Wired Article on the AK-47 : is accuracy inversely related to reliability?


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Habeed
November 4, 2010, 01:31 PM
I just read the following article in wired magazine :

Someone made a comment that I've seen repeated many places elsewhere that, based upon my limited understanding of rifles, is completely and utterly wrong.

The statement is " The reason American companies don’t “come up with this design” is because it is inherently inaccurate. Cleaning a rifle that is more accurate instead of building it with sloppy tolerances is a fair trade off. "

The key issue is : as far as I know, reliability for a rifle is completely unrelated to the ammunition handling components of the weapon. However the rifle works, you need to get a round into the chamber reliably each firing cycle, and when the user has the trigger down and the safety is off then the round needs to be struck with enough force to detonate the primer.

It is completely and utterly obvious that a weapon that keeps the dirty propellant gas out of the moving parts is a superior design to one that uses it directly. Furthermore, a weapon designed to continue working even if there's dirt in the feeding mechanism is also superior. End of debate. In general, the best feeding design is one that only fails extremely rarely, even with poor maintenance and dirty ammo, and is cheap to manufacture. I'm sure with modern tools a mechanical engineer could create a design for a rifle feed mechanism that is even more reliable than the AK-47.

Now, ACCURACY is related to the quality of the barrel, the quality of the sighting mechanism, and the way the rifle handles recoil. It's entirely possible to build a rifle with sloppy tolerances in the feed mechanism that keeps firing no matter what and to give that same rifle a match grade barrel and a high end optic sight. That weapon would be as accurate as a rifle with a tight tolerance feed mechanism requiring pristine, clean ammo in a HEPA filtered room to continue firing, with cleanings every 100 rounds.

The reason the M16 has a terrible feed mechanism is due to politics and institutional problems with the military. For a number of reasons, this bad design has been in use for 50 years. It does work if the soldiers clean it, and aren't operating in an environment with too much of the wrong kind of dirt, and don't get in prolonged firefights where they fire enough rounds to foul the weapon. It doesn't mean that the design of the feed mechanism is any good.

Yes, I have used the rifles in question. I found that with live ammo it jammed on me every couple hundred rounds, and with blanks it would start jamming in about 3 magazines unless you took out the bolt and sprayed it down with CLP. I found that the stock AK-47 has bad sights, but this is easily fixed, and it needs a better recoil spring.

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Justin
November 4, 2010, 01:41 PM
The Direct Impingement system used in the AR15/M16 rifles is one of the main reasons that design is inherently more accurate than AK-pattern guns.

Without a piston chunking back and forth in the rifle, recoil impulse is reduced and the gun is more controllable. Also, the use of a DI gas system makes it much, much easier to install a float tube on the gun, which will result in an obvious and measurable increase in accuracy for the rifle, even when shooting from improvised or odd positions in the field.

I've personally fired hundreds of rounds through AR-pattern guns with no jams and without cleaning them.

Those times I have experienced jams were uniformly related to ammunition issues rather than the operating system of the gun itself.

Sheepdog1968
November 4, 2010, 02:06 PM
I'm an oddball when it comes to accuracy. For a semi auto, I am quite happy with 3 MOA accuracy - just about any system gets you there. If I want accuracy, I focus on a bolt gun.

Al Thompson
November 4, 2010, 02:17 PM
Yes, I have used the rifles in question

Used, but didn't know how to keep the rifle running. I've actually sat on a tractor, but have no expertise in running one. Your example of one fly's in the face of bunches of THR members who have been running ARs for literally decades with no issues.

Try this report on for size - far broader base than you posting about a personal training deficiency. :rolleyes:

http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/07/examining-the-complaints-about-american-rifle-reliability/

Dr.Rob
November 4, 2010, 02:32 PM
The AK was designed by a Russian tanker to be a 300 meter all weather dirt eating select fire rifle with an effective range of a few hundred yards based on lessons learned from the Eastern Front.

The AR was a late 50's design utelizing the newest gee-whiz aircraft materials and had to go head to head with a full power service rifle (M14). It had to pierce a steel helmet at 600 yards to be a serious contender at a time when the army wasn't even looking for a replacement arm.

While both designs were 'assault rifles' that effectively were to replaces rifles and submachine guns, one could argue the AK was based on the idea of arming every trooper with a PPSH, whereas the AR was designed as a rifle that could fire full auto accurately.

Both designs have been revised over the years but they were never designed from the same mindset.

Every arms designer these days seems to be trying to get the accuracy of the AR with the dirt eating reliability of the AK, or you wouldn't see all the glorious full auto 'mud tests'. That's the wonder of computer aided design and laser guided tooling--something neither Kalashnikov or Stoner had available at the time.

GunTech
November 4, 2010, 02:50 PM
One of the big accuracy advantages of the DI system is that the reciprocating components of the rifle aren't in contact with the barrel. It's almost like having a bolt action in that there is not a torque impulse applied to the barrel every time the rifle is fired. This is exactly why piston driven ARs typically have poorer precision than their DI bretheren. The AK, with it's very large gas piston has the 'problem' amplified.

Certainly the is the possibility of creating an accurate and reliable rifle. But for a military rifle, accuracy is in most cases overrated. Any student of the modern military rifle need to read the Hitchman report "Operational requirements for an infantry hand weapon". While somewhat dated, it is the only analysis of actual small arms performance in combat based on a large sampling, using data from WWII, Korea and later supplemented by further analysis from Vietnam and the Arab Israel wars.

The reality is that shooting in a combat environment has little to do with the target range.

You might find this older thread illuminating

http://www.thehighroad.us/showthread.php?t=327113

Even more so, the one cited relating to Iraq and noting most firefights occurred at less than 30 yards.

http://www.thehighroad.org/showthread.php?t=25281&highlight=engagement+distance+Marine

Personally, I want accuracy just in case I need it. But 1 MOA is definitely not required for a military rifle, and if I am in a gunfight at 30 yards, I want my rifle to go bang every time.

Of course the armchair commando has very different requirements for his rifle. When I'm at the shooting range, no one is shooting back at me. The measure of the 'best' rifle is typically the smallest grout around the bull, not whether you come home or not.

It's also the case that much of the AKs inaacuracy is more related to the quality of ammunition rather than the rifle. Early M14 had problems meeting the 5MOA standard for acceptance (See US Rifle M14 by R Blake Steven), mostly door to poor ammunition. The most precise rifle in the world can be brought low by poor ammunition.

The M16 derivative rifle persists in the US military because it is 'good enough'. The reality is that few casualties are produced by rifle fire and the cost of replacing the M16, which while not perfect has know faults, with a new system that may have new problems is cost prohibitive versus the advantage gained.

Certainly, the individual infantryman is not happy with a less than reliable weapon (and the M16 platform can be very reliable if properly maintained). But to the bean counters, a minor incremental improvement of the rifle means nothing in the context of modern technological warfare. In order to get the military to go to a different platform, you are going to have to see a significant improvement in performance. In the case of the ACR trials, the target was a 100% increase in hit probability.

Right now, the Army is focused on next generation technologies. The general consensus is that the rifle has basically reached its peak as a weapon, and we are on the cusp of the next radical change - like going from the bow to the gun. Many see the smart projectile as the next thing (e.g. XM-25 SABR) but it is very immature technology.

Why spend a lot of money for very small improvements when something that is going to radically change the game is not too far in the future.

Military establishments are very conservative. Look how long it took the army to accept repeating rifles. The general feeling among military planners is the M16 platform, while having some flaws, is not broken and is a known quantity. As the Russians say, 'Perfect is the enemy of good enough'.

mp5a3
November 4, 2010, 02:50 PM
A little off topic, but I've seen a picture where Eugene Stoner and Mikhail Kalashnikov met each other and are holding each others rifles. Does anyone know anything about this. The year, why it was set up, etc. No biggie, I just thought it was kinda neat.

BTW, on the show "Tales on the Gun" he talks a lot on crap about the M16/AR15. Pretty cool show overall though. I think he's over 90 years old.

