What is the most important gun when shit hits the fan? I will tell you this right now, it is probably not the answer you are expecting.
Whether you like handguns for their ease of handling and daily carriability, rifles for the range and precision or shotguns for their bone crunching power, you probably aren’t going to get this answer right.
After all, how can we know what is the most important attribute when things get hairy and it is about to go down, as they say? What will the right tool be to do the job? What will be most important?
There are too many permutations of too many situations for us to say for sure. There are simply too many variables, and therein lies your first clue as to what the answer is when considering what is the single most important gun to have when SHTF.
The answer? The most important gun to have when things crack off is the gun you have on you at the moment. That’s it.
Does that seem like a cop-out answer? I promise you, it’s not, even if you showed up at this article wanting my insight and preferences as to my specific weapon of choice.
I’m not leading you on, not really, and I promise I’m going to give you a boatload of information on exactly that topic, along with my reasoning for choosing what I did. But first, I want to drill down to first principles and really get the point across.
Table of Contents
Do What You Can with What You Have
As a lifelong shooter and diligent student of the gun, I have participated in plenty of arguments and argue-sations concerning which gun would be best suited for a particular situation or occurrence.
As far as I’m concerned, is the kind of talk that guys have in the same way that homemakers would have when picking out lamps or pillows to complement a room: There is just something fun about dialing in just right!
But we are talking about consequences that are entirely real.
I know some guys that carry a particular handgun on a particular day of the week for a particular purpose and still keep a long gun or pistol caliber carbine with a brace in the trunk or under the backseat of the truck just in case they run into an active shooter or a school shooter when picking their kids up. This, I think, is overselling the point.
Optimization is fine, and we should always strive towards picking the one, right tool that will serve us the best but ultimately, we will not be the ones that get to pick when an attack or life-threatening situation will be initiated, where it will be initiated or how long the attack will last; The bad guys get to do that.
No Time for Doing Better or Doing Over
Because of this, we find ourselves embroiled in the problem, which will only occur necessarily because we either failed to notice pre-event indicators that could have led to different decision-making procedures that would have precluded us being involved or “stuck in.”
That, or because we could not have detected the event ahead of time and were confronted with it all at once.
Once we are “in,” it is usually too late to reverse out. It is almost invariably too late to improve our position by obtaining better gear, retrieving better weapons or otherwise preparing ourselves and the arena for the event.
This means, of course, that we must solve our particular tactical problem with the gun we have on hand.
If you are carrying a Glock 19 or an M&P, then that is what you get to use even if you have an AR-15 at home. If all you have is a pump action shotgun that is what you had better solve the problem with. That’s all you can do.
Of course, if you are dealing with a slowly broiling, steadily worsening situation of the kind that typically occurs with widespread societal unrest or increasing danger whenever the rule of law is degraded or totally absent, then by all means you might not have an immediate, imminent threat that requires prosecution right there and then and you should definitely obtain more effective weapons that you have on hand for just such an occasion.
But consider that those better guns might not be accessible. You might be totally cut off from them. They might be destroyed by the event that you are currently dealing with. They might even be stolen or looted.
At the end of the day, the only gun you can count on, and the only one that will truly, reliably get you through a bad situation is the one you have on hand at this very moment, even if it is suboptimal.
My Genuine Pick for the Most Important SHTF Gun
Now, I told you that I wasn’t going to scam you and I do indeed have a Very Favorite SHTF Gun for all around preparedness. Without any further ado…
My pick is an AKM or one of its derivatives. For your gun normies I’m talking about the classic AK-47, and will broadly refer to it as such going forward for ease of communication.
Why an AK-47 or similar rifle over all the other newer and ostensibly better ones on the market today?
Bottom line up front: The AK-47 still delivers the best possible combination of reliability, resistance to abuse, ease of maintenance, user friendliness and availability out of any of the modern rifles that we have access to.
Also, there is no better rifle whatsoever for use in bitterly cold weather that is a common feature where I live.
Not for nothing the classic 7.62x39mm cartridge offers an ideal combination of affordability, power, reasonable range and effectiveness against a variety of materials.
Against a soft target 5.56mm is generally a better bet when it comes to pure lethality, and it is definitely softer shooting, but I have grown to respect the performance of 7.62 against automobile body work and glass as well as lighter building materials.
I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two thanks to spending part of my career as an infantryman in the United States Army.
Believe me when I tell you that this is an informed decision even if it is one that is slightly heretical among my peers who are all died in the wool M4 or M16 guys (read: AR shooters) who consider the AK and its derivatives clunky, inefficient and generally just the gun of the bad guys.
However, in 20 years no one will remember what kind of gun you liked or used. They will only remember if you are alive or dead, and I plan on living through any catastrophe come hell or high water, and I know the AK can get me there.
If you want to get the real insider scoop on why the AKM and its derivatives are my choice for the one, true SHTF gun, grab your notebook and keep reading because you’re about to get a master class on it!
Why Should You Listen to Me
For those of you who haven’t read many of my articles, Reaper is my pen name (for my privacy). I’ve served a combined service of over five years in the U.S. Army as an Infantryman.
My profession revolves around weapons, as my job title literally states “to close with, engage, and destroy the enemy”.
Naturally, because of this, I know enough about weapons through my training (and through extended research) to be able to give you quality advice.
I’ve worked with many weapons in the Infantry such as the:
- M2 .50 caliber
- M249 SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon)
- M240B (and M240L, M240H)
- M9, M17 (new Sig P320 sidearm)
- Various grenades (lethal, and non-lethal)
- M24 SWS
- M2010 ESR
- M14 EBR
- AK-47 (unqualified, as it’s not a U.S. Military service weapon)
- SVD “Dragunov” (unqualified, as it’s not a U.S. Military service weapon)
- And many more
Every weapon I’ve listed above, I’ve personally qualified with, or fired in a controlled environment. The reason I’m telling you this, is because it shows you that I’m not some random blogger who looks at the first page of an internet search and gives you half-assed advice.
