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AR v. AK

I linked this as gun porn before but Caleb v. fan boys:

. . . theres basically no reason in this modern age to select a Kalashnikov style rifle over an AR other than wanting to be contrary. The developments that have been made in 5.56 bullet technology, and the understanding we have now of the AR weapons system has effectively rendered the old reasoning for buying an AK completely moot.

Back in the day, it was .45 v 9mm and Glock v. 1911. Now, I see a lot of people in the handgun world switching to some plastic pistol in 9mm. Is the AK v. AR and 5.56 v. 7.62 about to go that way?

The science is settled!

48 Responses to “AR v. AK”

  1. fucema Says:

    Awwwwww no you di’nt!

  2. Sean Says:

    I can see the AK becoming a 2nd tier weapon system. Something like a cheap milsrup alternative to the “preferred” platform. What the SKS used to be…

  3. Bram Says:

    Who cares? They are both 60+ year-old obsolete designs. I would never spend money on either.

  4. Caleb Says:

    I should note that I am actually an AK fanboy and have owned more AKs than I’ve owned ARs. And I’ll probably end up buying more AKs…

  5. Erin Palette Says:

    Have ARs advanced in ruggedness such that they can work while covered in mud, sand, etc? I’m not trying to be contrary, I genuinely want to know, because I am an idiot and want my rifles to be idiot-proof.

    Also: I can buy an AK for around $400. These days that’ll maybe get me an AR lower. I’d say being 2-3x less the price is a very, very good reason to pick an AK over an AR.

  6. Dave_H Says:

    I just like the AK. For a civilian schnook such as myself it meets the requirements for any situation I’m likely to require a semi-auto rifle for. I’m not kicking down doors in third world hellholes, and I’m not shooting in competitions. The virtues of the gun, the cartridge and the prices of each outweigh the other factors in my case.

  7. Joel Says:

    What EP said – the second thing, that is.

    I built my AK for about $200, from a parts kit and a domestic receiver. It’s not a competition race gun, but it works fine. Beat that, Stoner.

    Otherwise I don’t especially prefer one over the other.

  8. D2k Says:

    I prefer the ergonomics of the AR and I see no inherent advantage to an AK, but because they can be had for so cheap there is a certain advantage there, granted to some extent you are getting what you pay for.

  9. Mike Says:

    Isn’t contrariness a hallmark of gun culture?

  10. Caleb Says:

    A $400 AK is going to likely be a shitty WASR or a shitty Century import Tantal with a crappy side folding stock and a barrel that isn’t chrome lined.

    A proper, well set up AK is going to run in the $600-$800 range. Inflation is a bitch. If I was going to go out and buy an AK type rifle, I’d probably end up dropping 8 bills on one of the Czechpoint VZ-58 rifles, because it’s basically an AK that does all the things a rifle should do, such as last round hold open, have a safety that doesn’t suck, etc.

  11. Jack Says:

    I’d second what Caleb says. If you’re looking at a 7.62X39 look at the VZ-58. I’ve been very happy with mine.

    Downside is that they don’t use AK mags.

  12. HL Says:

    You can get a S&W AR-15 for $700 or so. Cost isn’t a big difference between the two guns anymore. You can build a bargain AR for less than $600 pretty easily. If you really hunt, you can get it under $500.

    As for simplicity, yes, the AK likely wins. Someone once noted it was designed for illiterate, peasant conscripts with little to no marksmanship expectations, and an inferior supply chain.

    I am not shitting on it. It is exactly what it was meant to be.

  13. Chris Says:

    I had both a MAK90 and an AR. I sold the MAK90. It was inaccurate and clunky. I couldn’t even get it zeroed because the groups were so bad (3 inches at 50yds on a good day). I even replaced the trigger group, bought a B-square scope mount, and a scope. Before you say I can’t shoot, my AR groups just fine with iron sights and scope. A bigger bullet is no good if you can’t hit what you’re aiming at. Just my personal experience.

