Prepper Guns: Firearms, Ammo, Tools, and Techniques You Will Need to Survive the Coming Collapse (2016)

RIFLES

The AK-47

Let’s start by playing the game in “real time.”

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The author with General Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the AK-47 rifle.

There is a game that’s fun to play with your friends. It is simply to pick a historical figure that you would like to spend some time hanging out with.

Most quickly pick Jesus, but he is eliminated for a bunch of reasons. First, he’s too obvious. Second, there is no mystery. He will simply do a couple of water tricks; you know, walking on it and turning it into merlot. Then he will raise a dead man back to life and unless you are a total fool you will become a true believer. The next thing you know, you are at the airport handing out flyers and Jesus is back hanging with the apostles; much too predictable, makes the game boring.

Hitler is another popular choice. Everybody wants to go back and kill him so they can save the world all that trouble. Again, not fair; in this game you can’t change history. The point is to find out who you want to hang with, not how you can change history or the course of your own life.

Personally, I can think of several people. Teddy Roosevelt might be fun. The man did a lot of remarkable things in his life. But as a writer, a hunter, and an adventurer with a thirst for life (and other things) I think Hemingway would be an interesting buddy. He wasn’t afraid to grab life by the shirt and shake what he wanted out of it; and he had the talent to put the results into words that got your attention.

But then, as a gun guy, I have to look at the men who left their marks on the industry. Sam Colt and John Browning are two who come to mind. They were not only geniuses in the designs they came up with, but also in the timing of those designs. A couple of decades one way or the other and those guns that are so well known today might not have caught on with the market. I would love to meet these men and to learn about how they came up with their ideas and why. The closest I have come was to sit in the room where John Browning’s body was laid for viewing at the FN plant in Belgium. I felt the same eerie connection with history then that I felt when standing on Hitler’s reviewing platform in Nuremberg or at Custer’s death site at Little Big Horn. I wondered what the men who created the destinies of these places were like.

Except it’s only a game; we can’t travel back into time no matter how much we would like to. Until we get that one figured out we are stuck with our little game of sitting around the campfire and discussing which men we want to meet and why it would be important to us, if not to them.

But what of the men our children might pick when they inevitably play this same game in the future? (Of course, I suspect that with the way it’s going the “do-gooders” will have prevailed and they will be discussing the prospect over a tofu, wheat-grass blended nature drink rather than good bourbon. Somehow I doubt it will be the same.) What men will they be discussing and, if those men are alive today, would it be interesting for us to meet them now?

Well, from a gun guy’s perspective there was at least one legend who had the ability and insight to create a rifle design that not only was genius in its simplicity, but one that has unquestionably left an impact on the world. With all politics aside it would be an honor to meet that man and discuss the merits of gun design.

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General Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the AK-47 rifle, signs a book for the author.

Well, I did that.

It was my pleasure to have spent an afternoon some years ago with General Mikhail Kalashnikov, the creator of the AK-47 rifle.

“I owe it all to the Germans,” he told me through our interpreter. We were in the kitchen of his dacha located on a lake outside of Izhevsk, Russia. Other than for the language difference, I could have been sitting in any kitchen anywhere in the world. His wife and daughter were serving us tea and cake while he slipped out a bottle of cognac, because he didn’t think the women had the drink part quite right. His young granddaughter skipped around the room between bites of cake and the General continued his story like he had never been asked to tell it before. That display of family and humility is universal with good people throughout the world.

“I had grown up on a remote farm,” he said, “and I was a tank commander in World War II when I got wounded. As soon as I was able to walk they transferred me to another hospital deeper into Russia and away from the front. During my long recovery I heard again and again from the other wounded Russian soldiers how the Germans were kicking our butts because they had automatic rifles and we did not. I had an idea for a gun that could change all that. The Germans wounded me and while I was recovering from my injuries I started making drawings. Later, I created my first machine pistol, which has since been lost. The second pistol, though, is now in a museum in St. Petersburg. From that, the AK-47 rifle evolved. Because I was a simple tank driver, the military committee didn’t want to even consider the design, but with persistence and help from some powerful friends they finally relented and decided to take a look. The design spoke for itself from then on and they couldn’t ignore it and it was adopted as the new Russian military rifle.”

I have several military friends, guys from multiple generations and multiple wars who have all told me pretty much the same thing about the rifle. In a nutshell it was this:

“The AK-47 has a very distinctive sound that I hate because I usually heard it when somebody was shooting at me. However, as a solider and a shooter I have to admire the design of the rifle and the man who created it.”

That kind of respect is usually well earned.

I asked the question that I am sure the General was sick of answering, “Do you have any regrets?”

