Which do you prefer the AK-47 or 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:
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:
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?
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.