The AK-47 rifle can sometimes cause consternation in some of the population. That certainly isn’t the case among savvy shooters, who appreciate the AK-47 for what it is and do not criticize it for what it is not. It is a very reliable, simple-to-operate and effective rifle.
A hard-hitting, low-maintenance rifle is a good thing to have around. On that note, there are many grades of AKs. Some are recreational at best — functional, but not suited to long-term, hard use. My personal AK rifle is an Arsenal Underfolder. Arsenal offers many types of AK-pattern rifles, but the Underfolder suits my needs, as it is as accurate as a fixed-stock rifle in most efforts but easily stores in a closet, under a bed or behind a truck seat. I like to stay at the top of the food chain, and the rifle often travels with me.
AK or AR?
There is some logic behind choosing an AK over an AR. I will not argue the AR’s superior accuracy, but the AK-47 is more than accurate enough, particularly the Arsenal version. After all, when we’re talking about home defense, 100-yard accuracy hardly ever matters. Either rifle will put all of the rounds in the magazine into a single, ragged hole at 25 yards … and perhaps even 50 yards.
The AK isn’t quite as fast to reload, but then again, you have 30 rounds in the battle-proven magazine. You must practice with the AK often and master making it ready. I would never keep any long gun — be it a shotgun or a rifle — chamber-loaded in the home.
A hard-hitting, low-maintenance rifle is a good thing to have around. On that note, there are many grades of AKs. Some are recreational at best — functional, but not suited to long-term, hard use.
Luckily, the AK-47 is as fast as any rifle to make ready. Simply hold the rifle by the pistol grip and reach over the top of the receiver with the support-side hand to rack the bolt. The charging handle is generous and easily grasped. The rifle is then ready to fire.
The large safety was designed to be manipulated by gloved hands and is positive in operation. The trigger is usually two-stage military. Though my Arsenal breaks at a clean and crisp 4 pounds, some of the AK rifle triggers reach 8 pounds of compression. This is still OK for most uses, but for those who deploy the rifle for hunting or predator control, a CMC trigger is an excellent addition. This trigger usually breaks at 3.5 pounds, offers a flat face and isn’t difficult to install.
Strive For Quality
The Kalashnikov was originally a Soviet design, and while there were variations among the rifles, most were workmanlike efforts. There are differences in quality between the Romanian and Chinese examples, and the Bulgarians are often regarded as the highest grade.
The AK was a cash cow for former communist factories for many years, but manufacture was sometimes rushed. Because of this, I cannot recommend some of the lesser-quality models for personal defense. In fairness, the same may be said of many American bargain-priced ARs, though an AK can be stored for months with little to no lubrication.
For those wishing to own a rifle that performs as well as possible, the Arsenal gets my nod. Quality manufacturing and attention to detail are evident, and the result is a rifle that you might rightly bet your life on.
Take a Look
AK sights are rugged, no-nonsense units that do not go out of zero even in long, hard use. For personal defense, I recommend that the front sight be replaced with the TruGlo tritium unit, a simple change that makes the rifle a 24-hour defender. I have also mounted the TruGlo LED TAC light on my personal rifle. There are many combat lights on the market, but this one is very handy, easily mounted and removed, and affordable.
Apples to Apples?
The greatest advantage of the 7.62x39mm cartridge in the minds of most Americans is that it is inexpensive — and was dirt cheap in the early days. Once over the price though, we realized that the 7.62x39mm is a great cartridge in other ways not related to how inexpensive it was to train with. In rifles of a similar barrel length, the Soviet cartridge develops energy on par with or greater than the .30-30 Winchester. Hunters have taken many deer and boar with the 7.62 Soviet — some with the humble SKS and others with the AK — usually because this was the rifle on hand, be it a Vietnam bring-back or a cheap score at the local gun show. As with the aforementioned .30-30, the key is using the right load.
