After recently deciding an upgrade to our home defense capabilities was in order, we came to a point where we were selecting between three weapons platforms: The AR-15, a pistol caliber carbine, or an AK-47. These decisions were not taken lightly and some of the factors I considered were the types of potential threats we might face, the immediate environment we may have to operate in, and overall costs of purchasing and maintaining each weapons system.
Scouring the net’s forums, available technical data on various platforms, personal experience, and the personal experiences of others led us to decide on the sturdy old warhorse, the AK-47.
Simply put, the AK in 7.62×39 fires a much heavier round that hits with more force, penetrates better, and makes bigger holes. In a carbine length barrel, the 5.56 round loses some velocity and effectiveness very quickly. With living in the woods, the farthest place from us with line of sight is around 300+/- yards, well in the range for the AK.
99.9% of threats would come from 0-75 yards, and that’s the territory where the AK outperforms the other options. (For longer distances, we are looking at other options, but the current leader of the pack is the M-1 Garand). We live in the woods, and the 7.62 doesn’t get deflected by branches or stopped by small trees, it goes through them.
The AKs “legendary reliability” is no legend.
The AR is a Mazda Miata; small, light, agile. The AK is an F-350 diesel, bigger, heavier, and built for heavy work. The Miata is more fun to drive, until it’s time to leave the pavement. Then you want the truck. The Miata will dent another car, the F-350 will crush it, and probably drive over it.
Watch this gentleman. The video is rather long, but amazing and worth it. He fires an AK-47 on full auto, magazine after magazine, until it catches on fire.
He keeps firing it, while the furniture burns until finally the rifle stops cycling (after 890 rounds of full-auto fire) because the barrel deforms so much from the heat that it pulls the gas tube down to a point that the rifle won’t cycle.
Then he disassembles the AK and beats the barrel against a table leg until it he deems it’s straight by eyeballing it through the barrel, reassembles the firearm, and fires several more magazines at full auto.
Besides owning firearms for the joy of shooting, target practice and training, we own them to defend ourselves.
The main threats we might face are criminals, carloads of zombies, home-invaders or rabid leftists, and bears. We live in an area with the smaller black bears, but they’re still pretty big and strong. They can outrun, out swim, and out climb humans and come equipped by GOD with an array of weapons and thick skin and fat/ muscle to protect their vital areas. If we had to take an aggressive bear, I’d pick up the AK before an AR.
Ammunition prices between the AR and AK have been almost equal recently, with import ammo around .21-.28 cents per round and quality American made ammunition running $1-2 each round.
However, the 7.62 has some very effective Russian or Ukrainian rounds available for the .24 cent range.
For inside work, wolves, coyotes, wild boars, evil humans, or even a deer I chose the 8M3 effect round. This bullet expands about 1-2” inside the target, cuts a fearsome 3-4” x 8” long wound channel, then fragments into 5-7 pieces that go in all different directions.
Less chance of over penetration and transferring all 1500+ pounds of force to the target make this an excellent round for home defense.
For the Bears or for targets behind a barrier, I like the 154 grain soft point. This round hits with 2000 pounds of force, expands to over half an inch, rips out a nice wound channel, and has exceptional penetration.
For practice, I chose the Wolf ammunition in the gold/ black box. This ammo has a copper jacket, as opposed to bi-metal. Bi-metal jackets are a copper and mild steel mix, and can cause a little more barrel wear.
The PSAK-47 From Palmetto State Armory
After deciding on the AK platform, I had to choose which rifle to buy and from which manufacturer. The AK market, thanks to a few years of Democrat tinkering with our Second Amendment, is a mess. The days of picking up a serviceable $90.00 SKS, or a $400.00 AK-47 at the flea market are gone.
Thanks to the left’s “assault” weapons bans and some other missteps, the market has lately been used rifles, Frankenstein rifles slapped together from parts kits that include some American parts to make them compliant, and a few American manufactured rifles.
The Soviet cold war dungeons occasionally turned out some items of beauty, and some that performed exceptionally well. Lots of people like the Makarov pistols, I like the CZ pistols, and the SKS and AK-47 are superb weapons.
Americans had trouble copying those “crude” AKs, and the marketplace was flooded with rifles that failed after a few hundred rounds. Things are looking better now, as imports are starting to come back, and some of the manufacturers in the U.S. are getting it right.
For me, selecting a new AK-47 for under $800.00 came down to two choices: the imported Romanian WASR-10, or the Palmetto State Armory PSAK-47.
The WASR is known for being reliable, tough, has a chrome lined barrel for longevity, and is a fine carbine. It’s also known for having some issues right out of the box. The Romanians have improved their quality controls the past few years, but many people have gotten a new WASR to find it came with canted sights, gas tubes, etc.
Current prices are around $699.00, and the rifle comes with a one year warranty. Having to take a new rifle to a gunsmith to sort through parts bins, or putting it in a vice to beat on it before I can use it doesn’t appeal to me, but I strongly considered this choice.
The other candidate was the PSAK-47 manufactured by Palmetto State Armory. It’s 100% made in the U.S., and has a lifetime warranty. Palmetto State upped their game with their generation 2 AKs.
These guns have a milled front trunnion, rather than cast. The bolt is milled, and the bolt carrier group is hammer forged, and they feature a nitride treated barrel.
