Probably one of the most hotly contested topics of debate for many semiautomatic rifle owners is which is better, the AR15 rifle or the AK-47.
The AR15 rifle was designed by an American, Eugene Stoner, in 1957. The initials stand for ArmaLite Rifle. It was named after the company that originally manufactured it. It should be clear that those initials do not stand for ‘automatic rifle’ or ‘assault rifle.’
On the other hand, the AK47 rifle was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov of the Soviet Union in 1947. The initials stand for Avtomat Kalashnikova, which is Russian for ‘automatic Kalashnikov, in honor of its designer.
For the builder, putting together an AK-47 is a little more complex than installing a match-grade barrel into the upper receiver of an AR15, but you can accomplish it if you’ve got the patience, a bit more budget, and the skill.
Aside from the most obvious fact that an AK-47 or Avtomat Kalashnikova fires the larger caliber 7.62x39mm round, which in and of itself scores a point on the plus side, there are a few more comparisons and differences you may want to think about before ordering a kit or fully assembled AK-47.
Start With the Build
Even with a kit, putting together a fully functioning AK-47 is difficult, but it is doable. However, keep this in mind. Building an AK-47 requires a unique set of tools and more than passing grade knowledge on usage of these tools.
If you’re into making your rifles and want to try your hand at a Kalashnikova, prepare to spend a little more and throw out most of what you’ve learned building AR-15s. Even if you’ve been building AR15s for years, the first venture into a world of an AK-47 build may end up not being your cup of tea.
Stopping Power Versus Placing an Accurate Shot
So, what about the ammo? Standard magazines usually hold 20 to 30 rounds. If you plan to shoot more than once a year, then you’ll need more than that. Most AR15 rifles use 5.56x45mm NATO or .223 Remington cartridges, which have an excellent blend of velocity and low recoil. Hence, the AR15 is popular among hunters and shooters.
However, many rifle enthusiasts will readily admit that ammunition fired from an AK-47 possesses more stopping power than most rounds from an AR15. The AK-47 traditionally fires a 7.62x39mm round which many experts in the field agree offers more terminal velocity than the .223 or 5.56 NATO rounds fired in an AR15.
It then becomes a trade-off as to whether you want to start tapping that target from a safe distance and continue to hit it until it goes down or wait until the threat gets close enough for you to do some real damage.
When Weight Matters
Another difference that matters most is that the AK-47 weighs almost two pounds heavier than most traditional AR15 rifles on the market. The standard weight of the AK-47 rifle with an empty magazine is 9.5 pounds, while that of the AR15 ranges from 6 to 8 pounds.
While you may not think a couple of pounds matters, in the long run, anyone who has suffered a twenty-mile hike with almost one hundred pounds of equipment and ammunition strapped to their backs will tell a different story.
Hands Down Reliability
Admittedly, an AR15 can take its share of beating and still provide flawless dependability, but when it comes to rough and tumble, the AK-47 is a beast. While the AR-15 does beat out the AK in terms of reliability if you maintain it properly, a well-made AK can generally last longer with less maintenance. This is a hotly debated topic that everyone will have their own opinions on. It basically comes down to how well the rifle is made and how well you take care of it.
The AK-47 can function properly in harsh environments and even with frequent use. It’s easy to operate and can function well with minimal maintenance.
Not only does the AK-47 not require periodic cleaning, but it can be dropped in thick gobs of mud, entirely submerged in water, covered in gobs of dirt and sand, endure extreme bouts of cold weather and still fire and continue to fire when necessary.
With advancements in technology, field stripping an AR15 is quick and easy. The same state applies to the AK-47, so it’s a draw when servicing either rifle.
Priced To Sell
Today’s market is full of budget build AR15, with many wholly assembled rifles falling under the eight-hundred-dollar range. A fully assembled AK-47 typically sells for about seven hundred dollars.
Because of the popularity of the AR-15, it is much easier to get at a cheaper price than most imported AKs. While some American AKs are available, they can tend to be a bit more expensive.
When it comes to basic models, the AK-47 is cheaper than the AR15. The prices of modern, high-end AK-47s available on the market are reasonable. Another inexpensive feature about an AK-47 is, surprisingly, the ammunition. 7.62 39mm rounds that an AK-47 gobbles up and spits out are much cheaper than 5.56 or .223 caliber ammunition fired in a traditional AR15.
Which is Better at Longer Ranges
Try as it may, the AK-47 draws the short stick when it comes to hitting a target at six hundred yards. Unfortunately, the pendulum swings the other way when firing an AK-47 at targets greater than three or four hundred yards away, whereas an AR15 is quite effective at ranges at least two hundred yards beyond that.
While a well-made AK can be just as accurate as an AR, out-of-the-box performance for even a cheap AR typically surpasses that of an AK-47.
Although the shooter also determines accuracy by its definition, and an expert sharpshooter may be able to place a shot where intended, the AK-47 has limited capabilities at longer ranges. When it comes to hitting a target consistently at over four hundred yards, even the best shooter will struggle with an AK47.
The Differences in Cyclic Rate
One of the differences between the AK47 and a modern-day AR15 is that the AK47 has a far slower cyclic rate. For many AR15 owners who need the instant gratification of emptying a fully loaded mag in a few seconds, the much slower cycle of firing an AK47 is a noticeable difference.
Broken down into rounds per minute capability, an AK47 can dish out about 600 rounds per minute or ten rounds a second. Not too shabby by any means when firing in a semiautomatic mode.
However, firing an AR15 in a standard semiautomatic configuration discharges eight to nine hundred rounds per minute or thirteen to fifteen rounds per second.
There’s plenty to be said about taking a weapon designed in 1949 and firing it at the range. Yes, the firing cycle may be quirky compared to the flawless feed of your AR15 but think about this.
You’re holding gun manufacturing history in your hands. Instantly recognizable, the AK47 is probably one of the best-known semiautomatic rifles in the world. Even today, several countries equip their armies with modern versions of this rifle.
Like that last AR15 you built and keep in your gun case, an AK47 can take up residence right alongside it. The similarities make both the AR15 and AK47 a fantastic choice of semiautomatic rifles, and their differences are what helps you compliment the beginning of a great collection.