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something I've always wondered about AR vs. AK...

Discussion in 'Rifle Country' started by RP88, Apr 5, 2010.

  1. RP88

    RP88 Well-Known Member

    Now, this is not exactly a debate on which gun is better. Instead, this is more about their technical specs, if such things are comparable.

    Whenever someone discusses or looks up an AR, you have a vast arsenal of topics regarding many things that go into the process of making one: MPI and HPT of certain parts, barrel steel and blend, receiver forging, etc. etc. All of which paints the AR as a pretty, precision-engineered marvel of firearms science.


    ...what the hell is an AK made out of? Surely it is not made out of weak steel, crappy, improperly prepared chrome, plywood, and the tears of children and political dissidents working towards their death in Siberian gulags like the manual makes it out to be (disclaimer: I'm not actually sure on whether or not it says that).

    But seriously, what are the various parts of an AK made of? How different is the manufacturing process? If the parts are of lesser grade, then why is it that AKs seem to last forever while people share horror stories of even quality ARs failing?
  2. bhhacker

    bhhacker Well-Known Member

    looser tolerances for parts on the ak allow the gun to fire with more debris in it than the ar
  3. dobeman

    dobeman Well-Known Member

    I've always wondered about the huge price difference. Is it materials? and quality? I don't think so.
  4. davester16

    davester16 New Member

    I'm sure many of us have noticed that the manufacturing section of the U.S. economy is rather jacked up and has been for....oh, twenty years? But ya got me on the price difference...there are many quality AKs out there and a few ARs that aren't all their cracked up to be.

    My guess is that it is simply the difference in a countries economy that influences the price of the products....for many AK manufacturers boast of their materials and workmanship. Obviously that is displayed by their durability and--nowadays--their improved accuracy.

    But I don't know much about it.
  5. sv51macross

    sv51macross Well-Known Member

    It's the level of sophistication. AR receivers are milled billets, which is comparatively expensive to cutting a few holes out of a steel square and stamping it into a flat-sided 'U'. (I am grossly simplifying for the sake of the explanation). The AR also has alot more small moving parts. Save a few relatively rare variations (Tantal, Yugo M70, ect), the AK has one control that doubles as a dust cover. The Ar, by comparison, has the safety, dust cover, forward assist, bolt release (and bolt hold open).

    So really, it comes down to the relative simplicity, and that most AKs coming in are surplus de-milled military guns, as to why they are cheaper than ARs. But look at say, a Krebs KTR-03/08/09, or higher-end Arsenal SLR, you do get into AR money quickly.
  6. Jaws

    Jaws Well-Known Member

    The Russians are making cheap firearms but they are not using cheap parts where it matters most for reliability and durability.
    Since PPsh all their military firearms have cromelined barrels and bolts. All Russian AK's have hammer forged barrels to ensure longevity.
    They can make cheap and ugly exterior parts that are not vital for the function of the weapon, but they don't fool around with the important parts.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2010
  7. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    the AK uses the same philosophy as other Soviet firearms, "if it affects function, engineered to work; if it doesn't, it just has to be good enough". every military culture designs weapons to meet it's style of combat, the trick is deciding what you'll need for the next conflict

    the AK was designed very specifically to support mech warfare. it is cheap to product, it works in all kinds of horrible conditions, it's reliability isn't compromised and it isn't more accurate than it needs to be. it was also designed to be produced in a less advanced industrial nation.

    so they are cheaper to produce, the work all the time and they are extremely effective doing what they are designed to do. when the AK has been re-engineered to deliver to "western standards" they are comparable to the AR in both function and cost...ie: Galil, FN FNC, Sig 556
  8. nalioth

    nalioth Well-Known Member

    One out of three ain't bad.

