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Five Guns for the Homestead – Part 3 – Military Rifles

January 28, 2012

When you need this gun things will be bad. Military rifles can be used for hunting, but their main purpose in life is to kill people.  I hate the thought of having to do that, but I hate the thought of losing my family even more.


Modern military rifles (by this I mean WWII vintage and newer) are generally designed to be simple to operate, to be reliable under adverse conditions, to have man killing knock down power, and to hold plenty of ammo.  Nearly all standard issue military rifles manufactured since WWII are at least semi-automatic, and some have full auto capability.  Full auto models are illegal for civilian ownership unless you buy a special license.  Most manufacturers of military rifles make semi-auto civilian versions of the same rifles.  Personally I think semi-auto is enough.  Full auto burns a lot of ammo, and most people can’t control the point of aim after the first few rounds.  I believe that the U.S. military now advocates the use of three round burst rather than full auto.  The volume of fire doctrines of Vietnam have pretty well been discredited; and accurate, aimed fire at a slower rate has been shown to be more effective in combat.


There are quite a few semi-auto versions of military rifles that are available on the civilian market.  Probably the three most popular in the U.S. are the AR-15 (civilian version of the M-16), different variants of the Soviet SKS, and different variants of the Soviet AK-47.  The Ruger Mini-14 is also very popular.  It is a carbine size rifle that fires the .223 military round.  All of these are good solid weapons.


The AR-15 is chambered for the .223 cartridge.  It is well made, with good finish and close tolerances. Thirty round magazines are readily available and the ammo is moderate to cheap in price.  Some feel that the close tolerances of the AR-15 make it subject to jamming, and it is probably not a good idea to use cheap ammo in it.  The .223 round is considered by some critics to be too light for a military round.  The biggest drawback to the AR-15 is its hefty price tag (in the $1000 range).


U.S. AR-15 in .223

The SKS and its variants are a WWII vintage Soviet design.  Many of the rifles were manufactured in China, Yugoslavia, and other Soviet block countries.  The ones that I have seen and fired have been pretty well made.  They are very utilitarian, nothing fancy, not the best finish, but they seem to be well machined and the one’s I fired were surprisingly accurate.  The SKS holds 10 rounds of 7.62 x 39 ammo that is loaded via a stripper clip.  This low ammo capacity and the method of loading are probably the biggest draw-backs to the SKS.  You can buy after-market 30 round magazines for the SKS.  I have not personally tried any of these, so I can’t comment on them.  I have had a couple of reports of them being somewhat clumsy to use and not feeding all that well, but like I say I haven’t used one myself.  One of the biggest pluses for the SKS is the price tag.  At one time you could buy them for $89.  Even in today’s market you can still find them for around $200.


Soviet Block SKS in 7.62 X 39

The Soviet AK-47 and its many variants is the most widely manufactured firearm in history.  The AK-47 fires the 7.62 x 39 round.  It is commonly available with a 30 round magazine.  The quality of the AK varies widely.  The finish is nothing to write home about.  Many of these rifles have laminated (read plywood) stocks and hand grips.  The tolerances on the AK are very loose.  Some of them actually rattle when fired.  But it is because of the tolerances that the AK seems so impervious to jamming.  I have seen a demonstration where a loaded AK is buried in the sand, pulled up out of the sand, and fired; without even blowing it off.  AK’s vary in price along with the quality.  You can pick up an AK variant for around $450.  I have one of the Rumanian manufactured variants which is totally plain Jane.  It is surprisingly accurate, and I have never had a jam.


Soviet Block AK-47 in 7.62 X 39

The Ruger Mini-14 is a civilian weapon.  The Mini-14 is manufactured by Strum Ruger and is a scaled down version of the M14 military rifle.  Mini-14’s are chambered for the .223 U.S. military round and 5.56 x 45 NATO round.  The Mini-14 is used by civilians and many police and security forces, but it is not in used by any of the world’s major military establishments.   It is a good quality gun, as are all Ruger products, with good fit and finish.  High capacity magazines and lots of after market accessories are available for the Mini-14. The price tag on the Mini falls somewhere in between the AK and the AR-15.


Ruger Mini-14 in .223

My recommendation for a homestead military rifle is the AK-47 or one of its variants.  These guns are ugly but, in my experience, accurate and reliable.  Ammo is plentiful and inexpensive ($5 for 20 rounds at this time).  One of the best things about the AK is that you can buy two of them for the price of one AR-15 and have some change left over.


So that’s my picks for the five firearms that a homestead needs.  You may disagree, and you may have good reasons; but I don’t think you would go too far wrong with the guns that I have recommended.

From → Weapons, Modern

  1. Take an SKS over an AK any day. The SKS is more accurate, 1/3 the price, you can change to a modern stock (Tapco makes a nice one), and there are 20, 30 and 40 round detachable magazines available (though the are a bit more expensive than AK mags). My other choice is the Mini 14. Just a not a big fan of the AR and you can get a Mini 14 in all stainless steel which makes is a perfect homestead long gun.

  2. The AR-15 is now 700 dollars or so in the US market. It is made from aluminum and polymer, so it will not rust over time. On top of that they have proven that you can feed it steel core ammo, but after a thousand rounds or so the barrel will be need to be cleaned imminently.

    You do this twice and the barrel is in bad shape.

    Cheaper to buy steel ammo then then to buy spare barrels because you bought steel ammo.

  3. Greg permalink

    This is a fantastic analysis! I have seen many opinions, but you back up your choices with why you picked each one. And I can’t argue with ANY of your choices!

  4. Lee permalink

    Point of technicality, but, the .223 and the NATO 5.56mm round ARE NOT the same. A firearm chambered in 5.56 NATO will fire either round with no problems. A firearm chambered in .223 will also, however, if 5.56 NATO is fired in it very much there is a possibility of catastrophic failure as the 5.56 NATO has more power/chamber pressure. It is unsafe to fire 5.56 NATO in a firearm chambered in .223…
    That being said, they are both excellent rounds.

    • Good point. I would add that the same applies to the 9mm Para. and the 9mm NATO round.

      • Para and NATO are Not different rounds. Some NATO rounds will be hotter , but the saami thresholds are the same. Most NATO cartridges are approaching +P pressure levels, but any NATO cartridge is interchangeable with any “parabellum ” cartridge . All 9 mm rounds that are 9×19 are the “parabellum” whether commercial, or military manufacture.

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