This opinion was originally posted to the Asymmetric Solutions Facebook page on May 4th of 2015.
(Minor edits have been made to improve formatting)
AK-47 vs. M4, this will probably be unpopular just like all killing of sacred cows is, but you asked for our experience based opinion, here it is.
First, as has been noted, the Indian is more important than the arrow. A quality trained fighter is the most important thing.
However, that isn’t the question we get asked, so we will assume the weapon is in the hands of a capable well trained individual that can work either system.
Many on our staff have used both weapons operationally. It is common for SOF units to adopt indigenous weapons for low visibility tasks or when working directly with indigenous fighters.
The United States has a handful of units that have nearly unlimited budgets and have tremendous discretion to chose their equipment. All of these choose the M4 or an M4 variant the HK 416. We were not forced to carry M4 variants at work, we made the choice after much study and consideration.
The Kalashnikov is a historic and laudable weapon, but hands down the M4 is a better piece of gear to take to a fight.
We aren’t telling anyone their AK is a bad weapon, just that the AR is better at the following comparative for a weapon to be used.
- M4 is 3.5 lbs lighter
- M4 is realistically accurate and effective to 600M vs. 250M for the AK.
- M4 is decidedly more accurate with 3 round sub 1 MOA capability at 100M vs. 3 round 4-8 inch groups at 100M acceptable standard for the AK.
- 5.56 has excellent wound cavity/frag vs. Pin Hole of 7.62×39
- 5.56 does not have over penetration issues of 7.62×39
Despite the anecdotal information you have heard, the AR fires a far more lethal and man effective round than the AK. This is why the Russians created the 5.45x39mm for the AK74.
- Safety is far more accessible on M4 and much quieter
- Magazine falls free single hand control/inserts direct on M4 vs. 2nd hand strip/rocker on AK
- Bolt locks to rear on M4 vs. falls closed on AK
- Trigger is tunable and consistent on M4 vs. a highly unpredictable trigger of the AK
- Recoil is substantially less on M4
- Muzzle climb is substantially less on M4
- Muzzle flash is substantially less on M4
- M4 stock sights are far superior and weapon is easily augmented with optics/IR Pointer
- M4 has longer sight radius
An individual carrying 5.56mm M4 magazines carries nearly double the rounds for the same weight as the individual carrying the 7.62x39mm in AK Magazines. 700 rounds vs. 350 rounds at 25lbs.
Neither weapon is reliable or effective with subsonic ammunition but the M4 is far quieter with less muzzle flash when suppressed.
The standard M4 has a tested 1 in 5,000 rounds malfunction rate and the HK416 1 in 10,000 vs. 1-1,200 for the Kalashnikov.
Yes, despite what you have heard in anecdotal reports, the AK is more malfunction prone than the M4. Its not 1967 Vietnam, the early M16 issues have been solved.
High Contamination Environments:
The one substantial advantage that the Kalashnikov has loser tolerances and will withstand less care in high contamination environments. This is easily solved with proper and routine maintenance.
We respect the Kalashnikov and are happy to instruct our students on best practices for its use, but it is in nearly every way inferior to the M4, which is exactly why we choose the M4 as a primary small arms weapon in previous work as well as current.