    The Galil is the only some-parts-compatible "western standards" implementation of the Kalashnikov, the others are just compilations of the best features from many weapon systems (including the AK) - but not anywhere close to being compatible with the Kalashnikov.
  9. 9mmepiphany

    9mmepiphany Moderator

    they weren't designed to be compatible with the Kalashnikov, they are an evolution and optimized for the Western market. at least that's what the Sig Sauer engineers told me at SHOT...they consider their 556 the ultimate evolution of the semi-auto AK
  10. aka108

    aka108 Well-Known Member

    The AK is built to looser tolerences of fit and if you take a good look inside it is no more complicated than a repeating cap gun made in the 1940's. There are no little parts to loose and you could train a person totally unfamiliar with firearms to field strip and shoot the weapon in less than a hour. As I read somewhere, it is a weapon designed by a peasant (a smart one) to be built by peasants for use by peasants. They did a good job.
  11. DeepSouth

    DeepSouth Well-Known Member

    Loose fitting sheet metal.
    A Russian (or a terrorist) could probably build a fully functioning AK out of a car fender in about 15 min. :scrutiny:
  12. DMK

    DMK Well-Known Member

    It's just different design philosophies.

    The AR15 was born from the US Aerospace industry (Armalite was a division of Fairchild-Republic, the same company that made the F-105 supersonic fighter bomber). It was designed to use the techniques and lightweight materials from that industry.

    The AK was designed by a tank mechanic (Kalashnikov) with fresh memories of the Nazi invasion. He wanted a robust and reliable assault rifle that could be produced cheaply and quickly.

    In both cases, very competent engineers looked at the problems and used the proper materials for the job. The AR15 has an aluminum receiver, the AK's is stamped sheet metal. The AR's barrel is button rifled, the AK's barrel is hammer forged. The AR is screwed and pinned together, the AK is mostly riveted. Different design philosophies to accomplish the same task.
  13. Tirod

    Tirod Well-Known Member

    Wow, another thread repeating misconceptions and half truths.

    The AK is reputedly more durable, but posts from owners on this forum alone show that is a different quality than reliable. Sure, you can throw it off your roof, but try to get the first magazine to shoot all the rounds? It doesn't always happen for AK owners either.

    The AK is built in third world countries using sheet metal and wood stock construction techniques, about what America had in the 1930's. The AR is drop forged aluminum, machined, with synthetic furniture construction based on jet aircraft materials of the '50's, a huge technological leap forward. The different technical infrastructures that make the parts are also completely different economies. Bulgaria doesn't have Walmart, U Pump gas stations, debit cards, and Escalades parked rows deep at the dealer. They don't pay minimum wage, either.

    All the supposed precision of the AR is simply due to the established set of standards that the public insists be enforced - so that one part will always fit and work with the others. The AK, not so much. Variations don't all swap even the simple parts. It's a lot like the FN inch and metric patterns, with further twists thrown in over time and local practice. The AR is much more precise maker to maker over the last 45 years. That drives up costs when parts from a LMT today will still fit a '70s M16A1 made by Hydramatic. It takes skilled operators and smart people to make it happen, they don't come cheap.

    AR's available today are largely made new, and subject to current materials costs, overhead, and labor expenses. AK's, especially imported ones, are used surplus based on costs from decades ago, on machines built and paid for in the '60's, operated by workers often long dead. Compare the price of a new, precision built, better grade AK, you get a truer picture. They are about the SAME price. Include the CMMG Bargain Bin rifles at $599, and the better AR can be had cheaper.

    The reality is that the different features on the AR do make a difference in price, also. The bolt hold open requires machining and parts fabrication that doesn't exist on the AK, a trapdoor buttplate or thumb operated safety that blocks the trigger doesn't exist on the AK, a flattop with Pictinny rail on the upper is not factory available. If anything, a recent thread on building a precision shooter AK with a $2000 price tag shows that equipping an AK with the same features built to a high standard is just as expensive.

    If it looks like the AK is cheaper and more easily made, it's because it is - cheap and easily made. Devalue the costs by using recycled military surplus, and it is very inexpensive. If the M16 could be done the same way, it would be a lot cheaper, too, and is. Just check out the kits from Henderson, about $600 for most of the parts off a M16 except lower. Of course, the American economy can even beat that with Bargain Bin pricing. If there were 500,000 M16 kits on the market, price competition would drop the retail on them so low AK importers would have to sell for a loss.