GunTech
November 4, 2010, 03:18 PM
Well, considering he designed the major rival to the M16, what do you expect him to say?

Both were seminal rifles. The AK was the ubiquitous rifle of the revolution and the most produced smallarm ever. The M16 introduced the use of alloys and composites into military fireams.

Bartholomew Roberts
November 4, 2010, 03:56 PM
The AK47 design isn't inherently inaccurate; but it is inherently less accurate than many other modern intermediate caliber automatic rifles.

Just off the top of my head:

1. Piston attached to barrel issue already mentioned
2. Recoil impulse is above bore and stock, increasing muzzle flip
3. Generous chamber enhances reliability when dirty but means bullet enters the lands less consistently
4. Short sight radius due to the need to keep the rear sight on the barrel instead of the top cover (which flexes dramatically from shot to shot)

It is completely and utterly obvious that a weapon that keeps the dirty propellant gas out of the moving parts is a superior design to one that uses it directly. Furthermore, a weapon designed to continue working even if there's dirt in the feeding mechanism is also superior. End of debate.

For someone who admits a limited knowledge of rifles, you seem pretty quick to call an end to the debate. ;)

1. The only semi-automatic weapon I can think of that keeps dirty propellant gas out of the moving parts is the roller-delayed blowback design - and even that is debateable. The AK47 uses dirty properllant gas to push a piston - the piston being a moving part.

2. Despite your imprecision in word choice, I get the general point you are making; but you are wrong there as well. There is much, much more to reliability than the way you cycle the action. Ammunition and magazines play a key role in weapon reliability.

3. If you feed a rifle dirt (i.e. it gets into the chamber and lugs area), it will stop running. This is pretty much true for all rifles regardless of system and operation. Rifles that do well in dirt typically do the following well:

1. Have large chambers and gaps that allow dirt and debris to migrate away from critical areas like the chamber
2. Stop dirt from entering the system to begin with

It does work if the soldiers clean it, and aren't operating in an environment with too much of the wrong kind of dirt, and don't get in prolonged firefights where they fire enough rounds to foul the weapon.

You just don't know what you are talking about here...

1. The infamous Filthy 14 (http://www.bravocompanymfg.com/v/vspfiles/assets/images/filthy14_oct10.pdf) - a loaner rifle used in EAG Tactical training course. It has 31,165 rounds through it and was cleaned once at 26,245 rounds.

2, Michael Pannone's M4 maintenance article (http://www.defensereview.com/m4m4a1-carbine-reliability-issues-why-they-occur-and-why-theyre-our-fault/) describing 15,000 rounds through an M4 with 9 stoppages and 960 rounds or more between cleaning (and 2,000 rounds with no lube!)

3. 15,000 rounds of Wolf through a Bushmaster/Model 1 Sales frankengun (http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=412735) - evemn the low end ARs do well without constant cleaning.

Those are just three examples; but they are excellent reading for anyone who actually wants to understand the realities of direct gas impingement in the AR vs. internet lore.

Hurricane
November 4, 2010, 10:45 PM
I'm a firm believer that accuracy lies more within the shooter than the weapon. After all, each individual must decide what their definition of "accurate" is.

1" at 50 yards? 300 yards?

4" at 100 yards? What about "close enough" or "dead is dead"?


I hate the term "Internet lore" as these debates were waged before the net. But regardless, with the AR/AK you have 2 entirely different systems with 2 entirely different objectives in mind.

Many among the AR or AK crowd need to stop with the "Mine is better" philosophy and actually give credit where credit is due to both weapons.

The Russian design was meant to be simple for simple soldiers. Remember, these were everyday people that needed to be able to use the weapon in a time of need. It has a lot of room for moving parts, and by 1947's standards (63 years ago) it was exceptional in reliability. The sights are admittedly crude. Not impossible, but not refined. Where it shines is the full auto capability - something most of us will never know or appreciate. To possess such firepower so easily, it was overwhelming. The protocol was to ride in close with armored vehicles and engage well inside 100 yards. If a truckload of soldiers got out 60 yards away and started unloading full auto at me, I assure you I would be defecating construction equipment.

I hate the term "loose" or "sloppy" tolerances. That seems more attacking, or at the very least, impolite. It is made with a lot of "clearance". Hence the space for the parts to move, thus yielding better reliability.

No rifle will function with a shovel full of debris directly into the action. Small amounts, you have better odds.

Now we all know, or should know, that to gain accuracy we need to move less, whether by position or platform. The AR is brilliant at this. As stated, there is a lack of a large hunk of metal slinging around, it is level with the shoulder to negate muzzle climb, but also we have a smaller, faster projectile which is very crucial to the enhanced accuracy. Think of it like throwing a tiny football compared to a larger one. Which is easier?

The AR is reliable. The AK is reliable. Both will kill very well. That is what they were designed for, and have been doing for over 100 years combined. Man sized targets, for the most part.

They are both accurate enough for their purposes. You can argue until you are blue in the face, but you are not going to convince everyone to favor one over the other, or declare an outright winner.

Two different tools with different tactics in mind. Learn both. A full understanding of your opponent will give you more insight to yourself.

Next up for discussion - the long awaited conclusion to the ongoing debate of Screwdrivers: Phillips?? or Slotted???

zoom6zoom
November 5, 2010, 12:12 AM
It's funny, but no one who's ever told me that my AK's are unreliable and inaccurate has ever been willing to stand downrange.

Hatterasguy
November 5, 2010, 12:30 AM
You have to go back to the basics and where each of these weapons systems came from, and the purpose they were to fill.

Firstly as a general rule over the last 100 years we, IE the USA has had the best military equipment by far. In WW2 the quality of our gear was the best and it still is today. An M16/4 costs more to produce, train, and field than an AK. That's why poor country's use AK's and rich ones use the AR family or they build their own rifles.

Now lets back up to the basic differences in the US's and USSR's approach to weapons design, I'll be brief. The Soviet Union bore the brunt of the fighting in WW2 and they learned a few lessons from it. They destroyed the German war machine which was equipped, and had a very smiler fighting philosophy to our military. The Germans fielded very high quality weapons, used by highly trained troops they believed that quality would trump unorganized poorly trained masses. The Russians didn't have this luxury since they didn't have the money, and their professional army was destroyed by Stalin's purges. Throw in the German attack and their only choice was to rely on their massive man power, so they fielded massive army's of poorly trained peasants to fight back the German onslaught. From this sprung the AK, which was really built to fight WW2, guns are always built to fight the last war. Its perfect for the mass infantry machine gun attacks the Russians were so fond of. Accuracy was not much of a concern it was all about volume of fire, reliability and ease of manufacture were more important. 2-3 MOA with a 300 meter range is what it was designed for, the Russians determined that most combat on the Eastern front took place at close ranges. The standard issue rifle of the time, the Mosin was not ideal for this.

My point is that its all relative. An off the rack AK will not be as accurate as an m16, but it doesn't have to be. Like most Russian equipment it does exactly what they wanted it to do, no more or less. It will reliable put bullets into body's at realistic engagement ranges.

The AR is a product of our experiences in WW2 and Korea, which are a bit different than the Russians. We cannot field the massive army's they can, so we go for quality. Plus we can afford it, we have more money than they do. That's really the bottom line.

Habeed
November 5, 2010, 12:37 AM
I didn't know about the recoil from the moving mass of the piston. Still a fixable problem - you could use a very short flexible gas tube that would let the piston assembly be floating free from the barrel. I just don't see what would prevent you from making a mechanical assembly with parts designed to keep working if they are a little dirty or worn that feeds ammo reliably. And "reliably" includes in special dust chambers and no cleaning or user added lubrication at all. Last I read, the M4 gets utterly destroyed in tests like those.

The AKs recoil is also a function of the round's mass, which you could fix by going to an intermediate caliber.

In principle it would seem that a rifle that is better in virtually every way save for cost could be built with modern engineering and a frank look at the drawbacks of the current designs. That kind of review has evidently not been performed by the Army, or they wouldn't keep ordering the same rifle.

