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.

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