Production cost: AK vs AR


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Lucky
October 19, 2008, 05:31 PM
On another board there's a discussion on this. Starting a factory from scratch, which rifle would you produce at greatest cost - buying new machinery?

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Shear_stress
October 19, 2008, 06:19 PM
If we're talking fixed labor rates, I don't know if there would be all that much difference in price. The AR upper and lower receivers must be pressed or forged from comparitively pricey aluminum, then machined to final spec while the AKM receiver can be die or laser cut, stamped and folded (using something as simple as a hydraulic press and some jigs) from steel and then spot welded and heat treated. A milled AK receiver might cost more than an AR receiver because it involves hogging out literally pounds of hard-to-cut ordnance steel.

Besides the receivers, however, I think the cost would probably be a wash between the two. Both the AK and AR have plenty of parts that require expensive manufacturing processes--bolts, bolt carriers, barrels, fire control parts (which I believe have been investment cast in both designs for quite some time), etc.

Even once you had the parts for each rifle, it would be more labor intensive (and therefore expensive) to assemble an AK. For example, the AK barrel must be pressed, timed and headspaced, and then pinned into the front trunnion. The AR, on the other hand, can be assembled with a minimum of special tools and jigs. They don't call it "the Lego Gun" for nothing.

On the whole, AKs have been cheaper because they've traditionally been built in countries where labor is dirt cheap. An entirely American-made AK would not be a cheap proposition. With the barrel ban already in place for imported parts kits, I'd wager we'll be seeing just such a beast in the near future (that is, if our erstwhile leaders don't make it extinct.)

Lucky
October 20, 2008, 11:23 PM
good stuff thx

elmerfudd
October 20, 2008, 11:45 PM
Well, we already have a pretty good idea of what it costs to produce an AR domestically. Depending on the maker and quality of the rifle, they pretty much retail for between $600 and $1200. Now a certain amount of that is certainly due to bureaucracy, taxes and distribution, but any rifle will have to deal with that.

I'm guessing that AK's probably could be made in that same price range. A $600 AR is a cut rate gun after all. The Yugo M70 series is largely US made already and was retailing for around $500 and they weren't cut rate AK's. I believe the Yugos had American barrels, receivers, trigger groups and probably one other part, (slant brake?), to meet 922r. AK furniture can be made cheaply with plastics and American pistons are already available cheaply so that leaves front sights, trunnions, bolts and bolt carriers, safeties, recoil spring assemblies, gas blocks, gas tubes and top covers. Of those, I think that only the front trunnion and bolt carrier would be very expensive.

RP88
October 21, 2008, 12:15 AM
after you take out vendor profit, manufacturer's profit, product liability, and sales tax, a $1400 AR is only about 200 bucks. Maybe 300.

elmerfudd
October 21, 2008, 12:33 AM
Yeah, but the facts are that all gun makers have to deal with those costs of doing business. We've got lawyers, FFL licenses, ATF agents, and everyone else who wants a piece of the action out there and they're all going to demand their share of the profits regardless of what gun is being built.

benzy2
October 21, 2008, 12:36 AM
If that were true RP88 then how could anyone sell $600 ARs? It would be a loss for every rifle if a middle-high end AR only cost $200 in material, equipment costs, direct labor, etc, you couldn't sell them for less than half of that.

Shear_stress
October 21, 2008, 12:44 AM
Yeah, I'm not sure where he got those numbers from. Assuming a $1000 out the door cost for an AR15, 6% sales tax and 20% markup each for the retailer, distributor and manufacturer, it would still cost about five and a half bills to make the rifle (including material, capital, labor, insurance, etc). By the same token, a $600 AR would still cost over three hundred to make. And this still doesn't address whether an AK would be more or less expensive. My take is take there wouldn't be that much difference in cost between an AR and AK assuming similar labor rates, laws, taxes, and production volumes.

RP88
October 21, 2008, 12:47 AM
If that were true RP88 then how could anyone sell $600 ARs? It would be a loss for every rifle if a middle-high end AR only cost $200 in material, equipment costs, direct labor, etc, you couldn't sell them for less than half of that.

you'd be surprised, especially with machines involved. I'm just throwing out a random sorta-educated number there, though, so I'm not gonna fight like I'm trying to be quoted on it. But, there are some cheap guns out there manufacturing-wise. A glock and an AK are good examples.

An AK is cheap because it can be made out of abundant supplies i.e. cheap labor from Siberian prisoners and your everyday stamped steel and such on a very basic design. An AR, after getting the machine costs paid off, can probably be milled out, pressed, whatever fairly quick enough to where alot of cost is not focused on a single rifle. Maybe.

I don't know. But, i'd rather not find out. I may be disappointed to find out how much some things are REALLY worth

benzy2
October 21, 2008, 12:57 AM
Im just saying at $1400 how can you physically sell a model at $600? All of the fixed costs are the same if you sell a $600 model or a $1400 model. I could see you saying the $600 ar runs $200 worth of cost to physically make the item. Im not trying to agrue over small specifics. Even if you say the $1400 rifle costs $300 would that put the $600 model at $200? The liability doesn't go up in those models. Sales tax hardly goes up from $300 to $200.

There is a lot of time and cost in machining those full length rails. There is a lot of time and cost in professionally finishing a match barrel. I really don't see the difference in actual cost a base AR and a pretty good AR being only $100.