    Well, that's not going to happen.
  14. nalioth

    nalioth Well-Known Member

    I consider the Finnish Rk95 to be the ultimate evolution of the Kalashnikov.

    Those Sig-Sauer engineers are just running their mouths to increase sales.

    If we were able to have actual factory AKs here (and not ones made from cut-up parts, etc), no user would have issues with them.
  15. bigalexe

    bigalexe Well-Known Member

    Please remember that Tolerances =/= Clearances

    I see many times people misuse tolerance where they mean clearance. A tolerance defines what is allowable for max/min dimensions on something when it is done. A Clearance in the spacing between two parts in assembly.

    Now I am sure the AK-47 has higher tolerances in most cases because it was built cheaply and that includes the Quality Department, probably they let more than a few go out the door with parts somewhat outside the original intended tolerances. However the difference you are referring is in fact CLEARANCES.

    The AK-47 is older than the AR-15 and was designed to be built with older machinery, I am guessing the accuracy of said machinery is a bit less than what was used to build the AR-15. So the AK-47 most likely has wide clearances designed into it to allow for this inherent inaccuracy in the manufacturing process and make it so the rifle could still be assembled and function.

    The downside of looser fitting parts is lower repeatability in the function of the weapon which we call accuracy, the upside is that the gun doesn't jam when you show it a piece of sand.
  16. Quoheleth

    Quoheleth Well-Known Member


    But getting the drunken monkeys for the assembly line past Immigration or Customs could be an issue :D

  17. Tirod

    Tirod Well-Known Member

    Ah, more misconceptions. The eternal myth of the jammomatic M16 hasn't been seen in the field by soldiers for decades. Ask one. If LUBED properly, and kept wet, AR's run just fine, up to 25,000 rounds without cleaning in one test.

    Another recent report showed an M4gery going 2,500 rounds bone dry.

    It's mostly repeated misinformation and myth that the tighter clearances on the AR cause a problem. I would like someone to actually quote the differences in clearances and where they are a problem.

    Don't quote the infamous sand test, please, I would like to remind that crowd the second sand test with adequate amounts of lubrication showed the M4 doesn't have the problem.

    As pointed out, CLEARANCES aren't TOLERANCES. I've never seen a post that details what the clearances are that supposedly cause a problem. With downloadable blueprints and thousands of knowledgeable assemblers, if there really was a clearance problem, it would be a sticky on all the forums. "Get your dremel or sandpaper and reduce the dimension to X.XXX to prevent the dreaded jammomatic."

    Doesn't exist, hasn't happened. What does happen are users, military and civilian, who don't like wet dirty AR's. It's not an issue for those who actually use them in combat, it's the preferred and recommended method of operation.

    That IS a sticky on AR forums. "LUBRICATE LIBERALLY." It's another difference in the operation of the each firearm, don't treat them with the same PMCS.
  18. Shear_stress

    Shear_stress Well-Known Member

    For the love of god, 9mmepiphany never mentions direct compatibility with the AK. He only says that there are many Western rifles with very similar operating principles. This is absolutely true.

    The Valmet, Galil, FNC, and Sig 540/550 are a few examples. If there's any doubt, take a look at the following photos of the 550:


    Let's see: long stroke piston, sheetmetal lower complete with "dimples", very similar bolt carrier and two lug bolt, mag release, etc. The 556 is a different story.
  19. nalioth

    nalioth Well-Known Member

    If we want to go there, I guess they all go *BANG* when their trigger is pulled.
  20. Tirod

    Tirod Well-Known Member

    Please note the Valmet, Galil, FNC, and SIG aren't $450 imports. They aren't built in third world economies. Most of the workers aren't limited to buying Yugo's or Trabants.

    The original workers making the older AK's had a choice of which bicycle make to purchase, after they saved up the money. That and a shortwave radio was the extent of their personal technology.

    Blueberries and Spacebook aren't much available to them yet. :cool:

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