaw military calibers.

      • I semi-agree, although to the best of my knowledge there are more far more calibers available in the AR format. Also, if one sticks to just 5.56 mm, the ammo ranges from sub-40 grain rounds to plus-70 grain rounds. Those bullets are also available in a variety of configurations – FMJ, JHP, all-copper, etc. Most 7.62 X 39 ammo tends to be basic Soviet era rounds in terms of both weight and configuration.

        • the AR is definitely available in more oddball calibers, but if you want to shoot almost any currently issued military cartridge on Earth, there is an AK chambered for it. that was sort of my point – people tend to look at the AK and think 7.62×39, and sometimes even forget that 5.45×39 exists.

          FWIW I chose to skip over 5.45 AKs and buy/built several in 5.56 to take advantage of quality ammo AND cheap steel crap. they aren’t match-grade AR accurate, but on par with an average rack-grade AR e.g. LE6920. I don’t expect any more than that.

          the 5.56 AKs cost more than an AR on average now.. at the time I did it, they were about a third the cost.

  16. Isn’t this kind of like comparing a Corvette/Ferrari/Porsche/Mustang vs. a Silverado/F-150/Ram/Tundra and asking which one’s the better vehicle? AR and AK have their strengths and weaknesses.

    So which one is the better SHTF gun? My answer is “yes.” My personal choice would be AR, simply because I can handle the recoil (or lack thereof) better. As it’s been said, YMMV.

        • I believe his point is that the 5.45×39 and 5.56x45mm are more of an apples-apples comparison.

          The larger point is that we are comparing platforms, not calibers. The AR family of rifles has its characteristics because of the American conceit that every man is a rifleman and accuracy is the defining characteristic of a rifle. Compromises must always be made, the compromise that appears to have been made is in absolute reliability compared to other potential systems. It is a design influenced less by battlefield experience (at the time of its design) than the design ethos of the Space Age — lighter and faster.

          The AK has its characteristics because of the Russian experience in the Great Patriotic War, namely that a) every man needs a rifle, b) that works, c) in the mud and in the winter, and d) “Quantity has a quality all its own” as Stalin is alleged to have remarked. Soviet conscript troops were expected to abuse their weapons and the AK is as abuse-proof as it could be made. Who cares how precisely accurate the rifle is? Massed firepower was the main tenet of Soviet doctrine. And who really cares how heavy the rifle is, because the Americans will supply the trucks for the troops to ride in.

          The love child is the AK-74, or the AR-18. Small-caliber, high-velocity, lower weight, higher reliability. The SIG 550 series and G36 are other examples of attempts to get the best of the AR and AK worlds.

          Considering that some dude made an AK out of a garden shovel and a parts kit, the AK would seem to have the advantage in a TEOTWAWKI situation.

  17. The AK can’t match the weight and balance of my AR. With a thin 16-inch barrel and minimal accessories, it weighs less than a feather, has little recoil, and is quite accurate. It’s a very capable CQB rifle, and very easy to transport. That’s what my AR is good for. If I need a wood-and-steel rifle with a 30-cal punch, I’d reach for my Fulton M1A w/18-inch barrel. Hard-hitting, accurate, handy, very reliable. The AK simply doesn’t have a niche for me, though I do respect the design.

  18. I own several AKs and several ARs and have really come to the conclusion that I prefer the ergos of an AR to the standard AK, but with sufficient modification the AK can be made to be nearly as ergonomic as the AR. Though I’d always had an AK or two in the safe, it was not until I picked up a second gen Sig 556r that I came to the realization that the AK is so beautifully simple that it would undeniably be my HD, SHTF primary weapon – and this is over my beloved bullpups (of the Belgian and Israeli variety). In sum, the AK isn’t much to look at, but cleans up real nice and never says no.

    Oh…and for the record, those Serbian PAP’s by Zastava are the bees knees. My PAP pistol rides in the back of my car 24/7.

  19. Don’t let the stigma behind the medias portrail of a firearm effect your opinion of such firearm. Judge them on their demonstrable qualities, then go buy one.

    • But I want a striker fired, polymer pistol that makes a cocking sound when you pull it out of a holster like the ones in Law and Order.

  20. If I’m going to the range, I’d rather bring my AR. If I needed a gun to take with me in an emergency, I’d probably bring the AK. They’re different platforms with different uses. I’m glad I own both.

