Used with permission of:
Online SURVIVAL Magazine, Kalashnikov Series
There has been much discussion about the best rifle to use in a
survivalist setting through out the Internet. Some advocate the
Battle Rifles, others .22LR, even others offer "assault" rifles.
In this article I would like to concentrate on the Automatic
Why an AK or AK variant? For most survivalist the time to train
and maintain their equipment is just not available. More time
is spent training in first aid, survival techniques, plant
identification, canning and other preparedness activities.
Unlike the active military or even national guard survivalist are
rarely able to sit down and spend a few hours field stripping
their rifle and putting it back together. Survivalist need a
weapon that will work without pristine maintenance yet capable of
delivering a round capable of stopping or discouraging attackers
at a moments notice.
The Avtomat Kalashnikov rifles, more commonly known as the AK47,
AKM, AK74, MAK, SLR-95, Maadi, Valmet, Galil, RPK, etc...., are a
gas operated short recoil operated rifle. Depending on the type
and country of manufacture the chambering can be had in 7.62x51mm,
5.56x45mm, 7.62x38mm, 5.45x39mm and 8mm Mauser.
The receivers can be had in forged or stamped. Barrels vary from
16" to 24" and in weights from standard to heavy barrel.
AK47's are general distinguished by the forges/ milled receivers
and 16" standard weight barrels with chambering in 7.62x39mm.
AKM's replaced the forged/milled receivers with a 1mm stamping and
reinforcing pins. RPK's are AKM's with 20-24" standard or heavy
barrels. AK74's are AKM's chambered in 5.45x39mm.
There are advantages and disadvantages in both forged/milled
receivers and stamped receivers. Milled/Forged Receivers are
much more rigid, flexing less as the rifle is fired thus not
hindering accuracy as much as stamped receivers. Stamped receivers
on the other hand are a bit more rugged since it has some give in
it and have less chances of having metal fatigue under heavy
The AK series are noted for their extreme reliability under
adverse conditions. Conditions that would stop a M1 Garand, M1A,
M14, M16, AR15, FN-FAL, Steyr AUG, etc.... The most common round
for the AK series is the 7.62x39mm. This round falls between the
55gr 5.56x45mm and the standard 7.62x51mm FMJ rounds. That means
that the deflection factor of the 55gr 5.56x45mm round (see Note
A) and the heavy recoil and possible over penetration of the
standard 7.62x51mm cartridge at close range are overcome. This
doesn't mean that the 123gr 7.62x39mm round will not deflect or
that it will not over penetrate but it does mean that it will not
go to either extreme as the previously mentioned rounds.
The AR15 comes in two different barrel twist rates. This can
cause problems since the different twist rates in the barrel can
effect accuracy and bullet performance. (See Note A) However an
AR15/M16 has the edge in accuracy, generally scoring 1-3MOA
(Minute of Angle) or approximately 1"-3" at 100 yards. The
average AKM will generally do 4-6 MOA with AK47's doing about 3-
Modern studies done by the United States, the former Soviet Union,
former Warsaw Pact countries, NATO ( North Atlantic Treaty
Organization) show that modern combat is generally at ranges less
than 300 meters. So accuracy of 4-6MOA is sufficient since that
would cover 12"=18" at 300 yards or the average size of an adult
Cost is the next important factor since a rifle is not likely to
be as uses as frequently as other survivalist gear such as food,
medicine, water purification, communication, seed, housing,
transportation, etc. Considering that most survivalist are not
wealthy people how money is spent is a high priority. Since a
rifle is not simply the rifle but the ammunition and the magazines
it uses it is important to factor in all the cost.
An AR15's can cost anywhere from $450-$1250 with an average
service grade rifle being around $575 dollars. 30rnd magazines
run from $7 to $30 dollars with an average price of $12.
Ammunition is $190-$300 for 1000 rounds. So a standard rifle kit
with 4 magazines ( not including the one in the rifle ) and a case
of ammunition can run you $668-$1670 with an average price of
The least expensive 7.62x51mm battle rifle at this time is a
Century International Arms FN-FAL which wholesales for $499 and
retails for $600. FN-FAL 20 round magazines run about $12-$30 a
piece. 1000 rounds of 7.62x51mm surplus ammunition is about $150-
$200. So for a standard rifle kit with 4 magazines ( not
including one in the rifle) and a case of ammunition the cost is
at least $697 but possible $920.
Now look at the AK series. A Century MISR AK is about $249
wholesale and retails for about $325. 30 round 7.62x39mm
magazines can be had from $4.99 to $15.99. 1000 rounds of
7.62x39mm ammunition runs about $99. So an AK rifle kit can be as
inexpensive as $370. As you can see for the price of a low priced
AR15 or FN-FAL you could buy almost 2 full AK rifle kits. With
all that said now we come to the part of choosing which AK or AK
variant to choose.
Why not a bolt action or selective fire rifle over a semi
automatic? A bolt action is generally more accurate than a semi
automatic but the average magazine capacity of a bolt action is 5
rounds. This is generally sufficient if there is very little
chance of having to fire more that at a target. However being a
cynic I would rather have the additional rounds and not need it
than to need those extra 25 rounds and not have them. As for
selective fire weapons, besides cost and federal paperwork, I see
them as wasteful of ammunition and harder on weapons. A selective
fire rifle using 7.62x51mm cartridges are very hard to control
when used on full auto. Other chamberings also increase the
difficulty in accurate shooting and the cost of per incident
shooting with a weapon on full automatic is again a waste of money
and adds to the cost of a rifle kit.
What follows is a list of the various AK's still available on the
American market. Some of them are rare others are more common.
