The AK-47 vs AK-74

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Which do you prefer the AK-47 or the AK-74?

The AK-74

Do you know the difference?  Given all the love for the Kalashnikov these days, one thing that always baffles me is the confusion between the AK-47 and the AK-74. This confusion is prevalent even among law enforcement professional and military members. This article is intended to clear up the mystery behind the AK-74 as well as identify its unique strengths as a survival/prepper rifle.

Both the AK-47 and the AK-74 are Soviet built assault rifles designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov in the respective years (1947 and 1974).  To make sure we have our terminology correct, only fully automatic capable AK’s are true “assault rifles” by definition. The semi-automatic only versions that most Americans purchase are not “assault rifles”, regardless of what the media calls them.  In fact the “AK” actually stands for automatic (A) Kalashnikov (k).

The AK-47, which fired the 7.62x39mm round, was the Soviet Union’s primary rifle for over 30 years. During the 1960’s-70’s the United States started issuing its troops the M-16 which fired the smaller and faster 5.56 calibers round. During the Vietnam War the Soviets observed that the US round was more accurate, had greater range and less recoil. In the mid 1970’s the Soviets redesigned the Kalashnikov to fire the new 5.45x39mm (similar in size to the 5.56) and made several other modification resulting in the new AK-74. The Soviets transitioned to the AK-74 and first used it during the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Today the AK-74 is the primary weapon issued to almost all of the former Soviet Union nations.

For another great Survival Rifle option take a look at this article on the Soviet built Mosin-Nagant: http://www.realitysurvival.com/100-dollar-survival-rifle/ or these other articles:

http://www.realitysurvival.com/savage-model-24-gun-review/

http://www.realitysurvival.com/the-remington-bar/

Although the AK-47 and AK-74 look similar and function the same, they share only about 50% interchangeable parts.   The AK-74 has had several improvements to make it more accurate and reliable. A chrome-lined barrel and larger extractor claw are just two of the modifications. There are several variations of the AK-74 as it was produced in many different countries. The model in the attached photographs is the Polish Tantal.

The AK-74 Specifications

Per Wikipedia, is as follows:

Caliber: 5.45X39mm

Action: Gas-operated rotating bolt

Muzzle Velocity: 2953 fps

Effective Range: 625 meters

Capacity: 30 round, 45 round and 100 round drum

Length: Stock Extended = 37.1  Stock Extended = 27.6 Stock Folded

What really makes the AK-74 unique is the 5.45x39mm round.  This round has a long projectile with a hollow cavity toward the tip and a solid base.  This results in a bullet that tumbles and deforms on impact creating significant tissue damage. Additionally this caliber generates very little felt recoil. According the Wikipedia the 5.45x39mm generates only 2.5 ft lb of recoil compared to the 5.56mm (M-16) which generates 4.75 ft lb of recoil. This translates to my 13 year old daughter being able to rapid fire the AK-74 as if it were her Ruger 10/22.

What are the advantages of the AK-74?

From Left to Right: 5.45x39mm, 5.56x45mm, 7.62x39mm

So what are the advantages of the AK-74 in the role as a survival rifle? Like any Kalashnikov, it is simple to operate, relatively inexpensive, and requires little maintenance. How is it better than the traditional AK-47? It weighs less, it costs less, it has far greater effective range, it is more accurate, it is more reliable and has far less recoil. One of the best benefits in my opinion is the cost of ammunition. The 5.45x39mm surplus ammo is so inexpensive that it is almost the deciding factor alone for many people. Aimsurplus is currently selling a case of 1080 rounds for $159 http://www.aimsurplus.com/product.aspx?item=A54539R  . Good luck getting 5.56mm or 7.62x39mm even close to that ball park.  In fact some folks purchase a second AR-15 upper half chambered in 5.45x39mm just so they will be able to practice with this inexpensive ammunition.

What are the disadvantages of the AK-74?

So what are the disadvantages of the AK-74 as compared to the AK-47? The heavier caliber of the AK-47 would prove superior in some applications such as barrier penetration and hunting deer sized animals.  Additionally AK-47 magazines are less expensive and more readily available in the US.  While ammo is available now, it would be less so, in a long term SHTF situation where you were having to trade or scavenge for ammo.  All in all I find the AK-74 to be a superior weapon to the AK-47 in every other category (as did the Soviet military).

