The AK family of weapons is reliable and rugged. It was designed to be operated by illiterate teenage conscripts with little to no training. It was never intended to protect a family after a natural disaster and is ill suited to that purpose. If the answer comes down to supportability and simplicity, you need a shotgun.
Everybody has their own ideas about guns, that is part of their charm. There are near-infinite combinations of precision, wounding potential, and magazine capacity. There is much opinion on this. I will give you mine. You are welcome to violently disagree; it is your God-given right.
I have been to some bad places around the world and have seen bad things happen. When I lived on the Gulf Coast, I went through the aftermath of several major hurricanes. I now live in a rural area and maintain a wide selection of weapons. When I hear a noise in the night, I grab the shotgun.
The AK was designed for wartime production. The elimination of a bolt hold-open feature saved three parts. In Soviet Russia, magazines are scarce and valuable, so you are driven to hold the magazine to work the flapper magazine release. This is meant to make you hold on to magazines rather than let them drop free, since it’ll be in your hand before you insert the next magazine. The sights require a tool to adjust. This keeps recruits from messing up the fine zero the factory armorers put on it.
Semiautomatic rifles have their place. In the proper hands, with quality ammo and parts, they can shoot a lot of rounds a long way. There is also a place for bolt guns, but the relatively slow rate of fire demands that they be employed with some stand-off. At distance, even a Lee-Enfield or Mosin-Nagant could be effective.
My vote for home protection? The all-American choice is the Remington 870. The pump shotgun is incredibly simple. The controls? A safety button and a pump. Work the pump and shoot. Got a jam? Work the pump and shoot. Repeat as necessary and reload.
It is funny the way people take to a certain gun. My God-father used the Remington 870 in Vietnam. He told me to buy one. The 870 always felt right to me. I am not knocking the Mossberg or other pumps, but I like the 870. If my God-father had been issued a Mossberg, I would probably have one.
The 870 has great ergonomics and a Magpul stock makes them even better. The shotgun itself has a modern, modular design with many aftermarket upgrades available. I recommend a flashlight and Tritium sights for home-defense use.
Without a magazine or available ammo, the AK is a pretty ineffective club. If you are planning on serious use, you’d better have extra magazines and more ammo than you think you need.
Pump shotguns are dead-simple and rugged. There is no magazine to lose, and with minimal care, your grand-kids will still be able to use it. They should be cleaned and lubricated every 10,000 rounds or so, but even that is not necessary.
The AK doesn’t fail often, but it can fail. I have broken trigger springs and had ruptured cartridges that required a special tool to clear. The parts are not designed to be replaced or interchangeable. Ever changed the barrel in an AK? The Russians would laugh at you. They never figured any Russian soldier would survive long enough to shoot out a barrel.
In spite of loose tolerances, every country that made an AK added a little flair. I have seen guns where parts were hand-fitted with files to go together. Better to have a spare gun than spare parts.
The AK has a rough trigger and poor sights. If it ever gets dark where you live, you might consider how hard it is to see those sights at night.
The AK comes in two main calibers: 7.62×39mm and 5.45×39mm. If you are serious about using an AK for SHTF in America, there are some variants around that shoot .223; this would be very handy.
Shotguns can use an astounding variety of readily available ammo. Even during the great ammo famine I could still find 12 gauge.
Because of its caliber, the 12 gauge shotgun is considered a Destructive Device by federal law. There is a specific exemption for “sporting purposes” which permits this powerful weapon to be sold without a tax stamp. The famous 12 gauge “Street Sweeper” was removed from the exemption and declared a Destructive Device after the fact by ATF.
A typical OO Buckshot 12-gauge buckshot round has nine 30-caliber pellets and will keep a man-sized pattern out to 25 yards. The creation of multiple wound channels is devastating. Even birdshot hits like a slug at room distances. A 1-ounce slug will reach out accurately at 100 yards if you know what you are doing. Think about how far you can see from your yard. Science demands the insertion of a ballistic gelatin video here.
Not surprisingly, Buckshot was so named for killing deer. My favorite is the Remington Reduced Recoil 8-pellet. They eliminated one of the pellets and did some kind of vodoo with seemingly defies Newtonian Physics by maintaining good penetration and patterns good while producing much less recoil.
A shotgun with an 18-inch Cylinder Bore or Improved Cylinder barrels will fire buck shot in a cone shaped pattern which spreads from the barrel of the gun at a rate of about one inch for each yard traveled. Knowing your pattern and using loads with tight shot patterns keep all the rounds in the target and out of your neighbors and family.
Shotgun buckshot and slugs will go through eight or ten layers of sheet rock in walls, so you can’t just spray it around. If shot up in the air it will fall out of the sky in a few hundred yards.
FUN HISTORY FACT: The Imperial German Army in WW1 knew a few things about effective weapons. They had deployed flame throwers, poison gas, machine guns and high explosives. In 1918, the German’s ran into Americans carrying the Model 97 Trench Guns (a 12 gauge pump shotgun) shooting 00 buckshot. They filed a diplomatic complaint that the shotgun was cruel and illegal because the 1907 Hague Convention said “it is especially forbidden to employ arms, projections, or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering”. When the Americans laughed at this, the German Army threatened to execute soldiers caught with shotguns. Challenge accepted! American General Pershing replied that Germans caught with flamethrowers or saw-bladed bayonets would be shot.
Pump shotguns are reliable and fast, but hold relatively few rounds and are slow to reload once empty. My 870 holds nine rounds. If there are more than nine people I need to kill all at once, I will call a friend with a shotgun and/or transition to a handgun as I run away.
United States Vice President Joe Biden is a big shotgun fan. He has recommended shotguns as the best choice for home defense. As he famously said “You don’t need an AR, you don’t need thirty rounds to protect yourself. Buy a shotgun. Buy a shotgun. If you want to protect yourself, get a double barreled shotgun.”
I would give almost the same advice, “Jill, if there’s ever a man who is trying to rape and kill you and the kids, just walk out on the balcony here…and fire two blasts into his chest. Then reload and call the neighbors for help.”
Whether you are trained on the AK or you just have a lot in common with an illiterate teenage conscript, you may want to consider a shotgun for around the house. They are legal in all 50 states, will run under filthy conditions, and tolerate inexcusable abuse. High-quality shotguns and 12-gauge ammo are cheap and plentiful; after a disaster, availability may vary. Buy a couple of them and make some friends.
(Featured image courtesy of gandermountain.com)