Monday, March 09, 2009


There are a bunch of holy war type conversations which all would do well to avoid..

Mac vs PC
Kirk vs Picard
Mary Ann or Ginger?

Topping that list in the preparedness and self defense world is the Holy Grail of decisions - AR (as in AR15) or AK (as in AK-47).

The AR-15 is the civilian version of the United States main battle rifle, the M-16. First introduced during the Vietnam War specifically in the 1960's, the AR has become one of the most popular sporter rifles available to the avid shooter.

The AR-15 uses a .223 (NATO 5.56) cartridge which has a muzzle velocity of 3,200 ft/s and an effective range of 600 yd.

The AK-47 (and other variants) was first introduced shortly after World War II. There AK fires the 7.62x39mm cartridge which has a muzzle velocity of 2,300 ft/s. There is not a civilian separate version of the AK-47 in the United States.

Both rifles can be equipped with larger capacity magazines in the 20 and 30 round range and larger.

So which one is best post-SHTF?

There are arguments from both sides.

The AR-15 is used by civilian police departments and fires the same cartridge as the military's M16. Between police and military stock, this means lots of ammunition for the AR is available.

In addition, the AR is manufactured in the U.S. by several manufacturers as are the magazines and ammunition. Which means a good chance for spare parts later in life.

The drawback is the durability and inherent technical problems associated with the AR. During combat, many of our military have complained about the effectiveness of the .223 cartridge, that it has a difficult time penetrating material other than people.

Further, dirt, dust and water can quickly jam the AR and make it a "thousand dollar club".

"Do you really have enough food stocked when the SHTF?"

The AK fires a larger round than the AR15. In addition, the AK has a reputation for being reliable to the point of extreme. Allegedly, it can be submerged in water, filled with mud and buried for a month, and still fire from the get go.

Finally, the AK is the standard throughout most of the developing world. Supposedly, there are more AK variant rifles in existence than any other firearm.

So which is best for post-SHTF?

My own opinion is that the AR if the better choice. The ammunition is available and manufactured here in the States. With a stroke of the pen, the Federal Government can ban the sale and importation of foreign firearms and ammunition.

AK owners depend upon low cost ammo and magazines from former Soviet countries to feed and maintain their weapons. If that lifeline is shut down, than those rifles will get hungry fast.

The AR is a U.S. standard which means to me, new ammunition supplies can be obtained at retail outlets "before" and from supply locations "afterwards". There is a good chance some ammo, magazines and even rifles may be in a prone position on the ground and available for salvage.

Yes, the AK has a high survivability rate due to its durability, but I worry about the supply line feeding it. Unless we are invaded by hordes of third world soldiers which will make me switch to the AK in a heartbeat.

You tell me.. comments welcome..


pdxr13 said...

Neither. It's a good idea to have familiarity with both AR-15/M-16 & AK-series rifles, but I'm big enough to carry a full-sized rifle.

That means 7.62NATO or .30-'06, and probably a FAL, M-1G, or CETME. I'd like an M-14 or HK-91 just fine, as long as it comes with 20+ magazines.

Small GF, little Vietnamese neighbor, are both ideally sized for AR15 or AK47. 5'-3" and 115 pounds is too small to effectively shoot a bigger/heavier rifle, so we get the biggest gun they can shoot well. My 6'-8" 210 pound buddy ought to be carrying a light .50BMG, but he loves how lightweight and compact an SKS is. That's not the point. He could fire a weapon that hits hard at 1100M, vs. the 600M of a 7.62NATO, or 300M of a .223 or 7.62x39mm.

Bring what you have. Don't lament what you don't have.


John said...


Thanks for the comment. The only drawback I have on most of what you recommended was the .308 cartridge. The cost of the hardware, i.e. FAL, HK and M-1A is prohibitive to a poor working guy like me. Then I found the CETME and kick myself for not getting one a few years back for 300.00 or so.
The cartridges in both .308 and .223 are getting hard to find these days. But we do what we have to do.
You are right about the weapon fitting the person. The other point to consider is the weight of the weapon for long term carry.
Thanks for reading and posting.

pdxr13 said...

Brass, bullet, primer, powder shortage is hitting beginning reloaders hard. Old reloaders have closets of stuff, and might need some help chopping wood in trade for training and helping you figure out the perfect load for your rifle and objective.

.308 is expensive when fifty-cents a round is a good deal for decent surplus. I'm still working on a few cases of CAVIM and IMI sold by AIM in 1997. I wish that I'd filled the basement with 7.62NATO at $129-$159 case, but who knew?

A bolt action .308 is in my future to re-use the auto-loader brass. Slight ejection mark, not like the HK-91 brass destroyer.

Watch flea markets for deals. I got a box of 50 jhp .357Mag Federal for $7. Same dealer has a few cases of 10-year-old 12ga shells that he wants me to have for $10/100 this weekend. Hoping for slugs and 00 along with bird and target loads. We'll see.

Every case is saved, and more come home than are fired, if you look carefully in the grass.


Anonymous said...

I love how everyone goes with what the military uses. Do you really think there will be 5.56 ammo around? The military will need it hence it will go bye bye. Who cares what others have. When you find ammo you will most likly also find rifles

pdxr13 said...

"I love how everyone goes with what the military uses." -Anon

The US Army has the time/money to optimize the balance between size/weight/cost/performance objective of a cartridge and then MAKE it a standard for the world. At least they did until the mid 1990's.

