The AK47 vs AR15: The debate rages eternal between which of these two rifles is the better.
It’s a debate grounded not only in the technical minutiae of two firearms but is almost an existential and philosophical one: one is the very avatar of Soviet (or other non-Western) firearms, while the other is inextricably linked with the US military.
The two are the Cold War writ small: apple pie vs. borscht, Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago, and East vs. West.
Any argument over which is the superior gun is also, by implication, a debate over the world’s two original superpowers.
Thus, you’ll be hard-pushed to find an American who won’t argue for their home-grown gun or a Russian (or a Chinese person, or an Afghani, for that matter) who won’t argue for the other side of the coin.
In this article, however, we’re going to try to take a more prosaic attitude that focuses simply on the gun’s technical aspects.
There are a thousand articles out there about the Cold War, including on our site. This one will be, quite simply, about the AK-47 vs. the AR-15.
Without further ado, let’s dive into what differentiates these two iconic weapons.
AK-47 vs. AR-15: A Brief History
These two guns have a long and storied history – both of which are somewhat tied to the mythology of their respective nations of origin. Let’s take a look at where the two rifles came from.
The AK-47 was developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, a wounded Soviet soldier who was impressed by the Sturmgewehr 44 rifles used by German forces during their advance on the Eastern Front.
Kalashnikov went about designing his own rifle – a rifle that, according to Kalashnikov himself, was made “by a soldier for soldiers”. The letters ‘AK’ stand for Avomat Kalashnikova, or ‘Kalashnikov’s automatic rifle’.
Kalashnikov delivered the first prototype in 1947. It was adopted by the Red Army in 1949 and has been in use since then.
It is not only an iconic Soviet gun but has seen extensive use by insurgents and rebels the world over due to its reliability and ruggedness.
The AR-15 is a quintessentially American rifle that, similarly to the AK, came about as a desire for a new all-purpose rifle in the wake of WWII.
This rifle would replace some of the most iconic used during that conflict, including the M1 Garand, the M1/M2 carbines, the Thompson submachine gun, the M3 “Grease Gun,” and the M1918 Browning Automatic.
The AR-15 was the genesis of that project. An offshoot, the M16, was developed and used in the Vietnam War and received widespread criticism for its unreliability.
Many US soldiers were found dead with their rifles disassembled next to them as they tried to fix them in the heat of combat.
The AR-15, however, is better known as a civilian weapon. It has often been the source of controversy for its repeated use in mass shootings in the US.
AK47 vs AR15: Which Is More Accurate?
Of the two guns, the AR-15 is generally considered to be the more accurate. It has an effective range of 600 yards, whereas the AK-47 is generally accurate out to about 400 yards.
In addition, by measuring the minute of angle (MOA) of both guns, the AR-15 is around 30% more accurate than the AK-47 at any range.
The AR-15 can be chambered with one of two rounds: the 5.56 or the .223 Remington. While both are relatively powerful rounds, there are bullets with more stopping power on the market.
One such round is the 7.62×39 round used by – you guessed it – the AK-47. This larger round has much more stopping power than those used by the AR-15, making it overall the more powerful gun out in the field.
Rate Of Fire
The AR-15 is no slouch in rounds fired per minute. It’s a semi-automatic rifle, though it is occasionally modified by firearms enthusiasts to fire with a ‘bump stock’, which drastically increases how quickly it can fire.
Without a bump fire, however, it’s still able to fire between 45-60 rounds per minute – a fearsome amount of firepower to lay down in such a short period of time.
The AK-47, however, fires around 40 rounds per minute when in semi-auto mode, making the American rifle a little faster – if both are in semi-auto mode. If the AK-47 is firing on full auto? It can put out a staggering 600 rounds per minute.
The AK-47 is the world’s most iconic firearm for a reason – it’s extremely widespread. There are around 500 million firearms in the world, and a full fifth of those – 100 million – belong to the AK family. Of those, 75 million are AK-47s.
The AR-15, conversely, is very much an American gun and is largely confined to that market.
Despite that, the least conservative estimates put around 44 million AR-15s in American hands – an astonishing amount given the overall global number of firearms in existence.
That said, the AK-47 still easily outpaces its American counterparts in terms of availability.
Ease Of Use
The AK-47 is famously one of the world’s most reliable weapons and is able to keep on functioning even in the harshest of environments due to the elegant simplicity of its design.
However, it’s a little heavier than the AR-15, and it’s not quite as easy to sight while using the safety selector.
The AR-15, on the other hand, is more ergonomic than the AK-47 (making it more comfortable to use for a protracted period of time) and, as the lighter gun, is easier to lug around for long periods of time.
Overall, the AR-15 is an easier-to-use rifle (if not as reliable).
Verdict: Which Rifle Is Better?
While it’s tough to give a definitive answer on which rifle is better – as both have their pros and cons – it’s nevertheless a fact that the AK-47 is the world’s most iconic rifle and the most ubiquitous rifle in world history.
With an astonishing 75 million found across the world, it has much more reach – and has had a much more profound impact on world culture – than the very American-centric AR-15.
And while the latter has earned an unfortunate reputation as the weapon of choice for mass killers (or a poorly-performing weapon that killed as many US GIs as the Viet Cong), the former has become such an icon of resistance and rebellion; it is the only modern firearm to be featured on a country’s flag.
Overall winner: AK-47