AR-15 vs AK-47

The following is a guest post from Michael Denmon.  Michael is a Dad who is working on being a better man, one project at a time. Catch up with his latest attempts at Dad Level Viking.

When I think of the AK-47, I am reminded of a scene from the Clint Eastwood movie, Heartbreak Ridge.  In it, a well-meaning but inexperienced officer is on a training patrol with his team when they receive fire from Eastwood’s Gunny Highway character.  Completely unprepared for live fire, the officer yells, “Good Lord what was that?”  To which, one of his men yells back, “Sir.  That’s an AK-47 assault weapon.”  Another member chimes in, “The preferred weapon of our enemies.”  While yet another team member adds that, “It makes a very distinctive sound when fired at us, Sir!” 

For decades, when I have thought of AK-47s, I thought of Commies.  The rifle was the weapon of “our” enemies.  Almost every movie made about anti-American forces shows the Kalashnikov rifle as the baddies’ weapon of choice, and with good reason.  The AK-47 is a weapons system that is extremely reliable and easy to repair, with access to plenty of mass-produced replacement parts.  The weapon was built for simplicity.  However, it has been somewhat villainized by popular culture.  Why?  Because of its Russian ties?

On the other hand, the AR platform screams USA.  The fact that a bald eagle tethering attachment has not yet been made for the platform is surprising, frankly.  I haven’t searched too hard for that specific attachment but I’m guessing it isn’t out there…yet.  Maybe I should consult a patent attorney. 

With the AR you get something that is sleek, customizable, readily available, and built for speed, accuracy, and dominating firepower.  A win-win for almost any purpose you intend to use a semi-automatic rifle for.  Unfortunately, ARs are not exactly known for their durability and functionality in harsh environments.  Some have said that you could bury an AK in sand, pick it up and fire it without issue.  Try doing that with an AR and you are going to be in for a bad day.

There are several differentiating factors that might lead someone to choose an AK over an AR and vice versa:

  • accuracy
  • ammunition size
  • availability
  • speed
  • adaptability
  • functionality

Let’s look at a few of the more popular uses for these styles of rifles to see if the angst against AKs is warranted.

Sporting Use

For target practice, competitions, or DIY learning opportunities, I think that the AR is the platform of choice.  As a target-shooting weapon, you can choose caliber sizes of ammunition that provide longer distance accuracy or opt for smaller caliber ammunition that will provide short distance accuracy with a smaller price tag.  Additionally, the AR platform is built to be adapted to the chosen environment and you can both shorten or lengthen the frame depending on what you are using the weapon for.  This also adds a bonus for the DIY fans out there by giving them the opportunity for truly customizing the fit for purpose rifle of their dreams. 

The AK platform is not particularly known for a volume of attachments and customizations.

Hunting Use

I will be honest.  The AR could be used for hunting, but most people are not using it for that.  There are much better options available that have higher velocities and increased accuracy when compared to an AR.  Except for varmint hunting, I wouldn’t think that the AR would be a widely chosen option. 

However, when compared to the AK, the AR stands above once again because of its increased accuracy and caliber options.  The AK is primarily only available in 7.62 X 39 ammunition, which is a heavier (and therefore slower) bullet compared to the 5.56 or .223 caliber bullets mostly identified with the AR platform.  So, when using a weapon for hunting game, the AK is not likely going to be your preferred choice.


If we are talking about close quarters self-defense, again the AR platform wins hands down.  However, if we want to discuss the end of civilization, zombie-apocalypse style of self-defense, then I think that the AK needs to be given more consideration. 

In such a situation you would want a weapon that could exist in the elements and not suffer from a decrease in reliability.  The AR platform is great for a lot of reasons, but unless you are spending on the high end of available options you are probably going to experience some failures from time to time.

The AR versus AK argument can be an emotional one.  Search for any online group of fans for either platform and you will surely find many examples of why the other platform is trash while their preferred platform is the winner.  The only right answer is what works best for you and your needs.

Do you have a preference between these two? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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