Asking The Important Questions

Key takeaway from the test:

  • The AK is the most reliable but after seeing how many have broken over the last two and half years on the range, it’s not the indestructible weapon everybody talks about (and I always thought it was).
  • This may sound crazy but it’s fair to say that they finally suffer a catastrophic failure (cracked trunion) at 80,000-100,000 rounds.

Oh.  Positively glass-like fragility, then.

Well, that means that on my current AK (obtained almost NIB), I have about 79,000 more rounds to go.  (I hardly ever shoot much through mine because a) I know how it works and can shoot it just fine,  and b) I prefer shooting my other guns.  I shoot it fairly often, but only a mag or so’s worth at a time — more a “hi there, how’re ya doin?”  kinda thing.)

I know how to fix the thing if it ever breaks — I just don’t care to.  If I were ever in a (SHTF) situation where my AK breaks, I’m sure there’d be a couple of other options lying around.



  1. Never fired one.
    Looks like a big, heavy, bulky, 19th century machine.
    But, if the price was right I’d put one in my stable, cause, well, I’m the original gun dood and I like all guns undiscriminatorially. (is that a word?)

  2. My son and I had one, but rarely shot it and sold it to a buddy of his. Regretted it ever since. I need to get another one in the stable.

  3. Well, while Eugene Stoner designed the AR to be operated and maintained by high school dropouts, Mikhail Kalashnikov designed the AK to be operated by peasants who had never heard of “school,” and maintenance was performed by picking a fresh one up off the ground.

    It still pays to develop a skill set with lots of different guns because one never knows when circumstances may dictate improvisation. Besides, there’s a certain satisfaction to be had in killing the bastard with his own gun.

    The late Todd Green kept meticulous records on the guns he used in his classes, and some are interesting. The H&K 45, for example, got sidelined at about 80K rounds mostly because it never broke and he wanted to try something else. A Gen 4 G17 ran for 80K with only a couple minor parts breakages – it did get the regular maintenance, including scheduled spring replacement, something a lot of people forget to do – then showed a hairline crack in the bolt face. Which Glock factory armorers said was no big deal, run it another 10-15K.

    Treated with minimal care today’s guns will run a long time. The test data Kim references comes from a rental range in Las Vegas, one of which has in the past published reports on AR failures (I don’t know if it was the one linked). Rental ranges are just about the world’s most abusive environment for guns because while they get maintenance, they also get run very long and run very hard. I’ve known only a few instructors who have run guns that long (one I know in Ohio got 85K out of a used Ruger MK II before the rifling got so bad every shot keyholed, and there was no way to tell how many rounds went through it before he bought it).

    And, as Tam has said several times, “If you’re not breaking stuff on your gun you’re not shooting it enough.”

    1. One of the reasons DFW Range uses Springfield 1911s is that they can take the punishment. Ditto Glocks, although with Glocks you have people who know nothing about guns, i.e. first-timers who make up the vast majority of Glock shooters at the range.
      Typical round count is around 200,000 rounds per handgun. (The worst experience they’ve had was with HK45s, interestingly enough, mostly to do with cracked bolt faces, apparently. But that was a few years back; I don’t know about recently.)

    2. I thought Kalashnikov made his gun for the likes of Pavlik Morozov, Pioneer Soviet Hero #1.
      Same thing, actually.

  4. “I’m sure there’d be a couple of other options lying around”

    That’s the understatement of the year.

    1. As Sam Elliot’s character remarked in “We Were Soldiers…” when questioned by the C.O. why he hadn’t checked out an M-16: “Sir, if the time comes I need one, there’ll be plenty lying on the ground.”

      1. CSM Basil Plumley. He spoke to my class of brand new infantry lieutenants at Ft. Benning in 1994. He was an old man and still scared the hell out of me.

  5. I’m curious as to what the barrel would look like at that point. I mention this because when Lucky Gunner did their steel vs brass case ammo torture test in AR-15s, it ended up being the bimetal jackets on the Russian ammo that wore a specific part – the barrel – out the fastest.

    The barrels on their test AR-15s that were shooting steel case/bimetal jacket ammo were shot out by 6,000 rounds.

    I’m pretty sure most, if not all, steel case 7.62×39 on the market uses bimetal jacket bullets.

  6. I’ve read the original forum thread from which those excerpts originate.
    Short version, many of their guns encounter issues requiring significant maintenance (up to and including TIG welding being neccesary) before they go permanently off the line due to a trunnion failure or irreparable receiver breakage.
    Then there’s just the usual “wear and tear” like needing to re-headspace the gun a few times before the final failure.

    Ron from BFV mentions some guns where the bolt guide rails have had to be welded back to the receiver more than once.
    Which is a bit of a show-stopper unless you have the skills and tools to do that work.

    As an aside, the similar thread for AR-pattern rifles has mention right up front that a receiver has never failed, some with over 200k documented rounds fired (most or all in full-auto; it’s a Vegas MG rental place):
    “Some of our M4’s have well over 200,000 rounds down range. Barrels have been replaced, gas tubes have been replaced, BCG’s have been replaced but what sets it apart from the AK47’s is that upper and lower receivers continue to function. AK’s get to about the 100,000+ round count and rails on the receiver will start to crack. It’s an easy fix with tig welding but they crack. We have yet to lose an upper or lower receiver from cracking.”

    I think the important takeaway here is to not worry about X versus Y rifle type, and just focus on developing skill with the one you have.

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