November 20, 2018
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Yes, I am going there. One of the most hotly debated questions in prepper/survival/firearm enthusiast circles is around the best survival rifle. For all intents and purposes, there are only two in competition in the US and those are the AK-47 and the AR-15. I will add that there are variants of both and I am lumping all of those into these two categories. This question of what is the best survival rifle is one that I asked myself when I was considering my first rifle purchase so I wanted to take some time on the Prepper Journal blog today to hash out what I see are the differences and to give you my opinion as to which rifle is better when it comes to the AK-47 vs AR-15.

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I know that this subject is insanely controversial, even though it shouldn’t be. It’s the same as getting upset over Ford versus Chevy. If this post makes it to some of the firearms forums out there I know I will have some people who will disparagingly call me an “Internet Expert” implying that I have no idea what I am talking about. So be it. I am not an expert, but I don’t think anyone else is an expert either in this subject. I don’t think anyone out there is more qualified to determine what rifle is best in my opinion, for me, than me. I don’t really care if you are active duty police, 20 year military veteran, or mercenary for hire. This is my opinion based upon my belief and requirements, you are entitled to yours, but that doesn’t mean mine is invalid. It also doesn’t mean you are smarter than anyone else that disagrees with you. It simply means we have different opinions.

Additionally, I will throw out some facts that should be pretty easy to agree on and some opinions based upon my personal experience which may not be. Just because your experience is different, that doesn’t make it a law of science or anything. If you have a different experience, by all means, please comment down below but I would ask you to keep the debate civil as that is what I am going to try to do. If you would like to make your case for the opposite of what I recommend, please do so in the comments and we can all judge whether what you are saying makes sense.

History

Very briefly, the The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated rifle that fires 7.62×39mm ammunition. The AK-47 was developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year of World War II (1945).  In 1949, the AK-47 was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces and used by the majority of the member states of the Warsaw Pact. It is still widely used today.

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The AR-15 was first built by ArmaLite as a small arms rifle for the United States armed forces.Because of financial problems, ArmaLite sold the AR-15 design to Colt who made some modifications and the redesigned rifle was subsequently adopted as the M16 rifle which was the main rifle used by US Armed Forces. Colt then started selling the semi-automatic version of the M16 rifle as the Colt AR-15 for civilian sales in 1963 and the term AR-15 has been used to refer to semiautomatic-only versions of the rifle since then.
The AR-15 is a lightweight, magazine-fed, air cooled rifle with a rotating-lock bolt, actuated by direct impingement gas operation or long/short stroke piston operation that fires 5.56 mm/.223-caliber ammunition.

For the purpose of this comparison we are only going to be discussing semi-automatic weapons available for purchase in the US by a non FFL carrying person, not their fully automatic counterparts.

Also read: A Takedown Bow Is A Huge Survival Advantage- Survival Bow: 16 Rock Solid Reasons To Get One Today

The Facts

You can quickly see some of the facts below about each rifle on this excellent infographic , but I will list what I see are the important differences between the two rifles.

  • The AR-15 can effectively shoot 200 yards further than the AK-47.
  • The AK-47 shoots a significantly larger bullet than the AR-15.
  • The AR-15 weighs 2 pounds less (not counting a lot of hardware we add after the fact) than the AK-47
  • The AK-47 usually costs less than an AR-15.
  • The AR-15 has a higher (30% more) accuracy than the AK-47
  • The AK-47 is more widely used globally by a long shot than the AR-15.

For more information and my opinion on which rifle is best, please read below the graphic.
AK-47 vs. AR-15

The Debate

There are really only 3 main arguments that proponents of the AK-47 use as their rationale for saying that the AK-47 is the better survival rifle so I want to list and address each below.

