I love guns. I am obsessive compulsive and therefore I collect the things I love. I have a number of AK’s and AR’s, most of which we never even shoot. So I decided to keep my best specimen of each as original and use a great specimen of each to build a really great gun modified to be easier and more fun to shoot. I will fund the builds by selling some of the other guns in my collection.
The Avtomat Kalashnikova Model 47, or AK as it is officially known, (also known as the Kalashnikov or in Russian slang, Kalash) is a selective-fire (semi-automatic and automatic), gas-operated 7.62×39 mm assault rifle, developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known in the Soviet documentation as Avtomat Kalashnikova (Russian: Автомат Калашникова).
For seven decades the AK and its variants remain the most popular and widely used assault rifles in the world because of their substantial reliability under harsh conditions, low production costs compared to contemporary Western weapons, availability in virtually every geographic region and ease of use. One out of every 7 firearms in circulation in the world is an AK-47.
From “Lord of War”, Yuri Orlov: [Narrating]
Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It’s the world’s most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn’t break, jam, or overheat. It’ll shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand. It’s so easy, even a child can use it; and they do.
The Armalite Rifle Design 15, or AR, is a selective-fire, 5.56×45mm, air-cooled, direct impingement gas-operated, magazine-fed rifle, with a rotating bolt and straight-line recoil design. Commonly known as the “Black Rifle” because of the black parkerized finish and black and gray plastic furniture, it was designed above all else to be a lightweight assault rifle, and to fire a new lightweight, high velocity small caliber cartridge to allow the soldier to carry more ammunition. It was based on the Armalite AR-10 rifle. After modifications the new redesigned rifle was subsequently adopted as the M16 Rifle and went into production in March 1964.
So which gun is better?
|Maximum Effective Range||400 yards||600 yards||AR-15/M16|
|Weight (empty)||9.5 pounds||7.8 pounds||AR-15/M16|
|Weight (loaded, 30 round magazine)||10.9 pounds||8.8 pounds||AR-15/M16|
|Muzzle Energy||1,500 foot-pounds||1,300 foot-pounds||AK-47|
|Energy at 400 yards||462 foot-pounds||536 foot-pounds||AR-15/M16|
|8-12 MOA||6-8 MOA||AR-15/M16|
|Reliability||Functions under nearly any condition||Prone to failure when exposed to dirt, dust, and mud||AK-47|
|Ergonomics||Safety/selector switch is a bit awkward requiring the user to break grip on the rifle; cheek weld is virtually non-existent||Excellent cheek weld; safety/selector switch is manipulated easily without losing sight picture||AR-15/M16|
|Recoil||Noticeable but easily managed in semi-automatic||Easily controllable, even under rapid fire||AR-15/M16|
Just looking at the side-by-side comparison, one has to give the nod to the AR-15/M16. It is more accurate and offers superior ballistics at long range. The AK-47 is clearly superior for reliability and short-range ballistics, making it an obvious choice for anyone who needs a short-range tactical rifle. Its traits clearly make it the better choice for close-quarters urban or jungle fighting in which engagements will usually be fewer than 100 yards.
Still, at the end of the day, the customer staring at both rifles has to make a decision. Do you go with fool-proof reliability at a lower cost and choose the AK, or drop the extra cash on the AR-15 (what many call “the Lego System of weapons”) and have an accurate, modular system you can adapt to multiple roles and calibers? Which one you choose ultimately will depend on the role you want it to play.
Need the ultimate in reliability and close-range support? Get the AK.
More interested in an easily modified modular system that boasts excellent long-range accuracy and ballistics? Get the AR.
If you are like me, you will spend even more and get one (or several) of each.
The AK build:
For the AK I decided to keep my milled receiver Norinco MAK-90 and use a stamped receiver Norinco to make a really fun sporter and fund it by selling two other AK’s (another Norinco and a really nice Hungarian SA-85M.)
With the guns sold and cash in hand I started ordering parts:
- ATI Fiberforce Stock with Buttpad
- Magpul MOE Forearm/Handguard
- UltiMAK M2B Gas Tube replacement with Picatinny Rail
- Krebs Custom Enhanced Safety
- SLR SR47 Muzzle Brake
- Bushnell TRS-25 Red Dot Site
After completely disassembling the rifle, we started with the alterations.
The new glass-filled nylon stock did not fit very snugly because the back of the receiver was canted just slightly inward from bottom to top. A little careful grinding got the back of the receiver square and tight in the stock. The fit of the top tab also needed some adjustment so we used a file to reshape the rounded end until it fit into the cutout perfectly. Then with the gun and stock carefully clamped in a vice on a mill table we milled out the hole for the original wood screw to be reused. Once fitted the stock was tight and solid and looked like it was custom made for the rifle.
