The AK-47 and AR-15 are two of the most popular and widely used rifles in the world and this has turned into a tribal battle on these shores.
Which is best? Well that is an argument that will go on until the end of time, but we’re going to try and shed some light and kill some misconceptions for you now.
Both rifles have been used in combat for decades and have proven their reliability and effectiveness in a variety of conditions.
Here is a more detailed comparison of the two rifles.
The AK-47 Origin Story
The AK-47 was designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the Soviet Union in the 1940s and went in to active service with the Soviet military in 1948 before widespread adoption of this assault rifle the following year.
The push for the AK-47 was a reaction to the German Sturmgewhr 44, which mowed down Soviet forces in World War II. The Soviet forces were already looking to replace the PPSH-41 submachine gun, and the German gun that combined select fire with the range of a rifle made a deep impression on the Russian forces.
While the German firearm used a 7.62x33mm bullet, the Soviets soon developed the 7.672x39mm M43 cartridge for the SKS Carbine, but that gun was already redundant compared to the opposition.
Kalashnikov was wounded in battle and embarked on a career as a weapons designer in 1941. His mission was to close the gap to the German forces, who came armed with semi-automatics, while the Russians had one rifle between three men.
In 1947 he unveiled the AK-47 and a legend was born. It was a gas operated long stroke piston rifle that was known for its simplicity, reliability and durability.
The AR-15 Design Story
The AR-15 was designed by Eugene Stoner in the United States in the 1950s, when he modified his original design for the AR-10 after a request from the US military.
Stoner was a brilliant designer, but Armalite was a disaster area. His original 7.62x51mm AR-10 was light years ahead of the M1 Garand that would go on to serve in the Vietnam War as the M14 rifle, but the company simply didn’t get it to the test on time. Even if it had, the firm probably couldn’t have handled the production.
That M14 went head to head with the AK-47 in Vietnam and lost, hard.
But the military saw potential in the AR-10 and asked Stoner and Armalite to create a smaller rifle for the 5.56x45mm NATO round.
Like the AK, the US chiefs wanted a battlefield rifle based around lightweight ammo that soldiers could actually carry. The 7.62x51mm ammo was prohibitively heavy and soldiers kept running out of bullets…
The AR-15 direct impingement rifle was the result and it too was brilliant, but the US chiefs dragged their heels and Armalite bailed on the project. It sold the designs to Colt and moved on, doing itself out of two of the biggest military contracts of all time in the process.
It has gone to become America’s most popular rifle. Now hundreds of companies produce AR-15 rifles and the National Firearms Survey reckoned there were 24.6 million of them in circulation in the United States in 2021.
The miliary and law enforcement officers rely on the AR-15 every day. It is a popular hunter and the number one choice for home defense in the US too.
Performance of the AK-47 vs AR-15
The performance differences between the AR-15 and AK-47 lie largely in the choice of ammunition. The 7.62x39mm ammo is harder hitting, but the truth is it is less accurate at long range than the AR-15.
That’s if you go with the 5.56×45 Nato oe .223 Remington ammuntion. Now you can opt for AAC 300 Blackout ammo, 9mm Luger and more with a basic AR layout, or trade up to an AR-10 with 308 Winchester Magnum or even 6.5 Creedmoor.
The AR-15 won the range and target shooting war from the start. In the years since, it has just got better.
Advances in bullet design mean there really isn’t that much to choose between the two calibers in terms of terminal ballistics, too. And the mass adoption of the AR-15 in North America has helped drive development of jacketed hollow point bullets and FTM AR-15 ammo that is easily a match for the best AK ammo on offer.
So performance is a wash in terms of stopping power, and the AR-15 takes it in terms of accuracy.
Score this one to the AR-15.
AK-47 vs AR-15: Durability and Reliability
There’s a reason that Third World fighters almost invariably carry an AK-47. They are massively popular with Third World armies and the kind of ‘freedom fighters’ without the funds or the knowledge to maintain firearms like a military armory.
The AK-47 can brave snow, dust, sand and swamps and just keeps firing. It has become a synonym for indestructibility in the industry and will eat substandard steel cased ammo, take all kinds of abuse and just keep going.
For all its brilliance, the AR-15 does not have the same reputation.
Early AK-47s produced from sheet steel had problems, but when the company moved to a forged receiver, most of those issues went away.
AK-47 vs AR-15: Cost
You would think the AK-47 was the cheap way to go, and you used to be right. But not at the moment. Even a Century Arms Draco Gun is creeping up towards $1000 and most AK-47s cost much more.
Competition has driven down the cost of the AR-15 and we’ve got cheap AR-15s that cost $400 and less to sell you.
Yes you will save money on the cheaper AK ammunition. But the actual rifles and pistols themselves? An AR-15 is much cheaper these days.
The AR-15 can be customized with a variety of attachments, such as scopes, lasers, and flashlights. It is also relatively lightweight and easy to handle, making it a good choice for military and law enforcement use.
Which rifle is better?
The AR-15 and AK-47 are both excellent rifles that have their own advantages and disadvantages. The AK-47 is more reliable and durable, while the AR-15 is more accurate and precise. The AR-15 is more customizable, while the AK-47 saves money on ammo.
In the United States, the AR-15 is by far the most popular choice. That’s in part due to its US roots and the fact that it went on to become standard issue for the US military.
Globally, the AK-47 is way more popular and is the most popular full auto rifle in the world by quite a margin.
Ultimately, the best rifle for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you are looking for a reliable and durable rifle that is relatively inexpensive to run, then the AK-47 is a good choice. If you are looking for a rifle that is accurate and precise, then the AR-15 is a better choice.