The AK pattern rifle does not have the consistent build quality and design to reliably shoot a man-sized target at 500+ yards. I’m 100% comfortable with that, given my expected threat profile for the deployment of a civilian defense rifle.
I’ve trained several times with an Arizona-based firearms training company. This International organization advocated for point shooting, force-on-force, squad tactics, trauma medicine and fight-focused training. Dynamic movement is a huge part of their curriculum, and they are currently well-known for teaching the “Pekiti Takeoff” in order to “get off the X.”
This organization stood up for the AK-47 pattern rifle several years ago, when most of the firearms world thought the AK-47 was a piece of junk and the AR-15 style rifle was king. They showcased the AK’s durability, reliability, and price-to-performance efficiency. I already owned an AK at the time, but reading the training material, watching the instructional DVDs and attending classes made me a believer.
About a year ago, the same organization that trumpeted the AK officially dumped it. They cited fluctuating AK build consistency and an inability to reliably shoot at distances greater than 500 yards as the main reasons, but the CEO also claimed that AK owners were less likely to buy expensive rifles and upgrades. At about the same time the organization’s retail arm started to sell more and more expensive equipment, starting with the Sig Sauer 556R 7.62x39mm rifle on up to the AR-pattern rifles made by “tier 1″ manufacturers like Knight’s as well as Steyr AUG A3 bullpup rifle.
After calling the AR-15 over-priced and fragile for years and telling everyone that an AK’s “rough edges” just required the operators to “toughen up,” this group began advocating for the most expensive ARs they could find and trumpeting the virtues of the sleek, curvy AUG A3.
It’s been interesting watching the organization’s alumni scamper from the latest rifle endorsed by the CEO to the next.
A year’s gone by, and I’ve continued my rifle / carbine training, mostly under the tutelage of Quorum Security. The AK-47 pattern rifle is still an excellent choice for civilians. Here’s why.
Complaint #1: Not able to hit targets consistently at 500+ yards
This is totally true. The AK-47 pattern rifle can hit man-sized targets at that range, but it takes a lot of effort on the part of the shooter, high quality ammunition, a rifle with a great build and tight tolerances, and some aftermarket components.
It can be done, but it was difficult to replicate these results due to the inherent nature of the AK design as well as the inconsistent build / changing designs of AK manufacturers and assemblers.
My reply: so what if it can’t hit to 500 yards?
The question you should ask yourself is: what is the purpose of my civilian defense rifle? Is it to defend your home during the commission of a crime and/or disruption of service? That’s why I own rifles, and if that’s the reason you own a rifle then the knock on the AK shouldn’t bother you one bit.
When compared to a 500-yard shot, 100 yards seems feeble. However, the defensive use of rifles, while rare, consistently happens at distances of less than 100 yards. The vast majority are inside of the home or within the immediate boundaries of the property.
The next time you go to a football game try to pick out a single individual on the other end of the field. Now try to determine what they’re doing. Are they reaching for a gun in their pocket or a cell phone? Picking up a rifle or picking up their drink? A key tenet for lawful self defense where I live is establishing that there’s an immediate threat of death or great bodily harm. It is difficult to do so at a distance of greater than 100 yards.
If you’re unlucky enough to not live in a stand your ground state, you also have to prove that you were in immediate threat and could not escape. It’s going to be hard to explain to a jury that you couldn’t evade a threat at 500 yards.
The AK pattern rifle is quite accurate at the probable self defense distance of less than 100 – 150 yards.
Complaint #2: Inconsistent build quality
There can be issues with AKs assembled in the United States, especially those built by Century Arms International. I own some CAI-built rifles, and while mine are all fine I have also seen rifles that needed additional work before functioning properly.
That being said, the issue the CEO of that International organization had was that the AK rifles could not be built or assembled with enough precision to allow for the construction of 500+ yard rifles.
This isn’t an issue of a front sight gas block being off kilter. This is an issue of changing specifications or inconsistent builds for rifles operating at five times the expected civilian defense range.
Non-issue, unless you’re interested in building and selling mass quantities of expensive custom AK rifles.
The other group wanted to push the AK platform as far as it could go and sell expensive custom rifles and accessories. Whatever their tactical reasons were for wanting to shoot man-sized targets at 500 yards, for most civilian uses it is still an outstanding choice.
The AK is still great for what it’s supposed to do: take on and deal out a shit ton of abuse at close ranges without a hiccup.