Domesticating the Kalashnikov

This is a guest post by Andrew BettsKalashnikov

Kalashnikov pattern rifles are a boat load of fun to shoot and they are solid choices for zombie, NORK, or ISIS invasions but everybody knows that an AK is a bad choice for home defense, right? They have terrible ergonomics, few optic mounting  options, and their ammunition penetrates far too deeply. Well, not exactly. As counter-intuitive as it might seem, Kalashnikov pattern rifles can be a very reasonable choice for home defense.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: People have a knee jerk reaction that rifles are not well suited for home defense because they believe that rifles “over penetrate.” This is absolutely incorrect. ANY projectile that is capable of penetrating a bad guy deeply enough to reliably incapacitate can pass through multiple walls, but properly chosen rifle ammunition won’t penetrate any more deeply than handgun ammunition or buckshot.  That doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune to fill a magazine, either. This cheap Russian soft point performs beautifully for defense:

Before we get wrapped around the axle, let’s get a couple other things out of the way:
1. Handguns suck. At least for home defense, they do. Handguns are not powerful and they are not easy to shoot well. They do only one thing well, and that’s being small enough to carry on your person conveniently. Rifles and shotguns are far more powerful and far easier to hit with. They are also easier to retain in a hands on fight.

2. Shotguns are very useful home defense tools. They do have low capacity, high recoil, are imprecise, and cannot penetrate soft armor but they are easy to hit with and extremely powerful.

3. Rifles chambered in an intermediate cartridge are also great home defense tools. They are accurate, have lots of rounds on board, low recoil, and are also very powerful. They can even be more reliable than manually operated firearms like pump shotguns because they are not as prone to malfunctions caused by operator error.Kalashnikov

Kalashnikovs have a few things going against them. It is true that the lack of a bolt catch and button style magazine release makes reloading slower than with the AR or similar rifles. On the other hand, most of us don’t sleep wearing a plate carrier and mag pouches.

The time that it takes to reload a rifle matters a lot in competition. It matters quite a bit on the battlefield, too, but it doesn’t matter in the least for a home defense situation if you aren’t carrying extra magazines anyway when something goes bump. And let’s be honest here: it is insanely unlikely that you will find a need for more than 30 rounds if you’re not kicking in doors in Mihtarlam. That said there is no reason that a person can’t perform a reload almost as quickly with an AK as with other modern rifles. This is primarily a training issue.

One can certainly “gas up” an AK with 30 rounds more quickly than one can reload a pump shotgun or a revolver with only 5 rounds, though. With training in the correct method, a regular guy can get an AK back into action very quickly. This series of photos demonstrates how to release the old magazine with a new one and then roll the rifle to the left (for a right handed shooter) to operate the charging handle.Kalashnikov

It is also true that the Kalashnikov pattern rifle has a selector lever that is in a pretty inconvenient place. Let’s remind ourselves again that we’re talking about home defense, not dismounted patrol. It’s simply not that important. If you hear something that sounds dangerous, you grab your bang stick, hit the go lever, and execute your home defense plan.

You do have a plan, right?

Whether that plan involves clearing the house to be sure that loved ones in other rooms are safe or just sheltering in place, you keep your booger hooker off the bang switch until you decide to fire. Honestly, it’s a non-issue. If you are really fired up about that though, there are Kalashnikova couple aftermarket solutions that make the AK selector a little friendlier. Even with the factory lever, one can sweep it from safe to fire as the rifle comes up from low ready. It just requires many dry fire repetitions to develop muscle memory, like anything else.

Others might argue that a Kalashnikov is unsuitable for defense because you can’t mount an optic. First of all, that’s simply not true. There are several very good optic mounting solutions available today. Some of the best are the Midwest Industries hand guard or their rear sight mount for mini red dot sights and Texas Weapon Systems’ receiver cover mount. Unlike earlier designs of this type, the one made by Texas Weapon Systems holds zero nicely.

