Sunday, July 29, 2012

Versus! Part I: AR vs AK

I've decided to do a few articles pontificating on which platforms I prefer. Most of it is based on anecdotal evidence, which is not actual evidence. But going off half cocked has never stopped me before. So here we go with the first installment; AR vs AK. (Not Arkansas vs Alaska)

I fall solidly into the AR camp. Why? It's a better gun, period.

The stories of AK47 reliability are greatly exaggerated. As are the stories of AR15 unreliability. In my personal experience, I've seen four AK47s explode. I mean real AK47s, not civilian semi-auto clones. The Afghan National Army is a sad excuse for a bunch of soldiers, and they don't do ANY maintenance. If you neglect ANY weapon, it will fail. All four exploding AKs looked to me like firing out of battery. It blew out the receiver near the barrel and popped the top cover off. I know of one AR15 that fired out of battery and cracked the receiver, but left the barrel and barrel nut unharmed. It was a Rock River Arms heavy profile M4, and the explosion was at first blamed on improperly made handloads, but upon inspection of the damage, it was clearly a case of firing out of battery. Firing out of battery is one of the worst things that can happen to a rifle, but is all too common in early semi-autos (*cough* M1 Garand *cough*).

Second, the stories of AK47 inaccuracy and AR15 accuracy are true (mostly). The long-stroke piston and loose tolerances of the AK don't lend themselves to accuracy over great distances. I have seen some Arsenal and old Russian milled-receiver AKs that could do 2.5 or even 2MOA, which is pretty respectable and probably about what you'd get out of the average off-the-rack M4/AR15 carbine. However, those milled AKs cost the same or more than a well-made AR15. And a well-made AR will do 1.5 or 1MOA all day (provided you have decent ammo--not Wolf).

There are some upgrades available for the AK, but it will never be the modular platform the AR is. I have a dear friend who owns three or four AKs, and they all suffer from the same insane design flaws. There is an optics mount on the left side of the receiver, but you can't use it with a folding stock because it folds to the left. So you can either use your hideously expensive stock, or put an optic where it was intended to go. The only other option is to get an expensive set of handguards that need to be hand-fitted to your AK and mount your red dot on the gas tube. Then hope and pray it doesn't get so hot as to damage the optic. AK triggers are crap. TAPCO actually makes a reasonably good AK trigger that isn't super expensive. But it isn't as good as an AR trigger. And there are about 2.5quadrillion options for AR triggers.

Then there's the cost. A random piece of crap Romanian WASR will cost around $400. Lets call it $400 for the sake of argument. For that $400, you get a rifle with horrible trigger backlash and possibly canted sights. So you'll need $30 for a new trigger and $60 for new sights. Possibly more. And then you have a $500 rifle that shoots 4 or 5MOA. Want to add an optic? You'll need to shell out another $100 for a mount, be it a tri-rail handguard or a cantilever mount for that block on the left of the receiver. If you're cool with that, fine. Best of luck. But for about $700, you can build your own AR15 carbine that will have an acceptable trigger and excellent sights right out of the box. And if you want to add an optic, just get an optic with a picatinny mount (which most come with these days). No need to hand-fit new handguards or buy an expensive cantilever mount.

All of this is not to say that buying an AK is wrong, or you're wrong for liking them. I'm just saying that I prefer the AR for the above reasons. I believe it is far more modern, and far more versatile than the aging AK. To my mind, the AK just isn't on the same level as an AR. Even a top-shelf AK like an Arsenal is no match for a top-shelf AR like a Noveske or LWRC. An AK can be a functional and useful rifle, but it will never be as flexible or versatile as an AR.


James said...

The price difference between AK's and AR's is skewed here in the states in favor of the AR. Really, for your aspiring dictator or warlord around the world the AK is the far better deal.

My main concern with an AK - even for fun - is that they're an ergonomic mess.

Al T. said...

IMHO, the AK will run with an AR for the first 30 (28) rounds or 200 yards. After that it's AR territory.

The Flatland Gun Nut said...

The AK is cheap, and easy to service in the field. But the AR is just a better gun.

If I were an aspiring dictator, I would buy up all the old G3s and FALs I could. Not as easy to service if something breaks, but those two guns are nothing if not rugged and powerful. The paratrooper versions of each would make for a mean all-arounder.