AR vs. AK

A couple of days back I dropped this throwaway line in a post on Shelley’s AR build:

Actually, there’s 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.

This was of course linked around on some blogs, where the LCD quite predictably howled in indignation. Phrases like “barrier penetration, stopping power” were tossed around; but my favorite were the people who insisted that I was some kind of AR fanboy out to trash their beloved AKs. The fact is that if they had read the post, they would have seen the part where I said I’d rather have an M1 Carbine or an AK over an AR, because frankly I find ARs boring.

The reverse is that I find the AK platform to be endlessly fascinating. The longevity of this rifle, made to be handed to illiterate peasant conscripts by the truckload to do battle with the forces of western “evil” and yet it’s still a viable battlefield rifle to this day. But all of that doesn’t matter, because I said you should buy an AR instead of an AK.

And you still should, if you’re actually serious about using a rifle as a defensive implement. If you just want a cool toy for blasting things, then AK your heart out. I want to take a reasoned look at some of the reasons people say “get an AK” over an AR to this day.

Price: People say that AKs are cheaper than good ARs. Honestly, that’s not really that true any more. A good AK is going to run $600-$700 these days, and that’s in the same price range as a S&W M&P15 Sport model. Sure, you could get a Tantal AK74 for like $500, but those have the worst stocks on earth and they don’t fire the almighty 7.62×39 round, which according to the internet will made a dude fly backwards through the air. Speaking of which…
Stopping power: We are currently at one of the best times to own a defensive firearm, because bullet technology has improved massively from where it once was. Sure, if I was forced to use crappy FMJ ammo, I’d probably want a bigger bullet too. But I’m not. I can buy Hornady TAP for $17, because I live in the free world. The SWAT teams that issue AR platform rifles to their officers and use modern bullets don’t seem to have any concerns about the round, so explain to me as non-LEO/.mil what exactly the AK can do that your AR can’t? While we’re on the topic of ammo…
Ammo price: Here’s some TulAmmo .223 for less than five bucks. Here’s some AK ammo for the same price. It’s a wash.
Barrier penetration: I saw this one on the comments at TTAG, and I just had to roll my eyes. Okay Rambo, the 7.62×39 penetrates brick walls better than a 5.56. I’ve got news for you, hotshot – if you’re shooting through brick walls and you’re not wearing a uniform, you’re probably going to jail when all is said and done.
Reliability: ARs run just fine. We have so many operators now with a ton of time on the platform in some truly awful environments that we understand exactly how to keep a DI system running right next to an AK.
I think the funniest thing to me though is that most AR vs. AK arguments hinge around the better ballistics of the 7.62×39 cartridge. Which of course is why the Russians switched to a 5.45 cartridge. But I digress.

The bottom line: buy whatever you want. Shoot whatever you want. I REALLY like AKs and think they’re cool as hell; but it’s 2012, not 1970 anymore. If you’re serious about shooting smelly badguys in the face with your rifle, then do you want the rifle of an uneducated conscript army or the rifle of the greatest nation in the world?