From the survivalist / prepper point of view the side folder AK-74 makes a lot of sense. It is a weapon that is highly reliable, requires little maintenance, and is very simple to use. It is reasonable priced (under $400 for a low end model), uses dirt cheap ammo and has virtually no felt recoil. This is a very effective weapon that could even be utilized by  a spouse or responsible teenager with minimal training during an emergency situation.  Additionally, the side folding stock makes the weapon perfect for concealing while bugging out or transporting without displaying an “armed” presence. Folding down to just 27 inches you can stick this thing just about any place. In the photo I have placed it inside a lawn chair bag to demonstrate a concealment tactic. My first choice in a SHTF situation would likely be my Springfield M1A Scout, however, in a real world survival situation (like Katrina) I probably would not be able to walk down the street with it and not attract unwanted attention. This is another area where a side folder AK-74 shines.  It’s compactness affords it to go places that other rifles simply won’t go (small vehicle compartments, gym bags, anywhere that disguises the rifle). In a major disaster situation while you are trying to survive with your family, the best defense is usually to remain the “Gray Man” that nobody notices. Having a concealable, magazine fed, high capacity weapon in a combat caliber that everyone in your group can operate is a real plus.

I give the AK-74 a thumbs up!  What do you think about the AK-47 vs the AK-74? Which would you choose and why? Please leave a comment down below!

This is a guest post authored by Dave Jones, checkout his bio here: http://www.realitysurvival.com/about/contributers/

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18 thoughts on “The AK-47 vs AK-74

  1. Good article, I can find the ammo locally for even cheaper without having to pay shipping, and my local favorite dealer has palettes of this stuff.
    The Mosin is another great for sure, as it is, or even changing out the stock and adding a scope… all very cheap, one of the best for people on a minimum wage budget.
    The concern breaks down to who uses 5.45 in your area. If you are going to have only one or two guns, I’m still of the school of buy what the local military and law enforcement people use. The odds of being able to find the ammo if things get tight are higher, because the volume purchasing power is there for the distributors, aside from the ever known “what if” scenarios common in this community.
    The mixed bag that’s not addressed here for those that may not know… Russian ammo lasts for a really really long time: the primers don’t die so easily over time… but make sure you are ready to clean them right after shooting every time… 5.45 surplus is just as corrosive as the old Mosin ammo. I’ve had a few friends that blew this off and found their barrel pitted next time they went to shoot. Preaching to the choir, but is important for those that don’t know and might be reading this.
    I’ve been really torn lately, but this easily might be my next gun purchase. Can’t beat that ammo price for something bigger/beefier than a .22.

  2. All great points. The Russian surplus ammo is corrosive but this can be taken care of by spraying down the weapon with ammonia (or Windex with ammonia) to deactivate the corrosive properties of the primers followed by a cleaning. There is also plenty of modern ammo on the market that is non-corrosive and still very inexpensive (just not as crazy cheap as the surplus). I actually stockpile the surplus but shoot the Wolf or Silver Bear ammo as it is cheap enough for me. When people compare the price of 7.62×39 Wolf ammo to price of 5.45×39 Wolf ammo it is about the same for a box. What most people don’t realize is that you only get 20 rounds of 7.62×39 in a box but you get 30 rounds of 5.45×39 in a box.
    Also, some people say that the 5.4×395 will be harder to get after a SHTF situation because it is not as common. Perhaps, however, I believe that all ammo will be difficult to get after a SHTF situation. With the price of the 5.45×39 you should be able to stack it plenty deep. Even one or two spam cans (1,080 rounds each) set aside for emergencies should set you up pretty well for any SHTF situation I can imagine.
    Additionally, Honady is also producing 5.45×39 domestically for those concerned about any potential ban on foreign ammunition.
    My first love is my Springfield M1A Scout followed a close second by my M4. That said, my AK-74 gets more range time due to the low price of ammo and the fact that the thing is just a blast to shoot.