I’ll never feed you worthless information, you are in good hands!
Enough about me, let’s get to the rifle. Some of you may disagree with me, but you’re entitled to your opinion.
Why You Should Pick the AK-47
The AK-47 is hands down, the most versatile, durable, and reliable semi-auto (or full-auto if you can legally own one) weapon system on today’s market.
For those of you who are partial to the AR platform, you more than likely haven’t worked around the AK-47 very often.
I was once partial to AR platforms myself, because I was issued an M4A1 (which is an AR platform).
Once I was exposed to working with AK-47’s, however, I learned just how valuable they really are for multiple uses. In this article, I’ll break down the AK-47 and show you why it’s easily the most important gun to own as a prepper.
History of the AK-47
The “AK” in AK-47 stands for “Avtomat Kalashnikova”, roughly translating to “Automatic Kalashnikov”.
A common misconception of this name is that it was invented by a man named Avtomat Kalashnikova. This is very inaccurate, as the word “Avtomat” means “automatic” in the Azerbaijani dialect (Russian).
The word “Kalashnikova” is dedicated to the man who invented the rifle, as his name is Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov. The added “a” on the end of the word is showing possession like the English language example of “Ben’s”.
Mikhail was born in 1919 to a very poor family, and was forced to join the Red Army in 1938 at the age of 19. He was very talented with his mechanical abilities, so because he was small and smart with mechanics, he was assigned as a tank mechanic.
He was injured in 1941 during WWII, and was granted a few years of recovery time due to the seriousness of the injury. He used his recovery time from his injury to work on designs for a new rifle the Soviet Army could use.
These designs would eventually be rejected by the Soviet Army, but his superiors noticed his gift with weapon development. He was then reassigned to a weapon design group, and worked his way up to the rank of lieutenant-general.
He quickly became a well-known weapon designer for the Soviets, and entered a secret contest to develop a new battle rifle for the Red Army in 1945.
During this contest, he began designing a new revolutionary rifle that took two years to complete.
In 1947, he submitted the AK-47 (given its name from the year it was born, the automatic capability, and the man who designed it).
The same year, he learned that the weapon had been accepted by the USSR, and would begin mass production.
- In 1949, the AK-47 was officially adopted by the USSR and was issued to military members around the Union.
- In 1956, the Chinese cloned the AK-47 and renamed it the “Type 56” for use with their own army.
- In 1959, the AKM is made as a clone of the AK-47. The only difference between the two rifles, is the stamped metal receiver compared to the original milled receiver. This makes the rifle cost a lot less than the original layout of the weapon, making it easier to continue mass production.
- In 1974, the AK-74 is produced as a lighter, less recoil 5.45×39 cartridge rifle.
As you can see, the AK-47 has an extensive history in the world of firearms. The only weapon that’s remained almost unchanged for military members since its production is the M2, also known as the “Ma-Deuce”.
Countries all over the world have since adopted the AK platform as their own service weapons, and sadly, a majority of terrorist organizations have done the same as well.
Why the AK-47?
This magnificent weapon has been used in almost every major worldly conflict since 1950. While they were invented in 1947, they didn’t really reach the worldly market until the early 1950’s.
Once they finally did reach the market, however, they took the world by storm. Almost every country (minus a few wealthy countries) adopted the AK platform in their own respective models or adaptations.
The AK-47 is known mostly for being an incredibly durable rifle. During the Russian-backed conflict with Afghanistan in the 1980’s, the Soviets ended up abandoning a lot of equipment when they were embarrassingly defeated by a much lower-funded adversary (Afghan villagers, along with some militia).
No one could have predicted the kind of nightmare these abandoned weapons would have inflicted in the later years of Islamic extremism.
The Afghan villagers, turned extremist, dug up some of the caches of weapons left over by the soviets almost a decade later and they still worked.
They would later end up using these same weapons in the Global War on Terror, which is still a pain in the ass for most peacekeeping nations around the world.
While the use of the leftover AK-47s is horrific, it goes to show their incredible durability in even the most extreme of environments.
While being buried in sand and mud, being rained on, and drove over, they still function. While they may not function as well as they first did after their original production, they still functioned.
AK-47s are incredibly resistant to elements, due to their particular design. The gas piston operation system enables the weapon to fire even with massive carbon buildup from lack of cleaning, as well as dirt buildup.
AR models have a bad reputation of malfunctions, some of which are almost borderline asinine. I’ve personally had my M4A1 malfunction on me because (due to my neglect) I left my dust cover open while on a movement where we encountered a dust storm.
Once dirt got in my bolt carrier, it wouldn’t lock in place correctly in the star chamber. I have never once had this issue with an AK-47.
A common misconception with AK-47s, is that they aren’t very customizable. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as AK-47s are incredibly customizable.
While they aren’t as interchangeable as their AR competition, they still offer a wide variety of customizations, enough to keep your AK-47 above the rest.
One down side to customizing an AK-47, is their parts can become costly, as most trusted AK part companies cost more than AR parts.
A standard AK-47 will run you between $650-$750, with the automatic AKs running between $1,000-$2000 (depending on where you get it).
Many companies also make their own versions of the AK-47, giving them a more tactical look compared to the wood parts you’ll see on standard AK-47s.
You don’t necessarily need a fully automatic AK-47, because your accuracy will quickly diminish with longer bursts of fire. I always recommend semi-automatic firearms while using the “control pair” method of firing (think “double tap”).