  14. The Duck Says:

    Knowing your platform is what counts, and knowing it’s limitations counts for more.

  15. Knitebane Says:

    The Stoner platform is a small part of a larger weapons *system* that includes a logistical tail and a fighting doctrine that emphasises massed fire over single, well-placed shots. (That is not to say that individual marksmanship isn’t important in .mil especially at the sniper or DM level, merely that *doctrine* does not rely on it. If you doubt this you haven’t been reading your FM 3-21.8.)

    Ruggedness has never been a fundamental concern of the U.S. Military when it comes to weapon system components because their huge logistical tail allows for rapid replacement of malfunctioning equipment. Anyone who has maintained any kind of other U.S. military equipment from tanks to aircraft will tell you that it’s made up of a lot of relatively fragile parts that are all easily replaced by a trained technician. The AR platform is no exception. It is part of a *system* that includes parts, repair and resupply.

    The typical non-military shooter does not have that option. If your AR malfs due to dirt and grime at a match what are you going to do, have a spare $1500 rifle? What about when you’re hunting or responding to that bump in the night? Do you really want a rifle that has proven to require staff to be effective? That $1500 spare rifle is also $1500 that you won’t be spending on ammo, mags, optics or training.

    The AK platform was designed to be rugged and has proven itself as a nearly indestructible weapon system in dozens of backwater, third-world countries. The AK has no logistical platform to support it other than the standard Soviet doctrine of supplying pre-loaded, shrink-wrapped, single-use magazines. This is much more comparative to the requirements of the individual, non-military shooter. I can carry a firing pin, recoil spring and a complete AK trigger group in the buttstock of an AK and can completely rebuild it in the mud without tools.

    While building and shooting an AR may be fun and instructive, what you end up with is a piece of the machine, not the entire machine. Unless you can build a supply corps along with the completed rifle, you’re missing the missing one of the more important components.

    Until DPMS or Daniels has it’s own fleet of ships, airplanes and helicopters that will drop me AR parts, tools and gunsmiths anywhere in the world at a moments notice I’m not really interested in having a fragile, expensive rifle.

    The gunny community has made this same argument about the plastic gun vs. the 1911 for years. It’s odd to hear the opposite coming out of so many mouths.

  16. Thirdpower Says:

    I spent years being formally trained on the AR/M-16 platform, own a Colt SP-1 and have fired many different M-4geries etc.

    I also own an SAR-1 AK clone.

    Between the two, I prefer shooting the AK. I may not get as tight groupings but it’s more comfortable for me to shoot and I just enjoy it more.

    Simple as that.

  17. markofafreeman Says:

    There’s also this:

    Know as many as you can.

  18. Bob Owens Says:

    I’d add my $0.02 that “AR-15” doesn’t automatically mean .223 Remington/5.56 anymore. Someone around here likes the 6.8 SPC, the 300 BLK has a growing following, and there are those that like the 6.5 Grendel, 458 SOCOM, and 50 Beowulf. As a result, the AR is more capable of carrying out a wider range of tasks.

    Yes, there are some companies making AKs in other calibers as well, but those don’t seem to be making the same market penetration.

  19. SayUncle Says:

    but those dont seem to be making the same market penetration

    Unpossible. I’m told the one with penetration issues is the AR. I read it on the internet.

  20. Ed Says:

    One thing left out is against whom you may need to fight. If we’re invaded by the Russians, Chinese or Angolans, an AK is good because you can scavange mags and ammo off their dead. If it’s a NATO country or a domestic dictator/terrorist group, then maybe an AR for the same reason. Or you could own one of each and be prepared for anything save a Singaporean invasion.

  21. MSJ Says:

  22. wizardpc Says:


    If I’m ever scavenging ammo off dead soldiers, I’m pretty sure I can scavenge their rifles, too.

  23. Leatherwing Says:

    @Ed, if you’re scrounging their ammo, couldn’t you also scrounge the weapon itself? Seems you can shoot whatever you have, then scrounge whatever they have, if you win 🙂

  24. Sigivald Says:

    Bram said: Who cares? They are both 60+ year-old obsolete designs. I would never spend money on either.