  21. I’d rather be in Alaska (AK) than Arkansas (AR) during the summer. In winter, the other way around.

  22. In any combat situation I would only pick an AR if it is Full-Auto, Belt Fed, or .50 BMG with plenty of ammo. I would pick an AK if it is Full-Auto and lots of ammo.

    I am in favor of Full High Power rifle cartridges. I like my FAL. I am wanting the 100rd drum… but it costs, and I still need to get LOTS of ammo. Till then I have my SKS-M to do battle, still need to build new stock to allow use of 75rd drum.

  23. As an AR fan, I always joke with my brother (an AK fan) that when you buy an AK, you get a small velvet bag. You use it to hold the parts that fall off when you fire it.

    • then its a good thing for your brother that Kalashnakov made the AK so the shooter can say “we don’t need no stinking parts that fall off” and keep shooting. as for the AR, its a good thing Magpul made a mag that can match the durability of the entire AK

    • What parts did you ever witness fall off an AK? Because I assure you whoever’s AK it was was doing it wrong. I have seen far more parts fall off ARs.

  24. I went with one or the other for dollars and cents reasons. I don’t want to have to buy two flavors of mags and ammo to feel my rifles. I when with AR because the ammo is made in the US as are all the parts. I worried that with the stroke of a pen all the 5.45X39 could stop flowing into the US. Whether the AK or AR is better depends on what the owner used feels is most important. I think we call agree that both platforms are solid and will serve their owners well as long as the owners are aware of the strengths and weaknesses associated with each system. I am an AR guy but would never, ever look down my nose at a guy with AK.

    • Well, there are 5.56 AKs, and they work great, too. Ammo availability and long-term perspective is precisely why I’ve got mine in that caliber.

  25. For me the correct answer is definitely “both.”

    I love the modularity / configurability of the AR. I have a mid-quality commercial-built ‘m4gery” that eats anything, including steel, and is nice for plinking, and I recently finished 2 really sweet builds–a 5.56 carbine built for accuracy and a pistol in 300BLK.

    I also love the reliability of AKs. I do not love navigating around shoddy build quality or 922r issues, nor am I happy with the inability to import intact quality foreign rifles. But I finally jumped on an Arsenal and am thrilled I did. The trigger is awesome, and the receiver is solid; I mounted a red dot + magnifier on mine and it holds nice groups at 100yds with Wolf steel cased ammo.

    • + 1 on all accounts… My comment would be almost a duplicate to this. We all know the pros and cons of each platform, so I won’t rehash.

      As a side note, until I actually owned, modified and extensively operated QUALITY instances of both platforms, I did not have enough information and first-hand experience to form an accurate opinion – which of course still didn’t stop me from spouting opinions on what I thought I knew.

      Man, I think I’m getting old

      • Totally. Both rifles were crafted as select fire weapons, not semi-auto “sporting” arms. While they are both good rifles in civilian form, they aren’t what they were designed to be.

        It’s like dropping a normally aspirated, city four-banger into an Indy car body. It may be a nice car and a fun car, but it isn’t an Indy car.

        • If it’s select-fire, but it isn’t crew served, you’re just going to fire it in semi, anyway.

          (unless you haven’t fired a select fire weapon, then you’ll dump a few mags, realize what that cost you, and what you’re doing to the rifle in terms of wear and tear, then you’ll stop)

          Seriously, if I wanted FA, I would buy something belt fed. Then budget $500 per range session for ammo.

  26. There’s a number on weapons I’d prefer over
    either; a mini-14/30 comes to mind. If I had to
    pick I’d take the AK.

  27. It’s a shame they can’t build an AK with the ergos of the AR. AR is a great range toy. AK is a back alley brawler.

    I agree with DG’s sentiments about a SHTF rifle. He chose the 03 Springfield. My choice would be the #4 Lee Enfield.

    • they do, it’s the Sig 55x series. the internals are based on the AK design, with AR style controls and field strip method.

        • yep, unfortunately. some are great, and some are totally WTF. canted parts, loose stocks – even the gas selector puck ports drilled backwards, causing the rifles to fire in the over-gassed “emergency” mode out of the box, potentially shortening the rifle’s lifespan.

          if Sig USA would build them consistently, they would be some of the best rifles on the market.. personally I can’t complain too much because I know some day I’ll be able to pick one up on a steep discount once the reputation totally sucks, since I know what to look for inside & out.