While steel-cased ammunition from Wolf or Tula is fine for practice, you should use a load topped with a quality expanding bullet for personal defense. A couple of magazines’ worth of quality ammunition isn’t going to ding your lunch money too badly. Another bonus of the 7.62x39mm is a more effective caliber compared to the 5.56mm if large animals are part of your threat profile, and the quality expanding-bullet loads shine here as well.
There are a number of loads in 7.62x39mm designed for hunting, but the only defense-specific load from a major maker is the Winchester PDX1. This is a 120-grain bullet using Split Core Technology featuring two cores. The JHP expands rapidly, while the bonded rear core ensures adequate penetration. If you find the assailant behind cover and need all of the penetration you can bring against him, this 7.62x39mm will provide it. If the PDX1 hits a soft target, it will expand. This load features Winchester quality, a boxer-primed case and excellent cartridge integrity. Practice with FMJ, and use the PDX1 loads for duty, hunting and personal defense.
As for magazines, the Circle 10 Waffle-pattern is generally regarded as the superior AK mag. A recent price at Ka Var was $44.59, and a pair for home-defense use would be good to have. As for range use, there are literally millions of inexpensive AK magazines in the pipeline. They usually work well, but not all do; be certain to proof them before your life depends on them, and always remember that there’s a difference between inexpensive and cheap.
As previously noted, getting the rifle into action is simple: Angle the magazine into place, be certain it is locked and get a firing grip on the rifle with the dominant hand. Reach your non-dominant hand over to rack the bolt to make the rifle ready to fire. Moving the safety lever to the uppermost position makes the rifle safe, and this lever is often very stiff in economy-grade rifles. Modification of the lever at the V often works; a few passes with sandpaper will cure the stiffness. There is nothing about the AK safety that isn’t positive. It’s easy to manipulate with gross-motor movements, and, if you are left-handed, your support (right) hand can easily sweep back to actuate it.
More Like Apples to Turnips
Firing the rifle requires the proper technique. When running the AR-15, I keep my support hand forward as far as possible for control. But with the AK, I find gripping the front of the magazine is the best technique, pressing the stock into my shoulder to maintain my firmest grip.
To replace the magazine, the strong, heavy magazine catch must be mastered. The magazine will fall away if you fumble the load, so it must not be half-inserted. You will find plenty of online videos demonstrating all manners of magazine changes that came back from Iraq and Afghanistan with our fighting men; attempt none of them until you have mastered releasing the empty or malfunctioning magazine, clearing it of the magazine well and inserting a fresh magazine.
Instead of the volley I usually fire with an AR-pattern rifle, I fire a single shot as accurately as possible, recover after recoil, acquire the sights and fire again.
A semi-auto rifle gives the homeowner a tremendous edge against a take-over robbery, home invasion or any other form of attack.
The AK-47 is OK
Like any firearm, it is not ideal for everything, but the modern semi-automatic AK-pattern rifle makes for a good house and truck gun. No, it isn’t the best choice for use in thin-walled apartments and, yes, some will still stand by their sidearms as the masters of indoor defensive shooting. Neither of those issues are being discussed here. That said, if armored felons or larger animals are a concern, it is a more-than-valid selection for responsibly armed Americans.
TruGlo AK-47 Tritium — Insert Front Sight ($57.48): CheaperThanDirt.com
TruGlo Led Hog — Predator Light ($89.99): VergonaOutdoors.com
CMC Elite AK-47 Trigger ($225): CheaperThanDirt.com
Arsenal AK-47 Underfolder — AM 7U F 7.62x39mm ($1,260.03): ArsenalInc.com
About Bob Campbell
Bob Campbell is a writer for Concealed Carry Magazine with a degree in criminal justice. Bob has been a firearms writer for decades, writing for Concealed Carry Handguns, Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, SWAT Magazine, Law and Order and Black Belt, among others. He has written 15 books primarily focused on handguns and training, including The Accurate Handgun from Gun Digest. In addition to serving as a peace officer and firearms instructor, he has also written curriculum at the university level.