AR-15 vs. AK-47: The Choice is Yours

By Blake Johnson  

There’s no doubt that the AR vs. AK argument has been exhausted, with conclusions being extremely opinionated. A lot of people are diehard AR fans, and others are loyal to the AK. The fact is both rifles have proven themselves to be effective in the field, but often for different reasons. Now we will look at the pros and cons of each rifle, and dispel a few myths.

AK-47

AK-47 with wood furniture and Sightmark red dot
The AK-47 is the most popular rifle in the world.

The AK-47 was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1945 to compete against the superior German STG-44 rifle. Since then, the AK has become the most recognizable firearm in the world, with an estimated 100 million in circulation. Because of the forces that use them, many Americans automatically write off the AK as foreign junk and a symbol of oppression. The AK-47 is like the misunderstood kid in the class. The other kids are scared to go talk to him because they’ve heard rumors, but they’ve never actually played with him on the playground. If only they would take the time to get to know him, they would find someone who offers a great deal.

Many of the pros and cons of the AK are due to its simple design. The large moving parts make AKs reliable; to the point where you can abuse the heck out of them and they will continue to fire like they’re straight out of the box. Depending on your budget and how you use your rifle, reliability should be a major issue. Hunters and plinkers alike should consider AK’s because of the 7.62x39mm round they fire. This round is large enough to successfully hunt deer and other North American game but is plentiful to the point where a day at the range will not break the bank. In addition, the piston system keeps the AK cleaner than its counterparts.

Weight is one of the drawbacks to the AK design, as typical Kalashnikovs outfitted with 30 round magazines generally weigh 10 pounds. Another perceived pitfall is the inferior effective range and accuracy; the effective range is about 300 meters. Some people consistently shoot further distances, and for them, the AK shouldn’t be their go-to gun. But for those shooting at standard engagement ranges, I assure you that a well-built AK-47 will shoot comparable groupings to an AR-15. And for those that don’t want an AK because they aren’t American made, Century Arms now produces a quality AK made right here in the U.S.

When asked about the accuracy discrepancies in AK-47’s, Century Arms CEO Jim Drager commented

“the misconception around accuracy is a result of bad manufacturing practices,” not a bad firearm design.

He also mentioned that the use of AK’s in hunting is continuously improving, as hunters are starting to realize that a quality AK works great in many field scenarios. According to Drager, with an affordable price, exceptional reliability and durability, and inexpensive ammunition, the AK-47 offers ballistics similar to .30-30’s, a classic American hunting rifle.

AR-15

AR-15 with Firefield paracord rifle sling
The AR-15 is extremely popular due to its ease of use and versatility.

With an estimated six to seven million AR’s in the U.S. (National Shooting Sports Foundation), this rifle continues to become more and more popular, but still represents less than 1% of all worldwide firearms. The AR-15 design, developed by Eugene Stoner, eventually became the U.S. Army’s M16 and is now produced by a number of firearm manufacturers.

Many shooters are drawn to AR’s because of the customization options available. AR’s allow for numerous accessories. You can even interchange complete uppers and barrels for different calibers, making the AR an extremely versatile platform. An AR has a more complex design but tighter tolerances, making for a generally more accurate firearm. The standard 5.56/.223 rounds are inexpensive and plentiful, and the light recoil and weight make for a great everyday rifle.

The design that gives the AR its strength also provides some weaknesses. They jam easier and require more cleaning and maintenance. Due to the sheer number of customizable options, some find the AR platform overwhelming. This large number of available parts allows for more ways to spend your money and can become very expensive depending on your shopping habits. It’s also widely discussed as to the stopping power of the 5.56/.223 rounds. While almost any caliber will take down an animal with a perfect shot, this caliber is believed to be too small for deer and larger game and is even illegal to use on deer in some states.

The AR-15 and AK-47 are both great rifles with many useful applications. Depending on your needs and preference, either one would be a great choice. Many of the shortcomings of both rifles can be overcome by an experienced user. If you are only familiar with AR’s, I encourage getting out of your comfort zone and trying out an AK. I believe many AK detractors would welcome the rifle and its rich history if given the opportunity to shoot. Likewise, if you are only accustomed to AKs, an AR might be a fulfilling project for your next rifle. But don’t be scared to take a chance on the AK-47, because you never know what interesting stories the quiet kid in the class may have to tell, and he just might end up being one of your best friends.

Are you Team AR-15 or Team AK-47 both? Perhaps you swing both ways. Tell us in the comment section.

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