The PSAK is around $750.00, but if you get up early you can find a blemished one for $499.00-$599.00. They come with the classic wood furniture, or modern Magpul grips, handguards, and adjustable stocks.
- Melonite 4150 steel treated barrel
- Stamped steel receiver
- Billet Barrel Block (front trunion)
- Hammer Forged Carrier
- Billet Bolt
- 7.62×39 Caliber
- 1 in 9.5″ Twist
- Std. 800-yard rear sight leaf
- Magpul MOE Grip
- Magpul AKM Forearm
- Magpul Zhukov folding stock
- Magpul 30 round magazine (1)
- Cleaning Rod
The AK Operators Union tests AK-47s, and they’re one of the go-to places for people shopping for these rifles.
Below is their test of the exact model rifle I was considering, the PSAK. They drop it from chest high on a rock and it fires, run over it with an SUV and it fires, drag it through a river and it fires, stand it on the magazine and do pushups on it and it fires, and drop sand into the action as it cycles.
After all that fun, they run 5,000 rounds through it and then break it down to look for excessive wear or any other problems. This is very important as several rifles fail at this point.
Many of the parts kit rifles, imports, and American manufactured guns show excessive wear, peening, cracks, etc. from their use of soft steel. Some fail the head spacing test as well. The PSAK performed perfectly, and won their seal of approval.
Between the two, the “real” WASR AK that may or may not be ready to go out of the box for $699.00 with a year’s warranty, or the American PSAK for $499.00 that passed the AKOU tests and has a lifetime warranty, I decided to go with the one from South Carolina. Two weeks from the day I ordered it, I opened it at our North Georgia cabin.
The only blemish I’ve found is two rivets that are flattened a bit. Inside, the rivets look perfect; the pieces are mated together well, and there’s no signs of overstressing or cracking. Other than the two rivets, there’s no scratches, dents, or dings at all.
The rifle shipped with one 30 round Magpul magazine, a quality control card, and an owner’s manual. The magazine fits tight with no wobble. The model I bought will cycle with the stock folded, making it very compact for tight spaces. Everything lined up well, so I cleaned it, lubed it, and made plans to attend the local range.
Since this is a home defense tool, I picked a reasonably priced optics mount and an inexpensive red dot sight.
The purpose of this weapon is quick target acquisition and elimination, not sniping at 500 yards. I was looking for something simple to operate for every member of our household. Freeda, our daughter, or I can quickly grab this firearm, put the dot on target, and solve problems.
I’m a good distance from the outdoor range, so my first visit was to an indoor facility. AK sights are calibrated for meters instead of yards, but there’s something odd about its sight-in procedure that worked in my favor here. If the iron sights are set at 200 meters and you sight in at 25 yards, you’re good to go.
The indoor range is 25 yards, and they allow rifles, so the fastest way to get this one in service was obvious. I still need to fine tune it at 100 yards (or meters if possible), but after one trip to the indoor facility I’m confident we’re sighted in good enough to hit zombies out to 300 yards, and achieve zombie head shots out to 100 yards.
Being a revolver type guy, I like to challenge new semi-automatics. I desire reliability and every time I squeeze the trigger, I demand that the firearm goes “bang.” When I break in a new semi-auto, I fire different ammunition, and different brands, to ensure they reliably feed and fire and to compare accuracy and felt recoil. It’s also my standard procedure to fire “mixed magazines.” I will load one 122gr. Wolf HP, one 154gr. Tula SP, one 124gr. 8M3 Tula HP, one 122gr. FMJ, etc., then three of one and five of another until the magazine’s full.
This rifle ate everything I fed it with zero malfunctions or failures of any kind.
I went through 220 rounds on the first trip, and the PSAK-47 merrily sent them all on their way. (Barrel break in took some time, so that’s all I fired on this trip…Yes, I did a barrel break in!)
The iron sights were easy to set right, and weren’t far off from Palmetto State, and the red dot is a breeze to set.
AKs weren’t originally created for optics, so the newer ones have thankfully added a place to lock on a mount. I like this because if the optics fail, you simply push a button, pull a lever, toss them aside, and use the irons. The red dot held zero even after I removed them, fired several rounds using the iron sights, and then locked them back in place.
The rifle is easy to control and fire, even when the stock is folded, and recoil is mild. The trigger was a pleasant surprise, and broke crisply. It’s not as good as a fine deer rifle or a nice revolver, but not gritty at all and has a reasonable pull weight.
It’s difficult to judge 100 yard accuracy at a 25 yard range, but I was impressed. 10 shot groups that touch are no problem, and if I extrapolate what I saw in my first outing, it would be 2.16 MOA at 100 yards, which is in the AR specs, way better than advertised for AKs, and perfect for the role of this firearm. I believe that at 100 yards I can get 1-2 MOA with some tweaking, and some “high-dollar” ammo.
I brought the rifle home, broke it down and cleaned it, and found everything in proper order. I loaded one magazine with 30 8M3 rounds for critters smaller than bears, and the other with 25 rounds 154gr. SP (for bears and barriers) topped with 5 8M3 rounds for homework.
I made sure Freeda understood what she needed to do to use the rifle, prayed over it, and it’s now proudly taken its place in the most important defensive arsenal on this planet; the one that defends my home.