As for cost - if a new, high end rifle cost the army $3000 per copy they could buy a million of them for 3 bil. Over a 10 year transition period that's $300 mil/year. Chump change compared to the way the Army likes to throw money around for other things. You'd think that they could have found the funds for it sometime over the past 20 years.

I DO agree that if a new generation of infantry weapon that obsoletes small arms is possible, then that's a better buy. A multi-shot grenade launcher with selectable ammo type from a drum of smart rounds or something exotic. Personally I think the easiest and most practical way to improve infantry combat would be to take the man out of it and to use tele-operated drones with human soldiers fighting from nearby APCs as backup.

Bartholomew Roberts
November 5, 2010, 01:04 AM
And "reliably" includes in special dust chambers and no cleaning or user added lubrication at all. Last I read, the M4 gets utterly destroyed in tests like those.

Again, wrong. The dust chamber test had 10 M4s. Each M4 was exposed to a half hour of sandstorm, then fired 120 rounds and exposed to another half hour of sandstorm. The weapon was wiped down at 600 rounds and cleaned at 1,200 rounds. Each rifle was fired for 6,000 rounds total. At the conclusion of the test, all of the rifles (M4 and other) were so worn that they were unsafe to fire. Despite this, the M4 fired 98.4% of all the rounds it was given.

That is 1% worse than the top finisher in the test; but it also includes some serious testing errors (http://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2010-07/what-really-happened-wanat). For example, the other three rifles in the test were essentially limited production factory new rifles. The M4s were grabbed straight out of an Army armory and six of the ten rifles in the test did not meet the Army minimum standard for cyclic rate - an important point in a test where you are introducing fine sand into the rifle. In addition, Colt alleges that the testers were unfamiliar with the 3-round burst cam of the M4 and counted 1 and 2 round bursts caused by the cam design as "stoppages." Finally, about 1/4 of the 863 stoppages were traced to the USGI magazines, not the rifle.

So all in all, you've got a test performed to questionable standards, that literally destroyed the rifles it tested (as rifles reach the end of their service life, they malfunction more - regular maintenance is important) and yet despite all that, the M4 did 98.4%.

So unless you consider a 1% improvement in performance (putting aside the issues with how the test was conducted to begin with) "utterly destroyed", then I think you've got a bad picture of just what exactly the dust test showed.

The AKs recoil is also a function of the round's mass, which you could fix by going to an intermediate caliber.

7.62x39 (what the AK fires) is an intermediate caliber. And rather than reduce the mass of the round, which can be important for things like barrier penetration, I'd suggest that using an inline stock (like the AR or SCAR) to better mitigate recoil is a better strategy.

In principle it would seem that a rifle that is better in virtually every way save for cost could be built with modern engineering and a frank look at the drawbacks of the current designs.

Not just in principle, Knight's Armament builds several modern direct-impingement rifles that directly address known shortcomings in the M4 system. The problem is what do you get for the investment? Does it make sense to spend $3 billion to improve rifle reliability in extreme circumstances by 1%? Would you be better off taking that $3 billion and teaching soldiers how to shoot in more realistic combat conditions so they can make better use of the rifle they have?

HorseSoldier
November 5, 2010, 01:20 AM
Firstly as a general rule over the last 100 years we, IE the USA has had the best military equipment by far. In WW2 the quality of our gear was the best and it still is today. An M16/4 costs more to produce, train, and field than an AK. That's why poor country's use AK's and rich ones use the AR family or they build their own rifles.

Mmmm . . . no. In a 100 year retrospective I can think of many pieces of equipment where we most certainly did not field the best. The Sherman tanks we sent up against Panthers and late model Panzer IVs in WW2 jump to mind -- as do the Shermans we sent up against T-34s in Korea.

Anyway, the AK is widely used by poor countries because the Soviets and their clients/allies gave them away by the megaton. There are a number of poor countries who use M16s for the same reason, only they were our clients.

Maverick223
November 5, 2010, 02:56 AM
I just read the following article in wired magazineMistake no. 1...

Someone made a comment that I've seen repeated many places elsewhere that, based upon my limited understanding of rifles, is completely and utterly wrong.

The statement is " The reason American companies don’t “come up with this design” is because it is inherently inaccurate. Cleaning a rifle that is more accurate instead of building it with sloppy tolerances is a fair trade off. "I agree...it is completely and utterly wrong. I own rifles that are both extremely reliable and very accurate...I have owned rifles that were neither (don't no more :D).

Yes, I have used the rifles in question. I found that with live ammo it jammed on me every couple hundred rounds, and with blanks it would start jamming in about 3 magazines unless you took out the bolt and sprayed it down with CLP. I found that the stock AK-47 has bad sights, but this is easily fixed, and it needs a better recoil spring.I don't particularly care for, nor own an AR...but I have shot many of 'em...and none have exhibited the same level of performance that you describe. I don't care for them because of the maintenance/cleaning issues and the persistent need for (or at least run better with) gobs of lubricant, but that doesn't, in any way, suggest that they are not reliable. That simply isn't true of any properly constructed AR-15. A speck of dust will not stop one...nor will a grain of sand...OTOH, and contrary to common lore, a handful of sand or fine dust is likely to bog down ANY rifle.

:)

Habeed
November 5, 2010, 03:11 AM
That's what I hate the most. It's not that the M16 is a big deal : from the perspective of the Pentagon, they'd rather buy more tanks and other bigger weapons that can kill huge numbers of people at once.

It's just the idea that the military can do no wrong, that because we are still using that rifle it must be superior in every way. A lot of people conflate the ammunition handling problems of the weapon with accuracy. Maybe it's only "1%" worse in tests, but that's a jam every 3 mags. Would hate to have the weapon jam right when my sights are finally on an enemy soldier. You may only get a split second during which the enemy is exposed to your fire.

I've only experienced severe jamming using blank ammunition, but this is because the back pressure from blanks is much higher and causes much more rapid carbon buildup. In principle, a sustained battle would cause the same problem after a greater number of rounds. Or lower quality ammunition.

Conceptually, the gas impingement system is just flat out dumb. ***? There's all these little surfaces that the hot sooty gas is allowed to get into, that rub against each other as the bolt cycles. It quickly builds up and the weapon grinds to a halt. A piston system cleans itself, because each stroke the pistol forces the soot back into the barrel. Clearly and obviously and overwhelmingly superior.

You could probably design a gas impingement system a different way so that it would self clean and need no lubrication as well. I read the AA-12 shotgun uses the carbon soot as a lubricant and pushes the excess soot back into the barrel to be cleared with the next shot.

And these are in ideal conditions - soldiers really do have better things to do than to take apart their weapons every day to clean them. You don't have to take your radio apart daily to keep it working, do you? There's no reason in principle the Pentagon couldn't source deleted -- <Sam> electronic parts that needed daily replacing for the radios. Might even save a buck, and the radio could still be "98% reliable" with daily maintainence.

It's a cultural thing. If a soldier ever gets into trouble because his M16 jammed in battle (which has happened MANY times in Iraq. I've heard a few direct stories) ALL of the blame must be on the soldier for not cleaning it. The military cannot possibly be even slightly at fault for supplying the soldier with a deleted -- <Sam> weapon because the U.S. Army is the best in the world and can do no wrong.

Few people are willing to say "well, maybe the soldier should have cleaned his weapon, but some of the blame needs to be shared with the institution who provided the bad equipment in the first place and refused to fix the problem 30 or 40 years later.

There is no reason at all we couldn't have made a hybrid weapon with the ammunition feeding system of the AK-47 (but made of lighter weight metals) and the sights of the M16 and fielded it in say, 1970.

Habeed
November 5, 2010, 03:32 AM
And we're not even talking battlefield conditions. The U.S. military has been fortunate that in nearly all of the engagements in the last 50 years it has enjoyed the benefit of overwhelming numbers and resources. The enemy has also never used working WMD to kill thousands of our soldiers at once.