“I designed this gun to help my country. It’s a tool, that’s all. I designed the gun; the politicians start the wars. I designed it to help protect and save my country and I do not have any regrets.”

After we finished our drink he sent his granddaughter to get a book he had written, which he signed and gave to me. Then we went outside and took some photos. At five feet, eight inches it’s rare when you see me towering over any man in a photograph, but I had him by almost half a foot. Mikhail Kalashnikov might have been small in stature, but when he passed away on December 23, 2013, he left a huge footprint behind.

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The AK-47 has a very distinctive look.

The AK-47 is probably the most recognizable rifle on the planet. That’s partly because Hollywood loves the gun, but it’s also because there are so damn many of them. According to the Internet, there is an estimated 875 million firearms in the world. Of that, 100 million are AK-47s, which makes it the most popular firearm on the planet.

The AK-47 is a select-fire, gas-operated assault rifle that is chambered for the 7.62x39 cartridge. The rifle has distinct profile with its curved magazine and when it fires on full-auto it has a very distinctive cadence. The AK-47 is the battle rifle of choice for much of the world. We Americans are for the most part not allowed to own the full-auto version (unless you can locate and afford a transferable gun), but we can have the semiauto version, which has pretty much all the benefits; only without the fun switch.

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The AK-47’s 7.62x39 cartridge is more powerful than the 5.56 NATO.

The 7.62x39 cartridge uses a bigger, heavier bullet than the 5.56 NATO cartridge and many believe it’s a more effective fight-stopper. Typically, the AK-47 is not a highly accurate rifle and the slower velocity of the cartridge is not an issue within the effective range of the gun. However, just yesterday I watched some young guys pounding a steel IPSC (International Practical Shooting Confederation) target at 300 yards using an AK-47.

The AK-47 is a peasant’s gun, one that can stand up to use and abuse by a less than refined class of solider. The AK-47 has earned a reputation throughout the world as a gun that will run and run no matter what and that will stand up to hard use. Those are important qualities for a prepper.

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This FN FAL was carried all week by our game scout to “protect” us. When we tried to shoot it, the gun would not fire.

In Africa I have seen the government game scouts with AK-47 rifles that look like a week-old road kill. They toss them in the back of a truck, which is often filled with blood, dirt, and stuff you don’t want to think about. They rest their feet on the gun to keep their truck tire sandals out of the gore. While in the bush, they sit on the gun to keep their butts out of the mud and sand. The guns are passed from scout to scout and there is no pride of ownership, which shows. Yet, when a lion charged, our scout ripped half a magazine into the dirt in front of him and changed his mind. The AK had survived all the abuse and still worked. While it’s an example of one incident, which means nothing, on the same safari, another game scout had an FN FAL that was pretty much treated the same way. When we tried to shoot that gun, it would not function. The gun that the government sent to keep us “safe” would only fire one shot before stopping. That didn’t bother the guy with the rifle one bit. Later he tricked one of his buddies into trading with him so he had the AK and his buddy had the gun that didn’t work.

That’s Africa.

Should you as a prepper have an AK-47? I believe you should. For a long time it was easy and relatively inexpensive to find imported guns that had been converted to semiauto and were civilian legal. My son and I bought a couple of them from Century Arms a long time ago. I don’t know how much we have shot them, but it’s a bunch. I don’t think either one was ever cleaned, and I don’t think either one has ever jammed. When you consider that most of that shooting has been with imported, surplus Russian ammo with steel cases that I bought based on price alone, it’s remarkable performance; except they are AK-47s and that’s what they do.

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Century Arms C39v2 AK-47.

Politicians hate this gun and have been using every back door trick possible to dry up the supply for civilians to buy. At one time they were cheap and easy to find; now, not so much. Most recently, the Obama administration has used its power to stop the import of most of these guns so that sources are drying up even faster. There are still a lot of guns on the used market, but the prices are going up and more people are hanging on to their guns, so it’s harder to find them at any price.

As a result, some companies are starting to make new AK-47 rifles for sale. This is a bit of a change, as we have always depended on converted surplus rifles. But it’s also a chance to get a handle on manufacturing quality and to introduce the AK-47 concept to new materials and modern manufacturing techniques. The result should be better rifles.

The only gun I can comment on is the Century Arms. I talked to other manufacturers and they failed to send guns as promised. That could simply be a supply issue, or it could be that they didn’t want their guns looked at too closely and written about. I honestly don’t know; so proceed with caution before writing a check for any gun you are unfamiliar with.

What I can tell you about is the Century Arms C39v2. This gun is a 100 percent American-made AK rifle. The one I have is well made, with the fit and finish excellent. The gun is all American with no imported parts. It’s built on a milled receiver, machined from a solid block of 4140 ordnance-quality steel.

