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200404-AK 47

200404-AK 47



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Published by damchilbert
AK-47 Rifle Pros and Cons
AK-47 Rifle Pros and Cons

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Published by: damchilbert on Aug 13, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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APRIL 2004 
guess I started off with a built-inprejudice against the AK-47 since Ifirst encountered it while runningambushes in Southeast Asia. If we sawthe distinctive AK upper and bananaclip silhouetted, we assumed we werefacing the VC, NVA, or Pathet Lao.That's why only special ops troops in"Indian Country" ever carried AKs.Using one in most parts of Vietnam wasan invitation to get shot since the dis-tinctive look and sound generally drewfire. And, the distinctive "click clack"sound of an AK-47 safety was guaran-teed to draw fire from any U.S. troopsclose enough to hear it. In my mind, theAK-47 was a bad guy's gun. It's interest-ing how that impression can last deep inone's psyche. More than a quarter cen-tury after I had returned to "the World" Iwas attending a performance of MissSaigon. During one sequence where theNVAcharacters were dancing aroundon stage, their pith helmets and AK-47ssilhouetted against the lights, I foundmyself squirming and my trigger fingerfeeling an impulse to start shooting.Though the AK-47 still had that effecton me in the darkened theater, I havegrown to appreciate the AK over theyears. I've trained enough counterin-surgency or special operations forces inareas where the AK-47 was ubiquitousthat I've had to learn to shoot it andmaintain it. I've also worked VIPpro-tection details in areas where insur-gents were using AKs so I had to bequite familiar with its capabilities tocounter it.Perhaps my greatest appreciation ofAKs came when I was training busi-nesspersons and government personnelwho were deploying to "troubledlands." At one point I taught an aware-ness and survival course which incorpo-rated basic techniques to counter a kid-napper or other attacker. Basically, Itaught a few simple methods to quicklyincapacitate an armed enemy, lever hisor her weapon out of their hands,instinctively find the safety/selector,and turn the gun against its owner.Though we dealt with other standard"National Liberation" weapons such asthe SKS, Czech Skorpion, CZ-52, andMakarov, we spent the most time withAK-47, and the more shooting I didwith the AK, the more I grew to appreci-ate it.By the beginning of the 21st Century,some 70 million AK-47s had been pro-duced; obviously an enormous numberof soldiers appreciated the AK-47. Byobserving a lot of third world troopsarmed with the AK-47, as well as doinga substantial amount of shooting with itmyself, I've come to some conclusionsabout its strengths and weaknesseswhich I thought might be worth dis-cussing in this column.The greatest strengths of the AK-47are undoubtedly its toughness and relia- bility. Designed to keep functioning inthe hands of conscript troops and "free-dom fighters" with little or no mainte-nance, the AK-47 will keep shooting inconditions that would render mostother weapons hors de combat. I haveseen captured AK-47s that obviouslyhad been dragged through all mannerof dirt or sand and had never been
—and—of the
by leroy thompson
Author with Poly Tech AK-47.
APRIL 2004 
cleaned. They were filthy, but wheneverwe tested one it fired. Closer to home, Ihad a friend who bought one of the firstsemi-auto Poly Tech AK-47s importedinto the U.S.A. and shot it for years tothe tune of 12,000-15,000 rounds of cor-rosive ammunition without ever clean-ing it, yet every time he pulled the trig-ger it fired. Fortunately for those of uswho like to shoot the AK-47 a lot, rea-sonably priced non-corrosive ammuni-tion is now available. I normally useCheetah from Zimbabwe.Three of the AK-47's other strengthscontribute to this reliability. Thechrome-lined barrel helps the rifle standup to a steady diet of corrosive ammu-nition, and the non-adjustable gas sys-tem keeps untrained troops from mess-ing with it—a key element of soldierproofing. Additionally, AK-47 maga-zines are generally made of steel ortough polymer and are designed tostand up to as much abuse as theweapons they feed.In simplest terms, the strongest pointof the AK-47 is that almost invariablywhen one pulls the trigger it will go off.For U.S. shooters, the ready availabilityof inexpensive ammunition in7.62x39mm is an additional advan-tage—as is the availability of inexpen-sive AK-47s which contain enough U.S.-made parts to be "post-ban" legal.There are, however, a substantialnumber of negative aspects of the AK-47 as well. Many of these are based onergonomics. For example, many shoot-ers find the stock too short, though itmust be borne in mind that this is a rifle
The AK-47 is especially well suited to guerrilla movements. Shown here are Contrarebels fighting against the Sandinista regime.
APRIL 2004 
which has seen a great deal of use inAsia where most soldiers are muchsmaller than in the West. In fact, theexport Poly Tech and Norinco AK-47swith which we're familiar have a speciallonger stock than those used domestical-ly. I have used some of the Chinese AKswith the "Asian" stock and that one is,indeed, too short. I don't mind the oneon most I've used, however, and it doeswork well with body armor. Most realshooters prefer the fixed stock to thefolding stock on the AK-47. The underfolder, especially, is not very comfortableand after some use gets rather loose. Theside folder is better, though it is still notespecially comfortable.One of the greatest ergonomic weak-nesses of the AK is the safety. This safetynot only has a distinctive and loudsound as it operates, but is also poorlydesigned for operation with the shootinghand. It is not particularly well located,either, for operation with the weak hand.Usually, one just lets the trigger guardrest on the hand and wipes it off withthe thumb before moving the finger tothe trigger. On the other hand, consider-ing how often the AK-47 is issued to con-script troops or marginally trained thirdworld soldiers, the fact the safety cannot be readily flicked off for a fast shot may be a good thing!One other weakness is the triggerguard which does not lend itself well totrigger operation wearing heavy gloves.Considering that the Russians, Chinese,and North Koreans, all of whom mayoperate in very cold conditions, haveissued the rifle it seems odd that ahinged trigger guard was never devel-oped.There is one very good ergonomic fea-ture—the magazine release. The AK'smag release is easily operated witheither hand, though one does have to getused to the method of loading the maga-zine into the mag well by rocking it in.I normally do not do well with the AK-47's sights, the rear "V" not allowing veryprecise work. I think this is one reasonthe Soviets issued a lot of Dragunovs—sothat units had some long-range capabili-ty. I have had friends who could shootwell at 300 yards with the AK-47, but forme it's a 200-yard rifle. Past that, I justdon't shoot it well. I do, however, like thesight adjustment system which allowsone to zero the rifle by adjusting the frontpost for both elevation and windage.This is a system consistent with the AK'stoughness and with preventing troopsfrom tampering with it.

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