  3. Intresting read. If I had to quess it was writen by someone more familure with the AR than the AK family of weapons.
    Several points.
    1st. , ALL models of the Kalashnikov have chrome lined barrels, not just the AK74.
    2nd. The AK 74 is no more reliable than the AK47. Both are more reliable than the M16 family of weapons.
    3rd. Many Russian special operations units still use and prefere to us the 7.62x39mm for combat operations. Due to its superior penitration and stoping power.
    4th, the AK74 varients are require more maintanence than their older brothers in 7.62 due to the corrosiveness of the surplus 5.45 ammo.
    All ammo currently available for the 7.62×39 is non corrosive.
    Magazines are more readly avialable and cheaper for the 7.62. rifles.
    As far as accuracy goes, it is more dependent on the individual rifle than the caliber.
    There is no dought that the 5.45mm rifles are lighter recoiling and this does pose an advantage to recoil sensitive shooter.
    Over all less than impressed with the artical.

  4. Martin,
    Thanks for the feedback. I will let Dave the author of this post answer your points. Just out of curiosity when you have gone out and fired your AK-74 and AK-47’s have you seen a higher number of malfunctions in the AK-74?

  5. Martin,

    Thanks for posting. First off, you are correct, as a career US military and Law Enforcement officer I am much more familiar with the AR family of weapons. This article was meant more to inform the “general” reader on the differences between the two weapons as there is significant confusion between the two by most folks. It was also designed to inform the reader on why it may be a good survival rifle for the general prepper (lower cost of ammo, lower recoil, etc) as compared to a Russian Special Forces trooper. It was not intended to say the AK-47 is a bad platform. With those objectives being in mind, let me respond.

    I never said the AK-47 was not reliable. Obviously it is a highly reliable battle rifle. That said the Soviet military has continued to make modifications to the platform over the years with the creation of the AKM in the 1950’s and the AK-74 in the 1970’s. The AK-74 is the most current version with the most modifications due to lessons learned. That is why the professional militaries issue the AK-74 while third world nations in Africa and Asia issue the AK-74.

    You are correct; some Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces) Units use AK-47’s. That said, some US Special Forces Units also use AK-47’s. That is because Special Forces units often use the weapons of the indigenous forces they are training/serving with. Additionally, Spetsnaz are not your rank and file soldier, they have specialized mission sets. Just as US Special Forces often carry specialized weapons (M-14’s, MP-5, Barret 50 calibers etc) the Spetznas carry modified arsenals as well. When I had an opportunity to work with the Uzbekistani Spetsnaz they were using the AK-74’s. The average prepper looking for advice on this site (Reality Survival) will not have Special Forces training. The article was written for a specific audience.

    The corrosive ammo issue: This is all how I look at it. You can get new production ammo (Wolf, Silver Bear, etc) at a pretty cheap price. If you are OK with cleaning your weapon then you can get the corrosive surplus ammo at insanely cheap prices. The surplus stuff isn’t bad ammo. It is the ammo that our fathers and our grandfathers used. You just have to take care of your weapons like our fathers and grandfathers did. The ammo didn’t go bad; it is the same that it was in the 1970’s. Just take a couple of minutes to clean your weapon and you can save a ton of money. If you are too lazy to do that, then 5.45×39 is still about 40% cheaper than 7.62×39 even if you are shooting new production Wolf. Additionally, the older corrosive surplus ammo will dry up eventually and we will move onto the newer non-corrosive surplus ammo.

    I agree, Mags are cheaper and more available for the AK-47. In fact I stated this in my article. But that said, your “average” prepper does not need a 20 mags.

    I agree, accuracy is dependent on the individual rifle but all things being equal, an AK-74 will always be much more accurate than an equivalent AK-47 because the bullet is much more accurate.

    The AK-47 is a fine weapon, there is no doubt about that. The article was intended to inform the reader about the AK-74 as there was plenty of confusion. In my opinion (and that of the Soviet military) it is a better weapon for the average person. Yes the AK-47 has some power advantages, just as the M-14 has the same advantages over the M-16 that replaced it in the United States a decade earlier. It is the roughly the same argument. But for the general prepper who is looking for an inexpensive, magazine fed weapon with dirt cheap ammo that anyone in their group can operate due to low recoil, the AK-74 makes a lot of sense.