All of them have seen price increases due to Federal interference
with expressions of our 2cd amendment rights. Sporters are
basically the same as the semi automatic versions of "assault"
rifles. The differences are generally cosmetic with the sporter
having a "thumbhole" sporter stock taking the place of the more
conventional buttstock and pistol grip. Sporters also do not have
a bayonet lug or evil flash suppresser. Otherwise sporters and
semi automatic copies of "assault" rifles are the same. They use
the same magazines, rounds and parts. So unless a person must
have a buttstock, pistol grip, flash suppresser and is planning a
bayonet charge someday a sporter will do just as well and at a few
hundred dollars less.
By breaking down the countries of manufacture what follows is what
I consider the best of the breed in order from good to excellent
and why. Please note that even the worst is very reliable and
MISR from Century International Arms: This AK variant is a hybrid
of Egyptian and Chinese Parts. Thus there may or may not be proper
parts fittings. No problems have occurred with these rifles that I
have heard of and could be no worse than the many hybrids in
Africa and Asia as rifles wear out. Nothing to else to note about
these rifles since they are basically AKMs.
Maadi made in Egypt are roughly finished AKM's and the closest to
the original issue Soviet model. These rifles are chambered in
NORINCO MAK90, AKM are made in China by NORINCO. These are
slightly better finished AKM's and the original AKM's came with a
folding pig sticker bayonet. Barrel lengths are in 16" standard
weight barrels for the MAK90 and AKM. This is chambered in
7.62x39mm and 5.56x45mm
NORINCO RPK are made in China by NORINCO and vary only in the
length and weight of barrel to the MAK90 and AKM. The barrel used
is a 20"-21" heavy barrel with no permanently attached bayonet.
This rifle is chambered solely in 7.62x39mm
Romanian AKM have slightly better wood, better metal workmanship
and bluing but is otherwise unchanged from the basic AKM.
Chambered in 7.62x39mm
Yugoslavian AKM and RPK. The wood and workmanship of these rifles
are almost the same as the Romanian but the most important
variance is the metal thickness of the stamping. Whereas other
countries use the 1mm thickness the Yugoslavs used a 1.5mm
thickness. This added thickness allows for more rigidity in the
receiver while still allowing some flexing. Chamberings available
for this rifle are in 7.62x51mm, 8mm mauser, 7.62x54mmR,
7.62x39mm, 5.56x45mm and 5.45x39mm.
POLYTECH AK47 Legend series made in China are true AK47's in which
the receiver is forged/milled. The barrel lengths remain 16" in
standard barrel weights. The rifle is chambered in 7.62x39mm and
5.56x45mm. The 5.56x45mm variant is extremely rare though and I
have not seen one advertised in years.
Valmet rifles from Finland. The rifles are a variant of the AK47
series in which they use forged/milled receivers and barrels
between 16" and 20" in lengths with varying barrel weights. The
main difference between Valmet's and other AK variants is the
movement of the sights and stock configuration. The sight
placement on AK's are with the rear sights on the distal end of
the receiver and the front sight is on the barrel. The Valmet's
places the rear sight on the proximal sight of the receiver cover
and the front sight on the distal end of the gas tube. This gives
a longer sight radius and aids in accuracy. The workmanship is
good to very good. This rifle is chambered in 7.62x51mm, 5.56x45mm
and 7.62x39mm. I have heard of a 7.62x54mmR but have never seen
Galil from Israel. These AK variants are based off of the Valmet
series. That is to say they use a forged/milled receiver and the
Valmet's sight arrangement. The other changes include a sand
scrapper addition to the gas piston, ambidextrous safety and an
upturned bolt handle. The upturn bolt handle allows for increase
ease in cocking the rifle with the left hand thus leaving the
right hand in a firing position. The ambidextrous safety allows
to user to bring his rifle into and out of safe action without
removing his hand from the firing position. The sand scrapper,
which is part of the gas piston, dislodges any obstruction in the
gas piston and aids in reliability. I must admit I am not sure
how well this works since a AK is very reliable as is. The
chamberings available are in 5.56x45mm and 7.62x51mm.
POLYTECH National Match AK made in China. Is made with a
forged/milled receiver and an air gauged heavy barrel. The wood
on it has a slightly different cut to it and the accuracy of these
national match AK's equals that of the AR15. With handloading I
have been able to get .8-1.1 MOA. This rifle is chambered only
Galil Sniper made in Israel is a basic Galil with an addition of a
heavy barrel. This rifle is available in 7.62x51mm but I have
heard rumors of a 5.56x45mm variant.
R4 made in South Africa. This is a direct descendant of the Galil
with better finishing and workmanship. The stock is larger and
fits better to the average American shooter than other AK's or AK
The problems with deflection, penetration and ballistics were for
the most part resolved with the introduction of the 62gr SS109
bullet and a faster twist rate in the barrel.
As a side note about the AR15 Series. The AR15 series barrels can
be had in two different twist rates. The 1 in 7 twist rate and
the 1 in 12 twist rate. The reasoning for the two different twist
rates is due to the different bullet weights that the rifles use.
The 1 in 7 twist rate was used for the lighter 55gr while the 1 in
12 twist rate uses the new 62gr bullet. If you were to place a
62gr bullet cartridge into a 1 in 7 inch twist rate the round
would not be stabilized enough for accurate fire. If you were to
place the 55gr round in the 1 in 12 inch twist rate the round
would be overly stabilized and thus possibly fail to tumble on
impact, causing less trauma damage. With the newer 1 in 12 inch
twist and the 62gr bullet the problems with deflection are
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