    I think you’ll find the AR-15 is a bit newer than 60 years, but admittedly not much, so we can let that slide.

    More importantly, could you explain the “obsolete” factor?

    I’ll grant they’re both old, quite readily (though both have been in continuous gradual improvement; neither is as-first-issued unless you buy a deliberate “retro” model).

    But it doesn’t seem that either is clearly “obsolete”, which suggests that there’s an alternative that is clearly superior and competitive with them (as opposed to clearly superior at four times the price, say).

    (Considering that ARs are now available with fripperies like free-float barrels and gas pistons, it’s unclear how they’re supposed to be significantly inferior to any of the competing designs, unless one is a bullpup partisan – and suffice it to say the consensus is not in on bullpups obsoleting anything, any more than it was in in 1970.

    I mean, the SIGs, the AUG, the G-36, the FAMAS, are all fine guns [and I hear the modern SA-80 is tolerable!] – but are any of them actually so good they’ve made the AR or AK “obsolete”?

    Or did you have in mind perhaps some boutique gun like the SCAR or RFB?

    Seriously, I have no idea what guns you might think really obsoleted the AR or AK platforms as they stand today.)

  25. Bill Says:

    Its simple, if you want to fight inside 100 yards, pick an AK. If you want ANY standoff ability, choose the AR.

    Everyone talks about how reliable the AK’s are, I’ll call BS. They aren’t significantly more reliable than an AR is.

    The difference in reputation is largely based on the fact that the dead commies didn’t have Walter Cronkite and his ilk on TV every night complaining about how lousy the rifle was.

    If it was so good, why did the Israelis, Czechs, and Finns all build their own versions that EVERYONE with a brain acknowledges as being superior? Heck, even Caleb says he’d buy a VZ-58, which isn’t an AK, it won’t even use AK mags! And yet, the Israelis sell theirs and use AR’s! The Finns and Czechs have good reason to stick with theirs with Russia sitting on their doorstep and easily available ammo in huge stocks.

    The Finns probably made the best version of it from what I’ve read, but even those tend to have issues that shut them down.

    I would point out one thing…When was the last time a 3 gun champion used an AK? If they were so freaking dependable, why aren’t guys who demand the most dependable rifle on the course demanding an AK?

    From a friend who still trains and teaches with the AK:

    “I hate AK’s with a passion, but train on them more than most who own them. They beat themselves apart in high volume, unless you have a heavy billet receiver version like the Rk62, Galil, Rk95, etc. Ergos still blow, and most of the cheaper Euro, Middle Eastern, and Asian guns malf all the time.

    Just charging the weapon can get you hurt badly with the receiver cover’s jagged edge. Mag changes blow, and mags are not uniform dimensionally across the variants.

    I hate em.”

    He’s a “real world” user, and his knowledge and experience far outweigh anything I’ve experienced.

  26. Huck Says:

    IMHO, this is just like the europellet vs .45 ACP. Use whichever works best for you.

    I personally like the AR system, primarily because I’m more familiar with it. I used the M-16A1 when I was in the National Guard as a Mech Infantryman and that’s what I’m used to. Plus, I’ve never had any problems with them. Works for me! 🙂

  27. Bond in Michigan Says:

    We have long had a snark nickname for the AR type rifles: EBR, Evil Black Rifle. Why not something like that for the AK rifles, I nominate: DCK, Dirty Commie Kalashnikov.

    I own two AK rifles and three AR rifles and a Ruger Mini 14 and a Mini 30.

  28. Skip Says:

    One thing’s for sure…gunnies arn’t static.
    Always something new.

  29. Skip Says:


  30. Lyle Says:

    I thought the argument was over loose powder and paper cartridges verses those fancy metal cartridges you kids today are using, with those expensive copper patched bullets and no bullet lube.