You’ll rarely buy a weapon for just the looks, you want to make sure that whatever gun you buy will have multiple uses. The AK-47 is my go-to rifle because it’s considered the durable Jack of all trades.
While you may not be able to use it as a sniper rifle or concealed carry, you can use it for basically everything else.
The 7.62×39 round is incredibly devastating for most large game you’ll encounter on your hunting expedition. While I wouldn’t recommend relying on this round to take down a full-grown grizzly bear, it could do the trick with a well-placed shot.
Accuracy is important for hunting any game, but this round can easily take down a full-grown moose with a well-placed shot. All other game is almost no match in distances less than 200 yards.
While that may not seem like a long way, it’s two football fields long. That’s quite the distance!
Odds are, not many of you are in the same caliber as a sniper anyway, so if you’re shooting at game further than 300 yards, you need to reevaluate your priorities (and possibly your common sense).
If you want to use your AK-47 for hunting, you’ll definitely want to use an optic to help increase your accuracy. Most people have a difficult time adapting to the iron sights that come with the AK platform if it’s their first time owning one.
This particular use is exactly why I highly recommend the AK-47. If you spend enough time honing your accuracy with this rifle, there are no living men alive that can walk away from a few well-placed rounds of 7.62×39.
If SHTF and you’re encountered with looters wearing body armor, no need to worry. Most ballistic plates are only rated up to 7.62×39. Although it may seem like this rating will keep them completely safe, that’s far from the truth.
Most ballistic plates are engineered to crack upon impact to help disperse the force of energy from the round, allowing the user to continue fighting.
This enables you to penetrate their armor with multiple well-placed rounds in succession to the same area (or you could use armor penetrating rounds).
Disclaimer – Survival Sullivan, its employees, and the writer of this article are not liable for misuse of this information resulting in serious bodily harm or death. Please operate firearms responsibly.
This type of ammunition is absolutely devastating compared to a 5.56×45 (similar to the .223) round. The 7.62×39 round is similar to a .308 Win (7.62×51), so imagine having a Remington 700 (or 770) .308 Win that has semi-auto capabilities with a 30+ round magazine.
For you hunters out there, you know what I mean when I say the devastation is incredible. Tip – NEVER chamber a .308 Win round inside of an AK-47 that is chambered in 7.62×39. You run an incredible risk of seriously damaging the rifle, as well as injuring yourself.
Most people worry about the cost of 7.62×39 ammunition, but it’s really not terrible if bought in bulk. At 20-cents per round (if bought in bulk), the price of 7.62×39 is hardly a nuisance.
If you do buy an AK-47, I highly recommend buying your ammunition in bulk. I wouldn’t worry too much about comparing soft-tip ammunition to FMJ ammunition.
Preppers who use the term “stopping power” and advise you to get soft-tip ammo are more than likely amateurs who know very little about ballistics.
FMJ ammunition is highly effective for most uses of the AK-47 (although I would recommend soft-tip for big game).
I’ll break it down very simply, the entrance wound will be roughly the same size as the round itself, but the internal damage and exit wound will be almost five times larger.
This is due to the amount of pressure that is compressed by the bodily tissue surrounding the bullet itself.
Since a body (of all mammals) is primarily made of water, it doesn’t compress well, so the tissue that compresses and slows the round blows out with the round itself through the exit wound.
It’s almost like a miniature explosion inside of the wound itself. This is why the 7.62×39 FMJ is still very devastating, as the large round paired with the force that it penetrates with creates chaos inside of whatever body part the round hits.
Basic Round Ballistics
With any round you consider purchasing, you’ll want a basic rundown on the ballistics. I won’t go too in-depth, because I’ll just lose you in the process. The following information is the basic ballistics of a 7.62×39 (123 grain) round.
- Muzzle Velocity – 2,352fps (feet per second)
- 500 Yard Velocity – 1,123fps
- Initial Bullet Energy – 1,525ft.lb (pressure in which the round causes on impact)
- 300 Yard Bullet Energy – 630ft.lb
- 500 Yard Bullet Energy – 353ft.lb
- Efficient Range – 200 Yards
- Max Effective Range – 400 Yards
To break it down, bullet energy is the closest thing to “stopping power” you should be concerned with.
It basically means that when the round initially leaves the muzzle, it has the same amount of force associated with it, as a 1,525lb brick the size of a foot hitting you. While it’s not literal, it’s the closest explanation I can give you.
“Max effective range” doesn’t mean the maximum range that a 7.62×39 round can travel, as these rounds can reach past 1,000 yards.
It simply means that you will more than likely not hit anything, or hit effectively past 400 yards.
Since this round drops roughly 27-inches (depending on environmental factors) past 300 yards, it’s not recommended that you shoot past 400 yards.
“Efficient range” means that this is the range that you are recommended to engage targets at, or closer. While it doesn’t have as much range as its 5.56×45 counterpart, it does present much more energy at closer range than the 5.56×45 does.
Most of the time, you won’t be engaging targets over 300 yards. If you do, you can easily evade, or flank them to escape or gain advantageous range.
There are multiple factors that can have an effect on bullet ballistics like:
- Earth curvature (greater than 1,000 yards for sufficient effects, usually)
- Barometric pressure
Due to this, nothing is exact with bullet ballistics except muzzle velocity, as this measures the velocity of the round as soon as it leaves the muzzle of the rifle.
Don’t get too wrapped up on the “distance” argument with a rifle, unless it’s a hunting/sniper rifle. You won’t be using an AK-47 as a sniper rifle, just like you wouldn’t use a standard AR-15 as a sniper rifle (hopefully).
Most preppers worry about what’s called “round availability”, and rightfully so. You’ll want to make sure you can easily find the ammunition associated with your rifle should you need to scavenge for more ammo if SHTF.
