Letter Re: In Praise of the MAK-90

I would like to talk about the Norinco MAK-90 in 7.62×39 because I believe it to be one of the best combat worthy weapons on the market for the money today. I will cover two parts: The MAK-90 specifically and the AK in general. First I’ll speak to those who already like AKs.

MAKs are better than most AKs presently on the market in the U.S. because:

1) It is not a “parts” gun. It is 100% assembled in a foreign arsenal that has been making AKs for decades. This means no canted front sights or other shoddy workmanship. 2) It has a 1.5 mm stamped receiver where most AKs have a 1 mm. This means less heat fatigue in the weapon under hard use. 3) The barrel is thicker than most AKs. How much? Not exactly sure but the difference is visible to the naked eye. 4) The chamber and barrel are chrome lined. Why would anyone want a fighting rifle with out this vital combat feature? 5) The trigger has a double hook disconnector. This means a much smoother trigger pull than a single hook and no trigger slap. 6) It is selling for $600-$700 these days. I got mine for $425 in 2009. It’s more than a WASR but in light of the above points I think it’s well worth the extra cash. It’s a lot less than the $1,200 Vegas Arsenal with comparable quality in everything but finish and cosmetics. 7) They were imported by the hundreds of thousands if not millions. You will be able to find one out there.

Now, to those who think of the AK as the “Soviet plow”: I don’t think many would argue the reliability of the system. Battle proven to the point of being legendary. Enough said. But what about AK accuracy? You can’t hit the broad side of a barn with an AK, right? Watch this video. That’s 230 yards from the offhand with a WASR (not the highest quality AK) on a 15 inch steel plate with iron sights. Is that world class accuracy? Nope. Is it combat accurate? You betcha! Would he be even more accurate from the prone and/or with a red dot?  You betcha!   That brings us to penetration. Your enemies will be behind what they consider cover once the first round goes downrange. The AK uses a 7.62mm (.30 caiber) bullet. The USMC video below shows the AK-47 shooting 7.62x39mm ball penetrating brick and block buildings with both straight on shots and shots at a 45 degree angle. I am not sure of the range but the testing is for “urban” environments so I would imagine 35-50 yards. And to be fair the tests are done using full auto bursts but then again semi auto fire is pretty darn quick. Windshields? Small to medium trees? Car doors? Sheet rock? Hot knife through butter. No bullet deflection here.      

Now I know what you are thinking “But, Belt Buckle, I can have the best of all worlds with my .308 MBR!” Three of the main reasons touted for the .308 are range, accuracy and penetration. And I will make no argument against these, as the .308 is indeed a fine round. But as we have seen above the AK has acceptable combat performance in all these areas. Does the .308 perform better in all these areas? Yes, at a price. Let’s talk weight.

A 22-inch barrel M14 with wood stock weighs 11.5 pounds, while a 16-inch barrel Type 56 (almost identical to a MAK) with wood stock weighs 8.9 pounds.

I’ll admit the AK is heavy. But if you have ever patrolled with a rifle you know that a extra 2.5 lb or so is a real big deal. Can you carry a thirteen pound loaded rifle in your hands all day? I’ll be doing good to carry my AK. 

Loaded AK magazine: 1.81 lb. Loaded M14 magazine: 1.63 lb.

Pretty close regarding mags except when you consider that the AK holds ten more rounds. In a firefight ten extra rounds between mag changes is a substantial advantage. With a six magazine load out, the AK will have sixty rounds left when the M14 has exhausted it’s ammo. That’s two full mags. Also the AK mag is steel, not aluminum. You could literally drive nails with one. No combat knife? Brain ’em with an AK mag:)   The price paid is also literal. .308 cal MBRs are also around three times more expensive than AKs. The rounds are also much more expensive.

Under a lot of conditions, the added range and accuracy of the .308 can be negated. We must remember we are survivalists and not soldiers in a standing army. Under what scenario does one envision engaging personnel at 500 or 600 yards? You need good optics for proper target ID at that range. It takes quality training to make a 600 yard shot. Under SHTF conditions will you automatically engage a group of armed men approaching your position? The morally justifiable scenario would be to halt them within shouting distance and determine their intentions. Maybe you have foreknowledge of a group of satanic mutant biker cannibals coming your way and decide to employ a long range ambush. Fine, a completely realistic scenario under SHTF conditions if your area is unobstructed enough for that long of a shot. If the Chinese Army invades and you employ a long range ambush then you are going to have mortars, arty or an air strike called in on your position and maybe “grabbing the belt buckle” of your enemy in a short range ambush would be more conducive to success. Are you going to be sniping the leader of a looter group? Fine. But that shot might be better served by a scoped bolt action hunting or sniper weapon which could just as easily be .30-06 or .300 Winchester Magnum. How many of you have 500 or 600 yard kill zones surrounding your retreat? Probably some but not many.

My purpose here in not to belittle the .308 Winchester/7.62mm NATO. It’s a great round. But where it really excels is the medium to long range fight. I live in Tennessee very near the Great Smoky Mountains and my retreat is in the foothills of those mountains. What area that isn’t taken up by trees and brush in the country is taken up by buildings in the city. And those trees and brush become more prominent the closer you get to the mountains until you have almost jungle conditions. The 7.62x39mm AK round will penetrate that brush without a grunt. Are there areas here where you could take a 600 yard shot? Sure. But precious few. The AK excels in the short to medium range fight. AKs are short enough for CQB and follow up shots are much more controllable than .308. If I lived in a flat and/or sparsely wooded area of the country would I feel different? Yep, I’d pony up the extra cash and get a M1A. What I am suggesting here is that the AK has more than acceptable combat capabilities for my AO and at a affordable price. Add to this the fact that AKs rarely break any parts. You could pass a AK down to your grandchildren with no work done except occasional cleaning.

Hey, if you’ve got the money then get a personal defense weapon (PDW), a “battle” rifle and a “sniper” rifle. Bases covered. But if you are on a budget and need a rifle that does nothing great (except go bang) but most things well, then buy an AK.

Now I know what you are saying “But Belt Buckle, you didn’t mention the AR-15”. That’s right, I didn’t. This is a .30 caliber essay. Sincerely, – Belt Buckle Bill