When deciding which topics would kick off The Final Trawl, we thought we needed to include something controversial.
A Rifle Review!(part 1)
There are a handful of AK-74 reviews floating around the internet and as such, I believe that another honest appraisal would be of sound benefit to the “Prepper” community.
Today we will be looking at INTERARMS Bulgarian-style AK-74 semiautomatic rifle. This rifle was purchased through Atlantic Firearms and cost approximately four hundred and fifty dollars.
INTERARMS is the rifle division of the High Standard Manufacturing Company located in Houston, Texas. They build AK-style weapons from de-milled Bulgarian AK-74 parts kits installed on brand new US manufactured receivers and barrels.
When I first began researching which rifle I would purchase for the dread SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation, I asked myself three simple questions, which I will now pose to you our reader.
#1 Are you living on a budget?
Being a man of modest means, I put myself on a budget of five hundred dollars. This is roughly a weeks worth of pay. I could not with good conscious spend more than this as paying taxes, a mortgage, utilities, groceries, and fuel costs have higher priority on my budget.
The US Census Bueru reported that as of 2009, the median household income in the United States is $52,221. This makes the USA the 9th wealthiest nation per capita with the 3rd largest population. For the sake of this review, we will use this as a reasonable approximation of what most persons reading this blog are dealing with financially.
The price maximum of five hundred dollars I put on myself meant the majority of .223/5.56x45mm caliber AR-15 style rifles and absolutely all .308/7.62x51mm caliber FAL/HK/M-14 patterns were right out of the race.
As much as I wanted a fifteen hundred dollar .308 caliber Springfield M1A rifle in my home arsenal, it just was not going to happen. As they say, “Reality bites!”
In addition, I took into account the cost of ammunition as prices here in the states have literally skyrockets since 2004 and increased in momentum before the 2008 United States Presidential Election. The ammunition shortages in 2009 and early 2010 were worrisome to say the least. See the picture below for a scary confirmation!
(This receipt pictured above is from 2007. As of October 2011, 100 count boxes of 9mm ammunition at Walmart is now $19.95)
#2 Is this rifle a well-built tool to feed and defend yourself?
My second question required that I find a rifle that was as effective a tool as my pliers. I was not buying an object of beauty, or a showpiece to take to the rifle range. What would be required was functionality in extreme circumstances. This tool - this rifle - may very well be called upon to save my life, the lives of others, or quite plainly just put food on the table.
Cost purchasing and operation aside, what a particular rifle relevant to the SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation needs is “near” bulletproof reliability. The gas piston system is legendary for functioning repeatedly with very little maintenance.
A rifle without a gas piston requires that the force of the expanding gas from the detonation of the primer cap and subsequent burning of the propellant to push the rifle bolt rearward. This action cocks the fire control group, facilitates the removal of the spent bullet case, and chambers a new round as the bolt moves back into its closed position
The hot gas introduces unspent propellant into the receiver, thus coating the bolt mechanism with fine debris that can cause stoppages and failures to cycle. Now imagine additional outside contaminant such as dirt entering this system. What backup measures does this type of system have in order to facilitate the continued operation of the rifle? The answer is none.
Here is where a gas piston system comes into play. The gas piston is a part of the bolt and sits inside of the gas tube, which is right above the barrel. A small drilled hole in the barrel and a gas port fitting connects the barrel to the gas tube.
When a round is discharged, the impulse action of the gas moving down the barrel also travels through the gas port and simultaneously forces the piston rearward as the expanding gas pushes on the bolt face. Even if the bolt mechanism were clogged with debris, the action of the gas piston works to overcome any fouling that might cause a stoppage of failure to the feed.
#3 Is there a solution to this rifle dilemma?
Luckily, for both you and me, the answer to all three of these questions is YES!
Because, in all honesty, I do not want my final moments to end like this humorous comic strip:
So, a hundred hours later combing through e-zine articles, blog postings, rifle forums, and YouTube videos, I settled on the best compromise of value and performance. That was, by my estimation, the AK-74 rifle platform.
The AK-74 is a 5.45x39mm caliber gas-piston operated assault rifle designed by Russian Lt. General Mikhail Kalashnikov as replacement to the 7.62x39mm caliber AKM/AK-47 rifle series.
The AK-74 is the main battle rifle of the Russian Armed Forces and fielded in such conflicts as Afghanistan, Chechnya, and most recently in the Russian/Georgia War.
This 5.45x39mm caliber represents the Russian answer to America’s intermediary cartridge 5.56x45 currently in use by the US armed Forces in the M-16 and M-4 variant rifles. Whereas the American 5.56 round has about twice the energy of its Russian counterpart, the 5.45x39mm round has a similar “flat” trajectory to the 5.56 with realistic lethality out to 500 meters.
This reduction in energy yields a rifle with less felt recoil for faster followup shots.
A reduction in energy does not equate to less lethality though, as demonstrated by this hunter who used a 5.45x39 commercial hollowpoints with great effectiveness while deer hunting.
The Russian 5.45x39mm round costs .13 cents apiece when purchased in surplus bulk - two spam cans each filled with 1080 rounds of surplus Russian military ball ammunition.
Operating the AK-74 will result in a 35% cost savings when compared to the Russian 7.62x39mm (AK-47/AKM) and American .223/5.54x45mm (AR-15) round which averages upward of .20 cents a round.
The average cost of the .308/7.62x51mm round is nearly .50 cents apiece!
I made a careful comparison of the 7.62x39mm AKM to the 5.45x39mm AK-74 and found that whereas the initial cost of the rifle was similar, the operating costs for the AK-74 would be significantly lower.
Also choosing the AK-74 would net several hundred meters of increased effective range, less felt recoil, all while retaining 50% parts compatibility to the older AK-47/AKM rifle series.
Part 2: Range Report to follow soon!
By: Holden Caulfield
The Final Trawl