I don’t know what kind of planetary alignment came about but I have been inundated with information requests about AK’s.
So, here is the Polish AK Pro himself, Rob Ski, of AK Operators Union 47-74 talking about things to look at when you’re picking up an AK from across the counter.
AK’s are scarce on the ground right now… like.. really scarce. The Serbian Zastava imports with the new more ‘Americanized’ features like chromed barrels were about the only ones I’ve recently seen in stock just about anywhere. A few Arsenal’s were too.. but not many. Ordering a Rifle Dynamic might be just as quick as finding a regular rifle.
Also remember that Jim Fuller will have his launch coming up soon too, Fuller Phoenix AK’s, and those are likely to be fantastic.
So, let me cover the questions I’ve been seeing most frequently.
Is the AK a good home defense rifle/pistol?
Which caliber should I get?
Which caliber do you want/can you find?
Right now, with the general scarcity, a 6.5 Grendel might not be a bad idea but the classics in 7.62 are usually the solid bet. After that I would actually say getting one in 5.56 might be next and then 5.45. Ammo for all the varieties out there are still around but it is tough at the moment. The three core calibers, 7.62, 5.45, and 5.56 are probably overall the best bets for full support. In my immediate distribution chain the 5.45 is the only ammo that can be found at case volume.
Are AK’s still cheaper than AR’s?
Not really, no.
A good entry AK and good entry AR will run you in the $800-900 range. Accessories for both run roughly the same for the same quality. My RD NATO full kit MSRP tags out at around $4,000 and so does the LWRC sitting next to it when you roll in optics, lights, triggers, and furniture.
Assume a system complete rifle will run you ~$2,000 over the whole spend and that’s a good opening ballpark.
Can you do it for less?
Can you do it for more?
Absolutely, been there and done that.
Will $2,000 get you a system you’ll have pretty much no worries with?
Yep, that’s why I throw that number out. It is a realistic number and you can spread out the cost. That will cover rifle, light, optic, mags, sling, and ammo all in good quality and quantity.
Which brands should I look at?
The imported WASR types are still your entry price point. The new Zastavas are probably up from there while still being sub $1,000.
Arsenal SGL or SLR series are my go to recommendation.
Getting into the semi-custom realm I recommend the IWI Galil ACE with great enthusiasm. It is one of the best takes on a modernized AK, they have robust aftermarket support and the calibers take the most popular magazines for their respective chamberings so magazine support doesn’t require hunting down anything expensive or exotic.
Then there is the Rifle Dynamics and Krebs Custom level items and upcoming Phoenix line from Fuller.
You do, generally, get what you pay for if you’re paying around market.
What should I buy after the rifle?
Ammunition, magazines, sling, light, optic, training course. In that order and not skipping any of them, especially not the last one. Get a good basic rifle course under your belt to run the gun from an instructor that knows their way around an AK.
Ammo: Any, really. FMJ steel case is an AK’s normal fodder. New production.
Magazines: I like Magpul and Circle 10’s. I’ve got good recommendations on Beryl mags for 5.56 AKs and US Palms for 7.62×39. Even surplus steel and aluminums are probably okay as long as they’re still in the proper shape and fit your particular AK’s mag release so check fitment.
Slings: Blue Force Gear, Savvy Sniper, Magpul.
Lights: The four horsemen of the lumen apocalypse: Streamlight, Surefire, Modlite (w/Reptilia), and Cloud Defensive.
Optics: I like magnified optics on many many platforms, but AKs… I like the Fuller approach. Dot on the Ultimak gas tube and call it good. To that end my favorite is the Aimpoint CompM5 but any T1/T2 or RMR footprint dot of quality will serve. Holosun(s), Trijicon MRO and RMR, Aimpoint PRO and T1/T2.
Training: Sentinel Concepts Carbine Employment. 2 Days, nothing crazy, just shooting the gun better.
If you had to pick one AK
Rifle Dynamics NATO, Ultimak railed gas tube, Aimpoint CompM5, Surefire M600DF (Or Modlite PLHv2), Magpul ‘midlength’ forend, ALG AKT-UL Trigger, Krebs safety lever, Blue Force Gear 2-Point sling on QD’s.
Ok… but like on a budget..
Arsenal SLR, Ultimak railed gas tube, Aimpoint PRO, Magpul forend (standard AK length), Streamlight RM1/RM2, Blue Force Gear 2-Point sling.
The AK still slams. It’s a functional option for a fighting rifle. Simple, accurate, effective, modernized through aftermarket with several modern variants, and durable. It has a few functional weak points (as do all machines) but if you are considering one, it is certainly worth consideration.