The debate between AR & AK enthusiasts on which is better than the other is age-old, and I don't think one can come to a conclusion. Well, that's because you can't really compare these two semi-automatic rifles, for they were designed to serve different purposes.
You can’t expect once to compare a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat with a Maserati or a Porsche. While you can compare their speed, transmission, suspension, and ergonomics, you can’t say one is better than the other.
The same is the case with AKs & ARs that were designed for entirely different purposes & environments. All you can do is compare their features to figure out which one serves the purpose best.
Let us first have a look at these fantastic rifles to know for what were they really designed:
A Brief History Of AR-15 & AK
ArmaLite Rifle, popularly known as the AR-15, was initially designed as a military rifle. It was the demand for a gun with lower recoil than the aging M14 that fuelled the design of ARs.
Though the weapons designer Eugene Stoner successfully designed the ARs in the 1950s, ArmaLite had limited success in selling it. Following which the design was sold to Colt in 1959, and the U.S. military selected colt in 1963 to manufacture the automatic rifle (M-16) that soon became standard issue for U.S. troops in the Vietnam War.
The semi-automatic variant of M-16s was sold to law enforcement and the public, marketed under AR-15.
Avtomat Kalashnikova, popularly known as the AK is a is a gas-operated automatic rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in 1947. Kalashnikov, who was a tank mechanic in the Soviet army, designed AK as a lightweight automatic rifle that could give soviet soldiers an edge over the invading German forces during the second world war.
While both the ARs & AKs were designed as lightweight automatic rifles, they succeeded in different ways.
Now that you have a brief idea of these rifles' history let's look at their features. As said earlier, there is no way you can compare an AK with an AR. We will look at some of their features and let you decide the one you should invest your money on.
AK vs. AR: Reliability
To put it in simple words, you can’t kill an AK.
Bury it in mud, dump a fistful of sand with or without the safety closed, leave them underwater for days, or fire thousands of rounds without ever letting a brush near your rifle; an AK would still keep firing. An AK is manufactured with looser tolerance than AR-15, which means that the bolt carrier group can move freely within an AK even when there is dirt inside.
Similarly, an AK uses a gas piston for cycling the weapon, which doesn't foul quickly as the direct impingement in an AR. While this is indeed an advantage, AKs tend to be punchier in recoil, which is a downside.
Which brings us to the next comparison, accuracy.
AK vs. AR: Accuracy
Well, this may get tricky.
As said earlier, ARs were designed with tighter accuracy than the AKs. Owing to which ARs are far more accurate than the AKs. While a stock AR can shoot 1-inch groups at 100 yards, an AK shoots a group 6 inches or so at 100 yards, with a maximum effective range of about 300 yards.
The accuracy of a rifle is not just dependent on its build quality. Instead, the accessories installed on the gun also come into play.
Let's look at how far and easy it is to customize an AR & AR.
AK vs. AR: Customization
If you have used ARs enough, you would know why it is called the “Lego for adults." Because of its modular design, AR-15s can be customized to any extent. You can change the guns' caliber by installing a new barrel, changing the charging handles, installing a state-of-the-art sighting system, and whatnot.
When compared to an AR, it isn't easy to customize the AK. The market for AK customization is small because of which its accessories fall on the pricey side. But if you have access to the right accessories and are willing to spend money, AKs are far easier to customize than ARs.
If you plan to customize your rifles, we would suggest you pick an AR over an AK.
AK vs. AR: Ease of Maintenance
Both ARs & AKs have come a long way, and they are far advanced than their earlier versions of themselves.
Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to spend more time on your AR to keep it functioning, and yeah, the AK does jam at times. Irrespective of the rifle you own, it is advisable to keep it well maintained, especially if you are using it for home defense.
AK vs. AR: Home Defense
Both ARs & AKs are an excellent choice for home defense as both rifles are handy at short range. The question shouldn't be really about the best rifle for home defense; it should be about picking the right ammo.
Both the ARs & AKs are powerful rifles that can easily penetrate the bad guys & the walls of your rooms. So, the key is to get ammo that is specifically designed for home defense.
AR vs. AK: Hunting
Contrary to popular belief, you can take an AK for hunting just like an AR, but things get complicated when you consider range. At closer ranges (inside 200 yards), ARs & AKs perform well, with AK having a slight edge over the other.
But in parts of the country where competition happens at around 400 yards, ARs have an edge over AKs, considering their better accuracy. Also, it is easier to upgrade an AR than an AK.
Choosing between an AK & AR For Home Defence
As said, both ARs & AKs are excellent rifles, and you can never say one is better than the other. If you are looking for a gun with a soft recoil & better options to customize, we suggest you go ahead with an AR. Whereas, if you need a pocket-friendly rifle that doesn’t require much attention, AKs are the best.
It is always best if you can spend some time at a range firing both these weapons. This would help you have a better picture of what you need.