Rest assured, there will more than likely be 7.62×39 rounds on your expedition, especially if you live in a “gun-friendly” area. With that being said, I would still buy ammo in bulk, and stockpile it just in case.
How the AK-47 Works
The AK-47 is incredibly well-engineered, even the original models. The incredible ingenuity, paired with durable parts, makes the AK-47 stand above the rest of the rifles in its class.
In this segment, I’ll break down the operation cycle that happens while you fire each round through the rifle.
I’m not going to use boring “gun jargon” throughout this section, as most of my readers don’t have time to research all of these terms.
Instead, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll break it down so everybody of all backgrounds can understand it. If you’re a weapon enthusiast like me, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this.
The safety/selector switch is located directly below the ejection port of the AK-47, where the round is ejected after firing.
It’s sort of a long, flat metal piece that runs along length-wise of the weapon with raised edges to allow your forefinger on your shooting hand to operate it (if they’re long enough).
When it’s all the way up, it is on safe. This also acts as a dust cover of sorts, preventing debris from entering the weapon itself.
When you push it down one click, it will be in the semi-auto configuration, allowing you to fire one round per trigger squeeze. Most AK-47s you can buy on the civilian market will only have the semi-auto capability.
If you have the proper licensing (or know somebody who can acquire you one), you can acquire an AK-47 with full-auto capability.
These rifles will allow you to push the safety/selector switch down twice for different firing functions.
The full-auto capable AK-47s will allow you to push the safety/selector switch down once for full-auto, and all the way down (twice) for semi-auto.
On any model, push the safety/selector switch all the way up to configure it in the “safe” position. Make sure you don’t force the safety/selector switch too hard upward, or you could break the switch itself.
Gas Piston Operation
The AK-47 is, by all definition, a gas piston operated rifle. This means that when you fire a round through the rifle, the round pushes gas out of the barrel (like any firearm), then some of the gas is caught through a small tube directly above the barrel.
The gas is then compressed in a small chamber above the barrel, then the pressure that’s built up forces the piston backwards (toward you) to allow the round to be ejected, and a new round to be loaded into the chamber.
There are eight cycles of function with the AK-47, so I’ll quickly break them down for you:
- Feeding – the round is fed from the magazine by the bolt.
- Chambering – the round that was fed from the magazine is now chambered in its position by the bolt.
- Locking – the bolt is then locked into position by rotating in place inside of the chamber, thus allowing the round to stay in place.
- Firing – the trigger is squeezed, releasing the “hammer” from its locked position above the trigger. The “hammer” is then quickly forced onto the rear end of the firing pin behind the bolt, forcing the firing pin to strike the primer of the round. Then, the round is quickly ejected from the casing from the combustion and pressure of the gunpowder inside of the round. The gasses then push the round from the barrel, and some of the gasses are then trapped in a small gas tube located above the barrel.
- Unlocking – the trapped gasses in the gas tube then force the piston back, unlocking the expended round casing from its locked position inside of the chamber.
- Extracting – the round is then extracted from its locked position inside of the chamber, and the rear edge of the casing is forced back towards a “catch” near the ejection port.
- Ejecting – the rear edge of the round then catches the piece near the ejection port, and is ejected from the rifle.
- Cocking – the piston is then forced forward by a spring located in the rear of the rifle, starting the cycles of function over again.
With each cycle of function, there are multiple parts that are at work, so there is some risk of a malfunction.
If you can narrow down what cycle of function the rifle is malfunctioning with, you can fix the problem. This is why it’s important to know how each and every one of your firearms operates.
In the video below, the animation shows you internally how the cycles of function look when you are operating the AK-47.
The gas piston operation system works a lot better than the regular gas operation system that ARs follow.
This is because (basically) the piston relies on less pressure from the round itself, and utilizes the piston system as well to operate the weapon.
Don’t believe me? Buy a box of blank ammunition for your AR and for your AK, and tell me which one fires multiple rounds in succession without a blank firing adapter.
AK’s used to be saddled with a pitiful selection of poorly thought out, poorly designed and shoddily made accessories owing to its ComBloc origins and lack of popularity in the West.
Thanks to a resurgence and popularity and GunCulture 2.0 that is no longer the case!
The modern AK and its derivatives can be as highly refined and accessorized as any AR or competing rifle. In this section we will explain the thought process behind these upgrades and give you some examples.
Another popular modification for the AK is to install a rail system on top of the receiver and in place of standard handguards. This allows you to mount optics, lasers, and other accessories to the rifle.
There are many different types of rails available in different sizes and configurations to fit your needs. I recommend this because you can add a foregrip onto the rifle itself, thus assisting you with versatility and accuracy.
The grip is an often overlooked, but important part of the rifle. It is your interface with the weapon and how you hold it affects all aspects of shooting.
There are many types of grips available for the AK, from traditional wooden pistol grips to modern tactical polymer grips.
Which one you choose depends on personal preference and what type of shooting you will be doing. If you are primarily a bench shooter, then a traditional wood grip may be best for you.
However, if you are going to be running and gunning or using your AK in close quarters combat (CQB), then a more ergonomic tactical grip would be better suited for that purpose.
Buttstocks come in many shapes and sizes, and can be made from a variety of materials.
The most popular type of buttstock for the AK is the fixed stock, which is very robust and durable. However, it can be somewhat uncomfortable to shoot with over long periods of time.
A collapsible or adjustable stock can help remedy this issue by allowing you to adjust the length of pull to fit your body size and shooting stance. There are also many different types of cheek risers available to raise the comb height if needed.
I always recommend having a foregrip attachment on any assault rifle, because it takes away the temptation of holding the magazine as a grip when the SHTF.
While it doesn’t have to necessarily be a foregrip (it can be an angled grip, or whatever you prefer), it’s important to never be tempted to hold your magazine.
