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Which Is The Right Choice?: AR-15 vs. AK-47

Smith and Wesson AR

The AR-15 and the AK-47 are two completely different firearms for completely different purposes. Comparing them is difficult; it’s a case of apples and oranges. Still, we’ve drawn up the basic differences between these two guns to help you make the best decision for you.

At a glance, here are the major differences:

AR-15 AK-47
Ammunition 7.62x39mm 5.56x45mm (originally)
Effective Range 800+ yards 300 yards
Operating system Gas impingement system Long-stroke piston
Modularity More modular Less modular

Development of the AK-47 and AR-15


The German Blitzkreig in World War II put an end to trench warfare. They use tanks, planes, and large numbers of troops who were seriously armed to break through their opponents’ defenses. This made them incredibly powerful during the first half of WWII, and many nations started investing in new weaponry and tactics after the war.

This caused a major shift in the way guns were made. Previously, battle rifles with full-size cartridges were used; the emphasis was on the ability to fire more shots, as most fights happened in closer quarters. Battle rifles at this time had an effective range of about 800 yards. Germans started using intermediate cartridges, which were lighter and therefore allowed soldiers to carry their necessary ammunition with them on the field. Germans therefore got a higher rate of fire than their opponents with their full-auto ammunition.

The Soviets were the first to develop a weapon in response: they started work on the AK-47 in 1945, and soldiers had them in 1949. Things did not move as quickly in the United States; the .308 caliber M14 was not adopted until 1959. The M14’s intense recoil made fully automatic shooting uncontrollable, and it did not hold up well against the AK-47 in the Vietnam War. Finally, in 1963, the United States adopted the AR-15 (now also known as the M16).

Development of the AK-47 and AR-15


The AK-47 is a simple submachine gun. This simplicity was hard-earned by the inventor Kalashnikov and his team. It’s easy and cheap to make, and is made with loose tolerances so that any extra dirt and debris get expelled from the gun when it fires. This means you don’t have to clean it very often.

The AK-47 is easy to learn, as it was made for soldiers with a range of education levels and languages spoken. The AK can be broken down into 6 parts, which makes maintenance simpler. The more important components are not meant to be disassembled at all.

The United States didn’t see the AK-47 hit the market until the 1990s. While its accessories and customizations have now caught up to the AR-15, this took much longer.

This is a highly reliable firearm, and has a track record of excellent performance in many climates and circumstances. It is extremely difficult to damage its gas piston design.

The AK’s loose tolerances make it a less accurate fire. Its maximum effective range is 300 yards, and even at 100 yards, it groups about 6 inches. It uses a 7.69x39 round.

AR-15: The Details


The AR-15 is a more complex firearm than the AK-47, thanks to inventor Stoner. This means it’s also more difficult to produce. Stoner and his team combined aluminum, plastic, and their unique gas impingement system to reduce the recoil problem of the M14. This leads to a large gun that is very easy to control.

The AR-15 is also extremely modular, meaning different parts can be matched to different bases. Civilians looking to design their own weapons have greatly contributed to the market for AR-15s. In the 1990s, the flat-top upper receiver became available, allowing users to attach different types of sights to their rifles.

With a wealth of component parts comes more complexity in operating and maintaining. But if you learn how to use an AR-15 properly, complexity means more control, and more efficient use of your firearm. It’s also easily configured for a right- or left-handed shooter.

In the early days of the AR-15, it had some reliability issues as its design specs shifted, and new ammunition was used. But those were the early days. Now, the AR-15 has been the standard-issue rifle for the US military longer than any other firearm. This has earned it the nickname “America’s Rifle.”

If you want your AR-15 to function reliably, then you need to maintain it. The gas impingement system does make the inside of the gun dirty. If you lubricate the gun, it will run reliably. The most maintenance an average AR-15 owner has to do is replacement of small parts.

Unlike the AK-47, the AR-15 is a very precise shoot. Its effective range is at least 800 yards. A quality AR will shoot accurately right out of the box, but there are additional customizations that can increase the accuracy even further.

In Conclusion…


Ultimately, you will be able to select the gun that best suits your needs, wishes, and comfort. If you are looking for a low-maintenance, simple firearm with serious power and don’t need incredible accuracy, the AK-47 may just be right for you. If you want to shoot longer distances and really put the bullet where you intend it, or if you want to spend time adapting your firearm to your specific needs, spend more time with the AR-15.