  28. I am so tired of hearing the “5.56mm underpowered” debate, I challenge any naysayers to take one directly in the head and then come back and tell me about the in effectiveness of the 5.56 cartridge, it’s like the 9mm debate, you can carry twice as much and there are a lot of dead people around the world because of the 9×19 and the 5.56×45. Ooooo Ahhhhh yes the 7.62×39 has a bigger bullet but I can also carry twice as much of my 5.56×45.

    • AK74 was designed for this reason. (Why does no one know this? 5.45×39.) It doesn’t matter how big your bullets are if you have none. He who runs out of ammo first loses.

      • Depends on the style of the fight, really. Eh?

        Bolt gun in ’06 with one round at 800 yards beats the hell out of AR with 500 rounds in your back pack – if I see you first.

        This is the problem I mentioned back in the “M4 sucks” thread a few days ago…that marksmanship in the modern era has been replaced by fire volume.

        I forget the exact numbers, but pre-Vietnam shots per enemy killed by small arms was in the 10s or 100s of rounds. Vietnam it was in the 10,000s of thousands. That’s rounds fired per enemy killed. This was a major argument used by John Land, et al, to argue for reinstatement of the snipers in the Corps as a permanent unit.

        The M1 Garand was an effective weapon in the WWII. Men were trained to use it. I’d take 20 guys with M1’s over 100 guys with AR’s and give the AR guys 10x the ammo, if…

        And it is a VERY big if …

        IF…my 20 guys were well trained in marksmanship and had very solid tactical leadership…and depending on the nature of the battlefield.

        Point being, there are a LOT of variables. He with the most ammo won’t always win.

        Just food for thought…devil’s advocate as it were.

        • Untutored courage is useless in the face of educated bullets.

          – Gen. George S Patton

          Point well made. But I still think a 1911 is a stupid concealed carry gun…

    • Well I’m tired of the “caliber doesn’t matter because you wouldn’t want me to shoot you with either” argument. I’m not saying caliber is a huge issue, I’m just saying that argument is silly and I hear it come up SO MUCH.

  29. I have a major preference to the AK myself. Doesn’t mean I totally shun the AR platform just in case SHTF and I am not home.. There will be plenty of those laying around along with 5.56/.223

    home wise, I have an AK in both 5.56 and 7.62×39.
    Should be well covered if SHTF. I certainly am not going to be going out of my way on “missions” and doing CQB and all that if it comes down to that, I’m taking off into the wild and vanishing until otherwise noted.

  30. If I could only own one rifle it would be an AR chambered in 6.8SPC spec II with an eighteen inch mid weight target crowned barrel and a 2-7x scope. Since I’m not limited to one rifle I’ll stick with my bolt action .308 and the venerable mini-14. Never had much time for AKs but then I actually kind of like cleaning my weapons.

  31. Dan, the answer is no. The conflict between AR men and AK guys will go until the Four Horsemen ride out. And after that, the discussion will still go on.

  32. “(Hint: Why not just adopt the 7.62 x 39mm?)”

    We kinda just did, with 300 BLK. It’s basically an AK bullet inside an AR casing.

    • .300 BLK is a .308 round in a re-necked 5.56 case. Not a 7.62×39 round in a re-necked 5.56 case. They are slightly different. Different enough that to my disappointment you cannot reload 7.62×39 and 7.62X51 with the same bullets. According to my research. I am very sad about it.

    • I have been told that reliability of the 7.62x39mm round in an AR is terrible. Something about the severe shoulder angle of the round causes it to hang up.

  33. Why do things always have to be this or that? AR or AK. (D) or (R). Authoritarianism or anarchy.

    If there is a type of gun out there that you don’t have then go out an get it. Go right now!

    Either or is stupid. An artificial limiter that only serves to manufacture arguments for the sake of arguments. I know some people just love to bicker and pick sides and get all fanboy about stuff but I’ve never seen the appeal of such a time sink.

    Get yourself an AR, an AK, an M1, an M14, a Glock, a 1911, a Beretta, a Walther, a whatever appeals to you and shoot them all as much as you can because damnit GUNS!

  34. I love both platforms. They each bring something unique to the fight. I like build ARs because of the ability to customize. I have multiple Saigas because they are fun projects to convert. Some of my guns I have never even taken to the range as I consider them just a project for now. Ammo for an AK 47 or 74 is dirt cheap which allows for a lot of cheap training.