  31. Kim Says:

    Some wise guy once said: “When civilization crumbles and dies, I want an AK in my hands.” I’m with him. I like my AMD-65 just fine for 99% of any of the reasons why someone would have to use a battle rifle.

    Hell, I can’t see past 200 yards anymore — and if I can, and have to engage at distance, I’ll just switch to a bolt-action anyway. My old Swede Mauser will do, in that situation.

  32. Dave_H Says:

    The likelyhood of me having to take 300 meter shots with lives on the line is something I figure falls well below a one percent chance.
    If some sort of a Mad Max scenario does come up, I’m eventually toast anyway. The meds I need to take every day would dry up, and that would settle my hash before a disagreeable dude with a better long range rifle did.

  33. Ancient Woodsman Says:

    Lyle, latter-day pussies use percussion caps & them new-fangled paper cat’rigdges. This country never would have been won wi’dout good old fashioned flintlocks…and don’t you never forget that! Buncha homo-brass-lovers, they are.

    Real men make their own powder (or steal it from Ft. William & Mary & run it right by my house) & use a flint. If you need more than that, better be good with your saber, hawk, & knife.

    Can’t really understand what all this fuss is about things that haven’t even made it past the 300 year mark yet. Bunch of wusses who never read the Allegory of the Cave – and yet here they are again, still arguing the same old crap.

    Goin’ down cellar & get me a bail of cider. Wake me up when it’s over.

  34. tony Says:

    I own and shoot both along with an M1A. They are all fine firearms. My HD gun is a Colt 6920. My favorite range toy is the AK. These debates are tired. Buy whatever the F you like and learn it.

  35. Jay G. Says:

    You’re both wrong. The M1 Carbine is where it’s at…

  36. Harold Says:

    ” …theres basically no reason in this modern age to select a Kalashnikov style rifle over an AR other than wanting to be contrary.”
    So what does that make me with an Enfield? Heh.

  37. Zendo Deb Says:

    I still say that vanilla is vastly superior to chocolate.

  38. Beaumont Says:

    I’ve been known to go afield with an AR over my shoulder and a cap-n-ball revolver on my belt. Suffice it to say that was the combo that worked best for my particular application. The same logic(?) applies to the AR-vs-AK argument.

  39. Jerry Says:

    So a couple years ago when I was in Iraq, my battalion decided to arm the civilian contractor linguists that we got from back in the states.

    We took the best AK that we had in the confiscated weapon container, had our arms room do an inspection, and took the linguists to the range for some training.

    First linguist went up, started sending lead down range, and no more than 10 rounds later, the gun exploded and the upper receiver flew straight towards the face of the poor SOB standing behind the linguist instructing him the basic of rifle marksmanship (me).

    I’ve called BS ever since whenever someone said that AKs are sturdy and reliable. They’re not particular reliable, just no media sources have ever given a rats ass about the bastards that died due to AK being an under-performing POS.

  40. Noah D Says:

    Opinion of a lurker who fits the profile of ‘not a lot of money, not a lot of range time’ (worth what you paid for it):

    If I only could own one rifle/carbine, AR. Accurate, reliable, easily & broadly customizable, with an effective round. Commonality of parts/ammo with police and military (SHTF consideration). ‘Good guy rifle’ to the cops.

    The second? AK. Because I love them. Because there is something about them that’s just ‘right’ for me. Because I’m short. Because they’re not perfect. Because ‘Wolverines!’. Because I don’t get the same grip around my heart when I see an AR, as I do when I see an AK. Because acknowledging that it’s not the best tool for the job I need it to do makes me love it all the more.

  41. HL Says:


    Welcome to the board, Comrade.

  42. Mike Paulus Says:

    Last time I checked I can get a Kalashnikov for a lot less money than an AR would cost me.

