I have also carried and used the major U.S. rifles of the 20th century primarily the M-14 (and it’s sniper version, the M-21) and the AR series (M-16A1 and 2 and M-4). I use the AK platform for my defensive rifles out of choice.
The AK has an interesting history. During the Second World War the German Wehrmacht was biting big chunks out of the Russian Red Army’s backside, even when they went on the defensive in 1943. They started fielding a revolutionary infantry small arm called the MP-43/44 (MP standing for Machinepistole or Machine Pistol.) The name was changed to StG-44 or Sturmgewehr 44. (Sturmgewehr being literally translated as “Storm Rifle”. storm being used in the sense of ‘Storm the walls” or “Assault” This is where the term “Assault Rifle” originated and was actually coined by Adolph Hitler himself.). The rifle used a new shortened 7.92mm cartridge, detachable 30rd. magazines, and was capable of both semi and full automatic fire. It also made one serious impression on the Russian infantry facing it.
During this time frame, a young Red Army tank sergeant named Mikhail Kalashnikov was recovering from wounds in hospital and heard Russian infantrymen complaining bitterly about superior German firepower on the battlefield. Being mechanically inclined, he was determined to do something about it. After a period of trial and error over a number of years the AK-47 in the new Russian 7.62×39 cartridge was born and the world of small arms hasn’t been the same since. Actually the cartridge itself was developed first. It was actually field tested in the SKS rifle during the closing days of the war in the Battle for Berlin.
By 1947, the AK was being issued to the Red Army in quantity, being exported to and manufactured by various other Communist countries and Russian client states. The rest is history. It is probably the most manufactured small arm in history.
So what does all of this mean to you, the Survivalist Prepper? If you are going to consider any small arms for life and death defensive use, the more you know about the background of your weapon, the more familiar you are with it and the more confidence you will have it. The AK is one of the most reliable military small arms ever produced. I have personally dragged them out of Vietnamese rice patties, rusted all over, drained the barrel and fired 30rds through them. I have seen them clogged with desert sand and still go “bang”. It was designed to do just that.
To me, one of the major criteria for a SHTF weapon is reliability. You get that with the AK. Simplicity is also important. The AK is a rather simple weapon being designed to be field maintained by partly trained conscripts. Almost anything you need to do to it under survival or field conditions can be done with the small cleaning/tool kit in the butt stock.
The AK comes in two typical Russian calibers. The original 7.62×39 and the newer 5.45×39. I will discuss ammunition details later in the article, however there are also AK’s chambered for the US 5.56mm round.
I have two AK’s as primary rifles. One is a Bulgarian SLR-95 with milled receiver in 7.62×39 and the other is a Romanian Romak-2 with stamped receiver in 5.45×39. Both started life as Slick Willy import “bans” with the funky thumb hole stock. I retro fitted them both with American made stock sets from K-Var. This company makes and imports a large number of AK parts and accessories and is a good source for quality products.
My SLR-95 in 7.62x39mm above has a milled receiver and came from the factory with an effective muzzle brake. Pictured is a steel East German 30rd magazine and a Chinese 75rd drum. This is an excellent rifle and very accurate. Made by Arsenal in Bulgaria, I have been told that the barrels are made on machinery bought from Steyr in Austria. It does not have the typical sliding scope mount on the left side.
My Romak-2 in 5.45×39 above has a stamped receiver and does have the Soviet style scope mount on the left side. It is not as accurate as the SLR-95 but is sufficiently accurate for survival purposes.
There are a large variety of AK magazines available to the AK owner, both surplus Com Bloc and newly manufactured both imported and American made. They range from 20, 30, and 40 round box magazines to 75 and 100rd drums.If you get good condition military steel magazines they will last almost forever. Be careful though. There are a lot of highly used, badly cared for surplus mags on the market.
US Palm makes an excellent AK mag here in the States. I recommend that you consider them. They have a unique fixed floor plate design with a magazine follower that allows grit to get easily out. Check their website above for a more detailed explanation.
Bulgarian made Circle 10 (from the factory markings) are also available from K-Var and make an excellent choice.
Both 7.62×39 and 5.45×39 are available as military surplus, military imported, and U.S. made commercial loads. I understand that 5.45 surplus military rounds have been banned by the Federal government, but ammo will still be available.
Wolf out of Russia makes relatively inexpensive 7.62 x39 military style ammo in two bullet weights. This makes excellent low-cost practice ammo.
For serious defensive use, you have a number of American made loads such as the Corbon Self Defense with a 125gr. JHP bullet.
In 5.45×39 you can get Wolf for practice and the Hornady VMAX for serious work.
The AK is an excellent choice for the guy or gal who wants a serious rifle for SHTF scenarios for the following reasons;
- Reliability under extreme conditions.
- Simplicity of maintenance and repairs.
- Adequate accuracy at reasonable ranges with iron sights.
- Good supply of magazines and a wide variety of accessories.
- Mild recoil and easy to operate.
- Excellent cartridge choices and availability of a variety of loads.
What more can you ask for?