In a recent article of mine, I talked about both chickens and the .300 AAC Blackout round. I presented the idea that, from a practical standpoint, the 300 BLK is an extremely practical cartridge for general use, a breed made for today’s demands that can both show well and make meat, so to speak.
I noticed a number of comments about the AK rifle and the 7.62x39mm cartridge, so today we will be talking about whether an AK-47 is the right choice for you.
When we are discussing the AK-47 rifle here, I will be bouncing around a few Kalashnikov models (the AK-47, the AKM, and other Avtomat Kalashnikova variations), including the 5.45mm and 7.62mm rounds they fire, so be aware and don’t get your knickers in a knot if I generalize. While much of this discussion will focus on the 7.62x39mm AK-47 variant, I will address the others as much as I can.
So the big question is whether you should buy a semi-auto copy of Mikhail Kalashnikov’s rifle. The answer may not be as simple as you think due to a number of factors in the wider world. The first thing we need to look at is the general state of the AK rifle and what you get for your money.
The AK used to be the cheap everyman’s utility rifle. I remember back in the old days when I was perhaps sixteen or so looking at AR rifles and thinking I’d never own one. I bought my first AK for $300, which was a good price back around 2006. I remember when the AK rifles began to go up in price around 2008. For some weird reason and I thought I’d never see a decent semi-automatic for under $1,500 again.
Fast forward to today. Many strange things have happened in the last decade, and things seem to be getting stranger. The price of the AR-15 has dropped so far that I could chart it against the rising number of genders and likely find some sort of direct inverse correlation between the two.
If you had told me in 2008 that I could get a decent AR for $300, I’d have laughed at you, which I’m pretty sure counts as a microaggression today.
The complete saturation of the AR on the American market has resulted in a decline in the general popularity of other rifles, including the AK. The AR has such tremendous dominance on the consumer and LE market that the pricing floor is approaching rock bottom. I wonder if at some point companies will lose money making AR parts due to the cost of machine time alone.
The AK, on the other hand, has seen a steady increase in prices. What was once considered the rifle of poor neckbeards and the anti-social prepper types has come out of the Obama era as the gun of the wealthy few. A good AK today is at least a $1,000 proposition and a great one from specialty makers can run you well over $2,500. How is this possible?
The reason behind this shift is the disparity in the number of imports and the lack of tooling and manufacturing experience here in America. The AR lends itself to easy manufacture on most of our existing tooling, with the only thing lacking from most shops being a broach cutter for the magazine well. The consistency that the AR can be made with today is unrivaled.
The AK family is a bit different. Unless it is adapted to our modern CNC technology, the AK is essentially a custom project, even for large makers. The methods of manufacture used on majority of AK rifles are archaic by our modern standards to the point that the AK has more in common with the M1 Garand than it does the AR-15.
The hand fitting, pressing, stamping, and riveting makes the process less precise and subject to more hours of labor to achieve the end result. The Russians can make all the AK rifles they want in their arsenals because their industry is set up around the gun where ours simply is not geared for its mass production.
The lack of inexpensive, quality imports and good quality Western ammunition makes the AK-47 a less desirable gun for most consumers. The trope I often hear is that the AK is more reliable than the AR, but that is relative to the individual gun.
Sure, the AK is a generally more robust design, but it’s a machine that that is just as prone to malfunction as the next one. Today’s AR is not the same gun it was even ten years ago and that’s saying something. Gone are the days of the M16 and the old, crappy NATO ammo.
Another major issue with AK ownership is ammunition. A common statement I hear about 300 BLK as compared to 7.62x39mm, is that it’s too expensive and 7.62 is cheaper and more widely available in bulk. This is just plain wrong.
American-made 7.62x39mm is just as expensive as 300 BLK and harder to find. Most American 7.62x39mm is about $1.00 per round, the same, if not more than high-quality 300 BLK. Cheap, ComBloc crap isn’t available for the 300 BLK, which is apparently enough to keep it out of reach for some people despite the significant advantages it has over 7.62×39 for most gun owners.
Imported ammo is the sole reason to own an AK in 2019 America. The domestic AR is more practical, just as reliable (don’t give me that ‘bu…but mud…and…crawling…and…Soviet army’ nonsense…clean your gun and shoot good ammo), and just as cheap.
Hell, Brownell’s sells a 12,500 round drum of ammo for $3,100 after rebate. That’s $0.24/rd for 62gr M855, which is a great deal and way better than any steel-cased import ammo made today. If it weren’t for cheap imported steel-cased ammo, there would be no significant advantage to the AK today.
Look at what happened when Barry classified 5.45mm 7N6 as armor-piercing handgun ammo and banned it from import. I hardly know anyone with an AK-74 these days as a result.
The AK-47 today, what anti-gunners love to call the Kalashnikov assault rifle, is something of a holdover from better years. I think that the design is great and has many advantages, but it’s simply being out-manufactured by the AR, which is a far easier gun to build and maintain. In a modular age where rifle owners can easily switch calibers, barrel length, and just about everything on their gun, the AK is stuck within its limitations. I put a muzzle brake on my original gun and…that was it.
If it were me, I’d tell you not invest in an AK unless it’s in the custom-grade of rifles. You really have to spend some coin these days to get a quality rifle, and that’s just the way it is. When you get into the $1,200-2,000 range, a number of other options become available to you that are again objectively better than the AK-47, even ones made in the United States.
That said, if you really have your heart set on the old Soviet Union warhorse, go get one and make sure you stock up on cheap ammo while you still can.