  • AK-47 rounds penetrate better and do more damage – This is true generally speaking, let’s move on to the next point.
  • AK-47 Costs less – This is true generally, let’s move on to the next point.
  • AK-47 will keep working no matter how dirty it gets – This is also true to an extent, but with a caveat. The point to this argument is that if the AR-15 gets too dirty, you will have firing problems. I can tell you from personal experience that I have never had a single problem with any AR-15 or it’s fully automatic cousins that I have ever shot. However, I clean my rifles usually after every time I shoot them. Sometimes, I will wait, but they never go too long without a thorough cleaning, so what is this point supposed to be saying to us? Well, what if you are in a firefight and you have to shoot 300 rounds through your AR-15 rifle; will it jam then? No, at least not in my experience. Maybe if you shot 10000 rounds through it without cleaning the rifle you could see some issues, but if you are in a firefight so bad that you have shot 10000 rounds, you have bigger problems. What if you drop it in a vat of guacamole? Not a valid point in my book.

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Which Rifle is the Best Survival Rifle?

I will tell you that in my opinion, the best rifle is the one you have with you when you need it. That sounds well and good, but if I was going to buy one rifle, and I lived in America, it would be the AR-15. Why? For me this comes down to 4 simple points.

Accuracy – The AR is simply more accurate at further distances than the AK-47. If I wanted to shoot a rifle up in the air when I was mad, riding in the back of a Toyota truck with 20 of my friends, or happy, or just plain stupid then I might get an AK-47. One of my goals is to be able to engage targets at up to 500 yards and the AR-15 does that better than the AK-47. The AK might use a heavier round that will go through more solid objects, but if you are able to kill the person holding the AK 200 yards before he can hit you, does that matter?

Range – Speaking of range, the AR-15 shoots further effectively, so that just adds to what I was saying above. Range is also important to me because I want to be able to take people out as far away as possible. I don’t want you getting so close that your AK-47 can hit me. I would rather you and your AK be far away and I will take care of you way out there. I don’t mind walking out there to pick up your rifle when I am finished.

Parts – The AR-15 is like the Barbie doll of the firearm world. There are so many accessories! And yes, the military version of this rifle (M16/M4) has a majority of parts that are fully compatible with the AR-15. The AR-15 is also the same weapon used by police, DHS, and NASA. If anything bad happens, there should be plenty of opportunity for spare parts to be acquired. I can’t say the same for the AK-47 unless we are invaded by Russia. So, even if your AK is able to fire with some mud in it, what if something breaks? That is why you buy spare parts you say. No, that is why you buy what everyone else is using including our government.

Ammo – Same as above, this is the ammo our police and military use as well as quite a large number of my countrymen, so I have the advantage of a very common caliber in my favor.

OK, that is my rationale and those are my reasons. The AR-15 does cost a little more on average, but you can find really good deals out there if you look and the price difference would be much lower. Does this mean I wouldn’t own an AK-47? No, not at all. I would love to have one, but I do think that for the reasons I listed above, if you can only choose one and you live in the good old US of A, the AR-15 is the better option in my opinion. I know for a fact people will disagree with me, so please let me know what you think in the comments below.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. fadestyle Posted on October 22, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    you are correct that the AR15 shoots farther, more accurately as you put it.
    you want to be able to shoot that AK47 holding threat at 500 yards away before they shoot at you.
    i agree that is a good position to agree with, unfortunately you would have to have a 360 degree view of over 500 yards visible to you at all times of the day and night 24/7 to be able to say that statement is accurate.
    with that said a threat will encroach the closer than 500 yard mark before you realize they are a threat or even know a threat is coming or here now. now that we have that clear not every instance of threats will be dealt with at 500 yards and it would be naive to say that all threats will be dealt with at 500 yards. so on those at least few times a threat gets in an effective range of a AK variant a ar15 owner would be out matched. even if you are very accurate out at 500 yards an ar15 is not designed to put a threat down for a dirt nap and was designed originally do your research to injure a threat instead of kill them. you may be good, you may be able to shoot a flea off the back of dime at 500 yards but its lack of butt and small bullet puts it at a disadvantage unless you always know your threat before 500 yards 24 hours a day 7 days a week and can keep your shots at 100% in the eye socket every time at 500 yards. ar15 compared to ak47 as far as available parts in a survival situation there are no shortage of either so to say you will have trouble with one or the other is a sad point.
    to say “What if you drop it in a vat of guacamole? Not a valid point in my book.” who drops their rifle in guacamole? no one i know of and certainly not in a survival situation, but i can tell you in a survival situation you may drop your rifle in the mud, sand, dirt, brush, water, and other heavy contaminants that would hinder the operation of a high tolerance made ar15 than a ak47 would… its a fact and using guacamole is a silly non real world example and it sad to see you use it. in a survival situation i can make ak47 parts out of junk metal… ive seen it done, but the high tolerance of the ak15 would make that task much harder to do with hand tools and scrap metal. there are less part to break in an ak47.
    finding add on parts to your ar15 are just as easy for an ak47 …. its called using standard rails to add accessories across platforms. you can trick them both out with add on parts.
    ar15 is a weak rifle and i shown many points as to why. there are better weapons than both ak47 and ar15… if you want range and effectiveness for goodness sakes get a .308