Still, individual units in Iraq have endured hellish conditions for weeks on end with many casualties and brutal mission demands from higher. That kind of environment is incredibly stressful. Humans start to break down, thinking obsessively about how the next crack of fire might contain a bullet with their name on it, or about how they will never see loved ones again.

And even then in that kind of environment, especially in Iraq, individual soldiers almost never have a chance to use their m16. (if your convoy runs into trouble the gunner on the machine gun does most of the shooting, and you usually don't see who set the IED) It's just a bulky object to lug around everywhere.

People stop cleaning their weapons, and they may have to drag their rifles through a dirty environment. Maybe we should buy a rifle that keeps working even in such a situation. Every humvee has that NBC system that theoretically can help against a chemical weapon attack, even though gas has not been used against allied forces for over 80 years. I bet that NBC feature cost the pentagon more than 3 billion alone.

ROCK6
November 5, 2010, 07:46 AM
I don't know Habeed, I've heard more complaints about the caliber than the system. I wasn't in any direct firefights but did all the range shooting I could break away for in my both Iraq and Afghanistan. I never had an issue with my M4...and I didn't coat it with lube either. I don’t think the AR system is the best system and it is an older design with the flaw of getting the rifle’s action pretty dirty for extended shootings, but it still works and has proven to be effective enough for most combat situations. I don’t buy the AK’s supreme reliability either…after shooting with some Iraqi’s who used AK’s I saw several failures…although I didn’t inspect, most were probably due to operator error, magazines or ammo. Regardless, even AK’s will fail if you fail to maintain it. To ignore weapon/equipment maintenance because the design is “inherently” more reliable is stupid and foolish.

I don't think the DI system is perfect, but it works. I don't get the weapon's maintenance issue. Weapon's maintenance is a discipline issue as with any other equipment maintenance. Now, if you're in a 500-600 round firefight in adverse conditions, I'll buy the dirty DI issue...but field maintenance takes only minutes and should be done regardless of your rifle/pistol.

As to the original topic, I don't buy that AK's are inaccurate...you could say that an AR is inherently more accurate, but I would place my bets against the shooter over the rifle. I have an Arsenal AK that will give any one of my AR's a run for its money out to 100 meters (it opens up a little past 200).

I would concede with most that reliability is probably a step up above accuracy when prioritizing; however, combat accuracy is just that and more than adequate for a fighting rifle. I'm more than comfortable with the AR's DI system when it comes to reliability and the accuracy is a bonus. I don't buy that AK's are grossly inaccurate as I've seen, fired and own a few that are extremely capable of excellent accuracy...more than most shooters are capable of maximizing.

ROCK6

Double Naught Spy
November 5, 2010, 09:06 AM
I was in a class about 4 years ago where a shooter had an AK47 pattern gun. It was a surprisingly good shooter. He was able to hit a 4" circle consistently at 200 yards with iron sights...which impressed the heck out of me because sighting the gun at 200 yards had the front sight appearing substantially larger than the target being impacted.

That was slow fire. If the gun heated up, the POI drifted from his POA. When the gun was allowed to cool, the accuracy returned. The class instructor put the blame on the thin tubing of the barrel - not sure if that is true or not, but that was the explanation.

I hate the term "Internet lore" as these debates were waged before the net.

Urban lore, urban myth, urban legend were terms used on the "old days" to describe such beliefs along with "old wives' tales" and the like.

Internet lore is a continuation of the phenomena that has resulted in it becoming hyped up in speed and expansion of geography for the spread of a story and since so much information is spread via the internet, true, false, and of dubious position, "urban" has been replaced with "internet" for many such discussions.

stubbicatt
November 5, 2010, 09:12 AM
Kripes. I usually pass over these rehashes of tired truisms...

IME, on automatic, from standing, the Kalashnikov tends to keep its shots in a tighter group than the M16A2. Burst fire is more controllable, I think mostly because the cyclic rate is slower and more consistent.

Everybody is a little different. What they like differs, what the excel at differs. Some folks prefer one rifle over another for reasons of their own. Some shoot one better than another due to vagaries in body shape or maybe confidence in a given design.

Dropping rounds in a MOA or less is important if you are shooting prairie dogs, but who among us would like to stand downrange from someone shooting at him at 300 meters with a 3 moa rifle?

Enjoy.

GunTech
November 5, 2010, 10:42 AM
Just as an aside, it's interesting to note that there were complaints about the rifle fielded by the US back to day one. In more recent times, Garands had an issue with seizing in the rain that led to the issuing of small grease containers. The long term planned fix was to go to a roller lug, but the war ended before it was implemented. This later became a feature of the M14. The M14 had problems meeting accuracy standards - although this was eventually traced to ammunition, and not the rifle itself. H&R built M14s with faulty receivers which could blow up due to an error in the steel used. No rifle is ever perfect.

I've no doubt that if the US was suddenly to decide to issue AKs to US troops there's be immediate reports of that rifle's shortcomings.

And the M16 series has proven to be highly flexible and adaptable, particularly when it comers to adjunct devices like mounting optics, lasers, lights, etc - all the hallmarks of 21st century small arms.

Finally, as noted, the rifle plays a very small role in combat. COIN operations are obviously different than full scale battle, but generally speaking individual small arms account for less than 3% of all casualties on the battlefield. To the bean counters who allocate funds, the 1% improvement noted above on a weapon that accounts for 3% of all casualties seems like a huge waste of money.

Not saying that it's right - just reality.

Tirod
November 5, 2010, 10:54 AM
A lot of people praise the AK and dump on the AR. Most of what they say is not based on an understanding of how they actually work. It's usually a rehash of old tired arguments posted long ago in magazine articles by those with an agenda.

The AK does just fine as a third world design anchored in '30's design technology. Aside from the horribly non ergonomic controls, whippy piston stressed barrel, and short sight radius, it's saddled with the 7.62x39 caliber. The original AK round is no better or worse than the .30-30. It's a 300m round in combat. Essentially that is why the AK is considered less accurate - it does not have the reach or power to do better.

What the AK does well is feed ammo from a durable strong magazine with machined feed lips. Because of the non-standardized construction throughout numerous different plants, it's extremely unlikely components will simply swap from gun to gun, or that the quality of construction is consistent. That's because different plants allow different tolerance stacks.Tolerance is the variation of measurement in a sampling of parts and how closely they adhere to blueprint. It has nothing to do with the clearances a designer may or may not include between parts.

As for cleaning, the myth is that piston guns don't seem to get dirty or need it, when it's simply not true. Extraction of a case is timed when there is still residual pressure in the barrel, every automatic loading gun ever made exhausts gas past the case and dumps it right into the action, bar none. Complaining the AR has it much worse and needs improvement is ignoring the existance of the two gas ports on the bolt carrier.

Those ports are obvious evidence of the ignorance in complaining about the AR action. Gas travels into the bolt carrier and exhausts out those ports, which point right at the open ejection port. It's contained in a gas piston chamber exactly like a piston gun, and exhausts out that chamber into open air every time. Only after the bolt moves at least a half inch in extraction, freeing the case and dumping residual pressure exactly like a piston gun into the chamber and action, does the gas tube get uncovered enough to exhaust more at the key.

An experienced and knowledgeable user knows gas keys don't get that dirty. It just takes a pipe cleaner, and if a lot of lube is used - per the TM directions over the last 40 years - it's easy to clean.

Those filthy dirty AR's need more cleaning because they get the piston and chamber cleaned every time you break down the bolt carrier. Ask Garand owners what happens if they neglect to clean their gas pistons on a regular basis. They get stuck and require an gunsmith to dissassemble. "Piston guns need less cleaning." is BS. They get equally dirty - piston owners choose to neglect them more. AR owners have to address it.

As has been already mentioned, the majority of stoppages have nothing to do with the action. It's the lightweight magazine with straight up feeding that caused the majority of malfunctions, especially in the infamous Dust Test, where the issue rifles used issue mags, and the new proprietary rifles used new mags. That fact alone forced the second dust test, where all the rifles submitted had each and every magazine cycled through them regardless of source. At that point, the M4 did much better - it got to use the new mags, too.