It also provides an excellent place to mount a better rear sight. It is true that optics make it Kalashnikoveasier to get fast hits at medium range but they don’t offer a dramatic speed advantage at the very close ranges within a home. To be sure, they don’t hurt, but the advantage at close range is narrow. It’s a small enough advantage that few people bother to mount an optic on their home defense shotgun. If it isn’t a weakness for the shotgun than it isn’t a weakness for the AK.

It is fairly common knowledge that the Kalashnikov system is very simple. It is simple to maintain and simple to operate. It’s also common knowledge that it is a reliable system, although its reputation may be a bit exaggerated here. It has low recoil, is light weight, powerful enough to reliably incapacitate, and it can carry enough rounds that you shouldn’t need to reload in almost any realistic scenario.

With those points in mind, I’d like to examine the value of the Kalashnikov pattern rifle for home defense on its own merits. I’m not out to tell you what you ought to choose to defend yourself and your loved ones; only you can decide that. The best weapon for you is the one with which YOU are most proficient.

Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan.  Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.Andrew Betts served with the Arizona National Guard for over 12 years, including a tour to Afghanistan.  Visit his YouTube Channel for more great shooting information.


  1. Handguns aren’t useful for home defense? Alright, funny joke, lets get back to serious articles

  2. Michael E. Stora, Ph. D. says:

    @Andrew, they are easy to carry and conceal but they suck and are not a good chice for home defense where those advantages are not needed.
    Don’t believe me, listen to this doctor:
    Of this gunfight after a drug raid went wrong . . . very wrong . . . the cop and bad guy in this gunfight soaked up .45 ACP hollow points like sponges and kept on going:

  3. Pierre Ferron says:

    A handgun is a personal defence weapon. A Kalashnikov is an urban assault weapon. Hope this clears up any hesitation about what you want to do.

  4. Rifle> Shotgun> Handgun. For self defence, that’s a fact. Everything has pros/cons. Handguns are best suited as backup to a long gun and CCW.

  5. Michael Lawrence says:

    My AK pattern rifle is my go to rifle for defense/zombie apocalypse/range day….ect. It is an all around rifle. I completely agree with the author…the AK is a great choice.

  6. Michael Lawrence says:

    “A Kalashnikov is an urban assault weapon.” Really? If I am using it to defend myself or my home, then wouldn’t also be a personal defensive weapon? If you are in your home, any weapon you use to defend yourself, your family, and your home becomes a personal defensive weapon. And….um….I won’t hesitate to pick up my AK to defend my family, home, and myself with. I hope that clears things up for you.

  7. there are a few quality options for mounting an optic on an AK without breaking the bank. primary arms makes some decent 4moa red dots for under 200 bucks. it’s no Aimpoint, but they’re pretty damn bombproof, and the 4 MOA dot is easy to acquire, if not super precise. but at home defense distance speed on target and first hit percentage trumps being able to shoot a 1 inch group at a hundred yards.

    and if you’re looking on the higher end of Ak pattern variants, (and if you’re serious about AK’s you should seriously look at spending more than 400 bucks on a century WASR) arsenal’s SAM7 series have both the traditional AK lever safety, and a thumb operated galil style safety on the left. not only that, but the SAM7 will give the AR platform a run for it’s money in terms of accuracy out to 200 yards or so before bullet drop and holdover become an issue.

    my setup is an Arsenal, Inc SAM7SF with an aimpoint PRO on it. although it’s not my go to home defense setup for a few reasons…i prefer the maneuverability of a large caliber handgun, and if i’m going to grab a long gun i’m taking a non tactical looking shotgun. the reason being, IF i have to use it, and for some reason it ends up in court….AK’s and AR’s or tactical shotguns don’t make a good “people’s exhibit A” at a manslaughter hearing. I prefer to keep my AK for situations like the rodney king riots or hurricane katrina when there is no rule of law and help is not coming if you call it. (assuming there are even phones)

    that being said, the AK platform is excellent as a home defense weapon if you set it up correctly, use the correct ammunition, and train train train the hell out of it!

Leave a Reply