The AR-15 and its ancestor, the select-fire-capable M-16, have served the United States Armed Forces and their allies for nearly 50 years. Many of us know the history behind its selection and implementation, complete with all its growing pains. Today’s M-4 Carbine is similar to the original M16A1, but advancements in machining, design, materials, and powder make today’s M4 a much more reliable weapon platform.

That being said, I can no longer place any confidence in the AR-15 to defend myself in a time of disaster or urban unrest. To protect myself and my family, I have completely switched over to the AKM family of weapons—a semi-automatic variant of the legendary AK-47. I know that somewhere, someone is saying out loud that I am a dumb-ass or a communist. When I first discussed this with one of my close friends, a career Army infantryman with more than 16 months of combat duty spent with the 172nd Infantry Brigade, he just shook his head in disagreement. I remember telling him over some beers, and he just kept asking “Why?” with a look of disappointment and bewilderment on his face.

The M16A2 was my primary weapon for my entire career in the United States Air Force; I knew it inside and out. I was one of the few USAF engineers I knew who loved target shooting, going to the range, hell, I even liked to clean guns. So why walk away from a weapon platform I had used or owned for over 20 years? The answer comes down to two major reasons: supportability and simplicity.


Any military or company that uses AR-15s/M4s has much deeper pockets than I will ever have. Major corporations and military units typically have a robust supply system that can provide an individual any desired replacement part they may need. This is necessary, because the variation in parts from manufacturer to manufacturer is immense, making interchangeability difficult.

The buffer spring and buffer weights alone have more than a dozen different variations depending on barrel length and number of coils on the buffer spring. Then, stop and consider the rifling twist rates in the weapon’s barrel and what projectile works optimally in them. Here is a sample of the variations and options on buffer weights alone.

The size of the gas port in the barrel also varies depending on the manufacturer of the barrel and its intended use. This directly effects the amount of gas coming back to cycle the weapon. Over-gassed or under-gassed guns coupled with improper buffer springs and weights can cause failures to cycle and operate effectively.

The pins used in the trigger and lower control group also have variations depending on manufacturer. Colt used a pin set with a larger diameter than other makers, while also making rifles with the industry-standard smaller-sized pins.

With the AKM/AK-47 family of rifles, buffer-spring variants from country to country don’t matter much, and it has no buffer weights to worry about. Problem solved. I only need to stock one style of spring, the same one used by most of the 100 million AK-47s that have been produced. This makes my overhead for long-term support of my rifles considerably less.