There’s not a whole lot in this world I can be certain of. But much like the shaky hands of a new employee manning the roulette wheel, all it takes is a few turns to flesh out a pattern. No matter who you are or where you come from, you have a goal in mind. A plan that makes getting up and going to bed worth the trouble. Whether it’s breaking through the monotonous waves of your nine-to-five and tasting the ball sweat that safeguards upper management, sending late night pillow texts to that special girl/trap of yours until she either caves and gives your sorry ass a chance or files a restraining order (my court date is in a month, wish me luck), or one day holding the title for the fastest anime sprint ever recorded in-atmosphere, what it is matters little in the end. There’s something nestled in the pit of your heart that gives meaning to the brain-numbing sludge we call reality. My second certainty? No matter the type of your endeavor, you’re going to need an AK along the way.
We all know the fairytale at this point. Long ago, in a land burdened by dilapidated architecture, smoldering cities and angry communists, one very breeki boy would change history with his vision. After decades of costly tooling investments and working through the general kinks associated with adopting a new weapon platform, the iconic slab of Soviet steel was beginning to stockpile long and deep inside the heartland of Mother Russia. It soon became apparent by its wielders and adversaries alike that the rickety little shit was good for more than just keeping the ideals of the Soviet Union (and its inhabitants) secure from the blight of Western culture.
From being entrenched in the sopping tropics of Vietnam and Colombia to dealing with the oppressive heat and magnetized dust that cursed the expansive grasslands of the Serengeti and the sandy dunes of Northern Africa, its presence shook its enemies to the core. From prowling the sultry streets of Sarajevo to weaving through the arid oases of the Sonoran Desert, it choked the alleyways with blood all the same. When the masses caught word of a rifle capable of packing thirty rounds of hard hitting, man-stopping power in a light enough package that had an easy manual of arms to boot, you better believe everyone who wanted to be something wanted one. It’s no wonder the thing gained some serious street cred wherever it stopped.
It’s responsible for atrocities far and wide, but that can be said about any weapon. It would be childish to ignore the bad stigmatism the thing faces from time to time (especially in the older generation) here at home considering it’s been our adversary as far back as 1960’s Laos. But at the end of the day, a weapon is only a tool to your intent. In this case, we’re going down a list of why a Kalashnikov of any origin deserves to be closer to your side than your granddad’s .30-30 when you want to go for a nightly walk in the woods.
Let’s touch on the size of the round for a bit. The .30 caliber projectile utilized by the platform is a large jump in power from your average or even above average 5.56 loading. By and large, the round is found to be a 122-124gr projectile being pushed to 2300 ft/s give or take a hundred feet depending on barrel length. Even if you’re a high-speed low-drag type of dude till the day you drop, raw data can’t be ignored from a physics standpoint. The round is without a doubt more powerful than 5.56, 5.45 and other small, intermediate calibers. Moving with that, the projectile’s larger mass gives it better ballistic stability when combating heavy foliage and dense thicket. Not a whole lot more, but enough to make a difference. Acting as the cherry to top this murder sundae, the fireball-laden report is bombastic and by itself should be enough to deter any of nature’s little godsends who think they’re higher up on the food chain than you.
Despite launching a heavier pill downrange, the recoil isn’t anywhere near what I’d call uncomfortable. With some practice, it’s easy enough to control in semi-auto when that sudden urge to tell the whole range you’re an asshole with thirty rounds in the magazine and an itchy booger excavator hits. Your ride will only grow smoother if you invest in aftermarket furniture as well. This rifle and all others like it house a trigger that’s endowed with light travel before offering a crisp break. All in all, the AK’s credentials make it out to be a great contender for when you want something that dumps heat with the quickness but is also capable of making precision-ish shots out to longer ranges.
I understand that even the nicest of base AKs aren’t as modular as cheap ARs. That’s just how the designing block chopped on this one. However, the capability to add pretty much whatever in God’s green hell you want to the thing is there. My Polish WBP Fox is ‘au naturel’ solely because I bought it a few weeks ago. I’m already eyeing a Zhukov stock, Midwest handguards and possibly a scope rail depending on how I feel. By the end of my spending spree, the thing will have a comfortable sling, rugged optic, foregrip and folding stock. That may anger the purists out there, but for my AK to be the best forest stomping companion it can be, it needs to have some modern amenities added. I’m not advocating for the case that you need to modify one until it looks like a failed cyberpunk Frankenstein of its former self. But in order to truly embrace its accurate, rapid fire loving chassis, changes need to be made. One of the nicer things about living in the age of K-Var though? Those changes are ridiculously simple to enact.