    Now, for SHTF, my AK is probably the weapon I will grab. It is rugged and does not need cleaning as much as AR15s. It is accurate out to 200-300 yards and can engage targets out farther if you have to.

  35. I have an Ak and kind of have an AR. I say kinda ’cause its a RRA PDS. VERY AK bolt and carrier. Disappointing in the fact there is little in the way of say different length uppers, no suppressor compatible gas block 22 lr conversion kits. But I still love it. I’d love RRA if they’d get off the dime already and offer some options besides the tri rail hand guard.

  36. A piston-driven AR-10 answers all questions to this quandary : distance, accuracy, lethality, reliability, ammo availability. I don’t mind paying double for all these qualities either.

  37. Unfortunately AKs are prohibited in Canada, so I can’t get one, though we do have the Czech Vz.58. It performs just as well as an AK, while being smaller, lighter, more accurate, and the bolt locks back on an empty magazine. I just wish they made a version in 5.45.

    • I think in the US, if were buying a new 7.62x39mm rifle now, it would be a good quality AK… but that’s not because the VZ-58 is a bad rifle in any way. I’ve shot a friend’s VZ and it’s just as good as an AK and a little lighter, even with the milled receiver.

      I’d probably still take the AK buying it now, here, because there are more accessories and parts available for it. But I think the VZ may be a slightly better rifle in a lot of ways.

  38. I like and own both.

    For the fun factor, it’s AK. For precision paper plinking (lol) I prefer dicking around with an AR.

    For the mythical SHTF, I’m grabbing an AK-47 or a rifle length AR as 2nd pick.

    For something that’s the best of both worlds in my book, it’s the HK 91.

  39. This discussion ALWAYS comes down to an individuals choice in what he want to use that tool for.
    I’m a professional ,mechanic, so I buy industrial grade tools including Snap-On. I chose the AK (SAM7R) over an AR because I wanted something that come hell or high water, I could depend on. I’m not dressing it up with every light, optic and laser, I kept it simple.
    I’m a little older and us older folks can make good use of a red dot, so yes I used RS Regulate mounts and put a Aimpoint T1 2 moa red dot on it, but that’s it. It’s reasonably light, and I have 100% confidence that my weapon will serve its intended purpose if need be and I won’t have the slightest concern over jams or misfires. I wanted 100% confidence, and I got that in a premium AK variant, an Arsenal SAM7R

  40. AR wins for me in every category. It’s accurate out past 300, the AK and the 7.62×39 specifically is no good beyond 200 for even sloppy groups. These people and their ammo issues need to learn to reload, I’ve never had a .233/5.56 ammo shortage and I can play around with many different grains and loads for various shooting scenarios. The 7.62 has tons of different .30 bullets one can load but it seems most ak folks haven’t got on the reloading road. I’d have more respect and understanding of their defense of the ak if they reloaded. While ak ammo is cheaper than ar off the shelf money can still be saved and more accurate rounds can be loaded in 7.62 but most just don’t reload for ak.
    AK is strictly a short range battle rifle, one can watch the videos of the Afghan gun battles in the mountains and while the US soldiers are taking down Taliban one after another there is multiple ak rounds hitting all over the place but the majority of the time the US troops are not being struck, and it’s because the Taliban are basically lobbing them in because the 7.62×39 is horrible for accuracy beyond 200 and extinct beyond 300. The AR is versatile in range it truly embarrasses the ak at every distance.
    I have a .300 for my 7.62×39 ballistic needs.
    The ak design is no doubt simple and ingenious, I won’t deny that, but there is a reason they are meant to chew up and spit out tons of ammo, it’s because it takes an entire mag to hit it’s target.
    Nothing wrong with owning one, but to consider it a superior or even equal to the ar is ridiculous.

    • Yes you reload, we got that. Nobody reloads 7.62. No kidding! You did read the article, right?
      Nobody is shooting out to those ranges. That’s not what it was designed to do. It was designed to work and stop intended targets. It’s a battle rifle, not a elite pristine sniper rifle. You’re arguing the apple doesn’t taste like an orange. We know that.

