In response to my recent post on AK's (and Mini's) AZRedhawk44 said: I stewed on this over the weekend subconsciously, and it leaped to the forefront of my mind while I was at a High Power match (I shoot an M14 so I don't have any skin in the AK/Mini conflict either way).
One of Ryan's very valid points was the legitimacy of shooting someone more than 100 yards away. At first, I accepted that premise.
At the match, however, an idea jumped out at me. "Hits" aren't necessarily all good. A 200 yard shot with an AK that tags a leg, arm hip or shoulder might still leave someone functional enough to return fire at me. Yes, it's a hit. But despite the fact that I tried damned hard to make that shot count as best as I could... the platform and cartridge dynamics allowed that bullet to drift 8 to 12 inches more off target than a different platform.
No, I don't want to drag a platform war onto your site. I like FALs, FNARs, AR-10's, AR-15's, DaeWoos, Galils, M1's and M14/M1A's. I like lots of gun platforms. I even like the Mini and AK for what they can do.
The price difference between a self-built AR and a higher end AK or a new Mini just isn't that far, and the AR will (typically) put the lead in the center of the target better.
I just think if you're gonna aim at something and squeeze the trigger, the best possible outcome is for the bullet to impact _exactly_ where you intended to hit.
TOR Here: Thanks for taking the time to ponder this question and then write a reply. Personally from informal experience I believe that the AK platform, given a servicable weapon, is quite capable of hitting dinner plates at 100 meters and a torso sized target at 200 or maybe more. There is certainly a range where the weapons inherant accuracy limitations start pulling shots out of the vital torso and into flesh wounds and appendages.
I don't think anyone could disagree with your statement that "if you're gonna aim at something and squeeze the trigger, the best possible outcome is for the bullet to impact _exactly_ where you intended to hit."
I think there are a few universally desirable characteristics of a rifle:
Reliability- It should go bang every single time you pull the trigger, no matter what. Seeing as firearms are mechanical and even the best mechanical things fail now and then we should seek the lowest failure rate available.
Ruggedness- You want a rifle that can take a beating. Most of us generally take good care of our rifles. However we still definitely want them to work if they happen to be banged around, dropped, not get cleaned as often as they should or get exposed to the elements.
Adaptability- The ability to change a rifles ergonomics, fit, and sights to your preferences and needs. The ability to employ useful accessories.
Commonality- There should be wide access to magazines, spare parts, accessories and such.
Affordability- Outside of gamers and fanboys in forums (there are some good folks there too) the rest of us live in the real world. In the real world instead of theorizing about what the best possible maker for every single component in the world we have to live in a budget. Be it tiny, modest or pretty decent we all have budgets. We need to consider the cost of magazines, optics, ammunition, useful accessories and other ancillary equipment.
Capacity- More bullets and fewer reloads are better than less bullets and more reloads.
Lastly since you already mentioned it accuracy- A rifle that can't hit stuff you shoot at isn't very useful.
It would be great to have a rifle that is devastatingly accurate out to great distances, holds a lot of bullets and reloads quickly, is utterly reliable and rugged under all sorts of adverse conditions, has great adaptability and parts/ ammo/ mags which are widely available. It would also be great if this rifle and its ancillary equipment were so cheap that an average working class guy could get a few rifles, a big box of magazines and enough ammo to fight a moderately intense guerilla campaign.
Ever heard the building analogy that you can have a job be done fast, cheap and right but you only get to pick two? So it could be fast and right but not cheap. Or fast and cheap but not right. It could also be cheap and right but not fast.
Have you ever played the kind of video game where you get to build your own boxer? You get a certain amount of points to divide among different categories (I remember strength, foot speed, quickness, conditioning and toughness or something like that)? If you put all of your points into quickness you could punch really fast but it wouldn't do much and you were really easy to knock out. Put all your points into strength and your boxer will knock people out, when he can hit them. Anyway you get the idea.
My observation is that some foolish and inexperienced people buy a rifle because they saw it in a movie or know a certain group or unit uses it. However smart and experienced people choose a weapon based upon the best balance of the above desirable characteristics prioritized by their own unique scenario with the limiting factor of affordability. Affordability is a limiting factor because in order to have a rifle you have to be able to buy it.
We also need to consider the cost of multiple weapons. After all if things are so screwed that you need a rifle wouldn't it be a good idea for your spouse to have one also? What about your 15 year old child? Sure the idea of arming them is scary in a lot of ways. However if Rorke's Drift is playing out in your neighborhood then the kid needs a damn rifle. Also remember that two is one and one is none.
Price point is an interesting discussion. I think it is important to compare as equitably as possible. For example comparing a bare bones generic AR some yahoo put together in his basement to an AK that comes out of a highly prestigious custom shop is gaming the scenario a bit. Comparing chevy to chevy and BMW to BMW makes more sense. The difference in price between say a WASR-10 at about $550 and an Olympic or Stag AR at say $750 isn't that much. Mags are about a wash. AK's do however have a real cost edge in terms of ammunition. My observation, and YMMV, is that AR's don't really like steel cased ammo. AK's on the other hand will eat anything. Brass cased .223 costs about twice as much as steel cased 7.62x39. So $200 (I didn't check prices today so please don't nit pick) will get you about a half case of .223 or a full case of 7.62x39.
If you look at say a mid range AR with 10 mags, a case of ammo and a few spare parts/ accessories vs a mid range AK with 10 mags, a case of ammo and a few spare parts/ accessories the actual cost is different. Make it two or three cases of ammo and the cost difference is really significant.
As I mentioned peoples own unique scenario is a big factor here. Do they live in the city or out in the country. On the wide open western plains or the primordial woods of the deep south. Do they have a good budget or is money really tight? How important are accessories and their availability? Do they plan to also hunt with their defensive rifle? Do they have problems carrying long heavy rifles? What about felt recoil? Is their plan to have a CQB machine to keep by their bed, an all around rifle or a precision marksmenship machine. What kind of worst case scenario does this rifle fit into?
When we are talking about modern fairly common magazine fed semi automatic rifles such as the AK, AR, Mini- 14, M1A, FN-FAL, HK 91 series, etc. I am becoming less and less convinced there are any real absolutes. I don't think it is so much about the right rifle but the right rifle FOR YOU. If cost is a concern and you aren't so worried about long shots an AK could be a great choice. If you really like commonality and adaptability but cost is a factor then maybe an AR is the answer. If you like the power of a .308 but are concerned about the cost of magazines and spare parts then an HK 91 type could be the way to go. If love rifles made of wood and steel, you really want to reach out and touch someone accurately and money isn't a concern then an M1A would be a good choice. A great rifle for one person might be a horrible rifle for another.
Personally I like AR's and AK's. In terms of rifles I grew up on AR's. I have more muscle memory with that platform than any other or any two others combined. I have a lot of experience and comfort when it comes to that platform. I also appreciate that they are easy to use and pretty darn accurate without completely breaking the bank. I got an AK for no particular reason a few years back. For a random spur of the moment (made the decision at a gun store) purchase I couldn't have done better. I am coming to like AK's more and more. They are affordable to purchase, very affordable to equip, utterly reliable and as rugged as they come. Also they are pretty fun to shoot.
I urge you to be realistic about your budget and consider what it will cost to fully (however you define that) equip a rifle. Next think about your own unique scenario. Do plenty of research and fire as many weapons as possible. Seriously reflect on and consider your options for this major purchase and you will end up with a weapon that will serve you well.
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