Now that we’ve gotten the image of an ideal bushwalking AK in our heads, let’s get down to the meat of this article. If we’re talking about cougar, wolves or anything similar, shots that hit center mass will get the job done quickly. They can be large and formidable animals in their own right, but they’re slender and don’t pack a lot of extra chonk like the grizzly does. Even black bears to some extent. Two or three rounds into the heart and lungs wouldn’t be the worst of places to hit one if you needed to. With grizzly however, the game changes from flag football to rugby.
The key here is shot placement. The lessons offered to us by hunting guides and weathered boomers alike have been universal. Carry something big and make sure you disable the bear’s movements. That all sounds well and good, until you take a look at one in person. I don’t care what you have. Anything short of an M203 will make an Alaskan brown see red. Given how much muscle, fat, densely packed fur and blood it has circulating around its body makes it no mystery as to how a pissed off specimen is able to tank shots that should have dropped it dead after the crack of the sound barrier. So, instead of directing your decent but still wimpy .30 caliber rounds into its chest, think a little higher up.
Its important that, if you’re faced with an impending attack that could leave you crippled or deceased, you take the appropriate steps and end the threat as quickly as possible. I don’t care how indestructible your uncle Buck painted Smokey out to be. A grizzly is an amalgamation fur, skin, fat and bones. No matter how credible those campfire tales depicting a man-eating bear seemed to be at the time, a grizzly is a terrestrial creature. A golden rule most every being on this planet abides by is, if you destroy the brain, you destroy the animal’s ability to live. We’ve all heard the tales of hard cast revolver rounds smushing against the thick upper plates of a bear’s skull. But there’s little to suggest that an M67 Yugo round would fail to penetrate the animal’s brain case, let alone a few. Hell, if you think a round like that may not have the oomph necessary to punch through, chicken-foot a few rounds of Chinese steel core penetrators into the mix.
I will acknowledge that there’s credence to the idea of 1oz slugs clobbering shoulder blades and shattering leg bones. Heavy bullets weighing triple what the AK shoots have been proven to be effective in the wilds, that I cannot contest. But that pulls into question the manual of arms necessary to operate such weapons. Unless you ate your frosted choco-bites the morning of, I doubt you’d want to lug around a fifteen pound semi-auto that can only begin to approach the power of a more streamlined bolt action or lever gun. With that being said, could you send a pill that size into a moving target, strike something worth a damn, rack the bolt, recover from the recoil impulse and reacquire your target for another shot? Could you lever out a spent .45-70 for a fresh one and jump back on the thing before it closes thirty feet in half a second and chomps down on your leg? Didn’t think so. And if you can, well you're lying.
If you were armed with an AK, you need not concern yourself with the thought of manually reciprocating a bolt, lever or pump. You have as many rounds as you need on tap and more to spare. To access your depository of hate, all you have to do is squeeze a great trigger as fast as you can manage. Most average LARPers like you and I can peel off three or maybe even four rounds from their AK in the time it takes mountain man Jim to cook off two from his old and rusty Henry. And unless you somehow managed to piss off the bionic bear, a few rounds of Soviet fury to the face may give the misguided animal a few seconds at most to wonder what that dull thud was before the lights go dim.
What makes the AK great is its other areas of ‘eh, good enough’ expertise. If I were in a survival situation and needed to bag a deer in order to feed myself or loved ones, the same AK could be loaded with soft points and be a great harvesting tool. That would go double if you have yours fitted with a prism scope or something similar. I would be a bit cautious on anything bigger however from a hunting standpoint. Bear defense is one thing. You shoot fast, and keep sending rounds downrange until either it stops breathing or you do. Ethics concerning shot placement and condition of the meat if you aren’t desperate enough to attempt a headshot would need to be considered. But regardless, the AK could provide a steady supply of bushmeat as long as you’re willing to do your part. Not to mention the fact that it also makes for a great hammer or club if establishing camp just isn’t going the way you’d like it to.
