I have the money for both, but I am torn between the two. I know that the AK is more durible but the AR seems to be a more common type of gun. I want to get something I'm happy with, but reliable as well.
I have one of each, Granted neither of them is decked out like you see some but here ya go.
AK 47 is THE most rugged rifle ever. It's used in all climates, conditions and the dirtiest of places. The operating system on an AK is very simple and durable, a toddler could operate an ak. They are built to work when filthy and uncleaned. I had a buddy who shot more then 10000 rounds through one without cleaning it, and it operated nearly flawlessly, a few hang ups but after 10000 rounds, that is unbelievable.
With an AK you can get them in 2 basic types, you have a milled receiver and a stamped receiver. Milled means, they are cut from a solid block of metal, thus usually, making them stronger. Stamped is folded metal and is generally weaker. In an AKs situation the way the piston/recoil system is set up, i would opt for a stamped receiver. The force of the gas pushing on the piston makes the receiver flex, and if you have a milled it can cause it to crack. Just the way the ak is set up it's natural for it to flex and stamped ones allow for that flex a little better than milled.
An AK can be effective up to 200yrds realistically, but that is from a very well practiced marksman, honestly 100yrds is pretty average for the normal weekend shooter.
The 7.62x39mm round is very devastating, and good-ish for hunting, but has good power to knock down most humans....err prey.
So in short, they are overyly durable, they just work day in and day out. The rounds for them are super easy to find and fairly cheap. Rugged, easy to break down and clean and operate, has many aftermarket parts to accessorize it. And if you can find a MAK-90 they are like 500 bucks for a good chinese made stamped receiver. Wasr10's are also around 500 bucks and are good, but not as good as chinese, they are getting better though, and have Chrome lined barrels which are nice if you are shooting surplus corrosive ammo.
You can find them with underfolding stocks which also will increase your mobility with a slight sacrifice in accuracy, probably not measurable to somebody who isn't a daily shooter.
In all I LOVE MY AK. I won't ever sell it, and it is a MAK-90 (Norinco) that I stole for $400!
With AR-15s, these are more of a precision rifle. Very accurate at longer distances in comparison to the AK. ARs are also very durable, but they do NEED to be cleaned regularly or the operating system will jam up. The plus is that they can be accessorized with damn near anything on the planet, Vertical grips, optics, butstocks, granade launchers, lasers, flashlights (aks can also have this but companies cater to the AR more so it's easier to find items for it) and lots of other items. They are generally easier to build from parts kits, getting exactly what you want in, and out of the rifle.
In an SHTF the big plus with the AR15 is the that you would be able to scavenge parts for it probably a little easier then the AK, due to the fact that our military uses them, which also makes ammo super easy to find and easier to scavenge in that situation as well. ARs are very easy to operate too but to clean them you need to go through them very thoroughly. An ak you can just take a tshirt and wipe down the internals, drop some oil and it's good to go.
AR's are sooooooooo much fun to shoot because the buffer tube system helps kill the recoil so you can stay on target better, which also increases your accuracy.
I have a DPMS that I got from a guy for $550 but realistically I would have rather built my own from scratch,
Both are GREAT guns. I prefer the AK though, because of it's rugged, and it's cheaper, so if you look, sometimes you can get 2 AKs for the price of one AR depending on if you need brand names or whatnot.
AK-good, cheap reliable gun that just flat out works, you don't get the range/accuracy that an AR gets
AR-Good, very scavengable, lower recoil, tons of aftermarket parts, more accurate but requires a little more maintenance.
If you are looking at specifc models, brands and such let me know, i'll do my best to help out. I'm more of an AK guy but I do have some AR experience!
The AK is 30 cal effective range 800 meters AR .223 effective range 500 meters. AK throw in mud pick up and fire. AR throw in mud, clean think about firing. If you are only going to have one buy an AK its more idiot proof. Just for the record I have both and a CETME 308.
Me and my group are sold on AK and SKS platform rifles / carbines. I prefer the sks for several reasons, but those are almost as reliable and they can be modded with recoil buffers, custom trigger jobs and all that. They shoot a little better than an AK. It's a good trade off. One of our boys has n AR-15 chambered in 7.62x39 and it's a cool gun. ::redsnipe::
The guy who sold me my AK used the money to build an AR-47, that is just an AR that shoots 7.62. He said he loves the ballistics and the being in the AR gives it that reach the ak is lacking. But still needs to be cleaned regularly.
I have had both. I also got rid of both of my AR's. Still have an SKS. Still have a Mosin Nagant (that I sporterized - cut down barrel, re-crowned, scope etc.). I am looking at another AK-47 and an AK-74. As well as some other "Russian" firearms. They are reliable. They are tough as nails. They are not maintenance intensive. The ammo is cheap. 1080 rounds of 5.45x39 (AK-74), with shipping is around $170. The ballistics are nearly identical to the 5.56 round. A CAI Polish Tantal AK-74 can be had for under $500. An AK-47 for $550 or less. 7.62x39 runs around $250 per case (1000 rounds).
Mosin 91/30's are still a dime a dozen. Mosin M44's are still available for around $250 if you look hard enough, cheaper if it's Chinese. 7.62x54r ammo is still reasonably cheap, especially for what you get (ballistics sit between a .308 and a 30-06). You can get a 440 round tin of ammo for about $100 shipped. Try that with .308 or 30-06.
Pistols? M1895 Nagant 7 shot revolver for $135. Ammo is now becoming ridiculously available and relatively inexpesive. I had one when you couldn't find ammo anywhere, and when you did, it was $50 a box. And I'm talking correct, Nagant ammo. Another hundred bucks, get a Tokarev in 7.62x25. It's comparable to the 9mm. The ammo? 1000 rounds for around $300 (brass, re-loadable). Surplus, 1600 rounds for a little over $300.
You just can't beat the Russian designed mil-surp stuff for the price, reliability, availability of ammo, parts, mods etc. I'd rather buy an AK-47, spare mags, and a case of ammo for less than $1000, than a plain jane AR with nothing more than a trigger lock for more than a thousand. You need a "special" tool kit for the AR just to clean it. And I've seen pretty spendy ones. All I need for an AK is a solid surface, a good pair of boots, a shoestring and some motor oil.
I own both as well, i think it really depends on the range both are effective with no doubt. Especially compared to handgun rounds like 380, 9mm, 40, and 45. There is no comparison between a pistol and a rifle. So if someone attempts to discount a .223 for lack of stopping power but they tout that their new 40 smith and wesson will take care of bizness then they are mistaken.
Both the AR (.223 or 5.56) and the AK (7.62x39) are killer rounds...literally. The AK just has a massive drop off after the 200 yard mark, (15 ft drop at 250 yards), but any hypothetical shtf scenario or real world battle stats will show you that most combat is closer to 100 yards and in. If you wanna be a sniper get a .308 or pick up a nice deer rifle chambered in 30-06, 30-30, or 270 Win.
If this was cut and dry people wouldn't discuss this all the time. Just do some research and get the one you like the best, and try to be practical.
Both the AR and the AK are excellent rifles. I own an AKM, I wish I also had an AR-15.
Whether one or the other will fire 600 yards or not is really not an issue for me. If there's bad guys 600+ yards away, I'm not engaging, I'm fading away.
One important lesson (among many important lessons) I learned in Vietnam is if you go looking for a gunfight, you just may find one.