If you want to buy or build a modern sporting rifle, should you go with the AR or AK platform? With everything that's changed in the last couple of years, now seemed like a good time to dust off this old debate and give it an update. However, I'm going to come to the debate from a slightly different angle than what you might find in many online forums.
Examining the Cost and Supply Chain—
Supply chain issues have made it difficult to find many items, and inflation has driven up cost on what is available. Incendiary political rhetoric, sanctions, and the current proxy conflict in Ukraine will undoubtedly impact more than a few markets for the foreseeable future.
When Russia invaded the Crimean Peninsula shortly after the Winter Olympics in 2014, the Obama administration responded with a round of sanctions that shut down importation of AK pattern rifles. Many don't seem to know this, but Biden preemptively banned the import of Russian ammo in August last year—well ahead of any military action in Ukraine.
These bans and sanctions, paired with inflation, have made firearms and ammunition substantially more expensive than they were just a few years back.
A thousand rounds of 7.62×39 used to cost $200-$225. That same box now runs for $360 and up, depending where you're shopping. A WASR 10/63 AK pattern rifle now goes for around $850-$900. That same rifle went for about $400 prior to the Obama administration's sanctions and for about $650 after. Since then the price on these rifles—with their signature canted front sights—has only gone up.
Prices for AR-15 rifles and 5.56×45 ammunition have also gone up in the past few years. A thousand rounds of 5.56 used to run about $300-$350. That same box will now run $450 and up.
AR-15 rifles haven't seen the price that AK rifles have, but the price is up, and so is the demand for the both rifles and both calibers.
What About Parts and Customization?
Spare parts and after market are another consideration. It's easier to find AR parts than AK parts, but that will undoubtedly change as more and more American manufacturers like Palmetto State Armory and Kalashnikov USA get in the game. The only real exception would be surplus magazines; the AK has the market cornered on those and you can find them for less than the cost of a 20 round box of 7.62 ammo.
So which Platform is Better the AR or Ak?
We've covered supply chain issues, spare parts availability and cost. Now let's get into the nitty gritty of which one you should go with when considering an AR or AK platform. The answer might shock you.
In my estimation, the answer is, it does not matter which one you choose. The fact of the matter is that there are legitimate war fighters all over the world. Some carry an M4 or M16, and some carry an AK47 or AK74. From a functionality perspective, both rifles get the job done.
There are Differences to Consider—
Sure, we could argue over things like ergonomics, country of origin, and in doing so, lose sight of the salient points, and get lost in the minutia. There are hundreds of threads online where you can see that debate play out—typically with the same talking points used ad nauseam.
At the end of the day, purchase what works for you. That might mean purchasing what you can afford. Or it could mean selecting the rifle that feels better in your hands. Which rifle you choose may also depend on what you're intending to use it for. Mayne folks use sporting rifles for home defense.
Whichever you choose, learn how to use the rifle by attending in-person training. Most of us won't ever out perform our gear, so learning how to use whatever rifle style you choose is far more important than which one you select.
Can Gun Owners Agree on Something?
I'm okay with people who choose an AR over an AK, and vice versa. In fact, as gun owners, can we not lose our minds if someone goes as far as to say they like the IWI Tavor over both the AR and AK? Are we mature enough to move on, or do we have to convince everyone that our way is “the right way?”
The Second Amendment is constantly under attack from the same politicians who swore under oath to protect The Constitution. Politicians have incrementally eroded the fundamental right to bear arms on both the east and west coast, even further inland in Colorado; and that erosion continues. Today, it may be a ban on standard capacity magazines. Tomorrow, it could be a ban on the type of weapon you're allowed to own or purchase.
We can discuss preferences and pros and cons of different rifle platforms, or have the 9mm vs 45 discussion, for example. But time wasted debating whose gun is cooler, more accurate, or more reliable, is better spent organizing and mobilizing for the political fight.
We all love the sport. We like the guns we like. And that should be enough. Now, more than ever, we need to recognize that fellow sportsmen are not our enemies, but our allies. And we all need to recognize that we have a common enemy in those who seek to deprive us of our right to bear arms.
Let us know what you think in the comments below.