The Forearm also needed extensive fitting. The tab that goes into the front of the receiver was significantly oversized (probably to accommodate the variations in stamped recievers). A couple of hours of careful carving with a chisel, sandpaper and sundry other tools and a very tight fit was achieved.
Threading the barrel and installing the muzzle device detent pin were delicate operations. After removing the front site, we threaded the barrel with relative ease. However, the step-up in barrel diameter was out too far from the front site face and therefore the muzzle break wouldn’t thread on far enough. Rather than attempt to reduce the barrel, we counter bored the muzzle device to fit over the step-up. If we choose to add a silencer to this gun, we will simply counter bore that device too so it will match.
Next we had to locate and mill the hole for the detent pin, which entailed getting the front site clamped up flat and straight and then determining the correct placement of the hole. We got it right and the detent pin fit perfectly and keeps the muzzle break from unscrewing as well as keeping it oriented correctly.
We polished the bolt carrier group and the trigger and will finish the gun by Cerakoting the receiver and barrel in flat black.
The AR build:
For the AR I kept a preban Colt in original unfired condition and decided to use a preban Colt Sporter Competition HBAR .223 (low serial number!) for the build. The base gun has a 20″ threaded barrel (1/2×28) with a rifle length gas tube.
Parts for the build include:
- Luth-AR Modular Buttstock
- Magpul MIAD Grip Kit
- AXTS Raptor Ambidextrous Charging Handle
- DoubleStar Race Gun Low Profile Extended Gas Block
- Spike’s Tactical AR-15 Rifle Length Gas Tube
- UTG PRO M-LOK AR15 15″ Super Slim Free Float Handguard
- (2) Magpul M-LOK 5 Slot Polymer Rail Section (to 45° mount MBUS Sights)
- Magpul MBUS Front Flip Sight and Rear Flip Sight
- SLR SYNERGY BCF 5.56 Compensator, Flash hider & Brake
- Troy Industries AR-15 Enhanced Trigger Guard
- EOTech 518 Site (already had)
Unlike the AK, the AR is renown for parts exchangeability. Because of the military basis for the platform, many replacement parts and modifications are designed to meet the same MilStd or MilSpec criteria as a genuine U.S. military rifle. It is worthy to note that these parts and complete rifles are NOT MilSpec. To be MilSpec the parts or completed rifle would have to be inspected by the US Government AND the parts or completed rifle would have to be produced to fulfill a government contract. Since all these replacement parts and modifications are NOT inspected and the only firearms being built to a government contract are illegal for a citizen to own, it is safe to say that our AR will not be “MilSpec.” But that’s ok, the standards were developed and are available and many manufacturers adhere to them where it counts. All this means is that the extensive modifications and adjustments we had to make to the AK parts will not have to be made to the AR parts.
The first case in point is the Butt Stock. Most AR stocks are designed to fit on the standard military buffer tube. The buffer tube houses the recoil spring which forces the bolt carrier group back into the forward locked position after the gas tube forces it backwards. Our sniper inspired fully adjustable wicked cool stock slid right into place in the Colt buffer tube and with a single machined screw was firmly installed and functional.
We removed the muzzle device and the handguards, then removed the front site/gas block and the gas tube, then the delta ring and barrel nut. This left the bare barrel sticking out of the upper receiver and ready to reassemble with the new components.
First on was the adapter barrel nut for the UTG Pro free floating handguard. A free-floating barrel is one in which the barrel and stock are designed to not touch at any point along the barrel’s length. The barrel is attached to its receiver, which is attached to the stock, but the barrel “floats freely” without any contact with other gun parts, other than the rifle’s sights. On the original AR the handguard was attached to the barrel right behind the front site. Pressure on the handguard may cause the barrel to shift its alignment slightly over time, altering the projectile flightpath and impact point. There is also evidence that the stock constraining the barrel interferes with the natural and force vibration and oscillation and therefore alters the flight path from shot to shot. Bottom line: floating barrels are more accurate. Even more important: the UTG Pro handguard looks awesome!
After installing and properly torquing the barrel nut, we installed the low profile gas block, replacing the front site/gas block combination. This provides the clearance for the new handguard. We chose an extended gas block to cover the pin slots left from the way the front site is attached.
Then the handguard slipped over everything and was screwed into place.
We installed the new muzzle device which serves as a combination flash hider, muzzle brake and compensator, completing the barrel end of the AR.
To compliment the new butt stock, we also installed the new pistol grip that is adjustable to fit our large hands, and the expanded trigger guard to give us more room in the trigger area. We reinstalled the bolt carrier group along with the new ambidextrous charging handle.
Finally, we mounted the EOTech site and the BUIS pair on the top rail. We haven’t decided if we are going to Cerakote the receiver to match the handguard or not. We may like the two tone look …