Are AK-47s Good For Home Defense?

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For many years, I have kept an AK-type rifle in the safe or attic in order to be able to comment intelligently on the rifle and to provide training and familiarization for trainees. There have been occasional opportunities for articles and reports.

I have to admit that for most of this time, the AK rifle on hand has been an inexpensive—even cheap—example that served the purpose OK. Just owning an AK can be fun and only making brass without purpose is another thing we like to do.

For serious use, such as personal defense, a higher level of expectation is needed. Some AKs are better than others when it comes to home defense. But overall, is it a solid option?

The author’s favorite AK is the Arsenal Underfolder.

Home Defense Advantages of the AK

The AK has become popular in America for the right reasons. The rifle works well, serves a purpose and is affordable. A few makers, such as Arsenal, have taken the AK and elevated the rifle far above the norm.

For those wishing to own a rifle that performs as well as possible, the Arsenal gets the nod. Quality manufacture and attention-to-detail are evident. The Arsenal is a rifle that you might rightly bet your life on, as much as you may any rifle.

The AK has endearing qualities. The rifle is easy to manipulate with simple, intuitive handling. The bolt is easily racked to make the rifle ready. The sights are rugged, no-nonsense units that do not go out of zero. My example is an underfolder.


Unlike the AR, which uses a recoil spring that juts from the rear of the receiver, the AK adapts well to an underfolding stock. The result is an easy-to-stow rifle.

When protection against large animals, armored felons or gangs is needed, nothing quite equals the AK rifle. I don’t wish to start an AR versus AK debate, as all of us should own both.

That being said, I like the AK because the rifle will come up shooting with little to no maintenance and lubrication and works well as a truck gun. It is simply a workhorse.

7.62 x 39mm cartridge
The 7.62x39mm is an efficient cartridge with much to recommend.

The greatest advantage of the 7.62x39mm cartridge in the minds of most Americans was that it was cheap. (Dirt cheap in the early days.) Once we got over the cheap part, over time we realized that the 7.62 x 39mm is a great cartridge.

In rifles of a similar barrel length, the Soviet cartridge develops energy on par or greater than the .30-30 Winchester. (Most comparisons are between a 20-inch barrel .30-30 and a 16-inch barrel 7.62 x 39m.)

Many deer and boar have been taken with this cartridge, usually because this was the rifle on hand. Many of these animals were taken with the humble SKS rifle and others with the AK. The key is using the right load.

While steel-cased ammunition from Wolf or Tula is fine for practice a quality expanding bullet load should be used for hunting and personal defense. A couple of magazines full of quality ammunition isn’t going to impact your lunch money badly.

The Hornady 123-grain SST and the Remington 123-grain JSP are among the American-produced loads that are more accurate than most.

Most commercial rifles designed for hunting and personal defense are designed to sell or to offer a reasonable choice for hunting. The AK-47 rifle was designed for affordable manufacture, but also to survive and thrive in difficult environments.

In a quality rifle with good sights that are properly aligned with the bore and with good furniture, the AK handles quickly and offers excellent hit probability.

expanding ak bullet loads
There are a number of expanding bullet AK loads. This type of loading should be chosen for home defense.

Operating an AK in Home Defense Situations

Getting the rifle into action is simple. Angle the magazine into place, be certain it is locked and control the rifle with the firing hand. The non-dominant hand reaches over to the bolt and racks the bolt to make the rifle ready to fire.

The safety lever is sometimes criticized. This lever is moved to the uppermost position to make the rifle safe. This lever is often very stiff in economy-grade rifles. Modification of the lever at the “V” often works. A few passes with sandpaper cures the stiffness.

The Arsenal works well, is smooth and not overly stiff. It is sometimes overlooked that the AK rifle safety is intended to be operated in all conditions, including harsh winter conditions when soldiers are wearing heavy gloves.

There is nothing about the AK safety that isn’t positive. It is easily manipulated with gross motor movements. If you are left-handed, the support hand (right) sweeps back to the safety easily.

Champion hearing protection
Keep a set of quality hearing protectors at home ready. The new Champion allows normal communication but baffles excellent noise. They’re a great AK-47 accessory.

When firing the rifle, I had to come to grips with the proper technique. When running the AR-15, I keep the support hand forward as far as possible for control. With the AK rifle, I find gripping the front of the magazine is the best technique for me.

I press the stock into the shoulder and maintain my firmest grip. To replace the magazine, the strongly sprung catch must be mastered. If you fumble the load, the magazine will not be half inserted. It falls away.

The magazine latch is very solid and securely locks the magazine in place. The Arsenal rifle features a good crisp trigger that makes getting fast easy for those that practice.

AK Ammunition Selection

I have tested several 7.62x39mm loads with either hollow-point or soft-point bullet. The Wolf 122-grain HP opens quickly with excellent wound potential. The Remington 123-grain JSP offers a good balance of expansion and penetration.

The Hornady SST is another good choice, well-suited to taking game if this is part of the rifle’s mission. Among a very few purpose-designed personal defense loads is the Winchester PDX.

Practice with FMJ and use the expanding bullet loads for duty, hunting and personal defense. The AK rifle (in general) and the Arsenal, in particular, is a fine choice for personal defense and among the most versatile firearms available.

Hornady Steel Match ammo
Hornady Steel Match with the SST bullet is a first-class choice for most uses.

There are a few improvements that may be made without breaking the bank. For those with an older AK rifle, the CMC trigger offers a match-grade trigger at a fair price. The trigger may be adjusted to a crisp 3.5 pounds.

Another option I like very much is the TRUGLO Tritium front post. This makes for all-around utility in dim light. TRUGLO also offers a “predator light.”

While the kit may be mounted on the rifle and a pressure switch-mounted, I like the easy on-and-off flashlight option. TRUGLO offers good quality for the price and doesn’t break the bank.

Hornady SST load
These are expanded Hornady SST loads at different ranges and velocity. This is an outstanding loading.


I like the AK for home defense, area defense and for keeping predators away from the homestead. While the rifle would not be ideal for defense in a crowded complex, for my scenario, the AK is ideal.

The AK is a modern rifle that makes for a good house gun for those at risk.

Do you own an AK? Do you use it for home defense? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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