According to Century Arms, some of the enhancements include a T-shaped magazine catch, compatibility with AKM furniture, a bolt hold open safety, an enhanced dust cover, and standard AK sights. The C39v2 is finished with black nitrite and uses a new RAK-1 enhanced trigger group. The trigger pull on mine is surprisingly clean and crisp and breaks at 5-pounds 10-ounces.

The 16.5-inch barrel has a 1:10 twist rate and comes with a muzzle brake that is installed on a left hand 14x1 metric thread so you can change it out with other muzzle attachments. The gun is 37.25 inches long and weighs 8.2 lbs. Century Arms even has a pistol version of the gun, which I cover, in another chapter.

Century Arms C39v2 is an excellent choice for a prepper who is looking for a newly manufactured, yet affordable, AK-47 style carbine.

The AK-47 is chambered in 7.62x39, which is a cartridge that has more than proven itself in battle. It’s not a NATO cartridge and it’s not used in the United States by the military or law enforcement. However, there are thousands and thousands of AK-47 and SKS rifles out there in civilian hands and, for a long time, millions of rounds of ammo were being imported. Combine that with the US-manufactured ammo and there are a lot of 7.62 bullets out there waiting for their ride.

If we find our country under terrorist attack from radical Islamic forces, odds are they will have AK-47 rifles and I highly advise taking all the ammo you can find off their dead bodies.

While finding ammo will probably not be as easy as it will be for .223 or even .308 chambered rifles, it’s going to be pretty close and I suspect that 7.62x39 ammo will be in the top five of available rifle cartridges.

The AK-47 is probably second only to the AR platforms in suitability for preppers. Magazines are easy to find and are inexpensive. There are plenty of newly manufactured magazines as well as surplus military mags. I just picked up a few surplus magazines at a local gun shop for ten bucks each. They were brand-new and still packed in Cosmoline.

The downside of the AK is that the iron sights are difficult to see. They hide in poor light for anybody and if you are on the downhill side of age forty they will be almost impossible to use, even in good light. The gun was never designed to be used with an optic and it’s a bit harder to mount a glass sight on the guns than it is on an AR flattop with a rail. There are some mounts out there and which one works best depends on the gun you have. I have a mount from Texas Weapons System that replaces the top cover on the receiver. This mount has a rail for mounting an optic such as a red dot. They offer a peep sight to mount there if you would rather not use an optic. I find I can use a peep sight much better than open sights.

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Texas Weapons System scope mount for an AK-47.

I can’t think of any rifle with more accessories and bolt-on goodies on the market than the AK-47. You can run it out of the box as God and the General intended, or you can add an infinite amount of bling to your rifle.

Of course, there is that perpetual argument that a prepper should have the guns needed to avail themselves of the current ammo available. You can’t buy a gun in every cartridge, but you can play the odds. If times get tough, the 7.62x39 is a battle rifle cartridge, with very high odds that it will show up on the ammo market. Even if you do not elect to use the AK-47 type rifle as your primary long gun, it makes sense to have a gun or two and some magazines in your collection of survival guns. These are not expensive rifles and an AK-47 should be high on any list of prepper guns to buy.

AK-74

The AK-74 is the newer version of the rifle. It was designed to use the smaller 5.45x39mm cartridge, which is very similar to our 5.56/223 cartridge in performance. I suppose most of what you can say about the AK-47 you can also say about the AK-74; except there are a lot fewer of them, it uses a less powerful cartridge, and ammo is much harder to come by here in the United States.

My personal experience is a bit limited and no doubt, I am biased. The few times I have used the full-auto version of this gun it has not run well. We experienced way too many jams. It is probably an issue specific to those guns or perhaps the ammo, but it soured me a bit. AKs are not pretty and they are not accurate, but they are supposed to run. That’s what makes them what they are.

I know gun guys who love the AK-74, but I am not one of them. I may well be wrong on that, as I am the first to admit my experience is limited with this gun.

But even beyond that, I don’t see a lot of reason for preppers to stock up on guns with a cartridge that is similar in performance to the 5.56/.223, but with ammo that is much harder to find. Any gun a prepper buys has to bring something to the table other than just its “cool factor” and must offer something you can’t find anywhere else. I don’t see that the AK-74 does that. It probably makes sense to buy at least one if you have the resources and have already purchased everything else on your list. Or, if you want a gun handy to fire the cartridge, buy a much less expensive upper for your AR-15 that is chambered for the 5.45x39mm.

I think a prepper should have every gun on the market, if possible, and I’ll never discourage buying any firearm, but this one is pretty low on my list. You, of course, may disagree, but I think that the AK-47 is the much smarter option of the two.