    • just going to throw out there the fact that Afghans are shooting rifles that in many cases are practically smooth-bore by now, with whatever crap surplus they can get their hands on – stuff like copper-washed Chinese steel-core ammo manufactured in Vietnam era, Iranian surplus, Iraqi surplus – shit, whatever. stuff you would never see in the US.

      this is not even a mild comparison to a factory-new AK with a brand new CHF/CL barrel, even if you’re shooting new production steel-cased.

      feel free to stand 300 yards downrange of some of the AKs sold in the US.. an experienced shooter is going to hit you, probably on the first shot.

    • I would hazard to guess that the Afghan AKs are beat to hell, don’t have optics and the users have little to no basic marksmanship training.

      The AK-47 in 7.62 will not be as accurate as an AR but it can certainly shoot decent past 200 meters. Like double that. The 74 In 5.45 is better still at distance.

      Of course I know people that couldn’t hit squat at 300 meters with a rifle length AR and iron sights so I’m of the opinion that with these kinds of rifles and these chamberings, distance hits have a lot to do with the shooter’s fundamentals and if an optic is attached.

  41. No no we cant get along for some unexplained reason….lol.

    I love both platforms but I would have to say I am more of an AR-15 fan for the ergonomics and accuracy but shoot the AK more because of reliability and cheap ammo (super cheap ammo 🙂 ).

  42. The way I feel about AKs is the way I feel about Jeep Wrangles, they look awesome and rugged and are really utilitarian and just shoot/drive to hell and back in the worst conditions. But then I pick an AK up to fire it, the stock is short and the pistol grip is cramped, like how the Wrangles cabin feels like a coffin and the ride sucks. I love the look hate the feel.

  43. Not to be a downer or anything but you should be happy if you live in a state where you can purchase a semi-automatic rifle in AR or AK configuration. Living in CA that’s a pipe dream. Having handled civiilan versions of both designs. I think the 4-9 inch accuracy at 100 yards of a lot of the originally available AK rifles put Americans off. I mean it didn’t have to have varmit rifle accuracy, but the level of accuracy was disconcerting. A certain level of “inaccuracy” is due to design. A certain amount was due to sloppy production. You give up accuracy in the AK to obtain a firearm that operates w/o a lot of maintenance. On the flip side U.S. civilians began to here a lot about the inability of the 5.56 round to effectively take the target out of the fight. Former Gen. McChrystal was famously shot in the chest with a 5.56 (accidentally not intentionally) and returned to active duty within a year. I would prefer a gas piston style rifle on the AR platform with a 6.8 round if money and ammunition availability were no object. I think you’d have the best of both worlds there. The accuracy of the AR platform, a better cartridge, and less need to keep the weapon clean. In the real world, at least for me the issue is irrelevant due to CA’s restrictive gun ownership laws.

    • Another part of the AK’s reputation for less than stellar accuracy is the ammo that generally gets shot through them.
      I’ve had some really good 7.62×39 ammo in the past, but most of it was only so-so. Try some good US production brass cased ammo in an AK some time and you might just be surprised.

  44. If I’m expecting to pick a rifle that I have to use to trade lead with someone, then I’d take the AR over the AK hands down.

    1) I’m significantly more familiar with it
    2) It’s lighter
    3) The ammo’s lighter – enabling me to carry significantly more rounds
    4) The slide locks back when empty. Not only does this enable faster reloads but I can immediately tell the weapon is empty based upon the different felt recoil and noise signature produced by the bolt when it locks back
    5)The AR is significantly more ergonomic. This combined with its light weight actually does make it more accurate, because the light weight + better ergonomics enables me to bring my rifle to bear on a target faster than if I was using an AK. It’ll only be slightly faster, but in a gunfight that could be the difference between life and death.

    That said, I still respect the AK and ideally all shooters should have both.

    • At first I will seem like nit picking here, but we have all reamed anti-gunners for less. The SLIDE on an AR… Does not do anything because there IS NO slide on an AR. The BOLT locks back on the last round. I’m sure it was an innocent slip. But if anyone, WE have to have are terminology right. We use little slips like this to show how stupid Anti-gunners are all the time, we can’t go making the same mistakes. Please never talk about the slide of your AR again.

  45. I’ve seen all kinds of guns fail. I’ve seen M-16’s run with minimal maintenance through some pretty hard use and I’ve seen AK’s (civilian AK’s) malfunction and break.

    A good AK is a great rifle.
    A good AR is a great rifle.

    Choose the one you like and go from there.