As I am sitting here thinking about another rifle, my thoughts keep turning back to the AR-15. Even though the AK-47 is a little cheaper, its the reliability, cheap ammo, light weight of the weapon, availability of the ammo, shootability,,,,, that keeps me coming back to the AR.
In a SHTF situation, and I had to hand a rifle to my wife, son or daughter, how well would they be able to handle the rifle? That is just one of the many questions I have to ask myself.
In this article we are going to be looking at 3 of the most popular SHTF rifles and battle rifles in the world: the AK-47, AR-15 and the FN/FAL. The AK shoots the 7.62×39, the AR shoots the 223/5.56mm and the FN/FAL shoots the 308 Winchester / 7.62NATO round. These rifles were picked because they have a reputation of being reliable in just about all combat situations and they have been battle proven in several conflicts.
Lets start from the very beginning:
Inserting a Magazine
AK-47 uses a cam style magazine, where the magazine has to be cammed into position
FN/FAL uses the same type of cam action, but seems to be a better design then the AK
AR-15 magazine goes straight in
In a stressful situation, its going to be easier for someone to insert an AR magazine then any of the others.
After inserting the magazine, its going to be easier for the FN/FAL or the AR-15 to charge the weapon then the AK-47.
People may argue that with proper training the AK magazine is just as easy to insert as the AR or the FN/FAL magazines. The thing is, not everyone has time or money to take the whole family to the range on a regular basis and fire off thousands of rounds in training exercises. For someone that gets to shoot a few times a year, the AR is going to be easier to load then any of the other rifles.
Charging the Weapon
AK charging handle is on the right hand side of the weapon. After the magazine is inserted with the left hand, the shooter has to either reach over the receiver to charge the weapon, or switch hands that is holding the weapon and use the right hand to cycle the bolt.
FN/FAL charging handle is on the left side of the weapon. After the magazine is inserted with the left hand, the left hand stays on the left side of the rifle and cycles the bolt.
AR-15 charging handle is on the rear of the receiver, making is easy to charge for right or left handed shooters.
Last Round Bolt Hold Back
The AK does not have a bolt hold open feature after the last round was fired, while the AR and FN does.
After a new magazine is inserted into the AK, the shooter is going to have to cycle the bolt to chamber a round. With the AR and FN/FAL the shooter just releases the bolt and round is chambered.
In the having to reload the weapon category, the AR and the FN/FAL are the clear winners.
From my personal experience with all three rifles, the AK seems to have the most recoil. Maybe its due to the lack of a well designed buffer system combined with the light weight of the rifle, I don’t know. But the AK seems to kick a little harder then either the AR or the FN/FAL.
The AR-15 was designed to have as little recoil as possible. The buffer system, combined with the 223/5.56mm gives the AR-15 very little recoil.
The FN/FAL has an adjustable gas system, recoil buffer and the rifle weighs between 9 – 10 pounds. All of those factors combined reduces the recoil of the 308 Winchester to very manageable levels.
In the recoil category the AR wins first place, FN/FAL second and the AK-47 comes in third.
There is no clear winner here, as all three rifles have been battle proven all over the world. But,,, the AK-47 seems to have a slight advantage when it comes to dusty, muddy, or otherwise piss poor conditions.
If you want a rifle that will function regardless if its covered in snow, ice, sand, mud,,,, then the AK-47 is the rifle to go with.
During some of the conflicts in the middle east, the FN/FAL ran into issues with sand getting into the action. This might be a factor if you live in a desert. But, if you look at the recent conflicts in Libya with the resistance fighters/rebels/freedom fighters, they are mainly using FN/FALs. If there was a real issue with the FN/FAL and sand, why are they being used so much in Libya.
There are people out there that are going to claim that the AK-47 in the right hands can shoot just as good as the AR. That might very well be true, but this is my list, and this is the order I am putting the 3 rifles in order of accuracy.
And that is just the way it is.
Breakdown and Cleaning
AK-47, you remove the dust cover, remove the bolt assembly, remove the gas piston, wash everything off in a muddy stream, put it back together. The AK-47 was designed to be cleaned in the most adverse conditions known to mankind.
AR-15, get your rain poncho out, smooth out a spot to put the parts, because if you clean the bolt, your going to have a bunch of small parts to keep track of.
FN/FAL, push a lever on the receiver, break the rifle open, pull the bolt assembly out. To remove the gas piston, there is a retaining pin that you remove at the end of the gas tube. In all, the FN/FAL is pretty easy to break down and clean.
In the breakdown and cleaning category, the AK-47 leads the pack with a strong first place, the FN/FAL a close second, and the AR-15 comes in dead last.
Its not that I can say the AR-15 is the “best”, or even the most well rounded survival rifle, but it is one of the better choices on the market. The recoil of the AR is manageable for small framed and young shooters. There are tons of spare parts on the market, ammo is still cheap and easy to find, someone can be trained on the basic functions of the AR in less then 5 minutes.
The one drawback with the AR-15 that has not been discussed, is how the 223 compares to the 7.62×39 and the 308 Winchester. There are people out there that say the 223/5.56mm is a devastating round due to the tumbling action. That might very well be true, but I know one thing for sure, .308 is larger then .223. While some people may deer hunt with a 223, I would feel more comfortable using the 308 Winchester on deer sized game.
In the 308 vs 223/5.56mm debate, I like how compact the 223/5.56mm rifles are, as compared to a 308 rifles like the FN/FAL.
Someone looking for a survival rifle pick one that suits their needs the best. If someone handed me an AK-47, AR-15 or an FN/FAL, I would not be disappointed.
Now for a random video of some whitetail deer. This video was taken during the 2010 – 2011 deer hunting season.
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