For many years the Kalashnikov was the “enemy’s gun” and shunned by red-blooded Americans. Ironically, when the AK-47 originally surfaced, the American military dismissed it as cheap and ineffective.
Boy, were they ever wrong.
As CJ Chivers, the New York Times columnist and author of the “The Gun” wrote, “the Kalashnikov-carrying guerrilla, a common man with portable and easy-to-use automatic arms, was now in the field by the tens of thousands, and these men were outgunning American troops.” One of the reasons why Kalashnikov-carrying troops had the edge over US forces was because of the rifle’s legendary reliability. A well maintained AK (or even a not so well maintained one) almost never fails. The rifle’s parts are hefty but loose enough to power through sand or grit. You can punish an AK-47 in oh-so-many ways such as burying it in the mud or immersing it in water and it will still operate.
This video, by Larry Vickers, a retired Special Forces veteran and respected firearms trainer, does a fine job of illustrating how an AK-47 functions.
The upshot: you may not be outfitting a guerrilla band but if you need a dependable rifle, you can be certain that it will fire when you pull the trigger.
Another advantage: The standard AK-47 round, which is 7.62 x 39mm, packs a wallop.
If the 7.62 chambering is not to your liking you can purchase it in other calibers with less recoil. Ammo is readily available and is relatively inexpensive compared to other rifles so you’re not going to go broke practicing.
Finally, cleaning and maintenance of the AK-47 is uncomplicated. You can field strip it in under a minute.
Prices begin at around $600 and go up to $2000+.
What accounts for this wide spectrum?
For more expensive AKs you’re paying for higher quality parts, better fit and finish, premium coatings and the labor that comes with superior workmanship. It’s really a matter of getting what you pay for. The more expensive the rifle the most likely it will be more dependable and durable.
There are disadvantages with an AK-style rifle compared to the AR-15.
The AK-47 is heavier by over a pound. If you are going to carry your rifle around all day or shoot offhand a great deal, this is not inconsequential.
Another important issue: The ergonomics on the Kalashnikov platform are clearly not as good as the AR-15. They take some getting used to. If you’re planning on purchasing an AK-47 and have never fired one, you owe it to yourself to check one out just to see how it feels.
If you’re interested in customizing your AK, third party accessories are available but often finding parts that fit can be challenging. Unlike the AR15, which is generally manufactured to Mil-Spec requirements, the AK has no such universal standard.
Essentially all AK-47 variants are built to slightly different specs. That means adding optics, handguards and other third party parts can be a hassle because it’s hard to ascertain that the new items will fit and work correctly.