Consider that a US Soldier is almost never alone. There is at least a buddy, if not a squad to back him up and pull him out. This is how the objectively underperforming (too short of barrel for the .223 reduces effective range to 150M) M-4 is the new standard carbine. The Army fix is to add Designated Marksmen with scoped 7.62x51mm M-14 or bolt action rifle to the squad. There is also a SAW somewhere for even more, before calling for outside help.

Typical US individual is not in this situation, although we can benefit from surplus gear/ammo/research. The .308Win cartridge is a very good compromise of availability/efficiency/effectiveness for 48-State hunting/self-defense/target accuracy/slow throat erosion/cheap(er) F-Class shooting. No cartridge is available commercially loaded in .30 with so many choices across price and type.

That said, AR-15 and .223 is the most-owned, most modified, most available rifle/cartridge in the USA. With a full-length barrel, .223 is highly effective. It's unlawful for hunting bigger game in many States. Oregon requires a minimum .24cal to hunt deer, meaning that an M-1 Carbine with 5-round magazine is allowed, but not a .223 Ar-15.
.223 is cheaper than .308Win for 20 cartridges, and should be. I have a few ammo cans of .223 without owning the weapons just because it's so ubiquitous.

Both of these cartridges are US Army sizes. It's a chicken-egg problem that they overcome with billions of dollars, then we use what they use because it's 95% as good as the next-best-thing at 50% of the cost.

"Do you really think there will be 5.56 ammo around?" -Anon

Oh, yes. Plenty. It is a good idea to own some of that "plenty" as part of a well-balanced stockpile. Cardboard boxes of commercial ammunition in clean surplus ammo cans stored in a 55 degree dry basement will all fire in 90 years. That's better than money collecting zero-point-zero-eight-seven percent interest in a TBTF bank facing massive fraudclosure liability, guaranteed by an insolvent FDIC.


JD said...

pdxr13 - Thanks for the detailed, well thought out comment.

I love how everyone goes with what the military uses. Do you really think there will be 5.56 ammo around?

Yes there will be simply because the military and LEO community buys in such great quantities and so much has been stockpiled. We are talking millions of rounds. The only two calibers which may rival .223 in the USA will be .22 and 12 guage.

When you find ammo you will most likly also find rifles

I am sorry, but I disagree. I can safely say that most gun owners keep less than 100 rounds and most likely less than 20 rounds on hand for any of their weapons. In short order, there will be plenty of clubs about, but very few projectiles to load them with. The best bet is to own the platform with the greatest chance for ammuntion restock.

pdxr13 said...

If cost of a rifle is a problem (for instance, a CETME at $600 with $100 worth of magazines), then the cost of enough ammunition is an ongoing-problem, as well as gas to drive to the range, lunch, etc. If you can't shoot enough to become familiar with how things work (and don't work), how can you expect to get good results under pressure?

The solution is to train with a less-costly rifle and much cheaper cartridge. .22LR is less expensive the thriftiest centerfire reloads and very available. The Ruger 10/22 is as customizable as an AR-15, and can be had in a version that is ergonomically 95% of an AR-15.

Don't underestimate the effect of .22LR on a BG getting hit in the hand, ankle or neck. At medium-close range, very quick accurate fire is easily achieved with little recovery time between shots and quick reloading using 25 round magazines (Hot Lips/Steel Lips). Responsible Cub Scout boys and Brownie girls ought to be trained early with as much gun as they can handle.

I don't like how 10/22 slide will lock back and not release until the catch in front of the trigger guard is fussed with. An upgrade part from Volquartsen fixes that for about $12. Install is E-Z, then you pull back from bolt-open position and let fly, same as an AR-15.

The "exact edge extractor" is another nice $12 part from VQ that will improve a 10/22 for cheap.

A VQ competition rifle can be over $2K, but the $169 (on sale) blued Ruger 10/22 with wooden stock can be just as reliable and last a long time.

10/22 is a good weapon for small people of any age, and a useful lightweight thrifty carbine to carry everywhere for anyone. They are easy to take down and reassemble to teach new shooters how to clean their weapons. Cheaper .22LR tends to make a lot of deposits inside all assemblies, so there will be more cleaning, which is a good thing to get used to no matter what a person might have.


JD said...


I am a huge fan and owner of the Ruger 10/22 system. The problems I have had with it are low grade high capacity magazines which jam and the resulting bolt jam. Other than that, its a great rifle.

Thanks for reading and commenting again,

Anonymous said...

america makes ak magz...america makes 7.62X39...there are american parts for the AK too..but with the AK being what it is i dont think i would worry too much about not aa AK fan boy trust me i own 2 ARs but with AK ammo being so cheap and EASILY obtainable now ied go with my ak

Anonymous said...

I went into Wal Mart today and they were out of .40 S&W but had .223, 12ga. and low and behold, 7.62x39mm. As more people buy AKs and their clones, more companies will jump on the market and make more parts and the prices will skyrocket on the AKs like they did ARs. So if one was to buy an Ak now ud be okay when the zombies attack.

Recon Sniper said...

I like the comment where "a soldier is almost never alone." Not exactly true. Snipers, forward observers and sometimes NCOs will drop off or do stay behind missions to see who comes around or follows a unit that they were with on patrol. Those people often use scoped rifles to make precision shots. For longer distance shots, use a scoped AR. For urban type or closer range precision shots, use a scoped AK. Think of a scoped AK as a sort of DM rifle and NOT a sniper rifle.

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