We’ll stray away from the premise of survival following a major catastrophe or the collapse of society for the time being. (My novel on a similar subject is almost finished and I can’t have anyone stealing my creative shizznit.) But real quick on that. Say you had to do everything mentioned above AND worry about some dangerous two-legged threats running around your neck of the woods. If you were stuck with a bolt action or repeater, no matter the magnum designation, you’d be in for a scary time. But not to worry. Our hunting/survivalist rifle of choice can revert right back to its role as a strong infantry weapon that’s been keeping blue helmets and Congolese mercenaries suppressed for about as long as my dad’s been alive. Just remember to change out your ammo types in between all the shooting.
While there are derivates of the AR platform out there that can dump the same amount of energy as 7.62x39 or even pack a larger punch, there are caveats with those. With the big boys, you have a decrease in magazine capacity and a larger potential for damning recoil. Not to mention the fact that, if you want to be proficient enough to count on it in a high stress situation, all that ammo for practice carries a hefty price tag. With .300 blackout, a paper copy of 7.62x39, it actually holds a few advantages over the Kalash in versatility. Magazine caps aren’t an issue as there are devoted magazines that can hold thirty rounds and not look overly extended.
However, the ammo isn’t as readily available as its Slavic cousin. Most of what’s out there is being price gouged and practice ammo is nonexistent. I can enjoy a long day at the range with my AK for far cheaper than I could with my .300 for a quarter of the time. That translates to more practice and a better shooter after all is said and done.
Much like that girl in drama that sat near the front of the class Junior year, you were hesitant at first. But after she not only handled the filth but welcomed it, your lazy-fair attitude knew no bounds. The AK is the exact same. Arsenals and Saiga kit builds are immaculate pieces of hardware. (The latter only if done correctly.) But when it’s time to be honest, it’s a rifle I’d feel better about dropping in a puddle of mud than I would one of my AR builds. I don’t know if it’s the looks, its contours or what, but I wouldn’t feel the slightest pang of guilt if it chose to take the express route down a mountain or fucked off to submerge itself in pond scum. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll bash it against a tree and rinse it off with a liter of Voltage before getting right back to business.
The rifle isn’t the end all be all of rucking in the backcountry. Let’s get that straight. If you either prefer a more traditional firearm or think that, there are better rounds for the applications listed above, then I hear you. You’re wrong, of course. But I still hear you, my little Team Wendy repping knuckle dragger. Speaking on my own accord, my AK gives me that added bit of confidence that would be lost if I were to pack my AR pistol instead. Sure, both have their merits. One definitely does some things better than the other and vise versa. For me, when defense against large animals comes into question, a larger round that is still light enough to walk with for an indefinite amount of time wins out over the slim and zippy cool kid. Take everything I said with about a lifetime supply’s worth of salt, but those are some of the reasons why my WBP and I are backpacking buddies for life.
Real talk. Getting adventurous is dope. Bushwalking and straying away from trails for a more solitary experience outdoors is amazing, but it can be dangerous. Be sure to get some practice in before committing to the more daunting challenges. Always double and triple check the gear you take out the night before. (And not at two in the morning you animal.) There’s been a few times where I fucked up on my coordinates and had to use every ounce of brainpower to make it back to the logging road I started on. As far as animals go, try and let them know you’re there. If you’re not trying to photograph one up close, be sure to stomp around and rattle from time to time.
I carry a small Bluetooth speaker that I blare horrorcore from when I walk around said logging roads at night. It’s never a preferred outcome when you have to shoot an animal out of self-defense. But if you need to, make sure your hardware is up to the task and that you can shoot straight with whatever’s in your hands.
Everyone has a goal. Everyone has a dream they’re hoping to complete before it all goes black. For me, I want to fly out to Alaska in the summer. I’d buy a car in Anchorage, drive up HWY 2 which then turns into HWY 11 for a few days until I reach the Artic Ocean. I want to see the sun slipping but never fully setting beneath the ocean’s horizon at midnight. And when I get there, you better believe my AK’s coming with.
Stay curious brothers.