Wow where to start. The debate, opinions, and criticisms revolving around the AK47 vs AR15 have been raging for years. It seems as though everyone has something to say about it and everyone in the firearms industry has a position. In this case, I am not trying to start a fight just an interesting debate addressing some of the main points brought up by either side. What kind of firearm manufacturer would we be if we never discussed the two most popular rifle systems? So put down your boxing gloves and let’s go over some of the basic topics brought up between the standard AR 15 and AK 47 including history, ballistics, reliability, and design elements.
As the most produced and recognizable design in history, the AK 47 can be found around the world. It was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov at the end of WWII and was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1949. Chambered in 7.62 x 39, the iconic rifle can be easily distinguished amongst other platforms by its wooden stock and curved magazine. The simple design and low production cost are main advantages to consumers, and the rifle system is known to be one of the most reliable in any condition. With increased reliability comes a decrease in accuracy due to the clearances between moving parts which doesn’t allow for precision and consistency. Still to this day, the AK 47 remains as one of the most popular and widely used rifles in the world.
Developed in 1957 by Eugene Stoner, the AR 15 is now available in two operating systems including the direct gas impingement system and the gas piston system. The rifle uses a .22 caliber round, chosen in part due to the ability for soldiers to carry more ammunition per pound. The standard carbine length AR offers military, law enforcement, and civilian shooters a light weight, high velocity, accurate rifle. The AR’s design allows shooters the ability to use many accessories and sights. Although the AR’s design, sometimes referred to as a Lego system, has more individual parts than that of an AK, these parts are easily replaceable by the standard user.
As so many articles have pointed out before, there is no doubt that the AK can withstand extreme environments and be covered in mud or sand and still run reliability. This fact alone is what so many advocates are quick to point out in this debate. What needs to be considered with this argument is that everything mechanical can have malfunctions and even the AK has occasionally had trouble feeding properly. So side by side the AK is more reliable in harsh conditions, but advancements in the AR 15, specifically the gas piston system, offers more reliability with the same proven accuracy.
A commonly discussed design element of the two systems is the safety selector. On the AK 47, the safety selector is a large lever found on the right side of the receiver and is manipulated by the fore finger. Many consider the AK’s selector among the few defects found on the platform. It is stiff and difficult to manipulate and worst of all, it is noisy. Another downfall is in order to use the selector the shooter has to break their grip on the rifle. In comparison the AR 15’s selector is easily accessible and manipulated with the thumb. It is more user friendly and simple in design.
Another notable difference between the two rifle’s designs is the magazine and magwell. Visually, it is easy to see the differences between magazines, both standard mags hold 30 rounds, but the shape of the 7.62 for an AK requires a curved magazine for feeding. The AR’s 5.56 doesn’t require the larger curve and instead has a straighter design. The design of the magazine will affect how you insert it into the magwell. Since the AK’s magazine is so curved, in order to insert the magazine into the magwell, the magazine needs to be”rocked” into place rather than just an upward push like the AR.
These are just a few considerations of the ballistics and design of the AK47 vs AR15 that make the discussion a little more interesting and less the of the argument over reliability vs accuracy. Both firearms fulfill different roles for different folks. There are strengths and weaknesses to both styles and there will never be a “one size fits all” rifle. Shoot what you like, and what you are comfortable with!