Because both the AR-15 and the AK-47 are excellent weapons, you’re going to find plenty of die-hard fans of each one. Usually, there isn’t much overlap; you either love the AR or you love the AK.
As a veteran Marine, I’ve put more rounds downrange through the M-16 (the military version of the AR-15) than most people will ever shoot in their lifetime. I’ve carried it through swamps, deserts, jungles, mountains, and even cities, so I’m very comfortable operating with it, and it’s the first weapon I grab when I have a choice.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have its drawbacks; it certainly does, as does the AK-47. Today, we’ll outline the pros and cons of each weapon system, and let you choose which is best for you and your situation based on that data.
|Lightweight||A standard AR-15 weights between 5.5–8.5 lb, depending on configuration.|
|Smaller ammunition||You can carry and store more ammunition.|
|Less recoil||The weapon is easier to fire accurately; especially follow up shots.|
|Higher velocity||A smaller projectile traveling at a higher speed results in a more stable and accurate round.|
|Longer range||U.S. Marines must qualify annually with the M16 out to 500m, but it is possible to accurately engage targets even beyond that range.|
|Upper receiver is removable||You can easily swap out upper receivers for multiple caliber and barrel length configurations.|
|Tighter tolerances||There is less movement between parts, so your rifle is more accurate.|
|Picatinny rail systems||MilSpec Picatinny rail systems on most modern AR-15s allows for a wide range of optics, lasers, flashlights, bi-pods and other accessories to be easily mounted.|
|Less energy||With a bullet weight between 55-63 grains, the 5.56×45 round delivers less kinetic energy, so it’s less lethal.|
|Requires more maintenance||Generally, you’ll have to keep your AR-15 very well cleaned and lubricated in order to keep it functioning.|
|Gas tube system (in most cases)||Combustion gasses and powder residue travel through the gas tube to the bolt carrier group, dirtying the action more quickly.|
|Tighter tolerances||Since there is less space between parts, debris such as sand or mud can more easily jam the weapon.|
|More expensive||Due to precision machining techniques and tighter tolerances, the AR-15 costs more to manufacture.|
|More energy||With a bullet weight between 123-154 grains, the 7.62×39 round delivers more kinetic energy, so it’s more lethal.|
|Loose tolerances||The manufacturing process of an AK-47 leaves a lot of play between parts, which means that you can pull them out of the mud and they’ll still fire just fine.|
|Piston system||The majority of combustion gasses never make it to the action or the bolt, resulting in a cleaner weapon.|
|Cheaper||Due to less precise machining techniques and looser tolerances, the AK-47 costs less to manufacture.|
|Heavy||A standard AK-47 weighs 6.8 pounds or more, depending on configuration.|
|Larger ammunition||You can carry and store less ammunition.|
|More recoil||The weapon is more difficult to fire accurately; especially follow up shots.|
|Less range||The ballistics of the 7.62×39 ammunition make it virtually impossible to accurately engage targets past 300m.|
|Loose tolerances||Since the manufacturing process of an AK-47 leaves a lot of play between parts, your rifle will be less accurate.|
It’s also worth noting that while ammunition is plentiful for both weapons, 7.62×39 is currently about 30% cheaper than 5.56×45/.223. I recommend keeping an eye on Bulk Ammo and Ammunition to Go because the prices fluctuate often, and sometimes, one will have a better deal than the other. Both are solid, reputable companies, and I have bought plenty of ammunition from each of them.
So there you have it. In my opinion, while the AR-15 is a far better weapon system, either one is an excellent choice for your self-defense needs; after all, you’re not traipsing around the mountains of Afghanistan engaging Taliban fighters. In an absolute worst-case scenario, you may have to repel gangs or looters, so a weapon capable of accurate fire at 50m is more than adequate. In fact, if you’re shooting at someone much further away than 20 feet, you’re going to have a tough time convincing the police that it was a case of legitimate self-defense.
If you have the money to spare, I’d go with the AR-15 every time, but if you’re on a budget, the AK-47 gives you more bang for your buck. The most important thing is to train on a regular basis with which ever weapon you’ve chosen.