    1. Devon Drake Posted on October 22, 2018 at 5:01 pm

      In a survival situation, or in a battle, there will not be much opportunity to clean your weapon, to maintain it’s reliability. Dropping, rolling and crawling to stay alive when being fired upon, will increase the odds of jamming the AR with sand, dirt and mud, resulting in DEATH. The AR may be able to reach 600 yards, but it has no stopping power at that range. As far as accuracy, the AK can be made to be just as accurate as the AR at 200 yards, with a red dot set-up that has a stable mount. But this takes some experience and common sense to obtain a reliable sight system, yet is very doable. The normal stock sights of the AK suck, compared to the AR. The AR sights are what made the weapon. The Marine Corps hits the dog target consistently at 500 meters using the superior stock AR iron peep sights. It all comes down to reliability in battle. If I only had a choice between the two, the AK wins hands down at close range (200 yards). Neither would be my choice for a battle rifle. That would be the M1A (M-14) with a Leupold MK4 scope. The M-14 is heavy, but will KILL at 800-1000 yards ACCURATELY ( meaning you WILL hit your target), even penetrating body armor. It is much more reliable than BOTH the AR or AK. For Survival and carry, overall, the AK, due to the reliability and cheap ammo. You may be able to carry more rounds for the AR, but they will cost at least twice as much. I would rather have 1,000 rounds for the same price as 500.

    2. Dan Posted on October 23, 2018 at 4:13 am

      Ak47 Ar 15… yada yada yada. It don’t mater as long as you have ammo and shot the thing straight.. if you ninja warrior think you going to fight a standing army with tanks and drones IR FLIR think again. You may keep some thug from stealing you food supply before you run out . But you. I just pray you all take a bible with you . Good luck

  2. wally58 Posted on October 22, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I’ll take an AK-47/74 any day of the week. Either caliber is OK. If you offered me an AR-15 with the gas piston design (vs the gas tube) I would probably bite. For example, the SIG 556 has the gas piston and the basic AR-15 design. But, the AK is my first love. Kalashnikov claims to have started with a clean sheet of paper for the rifle. But, clearly he copied the MP-44 and made some improvements. Later, the H&K guys copied the MP-44 as well. I’ve got all of the above versions and still like the AK best. Semi-auto only of course. No select fire versions.

  3. PASNIPER Posted on October 22, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    I own both and shoot both. The AK will and can reach out to 500 yards. The problem with both is quality of the one you own. Seen junk in both makes. The cheap AR though is more prone to problems. I shot a three gun this past year where 30% of the AR’s failed. One was a brand new Bushmaster right out of the box. The AR is more sensitive to ammo choice and a good magazine. Why guys spend $ 1000.00 on a rifle and then run cheap steel case stuff through it is beyond me.
    I have also been through many rifle courses where the rifle has failed. Not just from bad ammo and bad magazines but broken extractors and even a cracked bolt. If you are going to bet your life on the AR then invest in good components. I even carry a spare bolt complete ready to drop in in case of failure. No matter what you buy, purchase a spare parts kit and at least a complete bolt and charging handle. Yea, seen those fail too. I owned over a dozen AK’s over the years. The three best where the Romanian RPK, Arsenal, and Vepr. I only own a Vepr now and its the caddy of AK’s. Arsenal’s quality has suffered recently. The Vepr shot an inch group at 100. So much for inaccurate AK’s. Have the targets to prove it. The point is, buy the best you can afford, shoot the best ammo you can afford and have spare parts just in case. Even the best break. Which would I go out the door with if I could only take one. Depends. Ammo is heavy for the AK. I can take almost twice the 556 over the 7,62. But for sure reliability, knockdown power and penetration. Going to be hard pressed to leave that Vepr behind. If I need to go past 500 yards, there are much better tools for that. And with much more precision. Note: I have a friend who has a Arsenal AK in 5.54×39. He claims its the best of both worlds.