“Magazine holders” are amateur shooters who more likely than not have terrible accuracy. There are some exceptions to this, but a vast majority of the time, you’ll greatly reduce your accuracy if you use your magazine as a grip.
The muzzle of the AK can be fitted with a variety of devices to help tame recoil and improve accuracy. These include compensators, flash hiders, and sound suppressors. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks that you will need to consider before making a decision.
Ultimak Sight Mount
If you’re looking to add an aftermarket sight on your AK-47, you’ll need a sight mount. AKs don’t come with picatinny rails at all when they’re stock, this is one major downfall of them.
No worries, Ultimak has developed a great sight mount that sits lower than other sight mounts, offering a highly compatible sight mount for your cheek to stock weld.
Other sight mounts sit a little higher, forcing you to keep your cheek off of the buttstock. This will cause your accuracy to diminish greatly, as you always want to keep a proper cheek to stock weld.
The standard sights that come on most AK’s are adequate for close range combat, but may not be suitable for longer distance shooting.
Luckily there are many different types of aftermarket sights available that can give you better accuracy at extended ranges. These include adjustable aperture sights, red dot sights, and telescopic sights.
While the brand isn’t extremely important, I always highly recommend Eotech, or Trijicon. This is because these are the brands I’ve worked with the most.
I have rarely had issues with these sights, unless it was due to my own neglect (I’m not very gentle with my gear).
I’ve found that both of these sight brands hold their zero very well through rapid firing, and I love their interface. Although you will more than likely spend anywhere from $450-$750 for a decent sight, you’ll love it for sure.
This should be common sense, but some people forget to add a sling to their rifle. This is a major mistake, as they offer a quick way to secure your weapon if you need to use your hands for something. I recommend a two-point sling.
This allows you to secure your weapon closer to your body, should you need to detain somebody, or catch yourself from a fall.
There are multiple other attachments (or accessories) that you could add to your AK-47, but these are the ones that I would recommend that you look at first.
Remember, every attachment you add will add weight to the weapon itself. The AK-47 itself weighs roughly 9.5lbs empty, and 10.9lbs with a 30-round magazine loaded.
You can see why weight reduction might be something that you’ll want to pay attention to. Carrying around 11lbs may not seem like it’s a lot, but it will add up quickly over long distances.
Cleaning Your AK-47
With any firearm, you’ll want to make sure you clean it to ensure proper functionality for future uses. I won’t get too in-depth with cleaning your weapon, but I will add a few suggestions when cleaning your AK-47.
Make sure you conduct proper research on how to take apart the AK-47 so you don’t damage any parts, and so you properly put it back together. The following items are essential for at-home cleaning of your AK-47 (pick and choose which items to place in your BOB).
- Q-Tips – these are essential for cleaning carbon, or debris from inside smaller spaces that your fingers and a cloth can’t reach.
- Rem-Oil – I am a firm believer in Rem-Oil (Remington Oil). This is due to its ability to break up carbon, as well as keep the weapon lubricated for smoother operation.
- Frog Lube – this is a veteran-owned company (former Navy and Navy SEALS) that makes a fantastic lube that breaks down carbon even better than Rem-Oil (at a much larger cost). I also love the minty smell that it has as well.
- Rag – any old sock (cut up), or t-shirt will work for this. You’ll want at least two of them for each weapon. One rag for wiping the major carbon breakdown from the lube, and one to apply a light coat of clean lube to the major components. Tip – don’t apply lube to any parts that aren’t metal, as it can eat away at other non-metallic parts.
- Bore Snake – this genius invention acts as a mop for your barrel. Simply apply a light coat of CLP or lube to the inside of the barrel, then feed the bore snake down the tube in the same direction that the round travels through it.
- Wire Brush – This brush will help break down carbon build up that lube can’t break down.
- Soft Brush – this brush helps reduce dirt and dust build up to the outside of your weapon.
- Dental Picks – these are incredibly useful to remove carbon build up in extremely small spaces.
While there are other items that you can use for cleaning your AK-47, these are the minimum items I recommend for deep cleaning your rifle to ensure great future use, and to prolong the life of the weapon itself.
AK-47s are less picky when it comes to cleanliness, as they can operate will major buildup (unlike AR models), but you should still clean them when you can.
Sadly, there are a few areas (or states) that won’t allow an AK-47. Since I’m not a lawyer, I won’t even try to act like I can list every single area that won’t allow an AK-47.
I will say, however, that you need to research your specific area, or any area that you may travel to. Don’t leave it to chance, make sure you are legally in the right to have, or own an AK-47 before you purchase one.
I will never advise you to conduct illegal activity, especially with firearms. Whatever you do, it’s ultimately your decision.
Most areas require you to own a special license for fully-automatic rifles, so make sure you follow the proper channels to acquire one if necessary. Not all AK-47s are fully-automatic, as the market has adapted for firearm owners to be able to own them as well. A semi-auto AK-47 will work just fine, don’t worry.
This is key when you operate any type of firearm, but it’s especially key with the AK-47. These weapons are incredibly reliable and durable, but only if you follow the proper safety steps that I’ve listed below:
- Keep your finger off the trigger, until you’re ready to fire.
- Never point your weapon at anything you don’t intend to kill.
- Assume every weapon you handle is loaded.
- Never take the weapon off safety until you’re ready to fire.
- Never handle firearms while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This may seem pretty basic, but there are thousands of firearm deaths each year around the world due to negligence. Negligent discharges are inexcusable, and are never accidents.
While there are some incidents where a weapon will discharge if it hits the ground hard enough (in the right spot), that is not classified as a negligent discharge. If you ND, you have no reason to be handling firearms.