That's the sort of biased cherrypicking that continues to plague the AR community, the imprecise reporting of what actually happened, and complete denial of other results that don't support the arguments of the AR haters.

It's as simple as this - the AK uses durable mags, hence it's reputation for reliability, but it has really inefficient and counterproductive controls that don't help the operator, much less the caliber. It's why none of the free world uses it when they have a choice - there are newer, better weapons. The AR was a great leap forward, and continues it's run because the design accepts upgrades and modernization. Those improvements are on top of the ergonomic control layout that supports the shooter, not stymies him.

Whether somebody prefers one or the other, it's not very flattering to see poor analysis or downright misinformation put up as justification. Neither is perfect - that gun will never exist. Looking at the weapon as a whole, the average shooter is better off with the AR when ALL the issues are considered.

GunTech
November 5, 2010, 11:06 AM
What I've never understood is why the AK has a rear sight graduated out to extreme range (800-1000 yards typically). It's well understood that the rifle was meant for realistic combat ranges. It seems that a simpler sight would have been in order. Machining for the sight seems like unnecessary embellishment.

The again, I suppose it's tradition. My C96 Mauser has a long range sight which is pretty optimistic considering the cartridge fired.

Bartholomew Roberts
November 5, 2010, 11:30 AM
Maybe it's only "1%" worse in tests, but that's a jam every 3 mags.

No, it isn't. Let me explain why you are mistaken. First of all, the test lasted 6,000 rounds. The 863 stoppages weren't nice and evenly spread throughout the test - as the test continued and the silica dust wore down the weapons, mechanical failures and stoppages increased.

So right away, we've identified a major problem with both the test and our rifles (whatever design they might be) - maintenance. The issue rifles are competing against new rifles - and six out of the ten rifles pulled from the armory don't meet the Army's acceptance standard for cyclic rate. So not only are the issue rifles starting with some degree of wear and tear, they apparently were either not properly maintained (new springs/buffers) or they were not caught by the Army during acceptance.

Both of these are problems, because once we start buying the new super rifle you suggest, we will need to make sure it is built to the same standards as the prototypes and we will have to follow the recommended maintenance schedule for it or like any machine, it will fail.

Second, as I pointed out earlier - not all of those 863 stoppages were actually stoppages, several of them were just the burst cam working as designed. At least 25% of them were bad magazines (again maintenance issue).

So we have a good case that a new rifle to new rifle comparison would yield a stoppage rate of less than 1.6%. In fact, if you'll click on the link I provided you earlier, you'll see that when Colt had new M4s independently tested, the failure rate was 0.4% - on par with the top finisher in the competition.

I've only experienced severe jamming using blank ammunition, but this is because the back pressure from blanks is much higher and causes much more rapid carbon buildup.

I've used my share of M16A2s and BFAs. Blanks do not produce higher back pressure. Blanks produce less pressure. That is one of the functions of your BFA. It slows the exit of gases from the muzzle so that the rifle has enough pressure to operate. 99% of problems with blanks are due to the BFA not providing an effective seal.

As for carbon buildups being a problem - I just gave you several links to rifles that went tens of thousands of rounds with no cleaning and with no stoppages due to carbon build up. If the problem is the design, then why do those rifles work?

Conceptually, the gas impingement system is just flat out dumb. ***? There's all these little surfaces that the hot sooty gas is allowed to get into, that rub against each other as the bolt cycles. It quickly builds up and the weapon grinds to a halt.

Again, didn't happen in the above rifles that use the same design. So ask yourself, what is different about those rifles?

If a soldier ever gets into trouble because his M16 jammed in battle (which has happened MANY times in Iraq. I've heard a few direct stories) ALL of the blame must be on the soldier for not cleaning it. The military cannot possibly be even slightly at fault for supplying the soldier with a <deleted> weapon because the U.S. Army is the best in the world and can do no wrong.

You are so close to the point here it makes me want to cry. The Army supplies plenty of <deleted> weapons (and not just the M4) to its troops; but is it because the basic design is the problem or is it how the Army maintains the equipment?

When I was in the service, you didn't get a replacement part for a rifle until the previous part was broken or lost. This is the equivalent of telling someone "Sure the tire is flat; but it is still on the car, so you'll have to keep driving!" No shock that rifles maintained this way don't always function well. You can redesign all the rifles you want; but until you fix this problem, you are just pissing into the wind.

The cleaning thing is just another symptom of the Army's problematic mindset on this. Guys are under the mistaken impression that their weapon must be spotless to function - and I'll grant you, it is difficult to keep a weapon that uses direct impingement spotlessly, white glove clean. So in order to get it that way, soldiers develop practices like washing it in laundry detergent and water. Then they don't add any CLP to it; because CLP would pull carbon out of every tiny crevice and it would never pass a white glove inspection. So now you've got a machine that has had every trace of protectant and lubricant stripped from it, is wet, and going into storage. Springs and other parts corrode and weaken. Chambers get bronze brushes chucked into a drill run through them. Parts designed for 10,000 rounds die in 2,000 as they are literally polished away by grunts "cleaning" them. The rifles stop working as designed... so what is the answer? Clean 'em more! and harder too!

Read the links above, ARs will run reliably and just fine without being spotless or overcleaned. All they need is A) proper lubrication B) replacement of key parts (extractor spring, action spring, bolt) on a regularly schedule basis. The purpose of cleaning isn't to make the gun spotless - it is to remove carbon and grime to a degree that you can inspect the parts for wear and replace them before they break. The "clean it spotless" mentality is part of the problem, not the solution. If you clean the rifle spotless, parts will wear faster. If you don't replace the worn parts until they break, you are going to have a rifle that chokes on you for a long time before the part that is past its service life finally breaks completely.

All of the links I have given you go into these same points in detail. You've got guys like Pat Rogers (Marine Force Recon, NYPD and several other governmental agencies, teaches Force Recon CQB instructors how to teach) and Michael Pannone (Marine Force Recon, U. S. Army Special Forces, and "specially seletced" elements of JSOC, Colt Armorer) telling you how to properly maintain the carbine and make it run. These aren't armchair commandos. They know their business.

There is no reason at all we couldn't have made a hybrid weapon with the ammunition feeding system of the AK-47 (but made of lighter weight metals) and the sights of the M16 and fielded it in say, 1970.

O we could have... heck, a lot of people did try to create M16/AK47 hybrids - look at the SIG 556 (or any of its predecessors). Now ask yourself why none of those weapons or their predecessors were ever adopted? Or why none of the potential M4 replacements use an AK-style gas piston system?

Mr_Pale_Horse
November 5, 2010, 12:09 PM
Yes.

Accuracy requires -

1. Tight Tolerances - in chamber dimensions, headspace, short throat and short lead

2. Repeatable Concentric lockup - something falling block or rear lock actions do not provide

3. Stiff/Heavy barrels

4. Trigger quality and short lock time

5. Consistent ammo with ball matched to twist/diameter/groove type

Hurricane
November 5, 2010, 12:24 PM
The AK does just fine as a third world design anchored in '30's design technology.

It wasn't designed in a third world. It was designed by the sole other competing global super power (Soviet Union). The same world power that had us scared for nearly 50 years throughout the cold war.

The Soviet Union requested/required that its allies utilized the 7.62 x 39 cartridge, and many of those nations chose to use the AK format. For example, in China, Russian techs came over with surplus Russian parts and taught the Chinese how to make the rifle. Over time, the Chinese began manufacturing their own parts, and I firmly believe this to be part of the reason why a pre-ban Norinco type 56 to be one of the finest examples of an AK. Minus the full auto. :(

And why would we not use an AK in our own armed forces? Well, how would you like to be the politician/serviceman/citizen to suggest we use the weapon of our "enemy"- not only claiming they made something superior than we could, but that we need to use a "Communist" weapon? I don't think that would have gone over well.