  4. tuesdayissoylentgreen day Posted on October 22, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    When the SHTF, I would be very happy with either one…

  5. Arizona Posted on October 22, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    MY cousin liked to hunt,hes dead now,thanks to a bear,BUT bears are the tip of the ICE BURG,ALL you people are about to see and FIGHT THINGS you can’t imagine,AND YOUR AR-15 ain’t going to be worth anything against them,AR-15 are squirrel guns,they won’t even start to stop what your going to be fighting……take that as a warning,or you’ll learn the hard way……….

  6. GunnyHiWay1960 Posted on October 22, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    NEITHER.
    I will keep my 30.06 Browning B. A. R. Safari and shoot all of you dead at 1000 yards.
    BOTH the AK47 and the AR15 are POPGUNS compared to the always lethal 30.06 round.
    Carry On,
    Gunny
    USMC E-7 Ret.

  7. Blather Posted on October 22, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    They make up for the inaccuracy with bigger bullets and bigger fools using them.

  8. j Posted on October 22, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    875 yards open sites sks 7,62 x39 small grill propain tank first shot was very low ,at 1 ft hight it sunk 7in it and out the back of the tank . resting off the side of a fence post for ridge top to ridge top

  9. junk Posted on October 22, 2018 at 9:47 pm

    we was getting 875 yards out sks on a grill propane tank open sites 22 years ,resting off a fence post 15ft low on first shot hung 1 foot over target sunk 7 in the tank and out the back it was ridge top to ridge top 7.62.x39 we had it range shot many times and was told why do you need a 308

  10. joe Posted on October 22, 2018 at 11:54 pm

    too bad russia moved to the AK74 years ago which is a 5.45×39 round!

  11. Mr. Gray Posted on October 23, 2018 at 1:51 am

    I’m not going outside the US to fight, so I need AR parts/ammo availability, not AK.
    If I ever used my weapon in combat it would more than likely be against leftist antifa types, so I’d want the same weapon that everyone around me was using.
    I don’t know anyone who has an AK, but everyone I know has an AR.
    I got into shooting and firearms somewhat late in life – my late 40s. I decided that rather than try to accumulate many different models of firearms, it made more sense for me to “fill niches” :
    – Suitable concealed-carry weapons for me and my wife
    – A suitable home-defense shotgun
    – A suitable firearm in case I’m going to a fight (the AR)
    – A suitable long-range rifle set up for accuracy > 500 yds
    – A suitable hunting shotgun
    – A suitable hunting .22 rifle (small game)
    – A suitable deer/pig rifle (30-30)
    I have a few other firearms than these but they’re just “want” guns, not “need” guns.
    Would I own an AK? Sure, wanna give me one?

  12. Gilbert Huntly Posted on October 23, 2018 at 2:07 am

    Always a consideration is how much it will be carried (as opposed to being actually fired). In that aspect, the AR-15 is more desireable. However, in the bush, a rifleman may not have time to clean his rifle so much as ordinarily possible, and in that regard, the AK-47 is more desireable. In any event, you do NOT want to engage a younger, combat-ready squad of soldiers, so relative firepower should not be so much of an issue. Either rifle should be adequate for self-defense. Remember, supply efforts in the field might be non-existent, and whatever ammo you add will have to be scavenged and carried. Weight and availability needs be considered. My own preference for the bush is a Russian made SKS, because stripper clips are easier to carry than magazines, and just as handy to load. AND there is no tougher rifle than the SKS, which uses the same ammo as the AK, which is likely readily available among the dead.

  13. Tony Clements Posted on October 23, 2018 at 4:12 am

    Well they are both good but if my life depended one one gun with minimal cleaning it would have to be the AK, now if there will always be supplies to clean the guns with I’d pick the AR but unfortunately if the time comes and this country breaks down there will not always be cleaning supplies

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