Cleanliness is also very important to help prevent accidental discharges, or malfunctions. Make sure you regularly clean your firearm after every use, or after prolonged storage.
This will help prevent buildup inside of your weapon, which can possibly cause your weapon to malfunction, or fire unintentionally.
Will You Get One?
The AK-47 is hands down, the single most important weapon to own as a prepper. We as preppers pride ourselves in our knowledge, and equipment.
The AK-47 is easily the most durable, versatile, and reliable semi-automatic rifle on the market. For this reason alone, it’s the rifle that every serious prepper should own (on top of a shotgun, long-range rifle, and handgun).
Due to its many uses, it should be a major priority of a firearm to own, if you can afford it.
Many preppers base their knowledge off of facts, and hate to hear opinion-based articles. I agree 100%, that’s why I’ll throw a few facts at you. You may not yet trust me if you’re a new reader, but facts won’t lie to you.
Fact – AK-47s have a higher survivability rating with mud, dirt, shock, and water (and torture tests) than their AR competition.
Fact – 7.62×39 ammunition has more initial energy than 5.56×45 (.223) ammunition does, giving the 7.62×39 ammo more power when it impacts its target up to 100 yards (but significantly less after 200 yards).
Fact – AK-47s have significantly less malfunction reports/reviews than AR-15s do.
Fact – Gas piston operation systems are proven to be more effective with rapid rates of fire compared to gas operation systems as a standalone system.
Fact – AK-47s are highly customizable, contrary to popular belief that you can’t add very much to the platform, and you’re forced to use what comes with the stock model.
Fact – 7.62×39 has a higher ballistic rating for internal damage of a body cavity than the 5.56×45 (.223) round for up to 100m.
The main reason I wrote this article, is because I’m sick and tired of “writers” or “experts” on the internet claiming to know the best weapon for you.
I’ve read many articles on this, but they can’t really give me a good reason why their included weapon is the best. For this reason, I decided to combine facts, along with extensive research, and personal experiences with the weapon to feed you ample information as to why you should really look into the AK-47.
If you’re partial to the AR platform, simply go to a shooting range where they allow you to rent firearms, and put a few rounds through an AK.
After a few sessions, you’ll be able to see for yourself why thousands of people around the world are trading in their AR for an AK. Who knows, you may still prefer the simplicity of an AR, and that’s totally okay.
I just want to give you another option, because sticking with one weapon forever is asinine.
Hopefully I provided all of you with enough information to really understand almost every aspect of the AK-47. Since I’m only human, I can also forget some things.
If there’s something you wish to tell other readers about why you love the AK-47, go ahead and leave a comment below! The prepping community is a great networking source for people like yourself to share knowledge and advice!
All I ask, is that what you comment is fact-based. Nobody wants to read five paragraphs from somebody who hates the AK because it malfunctioned due to you probably not taking care of it properly.
Stay safe! – Reaper.
last update: 02/27/2022
I’m an active-duty infantryman with the U.S. Army, and I’ve served a combined-service of over 5 years. Throughout my career, I’ve learned various survival techniques, as well as self-defense techniques. I specialize in weapons, long-range reconnaissance, distance shooting, and long-term isolation survival. I’m a very conservative, very “to the point” kind of person.
40 thoughts on “AK-47: The Most Important Gun for SHTF”
Sound reasoning for both choice and what to look for. If you live in countries where owning military rounds is against the law, that choice can cost you if caught.
The 9mm is an extremely easy round to find for sale. Stock up for both future and present needs, no guarantees it will be around forever.
Too many assumptions in your article to make it valid. 12-ga shotgun rounds are even more common than 9-mm rounds. Cheaper, too.
The fact that one man made a 1000-yd shot with a pistol carries no weight with the the millions of people who can’t make that shot. That is no reason to forsake a long-barrelled gun for a pistol.
You say that the need to use a gun will be unexpected. That’s just another assumption. I can think of many instances in which the need can be seen in advance and so can you.
Let’s see you kill a flying dove or goose with a pistol. Only a one-in-a-million expert like Miculek can make that shot.
If I’m going to face down a mob of rioters/looters a shotgun is more intimidating, more powerful and more effective.
A pistol has only one advantage: the ability to hide it. A shotgun has far more advantages.
I’m going to disagree with you Mr. Gray on the “If I’m going to face down a mob of rioters/looters a shotgun is more intimidating, more powerful and more effective.” statement. Or, at least the spirit of it, because there is no doubt that a shotgun is more powerful and versatile than a pistol.
Your shotgun, stock, only holds 5 rounds, maybe 8 if you got the extended magazine tube. Your Pistol, stock, holds 17 rounds, or 30 if you get an extended magazine. And frankly, against a MOB of people, what you really want is an escape route. If you’re going to try and fight them off, you’re going to need a rifle, because 5 shotgun rounds isn’t enough, and 17 pistol rounds have inferior stopping power (as compared to a long gun).
As for a shotgun being more intimidating, I’d say that having any gun pointed at you is plenty intimidating. I doubt a person that would ignore a pistol pointed at them would suddenly stop for a shotgun.
Your pistol may old 17 or 30 rounds but each “round” of 12 ga buckshot carries 9 pellets of equal size. 8×9 is 72 lead balls down range as opposed to 30 and fired at a much higher rate of speed. The fact is that a shotgun sends more lead down range faster than any other gun.
As far as the “conceal ability” factor. I also carry a concealed handgun on a daily basis but, if we were WROL I would definitely be walking down the street with a long gun.