Regardless, studies have shown that more bullets in the air work better for your side, so we went to smaller calibers, thus allowing troops to carry more ammunition.

I have no qualms with the AR, other than sometimes wishing it was a bigger caliber. I realize there are different modifications you can do, but as the standard design, I wish it would have used a .30 cal of sorts. I guess give me an AR-10 and call it day.

benEzra
November 5, 2010, 01:02 PM
What I've never understood is why the AK has a rear sight graduated out to extreme range (800-1000 yards typically). It's well understood that the rifle was meant for realistic combat ranges. It seems that a simpler sight would have been in order. Machining for the sight seems like unnecessary embellishment.

The again, I suppose it's tradition. My C96 Mauser has a long range sight which is pretty optimistic considering the cartridge fired.
The intent of the way-out-yonder sight settings on older rifles was to allow more accurate placement of massed fire at groups or areas, presumably with the intent of "keeping their heads down" rather than hitting an individual target. I want to say my Finn M39's rear sight goes up to 2000 meters once you flip it to vertical. You can't even see an individual at that distance except in exceptional lighting conditions, but having a 2km sight would certainly allow a group of riflemen to put rounds on a much smaller CEP at 2km than if they were trying to use unsighted fire, and it could certainly encourage dispersal of mass formations. I agree that in practice this probably isn't useful, but I think that was the intent.

sturmgewehr
November 5, 2010, 01:18 PM
1. The only semi-automatic weapon I can think of that keeps dirty propellant gas out of the moving parts is the roller-delayed blowback design - and even that is debateable. The AK47 uses dirty properllant gas to push a piston - the piston being a moving part.
Have you ever owned an HK91, 93 or 94? They are just as filthy, if not more so, than an AR. They use flutes in their chamber to float the case on hot gas which aids in extraction. This in turn blows propellant gases throughout the rifles action.

The cleanest rifles I've seen use either long stoke or short stroke gas systems.

KodiakBeer
November 5, 2010, 01:58 PM
Forget all the technical stuff for a moment. If you want good accuracy, the most important concepts in a rifle are good sights and a good trigger. After all, it's usable accuracy that counts, not what you can get off a bench on a sunny day.

And that's one thing that always puzzled me about the AK. Why haven't they upgraded the sights and fixed that gritty, stagey trigger? Those cheap and easy improvements would make it a far better rifle.

Hurricane
November 5, 2010, 02:37 PM
Why haven't they upgraded the sights and fixed that gritty, stagey trigger?

And that's the thing. With a lot of our examples, we are seeing rifles that are made from parts that go together rather than parts that were made within a factory for each other.

If we took apart all M-14's, threw all the parts in piles, and picked them at random to put on a newly made receiver, some would be better than others, but I think we would agree that few would be as decent as a roll out from an actual factory.

I think that until we are allowed to import the rifle as designed and built, we will only see mediocre examples, some better than others, save those pre-ban rifles.

But please don't forget about the full auto fire. That is where the AK truly shines. And not specifically alone, but with a small squad unleashing at once, as intended.

I would equate it to owning a corvette but not being able to drive over 30. You just can't fully appreciate it because it can't do what it was intended to do.

Hurricane
November 5, 2010, 02:41 PM
Forgot to mention-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OChmqnAfeMw


Towards the end of this video the guy shoots full auto. Imagine a few guys coming over a hill top like this. :eek:

Not to say that if they were coming over the top with full auto M16's I wouldn't have the same reaction. :rolleyes:

Quentin
November 5, 2010, 03:24 PM
Bartholomew Roberts, thank you for your many enlightening posts in this thread. You see reported over and over how "poorly" the M4 performed in dust tests that it's refreshing to get "the rest of the story".

KodiakBeer
November 5, 2010, 08:35 PM
If we took apart all M-14's, threw all the parts in piles, and picked them at random to put on a newly made receiver, some would be better than others, but I think we would agree that few would be as decent as a roll out from an actual factory.

True, but they'd all have excellent sights and the triggers would be at least fair to good. Same with the AR.

We'll probably never see a crisp trigger (like a commercial sporting rifle) on a battle rifle, but there's no reason they can't have a clean two stage trigger like we find on most WWII era rifles. Good sights and triggers are easy technical "fixes".

.

HorseSoldier
November 5, 2010, 08:59 PM
It wasn't designed in a third world. It was designed by the sole other competing global super power (Soviet Union). The same world power that had us scared for nearly 50 years throughout the cold war.

+1. The Soviets were either the 2nd World, or the other First World nation besides the US, depending on when and who you talked to. The point in all cases was that 3rd World nations were the poor, underdeveloped/developing nations that were either unaligned with the western or communist blocs or at best loosely affiliated with one side or the other.

And the AK was, hands down, the most advanced and most combat optimized service rifle of the 1950s. The differential between a true assault rifle like the AK and the battle rifles the US shafted NATO and ourselves with was probably on par with the difference between a flintlock and a percussion cap muzzle loader. The former would still kill you deader than cancer, but the latter did it better and more effectively.

Tirod
November 6, 2010, 11:11 AM
Kalasnikov designed the AK to be made in an industrial base decades behind any other major nation, hence the stamped folded parts and simple twisted wire springs. Any student of industrial design can spot it. Even attempting to equate the Soviet Union of the '40's as an industrial equal to the US or Germany is ludicrous. They couldn't even get the shift mechanism on the T34 to work smoothly, it's very old tanker lore they used a 5 pound sledge to move it.

Compared to the STG 44, the AK is a poor step child. The Germans did a much better job at INVENTING the entire assault rifle class of weapon. The delay roller lock bolt and dirty action that results didn't bother them one bit - or me, when I owned a HK91. You could pour a handful of gravel in the open bolt and it would still chamber and fire.

As a direct result of what was thoroughly studied by many nations, the .30 cal battle rifles, bolt or gas operated, were not well liked by the soldiers. It is entirely the fact they would not shoot them often or well that created the move to the intermediate caliber full auto fire, magazine fed weapons that replaced them. Shooting more often, with less recoil, means more bullets on the battlefield, which however inaccurately done, means more hits. On the battlefield, a squad getting more hits has superior firepower, regardless of caliber or training. It's also why the US still has a 2MOA milspec standard, and has since the 1950's. It's old news to read the Ordnance ammo testing standard that requires 2MOA in ten rounds shot. 2MOA is all that is needed.

Conspiracy theory we won't buy Soviet weapons because of politics tends to expose a serious weakness in understanding firearms design and tactical application. We don't buy into old curio relic designs because the ergonomics are poor, the controls don't allow safe chambering of ammo, and the construction used is heavy and inefficient. Why trade off a weapon with a thumb operated safety that helps the user swap mags with an open bolt for a heavier, more inaccurate, and generally less well finished weapon? The weight alone offsets a magazine or two of ammo that could be carried and that will contribute to more hits on the battlefield.

Gas operated .30 cal rifles are pretty much second and third world these days, most nations use a AR pattern rifle - unless they get a free AK factory to punch up the deal with their oppressive leaders who tend to accumulate all the profits themselves. Exercising a competition among weapons suppliers like the Army's Improved Carbine trials doesn't exist in dictatorships. They don't have competing weapons makers, they are not allowed to exist. If all you have is the AK, no wonder that's all there is to choose.

It certainly explains the difference between the Free West and the rest of the world.

briansmithwins
November 6, 2010, 12:32 PM
Kalasnikov designed the AK to be made in an industrial base decades behind any other major nation, hence the stamped folded parts and simple twisted wire springs.

Hmm, that explains the receiver of the G3 and recoil spring in my Sig pistol. Damn Germans pawing off obsolete technology to the rest of the world.

Everything is a compromise. Part of the compromises made with the AK was that they be capable of being cheaply mass produced and not use strategic materials (like aluminum that was in demand for aircraft). The Sov (and Russian Empire before them) fought both World Wars with a shortage of infantry rifles. They didn't want to be caught with their pants down again.