RP88
October 21, 2008, 01:07 AM
True. Then maybe double that number or more then. Either way, most companies turn nice profits on most things they sell. I guess another thing to realize is that alot of companies sell direct-to-customer nowadays via internet and whatnot. that can explain some of it as well, since that would take out alot of it. But, once you get a machine going, alot of what you'd be paying for in anything is power costs. You'd be very surprised what things cost, that's all I'm saying. But yea, I'm probably off by a fair amount, but if you know something I don't, then please share.

stubbicatt
October 21, 2008, 05:48 AM
I remember reading that the last batch of M16 rifles purchased by our angry uncle was just over $100 apiece. The AK is about $25 to produce in Egypt.

Just comparos.

rbernie
October 21, 2008, 09:34 AM
The AK receivers require far less precision machining, and the jigs are dirt simple. The internal parts of an AK are also far less sensitive to tolerances and require far less precision machining. Look at an AR bolt and an AK bolt and tell me which one has more machining steps of greater precision...

The AK should cost far less to make, measuring the cost of tools and production effort.

I remember reading that the last batch of M16 rifles purchased by our angry uncle was just over $100 apiece. The AK is about $25 to produce in Egypt.
A 3:1 ratio seems about right.

Shear_stress
October 21, 2008, 10:26 AM
The whole point of this discussion is to make an apples to apples comparison. The cost to produce a rifle in a state-owned arsenal by workers making rockbottom wages is not in any way comparable to the cost of making a rifle in the U.S. Likewise, the cost of surplus rifles is irrelevent because they've already been paid for once by a government who bought scads of the things at once.

The AR-15 has some expensive features, but so does the AK-47, it's just that much of the cost of the latter is hidden from the consumer. An AR-15 made in a state-owned factory by folks making pennies an hour would also be very cheap. Think of it this way, in 2005 you could buy a brand new, Chinese made AR-15 knock off (Norinco 311) in Canada for less than four hundred bucks. And that's in a place where gas costs five bucks a gallon.

rbernie
October 21, 2008, 11:58 AM
Think of it this way, in 2005 you could buy a brand new, Chinese made AR-15 knock off (Norinco 311) in Canada for less than four hundred bucksThat is a market price and not indicative of the actual cost to manufacture.

I have done a fair bit of machining in my day. I look at the design of the bolt in an AK and an AR and see a lot more machining time (money) in the AR bolt due solely to its design. I look at the allowable tolerance per part, and I see a lot less tolerance (money) in the AR than the AK.

I never addressed the labor source nor the market; they're irrelevant. The issue is the cost to manufacture - cost of materials, the cost of the fixtures needed and the maintenance of those fixtures, the cost of the number of machining steps involved, and the cost of QA/rework for out-of-tolerance parts. In that light, the AK clearly wins. It needs less-precise machine work using machines of lesser cost and upkeep.

Which costs less to buy; a rivet jig or a CNC mill? Which requires more frequent periodic adjustment and tool sharpening? How many milling or turning steps are needed to make an AK and how many for an AR?

hso
October 21, 2008, 12:06 PM
You might compare the fully American AKs to the ARs, but there aren't any. Kits make it too cheap to make all the parts for an AK in the use, so receivers and barrels and the other compliance parts are made here and used with the foreign parts.

Shear_stress
October 21, 2008, 12:17 PM
I never addressed the labor source nor the market; they're irrelevant. The issue is the cost to manufacture - cost of materials, the cost of the fixtures needed and the maintenance of those fixtures, the cost of the number of machining steps involved, and the cost of QA/rework for out-of-tolerance parts. In that light, the AK clearly wins. It needs less-precise machine work using machines of lesser cost and upkeep.

Which costs less to buy; a rivet jig or a CNC mill? Which requires more frequent periodic adjustment and tool sharpening? How many milling or turning steps are needed to make an AK and how many for an AR?

This is only part of the issue and assumes a stamped receiver AKM. Your argument ignores the many other machined parts of even a stamped AK--the trunnions, barrel, etc. Even if these don't require the finishing steps of the AR, they still need to be machined. If you needed CNC to machine parts for the AR, you would need CNC to machine parts for the AK (this is assuming that CNC is even necessary--I really doubt the Chinese make their AR-knockoffs using CNC). People have gotten so used to getting all the machined bits of an AK from surplus that they focus entirely on the receiver as the biggest cost of manufacturing.

And then there is assembly. Assembling an AK is much more labor intensive and skilled work than assembling an AR. Yes, labor is totally relevant to the discussion as it is one of the most expensive parts of manufacturing. Parts of the AK may be a bit simpler to stamp or machine (at least to low standards of finish), but this is because making an AK is predicated upon having a lot of cheap labor around to build the things. You're borrowing from Pyotr to pay Pavel.

My point is not that the AK and AR would cost exactly the same, but that much of the cost difference between them would disappear if labor was kept equal. And the example of the Chinese made AR is important because it shows just how little you could sell those things for if they were built using the same kind of labor as the AK.

stubbicatt
October 21, 2008, 09:35 PM
The AK assembly is folding receiver, spot weld rails, riveting the trunnions in the receiver, headspacing a barrel, and pinning it in place. After that, slide on the rear sight, gas block and front sight, drill cross pin holes and pin in place. Insert FCG and furniture.

Voila!

All of the little parts pins and such in the AR take a little bit more time and "fine" hand work, IMO.

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