Well I would have to disagree with you about the intimidation factor. To be honest if a person was pointing a 9 at me from short distance I may try to take it from them. There is a good chance they will miss as if i remember even trained LEO miss at short distance about 40% of the time and an untrained person about 70% of the time. The other factor is that unlike in the movies a single shot from that 9 is not likely to kill or stop a charging man with one round. A 12 gauge at the same distance is going to give someone a better hit ratio and a load of buckshot from 10 feet is a sure man stopper. I might try the hand gun but not the shotgun. JMHO
Sorry Mr. Gray, I cannot find shotgun ammo that is cheaper than 9mm…At 15 cents per round.
And I can find 9mm anywhere I find shot shells.
I also disagree with your ill thought out assessment regarding the use of handguns.
I keep a 9mm for home defense because it is far more maneuverable than a long gun.
I can guarantee just as bad a time for anyone in front of my nine as my 12 Ga.
I carry open anyway, so concealment is a non-issue.
Facing down a mob with my nine wouldn’t be the worst thing that ever happened to me.
Although a shotgun has a lot going for it, it is still limited in maneuverability, speed and number of rounds.
That said, I would never advise anyone to pass up either for the other.
My view is a good pump and a semi-auto nine make a good companion pair.
A Russian or Yugoslavian AK 47 is my choice for these reasons-
Will not jammed
Effective range about 300 meters
I agree the handgun is best for self defense but the shotgun is more versatile for survival, I think the semi auto handgun out ways the revolver for personal defense but for an all around defense and survival handgun I would choose the Smith and Wesson Governor or the Taurus Judge, the capability of using multiple ammunition types makes it perfect for SHTF scenarios, you could defend yourself with the .45 caliber round or hunt small game with the shotgun shell capability and in the event you could get close enough even larger game with the .45 rounds, all of this would be in that SHTF case, for every day carry I choose the 9mm double stack handgun because of capacity mine holds 17 and because 9mm is the most common used round making it easier to obtain ammo when it becomes hard to find.
hello. my name is Glenn and I am a ceritified USCCA instructor. while the trend is to lean towards semi-autos, I have to disagree. a revolver is a more versatile handgun and can be used with ammo loaded to varying power levels. what if you have to load your own and must stretch the powder supply, the revolver will still work, the semi-auto will not. a good medium frame 357 mag will handle 38specials, be them wadcutters or +p’s plus full power 357 loads. and you could have that gun with a short barrel for concealment. with an exposed hammer spur, you can take carefully aimed shots, or shoot quick double action shots. if you loosed your magazines, you have a semi-auto single shot, or, an auto ejecting single shot. but a revolver does not need any device to load the cylinder. it is nice to have them but the gun will still function without them.
Glenn, as another CCW instructor for the past 21 years, I agree with you. Except that I daily carry a “semi” but my backup home defense rests with the 357 Colt Trooper special and a 12 ga. pump operated Winchester Model ’97 as backup.
For those who do not know: the Model ’97 was known back in the WWI days as a “Trench Gun”, used to “clean out the enemies trenches. Germany filed a “formal complaint” against the USA and attempted to stop US Forces from using it. [We laughed at that.] It was THAT effective.
Once fired all the operator had to do was hold the trigger fully back and pump in the next shell, it will immediately fire that round.
I’ve breached a lot of doors using that slam fire method
To each his own. Yes, I have a S&W 9mm, a few long guns, and shotguns. For everyday carry, it’s a S&W snubby 38 for me. No messing with racking, just pull and shoot. Also, very small and light, can actually hide uner a loose tee shirt. If I’m in need of more than 5 rds in an emergency situation, I’m in a world of hurt. Break into my house, and you’ll meet the 9, the pump shotgun, or a 30 round ‘clip’ of 5.56. Depends which room I’m in.
There are several things to consider 1) in a real world situation it is what you have with you at the time that can make a difference . Somehow i do not think that you will be able to carry a shotgun around with you on your person and not end up in jail as they are rather hard to conceal .2) as to type of ammo weather you choose a 9mm a or a 40 s & w the second factor is the LEO’s what type of common ammo do they use as it will also be available .and what you train with !! if you have little or no problem shooting a 45 cal the a 40 / 9 becomes quite easier to handle. with a S.H.T.F. YOU ARE LIMITED FIRST TO WHAT YOU CARRY LEGALLY! Then to what and when you can upgrade to even more firepower !!
check out double tap ammo they have a round that packs 2 bullets in each cartridge .
Jerry Miculek is definitely a great shooter, one of the best of all time. He did show the bullet impact on the steel plate that was backing the balloon in its place, which was quite a bit off center from the size and location of the balloon. I would say it was the bullet “spray” on impact that actually broke the balloon. Nevertheless, hitting the plate with a 9mm at that distance is a terrific shot. I attend water balloon shoots on a monthly basis. Last year they had a special event of a 1″ dia. ball hung by a piece of fish line at 100 yds. I paid to take 5 shots at it with my Thompson/Center Contender in .223 caliber. I hit it on the 4th shot from the OFFHAND shooting position. I’m the only one that hit the ball with a handgun, few have done it with a rifle, myself being one. Don’t know if I’ll live long enough to do it again.
Kind of ironic how you mentioned(Jerry/Bob)since they did it with Revolver’s
A buddy of mine has a Chinese Military AK-47 that has been stored in his gun game for 12-14 yrs. There is rust formed inside the barrel from the muzzle down. He’s looking forward solution to clean out the rest without having to take it to a gunsmith. Any ideas to recommend.???
Poops, gun case.
A very well written article and I found it very informative. Does tend to alter my thinking a little.
For a much better history of the AK, read The Gun
I’d take an AK over an AR any day. I had the displeasure to be issued the AR. Using it off the range proved how poor the gas system is. That said, I’d take an SKS over an AK any day ( logistically superior in an apocalypse when the ammo factories close ).