As far as accuracy, the Sov spec was that AKs had to keep 4 rounds in a 15cm (5.9") circle at 100m (109 yards). If the rifle failed it was to be evacuated to support for repair*. Yes, they emphasized reliability more so than accuracy but they didn't ignore accuracy either. BSW

*p119 of this manual: https://docs.google.com/fileview?id=0B09fZpC9S7gDMmYyMGI2Y2MtMzQ3MC00MDU3LTk0Y2ItYjBlZTNiNDc5NWE0&hl=en&authkey=CLT79qIH

GunTech
November 6, 2010, 01:10 PM
Just for the record, the acceptance standard for the M14 was 5 MOA - and many rifles failed to meet this. The problem was traced to ammunition, but this is well documented and even resulted in senate hearings. Details can be found in US Rifle M14 by Stevens. Interestingly, the precision standard was the same for the M1 Garand.

Further, it should be noted that it was the US that pushed the acceptance of the full power 7.62x51 (308) cartridge as NATO standard over the objections of the European members. It was not soldiers complaints but battlefield studies, originally performs by the German army post WWII that led to the concept of the intermediate range cartridge. The rationale was that current rifles were needlessly powerful for normal combat ranges, and an intermediate round would be cheaper to produce and a soldier could carry more. I know of no study that used the desires of the soldiers.

The US was one of the last industrialized nations to adopt the concept of the intermediate round, and this was probably due more to the departure of Rene Studler as head of ordnance than any other factor. He worked tirelessly to kill off support for the assault rifle concept, continuing to support the notion that infantry rifles needed to be effective out to 1000 yard in spite of all the studies that had shown that to not be the case.

The two seminal publication in the US that led to the adoption of the assault rifle in the US are Hitchman's Operational Requirements for an Infantry Hand Weapon and the Hall's An effectiveness study of the infantry rifle. Both were published in the 1950s and while forward thinkers used this to promote the SPIW as the next generation of infantry weapon, it was basically ignored by the insiders at ordnance.

For those unfamiliar with either work, the Hitchman study basically confirmed what the Germs had found in the interwar years - that virtually all smallarms fire occurs at 500 yards or less and effectiveness drop to virtually zero at his range, that 70% of all smallarms fire is at 100 yards or less, and that volumes of fire were more effective than aimed fire in the confusion of combat. The Hall study postulated that a small caliber bullet driven at sufficient velocity would have the approximate lethality of a larger caliber round at combat distances.

The upshot of all this was the adoption of the M14 to satisfy ordnance, but to pursue the SPIW as the long term replacement rifle for US forces. Almost immediately, ordnance started to sabotage the SPIW project by introducing requirements not called for or seen as necessary by the Hitchman study, but fitting in with the conservative, target shooter mindset of Ordnance.

Long range effectiveness was not necessary according to Hitchman, but ordnance wanted a rifle that could be effective out to 800-1000 yards. Burst fire increased the potential for a hit, and slight dispersion was advantageous, but ordnance insisted upon single round accuracy.

The SPIW program fell farther and farther behind thanks to immature technology and conflicting requirements. Meanwhile, the M14 was proving to be nothing more than a product improved Garand, and the Manufacturers were having problems producing the rifle at the estimated cost and required quality. The idea that modified Garand tool could be used to save money proved utterly false.

The M14 problems weren't resolved until TRW took over production, building a new manufacturing facility from scratch. By that time, the M16 was already in the pipe as an interim rifle until the SPIW was ready and production of the m14 ceased just as things were finally sorted out.

The M16 itself was never seen as a permanent solution. It was never subjected to acceptance trials the way previous rifles were, and was adopted through the back door thanks to Colt's sales people pitching the rifle to SAC chief Curtis Lemay, who was something of a gunguy and needed a new high tech rifle to replace the M1 carbines the Air Force was using. SAC was all about high tech, and when the rifle was presented to Lemay at a picnic - which included some watermelon shooting - Lemay was sold. From their the rifle gradually crept into military service. It was seen as a perfect rifle for smaller Vietnamese allies, and gradually the 'interim' rifle became standard and the SPIW project shriveled up and died.

The M16 series - an interim weapon - is now the longest serving rifle in the US, probably a testament more to the conservative nature of the military and Colt's understanding of how to work the procurement process than anything else.

The whole M14/SPIW/M16 debacle also led to the dismantling of the US arsenals and putting the whole contracting of small arms into the hands of private companies - for good or ill.

-v-
November 6, 2010, 01:53 PM
One thing to add to the debate is that event he Soviets decided that the small 5mm projectile was the way to go for infantry rifles.

The AK-47 was adopted in '49 and continued to '56. It was a good rifle, using a milled receiver, but it had some problems, such as high manufacturing cost, and requiring over 1 million machining operations to machine the receiver, inefficient even by soviet standards. Kalashnikov's design specs called for a stamped receiver, similar to a StG44, but Soviet industry at the time could not meet that standard.

In '56 the AK-47 was replaced by the AKM (What is commonly and colloquially seen as an AK-47) that addressed many of the '47's short comings, including high manufacturing costs by by finally being able to manufacture a stamped receiver, resulting in a weight savings of 1.5lb. The AKM also introduced some improvements in the fire control mechanism.

In '74 the whole M43 cartridge was scrapped in favor of the M74 5.45x39.5 cartridge. If I remember, it also has an accuracy standard of ~2 MOA, same as the M16 family. Looking at the many 5.45 shooters using soviet surplus, 2.5 MOA appears to be the norm.

As for why no NATO member used the AK design? Well, I think the answer there is obvious. Who in the NATO block would adopt and use a WARSAW Pact weapon and ammunition?

This of course has changed in the 21st century, with many of the former WARSAW pact nations being incorporated into NATO, and with some of them (Poland being a prime example) electing to transition to a 5.56x45 chambering for their AK-74M variants over adopting some of the other western offerings in the same caliber (G36, Sig551, FAMAS, L85, AUG to name a few).

As for "No Western Rifle Uses Stampings!" argument, Need you look no further than the CETME and G3 rifle, which was also made using cheap stampings and then welded together. a G3 is able to produce accuracy very much on par with an M16-pattern weapon, while using seemingly "inferior" "third-world" "1930's technology" with arguably more reliability.

briansmithwins
November 6, 2010, 02:06 PM
requiring over 1 million machining operations to machine the receiver

You got some documentation for that claim?

Also, the earliest AKs were stamped. They got pulled as they were insufficiently durable and were replaced with the milled receiver design. Then the AKM came along with a different design of stamped receiver. BSW

benEzra
November 6, 2010, 03:55 PM
Kalasnikov designed the AK to be made in an industrial base decades behind any other major nation, hence the stamped folded parts and simple twisted wire springs. Any student of industrial design can spot it. Even attempting to equate the Soviet Union of the '40's as an industrial equal to the US or Germany is ludicrous. They couldn't even get the shift mechanism on the T-34 to work smoothly, it's very old tanker lore they used a 5 pound sledge to move it.
Don't forget that the Russians were building T-34's under extreme duress in the middle of an all-out invasion by a major military power, and the T34 was *still* one of the best all-around tanks of the war---certainly as good as or better than any U.S. medium tank of the time. As far as the transmission, the Russians switched to a completely different transmission in 1942, and since T-34's were produced until 1958 I have trouble believing that the later models still had to be shifted with a hammer. T-34 variants were still serving in First World militaries as late as the mid-1990's. Russian industry also designed and flew some of the best fighter aircraft of the war, e.g. the Yakovlev Yak-9 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakovlev_Yak-9) and Lavochkin La-7 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavochkin_La-7) that gave them air superiority over the Germans, and they built the first ICBM around the time the AKM was being issued, so I wouldn't characterize Russian industry at the time of the AK's adoption as backward by any means. Sometimes inefficient (and in later years, a bit fossilized) due to command-and-control economics, yes; backward, no.