  43. Six Says:

    For some of us (Ok me) there’s more to it than jut caliber, cost, ammo, accuracy and reliability. Fit. As I said on Caleb’s site I’ve been shooting the AR platform since I went to Army basic and was issued an M16 in 1977. By this time the gun just fits me. It’s an old friend that comes up and points without a second thought. The controls fall naturally to my hands. I can strip it and diagnose issues in seconds. I can perform failure drills in my sleep.
    The AK not so much. I bought one a few years ago along with a lot (A lot!) of ammunition for it basically because of the fans of the weapon and because I thought it was silly for me to ignore it because of my bias. I tried, I tried really, really hard to like it. I shot it, I fiddled with it, I fitted different stocks and even some backyard fixes but I ended up hating the thing. It feels weird and I could not get a proper cheek weld no matter what I did. The controls seem counter intuitive and I still can’t break one down without talking to myself while I’m doing it. I hated it so much I put it in the back of my safe because every time I saw it I ground my teeth and said bad words about the time and money I had invested in it. I sold it just the other day (and to give the fans their due it went in a day) along with 30 mags and all the ammunition. I’m going to put that money into my ARs and put the whole messy experiment.
    For me at least there is a clear answer. AR.

  44. Borepatch Says:

    Well, I picked up an SKS for #2 Son for $200. Admittedly, I got an exceptional deal, but that’s a reason to go with old commie mil-surp.

    Not being contrarian, just cheap.

  45. Sigivald Says:

    Bond said: We have long had a snark nickname for the AR type rifles: EBR, Evil Black Rifle. Why not something like that for the AK rifles, I nominate: DCK, Dirty Commie Kalashnikov.

    I have this ridiculous habit of calling the AR the “Automat Raskolnikov” as if it was a Russian gun.

    But that’s just me. And ridiculous.

  46. Phelps Says:

    I’ve personally seen someone take an AK with a rusted shut action from a bedroom closet, break the chamber open by stomping the charging handle down, and then fire a magazine through it with no stoppages.

    When someone does that with an AR, then I’ll consider the controversy closed.

  47. ATLien Says:

    why do plan to let your rifle rust?

  48. weambulance Says:

    Okay, challenge accepted on the rusted shut AR front.

    I was on a familiarization patrol that segued into covering engineers doing some engineer business on a road in Mosul in the pouring rain for ~18 hours once, most of that in the dark. I imagine it was around late November 2006.

    We were mounted in humvees and stopped for a while pulling security, and where I kept my M4 next to me turned into the perfect spot for water to drip from the turret ring onto the right side of the upper receiver. It was dark, as I said, so I didn’t notice that my rifle was getting soaked. I was pretty wet already so a little more water coming in the turret was no big deal.

    So, at the end of the mission I went to try to clear my rifle (to wipe it down) and it was rusted shut. The bolt carrier or bolt had lightly rusted to the barrel extension or barrel. The platoon armorer and I dinked around with it for a while trying to convince it to open up, but eventually we settled on just shooting it and seeing what happened.

    We went out to the berm, yelled test fire, and shot a round into the dirt. The rifle fired and cycled just fine, and continued to work without issue. I cleaned up the bolt and barrel with my field cleaning kit afterward and never had an issue like that again.

    So there you go. My “AR” rusted shut to the point that I couldn’t open it by hand–I wasn’t going to “kick open” a loaded M4 even if the charging handle wasn’t aluminum, though I’m pretty sure we carefully banged the butt on the ground–yet it functioned as expected when I fired it.

    I used to think ARs sucked, would jam all the time, wouldn’t kill people quickly, etc. Then I went to war with one and never experienced a single malfunction that wasn’t magazine related. I also found out people die just fine when you shoot them a few times with an M4, even if you’re using plain old M855.

    I was the go-to weapons guy for my section and while I had plenty of guys complain about their M240s and M2HBs (poor training and laziness), nobody came to me saying how their M4 kept jamming and they wanted me to fix it.

    I use ARs as my fighting rifles. I have an M1A too in case the threat profile includes grizzlies and commies on the same op, but mostly I rely on ARs for all my killin’.

Remember, I do this to entertain me, not you.

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