One more thing. Remember how quickly 762x54R went from Dirt Cheap to overpriced? If you plan on depending on a gun that uses imported ammo, don’t buy the gun until you can buy all its ammo at the same time. The importation can stop at any time for any reason.
Thanks for creating an article that you clearly worked very hard on. I will give the AK another look. I did not know a FMJ’s ballistics were such. To read most authors, it simply punches a hole caliber sized all the way through. Thanks for that extremely relevant information.
I don’t own an AR now, choosing for a number of reasons to get a Mini-14. Have read lots of arguments against that choice. Don’t care. I figure if someone is sufficiently outraged at my choice, they can request my address and ship me one on their dime.
“To break it down, bullet energy is the closest thing to “stopping power” you should be concerned with. It basically means that when the round initially leaves the muzzle, it has the same amount of force associated with it, as a 1,525lb brick the size of a foot hitting you. While it’s not literal, it’s the closest explanation I can give you.”
Umm, that is a very ridiculous way to describe what 1,525 ft/lbs of force is.
A 3/4-ton brick the size of a foot hitting you? The size of whose foot? At what velocity? You need to look this up to define it better.
Ft/lb energy is the energy transferred upon applying a force of one pound-force (lbf) through a linear displacement of one foot. One foot as in 12 inches.
Can anyone recommend what to use to remove rust from inside the barrel of an AK without having to take it to a gunsmith. ???
Use a common gun cleaning kit and if it is just surface rust in the barrel, consider firing a round trough it?
I have done that before, when the gun sit for a long time between being fired.
Good article on this weapon. As long as you keep your weapon clean it will serve you well.
Hey Reaper bad ass. You ‘literally’ need to read the opinions of your article on AR15.
The article was originally published here, so please write your counter-arguments here.
Is the AK-47 a great gun? Yes it is. Is the 7.62×39 a good, intermediate cartridge, better than the .223/5.56 NATO? Yes is is. Is this gun and ammo the “best choice” for survival purposes? Not really. Having one is good, having ONLY this is not so good.
1) All those pros of the AK-47 are true. I note you don’t say anything about accuracy, and as far as I can tell, that is a weakness of the AK-47, along with the ergonomics. The latter can be overcome by practice.
2) No, the 7.62×39 is nowhere near the .308/7.62×51. It can use the same bullet as the .308, but for each bullet, the energy is only 2/3 of the .308 from muzzle to 500 yards and probably beyond. Plus, unless you are a handloader, the selection of rounds is much more limited
3) The .223 is the most popular and available rifle round in the U.S. .308 is number 3. 7.62×30 is number 9. It is a good round for survival if you are stocked up. When you run out, your odds of getting more is significantly less than either of the other two. Unless we are invaded by a country which uses that caliber.
Exactly the 7.62×39 is more like a 30-30.
Great article,APPRECIATE all of the advise, I have 2 AR15s & have been looking at a ak at our local shoot straight.they have a trade in that had barely used,looks brand new,they want 550 for it.
i love my type 86s AK its compact and deadly! it also speaks arabic lol!
I enjoyed the info in the article and would be interested in acquiring an AK. Have notice at gun shows a wide variety of prices and manufacturers. Have heard some say never buy this brand or that brand. Could anyone elaborate on which brands might be the most reliable, accurate, etc. ignoring the cost factor and or which should be avoided.
SFC Smith has it right. Also, the 7.62×39 is nowhere near as powerful as the 7.62×51. It is the worst of both worlds: more recoil than a 5.56×45 (critical for follow-up shots and should have been mentioned in the article) and less range and power than the 7.62×51.
By the way, that bit about going from safe to fire quickly with an AR is a distinct advantage in room clearing (as is the ambidextrous safety on some ARs). That is, unless you are going to stack up and enter the room with the AK on “fire”. Not a good idea.
Thank you all for your help and experience in this very important aspect of prepping, that of self-defense. From the time I was ten, I shot skeet with my father. I have had a concealed permit for a very long time. During Y-2k, my husband and I purchased an AK-47, as part of our home protection. Over the years, our weapons were sold and we got down to handguns. We lived South American for a time and sold our pistols before returning, as we did not trust to ship them.
So here is the problem….. At this point in our lives, both my husband and I are not equiped physically, to handle the weapons that protected us over the years. While our minds are sharp (or so we would like to think…), we are now in need of “Senior Power”. I want something easy to load that won’t knock my socks off when fired. I also want a light trigger, and yes, I know not to put my finger on it until I am ready to fire. We want to keep a few weapons in different parts of the house. I was considering a colt pistol again, but not sure. My husband keeps a sawed off shotgun under the bed, but we could really use some advise on some good choices for this time in our lives. Great discussion, thank you all very much, and God Bless. Abigayle
$1000 for an automatic ak? where ya living, Peshawar?
Lost any credibility right there. Don’t overstate your qualifications, just because you have time behind a gun doesn’t amount to much. Great info on the history though
Did you notice he chose an AK-47? The .223 bullet was chosen because the gun maker wanted to increase the sale of the M-16. Vietnamese shooters could not handle the recoil of a .308 bullet.
You lost me at “double odd buck” Rambo…
AK guy here-
I admittedly didn’t read the whole article, primarily because I was turned off by the amount of disinformation so early in.
First Azerbaijani is not Russian. Completely different language, Turkic not Slavic- Avtomat is not in the language.
Second saying 7.62×39 performs at all like .308 is some keyboard warrior fudd lore and betrays your proclaimed experience. Other than similar bullet diameters one is an intermediate round with poor performance at extended range and MUCH less power and velocity than the full rifle cartridge.
Claiming you’ve done your research is not the same as doing your research.
Not sure where you’re buying full auto aks for 2000$ and 7.62 nato is not that similar to 7.62×39, you would think if you really had all that experience with 7.62 nato weapon systems you would know that