The AK wasn't an attempt to compensate for lack of production technology; it was designed to be able to produced at minimal cost of tooling and strategic materials. I'm sure the lessons of Stalingrad were also fresh in their minds.

happygeek
November 6, 2010, 03:56 PM
Can't believe it took that long into the AK vs AR thread for someone to mention the AK74.

harmon rabb
November 6, 2010, 04:24 PM
On the topic of reliability, I'll say this. I own an AR, an AK-47, and an AK-74. For any given number of rounds fired, the AR gets much MUCH dirtier inside than the AK's do. Hell, after 100 rounds, the AR looks dirty inside (and, no, I'm not using wolf or other steel cased garbage in it). The AK's still look clean and have maybe a small amount of carbon on the piston face (and they often ARE firing wolf).

It would seem logical the AK's are less sensitive to a lack of maintenance than the AR is, just based upon this.

Of course the sights and ergonomics on the AK's suck, and my AR has never suffered a failure of any kind.

GunTech
November 6, 2010, 04:29 PM
It should also be recalled that while not NATO countries, Both Finland and Israel adopted AK variants. The Finn still use the Rk95, and the prime reason the Israelis adopted the M16 variants is that theyre were required to use a certain portion of the US military aid to purchase US made weapons. The machined Galil cannot compete costwise with a heavily subsidized M16.


Other non-Sov Bloc nations using AK variants include Columbia and South Africa off the top of my head.

Maverick223
November 6, 2010, 08:04 PM
Other non-Sov Bloc nations using AK variants include Columbia and South Africa off the top of my head.I *think* Mozambique might use it too (amongst hordes of other nations). ;)
http://www.mouseguns.com/ak47info/mozflag.jpg

That said they are a communist nation, so that doesn't really count for much...does it?

:)

-v-
November 7, 2010, 01:32 AM
This is a good reference on the AK-47/AKM family: http://world.guns.ru/assault/as01-e.htm

It is noteworthy that the AK-47 wasn't adopted officially until 1949. As for the 1 million machining operations for the receiver, I recall it being mentioned on History Chanel's "Tales of the Gun", but I can find no precise references on line, so take it with a grain of salt.

benEzra also brings good points. It's not that soviet industry couldn't produce a more advanced firearm, its that there was seen to be little/no need for a more advanced firearm. A 300 meter Minute of man accurate assault rifle that could be made en mass was needed, and thats what they received. I heard the figure that at peak war production, IzMash arsenal could manufacture 40,000 AK-74M rifles in a single day.

In the end, the AK is very fitting with the Russian mindset: It doesn't need to be perfect, it just needs to be good enough. The T34 was not a very refined tank, but it was certainly good enough to fight anything in Europe, the PPSh-41 was not the end-all be all SMG, but it was good enough, the Mosin-Nagant and DP28 all had their flaws, but again they worked well enough, and lastly while the AK platform is not the end-all be-all of small arms, it works well enough as a combat arm. The same can be said of the M16.

Snakum
November 7, 2010, 02:49 AM
from the perspective of the Pentagon, they'd rather buy more tanks and other bigger weapons that can kill huge numbers of people at once.

More bang for your buck. Poking holes in people one at a time is rather inefficient. :D

Maverick223
November 7, 2010, 01:56 PM
Regarding the "1 Million" machining operations required for the production of the AK-47; see excerpt from page 18 (specifically para. 2) from
The New World of Russian Small Arms and Ammo (http://www.scribd.com/doc/24301486/the-New-World-of-Russian-Small-Arms-and-Ammo) by Charlie Cutshaw:

deleted -- <Sam>

That having been said, 120 operations on milling machines is still very time consuming, and costly. It also requires highly skilled labor, not required of a bending brake, punch press, and riveter employed in the production of the AKM.

:)

zombie666
November 7, 2010, 05:17 PM
So many good points made by so many people. I believe both the AK and AR are good weapons. This could be argued till the cows come home. Just as there are dog people and cat people, there are AK and AR people, and never the twain shall meet.
Sturmgewehr, your dead on about fouling in HKs. When I bring mine home from the range, it looks like I've been burning coal in the receiver

Hatterasguy
November 7, 2010, 07:34 PM
Mmmm . . . no. In a 100 year retrospective I can think of many pieces of equipment where we most certainly did not field the best. The Sherman tanks we sent up against Panthers and late model Panzer IVs in WW2 jump to mind -- as do the Shermans we sent up against T-34s in Korea.

The Sherman was rather good in most regards and are partly credited with helping the British turn the North African campaign around. While it didn't fare so well against the later German tanks, the fact of the matter is they didn't have that many of them. Anything less than an up gunned Panzer 4 the Sherman was better than. Yes the Panther was a deadly tank, but only a relative handfull ever saw combat against our tanks, so they achieved nothing.


What I was referring to was how the average solider was equipped. If you compare a German, American and Russian solider our guys had the best gear and weapons by a mile.

amd6547
November 7, 2010, 09:13 PM
The Sherman was more advanced than the early German panzers the Brits encountered in North Africa....but it was quite obsolete in comparison to the T34, as was proven in Korea.

HorseSoldier
November 7, 2010, 10:36 PM
What I was referring to was how the average solider was equipped. If you compare a German, American and Russian solider our guys had the best gear and weapons by a mile.

Even if limited to that, it's a pretty shaky premise. A lot of our stuff in WW1 was mediocre to its contemporaries, if not substandard (Chauchat 30-06 anyone?).

Our comparative wealth as a nation meant American troops were issued a lot of gear in WW2, but that doesn't mean what they got was the best. As an example, the 1941 model field jacket was not very adequate as a jacket and stood out so badly in northwestern Europe a lot of troops resorted to wearing it inside out, while the Germans were fielding very effective camouflage uniforms on a comparatively massive scale. The refusal of the echelons above reality to issue camouflage uniforms absolutely killed troops in NW Europe and during both Korea and Vietnam. Even today, when our equipment is generally great there are some standout duds -- the botched abortion that is the ACU camouflage pattern jumps to mind.

suburbansurvivalist
November 15, 2010, 10:16 PM
Getting back to accuracy, which AK-47 models/variants are considered most accurate? I'm not interested in the AK vs. AR part of the debate, but would like to know which AKs seem to have better accuracy.

Maverick223
November 15, 2010, 11:06 PM
Getting back to accuracy, which AK-47 models/variants are considered most accurate?Saiga/Izhmash from my experience, if you are willing to look at other platforms the VZ.58 even more so. Also the 5.45x39.5mm variant of the AK (the AK-74) also seems to have better accuracy.

BTW, welcome to THR, suburbansurvivalist!

:)

Snakum
November 16, 2010, 12:26 AM
Other non-Sov Bloc nations using AK variants include Columbia and South Africa off the top of my head.

Not Colombia ... they were using old Korean era US equipment for years and years, then the G3 from mid 1980s onward (still today last I heard). The regular Colombian Army was using a very nice weapon while I was stuck in the Northern hills chasing their commies with old Vietnam era M16A1s and Galils. For some reason only God knows why, we had a lot of Israeli equipment. LOL.

Maverick223
November 16, 2010, 12:43 AM
For some reason only God knows why, we had a lot of Israeli equipment. LOL.I harbor no ill-thoughts towards the M16, but I sure wouldn't complain if I was handed a Galil instead. :D

GunTech
November 16, 2010, 01:02 AM
The Galil would certainly rate as an AK variant, I would think.

Also saw a recent photo of a Swede trooper with an FFV580C, although I thought they had adopted the FNC.

Jaws
November 16, 2010, 01:17 PM
I don't thing accuracy is inversly related to reliability. Every time when this subject comes people compare AK vs AR.
For a general isue rifle is little difference in accuracy between a modern DI and a modern piston gun.
When I say modern piston gun I mean modern rifles designed from the start as piston guns, not DI guns with a simple piston "fix".
There are plenty modern piston guns out there this days, that come from the factory just as accurate or better than the millitary m16 or m4. Maybe a 20K$ DI gun can be more accurate than a 20K$ piston gun, but those are the EXCEPTIONS, not the rule and very few people can shoot acurately enough to get that little extra.

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