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The AK-47 has been a platform I’ve been in love with since I first took up an interest in firearms, and after firing one, I was sold. When I was sixteen, I didn’t want a car; I wanted a WASR 10 AK clone hanging in my local gun shop. I got it that year, and I still have/shoot/love that rifle. Be aware I may be a little biased in writing this article because I simply love the AK-47 platform. I a simple man who likes simple things, and the AK-47 is a simple gun.
Of course, the AK-47 is an assault rifle, which makes it a favorite target for gun-control advocates. One of the anti-gun lobby’s favorite cries is, “Why do you need an AK-47? No one needs an AK-47 for shooting deer.”
They’re right: I’ve never shot a deer with an AK-47, and thank the good Lord I’ve never “needed” one (at least not as a civilian). I own one because one day the police may not be there for me. We say we are a civilized people, and for the most part we are, but some people are only civilized because men with badges and guns keep them that way. Should I ever face a situation where civilization collapses—even in a local way, like Hurricane Katrina—I want a good rifle.
A good rifle has a few requirements, and one of them is reliability. Everyone’s heard it before: AK-47s work covered in mud, snow, sand, zombie goo, etc. You hear it so often because it’s true. The reason why is simple: to understand, all you need to do is pop off the dusk cover and take a look. Everything in an AK is open, meaning there is lots of room for dirt and grime to build up without affecting anything. Not only that, but the reliability is increased by the ease of design: a simple piston, bolt, and spring construction.
Another requirement for a good rifle is easily obtainable ammo. I have focused on the AK-47 instead of the entire AK series of rifles because of the 47’s caliber. The 7.62 round is a favorite of mine, whether it’s the NATO standard or the Russian. When you have an AK-47, it can double as an efficient hunting rifle, as the 7.62 round is suitable for medium and even large game in North America. The 7.62 x 39 is ballistically similar to the 30-30 round, so at 300 meters and under, the rounds pack a punch. Should you have to dispatch an attacker, this round will put him down, and for good too. In addition, the ammo is affordable to stock pile. In fact, I saw a 1,000-round case for $200 today.
Ergonomics is where the AK-47 lacks any kind of grace. The rifle is comfortable to fire—don’t get me wrong—but it has some rough edges. The first issue is the position of the charging handle: it’s on the right side and either requires the shooter to take his firing hand off the pistol grip or learn what can be an awkward technique of sticking his left arm under the gun. I have an option to fix this with the AK lightning bolt. The lightning bolt comes with a dust cover with a slit on the left side to accommodate the left-side charging handle on the lightning bolt.
The second issue is the safety: it’s a huge bulky thing that screams Soviet Russia, and like the charging handle, it also requires your hand to come off the pistol grip. Another complaint is that the stock pistol grip is rather small, which is odd after seeing some pictures of the huge Ivans from over there.
My last complaint doesn’t involve every model of the AK, but a few I stay away from. These include the models with the East-German-style wire folding stock and the under folding stocks that often come out of Yugoslavia. Don’t even get me started on the East German—it’s literally a wire. The under folders I fired in Romania were a little better than these, but still not very comfortable to acquire a cheek weld, especially in full auto.
I haven’t mentioned accessories yet: the AK needs nothing more than a few magazines, and everything else can stay stock. Remember, I said needs. This is America and we love accessorizing, and AKs these days have more than enough options.
To mount optics you have three options: a traditional side mount, a dust cover mount, or a gas tube rail. I prefer the side mount, as that’s how the AK was made to take optics and is the most dependable. The dust cover mount is better for someone who prefers the more western style of mounting optics. The gas tube mount is for simple red dots only and is usually the most affordable option.
You can replace the wood stock furniture with a number of accessories, from folding M4 style stocks to AK stocks from the 100-series AKs. The fore end options can be all railed out to your heart’s content, so mount your fore grips, lasers, and flashlights all you want.
My experience with AK magazines has been nothing but great. I have a Romanian magazine, a Chinese magazine, and a Tapco polymer magazine, and none of them have ever given me feeding problems. I don’t know what it is about AK mags, but like the rifle, they just work. I also like the simple mag release, which accommodates either hand to remove the magazine. It’s a simple paddle release: very easy to learn and use with either hand. I’ve never fired from a drum, but I might fix that soon.
An AK has an effective range of 300 meters. Yes, I know AK-47s aren’t giving you the same range as an AR, but how often will you be in an engagement over 300 meters? Mikhail Kalashnikov didn’t design this weapon to kill bulls-eyes; he designed it to kill men, and that’s what it does. The pelvic girdle and the internal organ kill zone are your targets. As someone who’s been on both sides of an AK, I can say it’s an effective weapon. Untrained Taliban fighters were accurate enough to make me wish I wasn’t 6’4” in a firefight.
Another huge issue when buying a rifle for me is price; I don’t want to spend a thousand dollars or more on a tool that I’m going to beat the hell out of. A basic AK-47 is around $500 when it is new in the box, so even with buying 1,000 rounds, you’re still not spending a grand.
The AK may not be your perfect rifle, and you may disagree with my points. As someone who uses firearms regularly, I highly respect this weapon and suggest it to anyone who needs a good rifle for when things fall apart.