  6. Just to add another note regarding mags: While foreign AK74 mags man be a bit pricey, Tapco just started producing AK-74 mags (10 and 30 rounders) that come in four different colors (black, OG green, flat dark earths, and orange). These mag have good reviews and are reasonable priced around $13 each. I am a fan of the 10 round mag because it allows me the option of storing my side folder AK74 in very small places where the larger 30 rounder would the weapon system too cumbersome.
    http://www.midwayusa.com/product/1116145922/tapco-intrafuse-magazine-ak-74-545x39mm-russian-30-round-polymer

  7. Just avoid all that research and nonsense and get a good quality AR-15 with some quality 55 or 62gr ammo and you will be good! 😉

  8. I like the Ak-74. Its accurate and reliable. But here in Alaska I use the AKM undefoler for stopping power over the Ak74. Just incase A bear comes along and doesnt like me. But my whistle has proved a better deterant..

    Bergmann,
    Alaska USA

  9. This article overlooks the fact that there are now 5.56x45mm NATO chambered AK74 variants available such as semi-auto versions of the Arsenal-Bulgarian SLR106fr, the Russian-Saiga conversion AK101, the Polish Beryl, the Serbian / Yugo M90, and of course the Israeli Galil

  10. Most are aware that 5.45x39mm FMJ will yaw / tumble in tissue.
    See:

    Most aren’t aware that modern (M67 lead core) 7.62x39mm FMJ will also yaw / tumble in soft.
    see:

    Bottom line is both 5.45mm and 7.62 FMJ rounds are effective for self-defense.
    Quality hunting rounds in both 5.45x39mm and 7.62x39mm are available from Hornady.

    If you’re considering an AK in either 5.45mm, 5.56mm, or 7.62mm, its certainly a matter of personal choice.
    The 5.45mm and 5.56mm AK’s will provide a rifle platform that has the accuracy and range of an AR15, but of course with all that nice AK reliability / less maintenance requirements. A quality AK74 platform is a great choice, overall probably a better weapon for tactical self-defense than the older 7.62x39mm AKM.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n98LszJAlTE&list=PL48DB61DC578D8951&index=15&feature=plpp_video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLzMOfCk8yg&list=PL48DB61DC578D8951&index=24&feature=plpp_video

    If you’re looking for a basic self-defense weapon, but is also an effective deer hunting firearm, than the AK in 7.62mm (or even the SKS rifle) is a better choice. Personally, I lean more towards the 7.62mm AK or SKS because of its more utilitarian double duty purpose. That, and I can’t really see ever having to engage a human threat out to 400 or 500 yards, from a legal perspective, it certainly wouldn’t pass the muster in a court of law especially in a temporary SHTF situation like a natural disaster with looters. (Now if the country plunges into a major economic collapse / civil war / and govt collapses or goes rouge / totalitarian that’s a completely different situation.)

    With that being said, even a basic budget AK like Romanian WASR 10-63 (which are known for there relatively poor quality controls and canted sights) are still accurate enough and effective out 300 yards right of the box.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSuAPjw2Jgw&list=PLEC9E573CEBBBE9E5&index=4&feature=plpp_video

  11. Decent article. I own an AK 47 due to availability. My age and eyesight limit my range these days and I prefer knockdown power of the 7.62×39 round. I have a Kalashnikov because it is more rugged, dependable, requires less maintenance and generally just works better. Price is also a major consideration. I can have two of what I have with the same investment for an AR. No offense to AR owners. Why then would I want an AK with a smaller round that is under sized as an AR? Just my opinion having been shot at by many of them, I know what they can do.
    Semper Fi

  12. Dave,
    Great article! The great “which rifle/weapon” debate will never end and is almost always entertaining! You brought attention to one of the most overlooked but certainly vital components when considering a defensive firearm – concealment. Unless zombies are really roaming the streets, one needs to be as discreet (and have knowledge of the law) as possible. Your “Gray Man” idea is not just common sense, but is a “higher level” of thinking in the survival situation. Love the folding chair bag !

  13. Seems to me the AK-47 is better simply due to its superior penetration, especially with steel core bullets which are not prone to tumbling and fragmenting as are 5.56mm and 5.45mm bullets. The AK-74 is supposed to be more reliable from a technical perspective, but there does not appear to be any practical difference in reliability.

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