Monday, May 24, 2010

Revisiting the AK-47, part II

The prior post explained why the AK-47 has approximately four-times the destructive power of standard-issue police firearms. The destructive force of a firearm is the kinetic energy (measured in foot-pounds) it delivers to a target. Kinetic energy is a product of the weight and velocity of bullets expelled by the weapon.

This post provides a coda, by illustrating the destructive power of the AK-47 with a look at the only handgun on the planet that packs equal punch. Smith & Wesson has developed a .50 caliber revolver, purportedly for the big-game hand-gunner market. Three new cartridges have been developed for this 5-shot weapon. This picture shows that the powerful .357 Magnum round (left) looks puny by comparison to the most powerful of the new .50 cal rounds (right).

Click image to see full-size
You might recall that the .44 magnum round was made famous by Clint Eastwood. Note the "muzzle energy" ratings beneath each round (above). The .50 cal S&W delivers 2,600 ft-lb kinetic energy, slightly more destructive power than is produced by an AK-47 firing 150 grain bullets. So how big is the weapon that fires the new monster bullet? More than big enough to make Dirty Harry want a new gun:

Click image to see full-size

The only handgun on the planet that equals the AK-47's power is simply huge. Don't be mislead by the "assault rifle" tag. The AK-47 is a device for delivering a level of destructive force that no private citizen needs to possess. It isn't a hunting weapon and other types of firearms are more appropriate for personal defense, e.g., shotguns.

So-called militias, anti-government extremists and violent hate groups love the AK for its power and low cost. Eastern European AK's can be purchased new for as little as $600, about the same cost as a top-name handgun from manufacturers like Glock or Beretta. That's very little money considering the AK-47 packs four-times the punch of the typical handgun and provides the asymmetric firepower that recently killed two police officers.

The 43rd President wrongly allowed the assault weapons ban to lapse. TheRaven expects the 44th President to push comprehensive gun ownership reform in his second term. Expect a firestorm of rhetoric and threats that will make the tea baggers look like a church social. Watch for the lies, don't be confused between the right to bear arms and the non-right to pack more firepower than the police. The President does not intend to take away legitimate hunting and personal defense weapons, but he understands that reform is overdue.

The AK-47 and its kind have got to go.


  1. Where does the second amendment even mention hunting? How do you read the second amendment as not being to ensure that regular folk are allowed to be as armed as their "lords and masters," specifically to keep their "lords and masters" wary of becoming tyrants.

    The First Amendment is written for much the same reason. In fact, I can't imagine why else these amendments WOULD be written. Do you seriously think that the Congress tells you that you can say whatever you want just so that your neighbor can't sue you for telling him that his fence is ugly?

    First and Second amendments, together, are written to keep power with the people. Period.

    As for the AK-47... is there something about this gun that scares you? It's not a particularly dangerous gun. Not too large or small. Doesn't shoot a large round. Reasonably energetic, but hardly outstanding.

    The major reasons that people own this weapon are well documented. Militaries like them because they are cheap and reliable. In full-automatic mode they put out a lot of bullets.

    Of course, you can't buy them in full auto mode.

    In private hands they are popular because they "look cool" to some people, and because they are cheap to shoot. I can't think of any other gun in .30 caliber that costs so little per round.

    There is a downside to this, of course: they are horribly inaccurate.

    If I were the police I can think of dozens of guns more likely to hit and kill me than a Kalashnikov. In the jungle or desert, on full auto, they overcome this lack of accuracy with sheer number of bullets.

    In the city, however, I'd be a lot more afraid of the shotgun that you state is perfectly fine for home defense. You're right - there is no finer weapon for home defense. It's what I have and, frankly, I like the fact that the gun is so loud when I pump it. I like to think that anyone who was entering my house would hear that distinctive cha-chunk sound, know exactly what it is (because it sounds just like it does in the movies), and decide to find someone else to bother.

    BUT... God forbid I had to pull the trigger, I'm sending a whole-lot of lead towards the target. Far more than an AK-47. Enough that body-armor is only going to stop the stuff that hits it, but the rest will find an arm or a neck or a face or whatever.

    It's a ghastly thing to consider, and I pray that I'm never in that situation.

    But if I am, a handgun is the second to last thing that I'd choose to use. The first would be a weapon like the AK.

    I'm at a loss to understand how people who take your position think. You do a lot of analysis here - have you actually researched the weapon you loathe so much?

    It's dangerous, of course. All guns are dangerous. So are knives, when mis-handled. So are propane tanks.

    So what is it about Kalashnikov's 1947 design that is so worrisom? Logically, the Kalashnikov is *less* dangerous than other guns for the simple fact that it misses a lot more than just about any other rifle. If I *had* to face someone with a rifle, I'd probably pray that they had an AK. Because if they have just about ANY US-Made rifle, they are going to hit what they aim at, within an inch.

    There are several states where the AK is completely illegal to own. Do you feel safer in those states? If so, God bless you... because you're certainly not safer.

    Bad guys are GOING to get guns. They always have, and they always will. Even if they had to MAKE guns, it's not that hard - we've been doing it for centuries. Gunpowder is pretty much a "settled science," as it were.

    So if they are GOING to get guns, I'd rather they focus on relatively bad weapons that "look cool," as opposed to "simple" hunting weapons that are far more accurate, shoot a far larger round a lot further, or are easier to conceal.

  2. Yes I know I am WAY late to this party...

    I'd be more scared of someone with a WWII era bolt action rifle who knows how to use it, than some thug with an AK who doesn't understand the concept of "sights". They are more powerful and out range any AK out there, and unless you're wearing a trauma plate in your body armor, their full powered .30 rounds laugh at your kevlar. A Mosin-Nagant can be had for about $99 in California. These are rifles that can take down a mid sized bear.

    You mention it was a mistake to let the Federal AWB expire, well consider this. Would the AWB have saved JFK? Would the AWB have saved Charlie Whitman's victims? Did the AWB prevent the North Hollywood Shoot Out? The answers are no, no and no. I'm all for reasonable gun restrictions. In general civilians shouldn't be able to own a full auto weapon (most state prohibit them to anyone who's not law enforcement anyway) as they lack the training to use them safely. I'm also supportive of background checks when you try to purchase one. Or making it illegal for ex-cons and people with pschological disorders But the AWB is nothing more than a piece of feed-good legislation, it was worthless. One of the few things Bush did right was let this useless and poorly written piece of legislature die.

    I'll give an example of why it was poorly written. California has a very similar AWB as the old Federal law. In California I can but an M-1A, it's a semi-auto civilian version of the M-14. I can buy one without modification. But if I want an FN FAL I have to modify it with a bullet button, because the FAL has a pistol grip, never mind the fact that like the M-1A it is semi-auto, and it fires the same 7.62 NATO round that the M-1A fires. Does that make sense to anyone?

    Back to the M-1A again, the way it is out of the box is perfectly legal, but if I put an after market stock on it, like say one like the Navy's Mk.14EBR, that M-1A becomes illegal, never mind the fact that the firing mechanism hasn't changed, it's still semi-auto only, it still fires 7.62 NATO, if anything it might be LESS dangerous since if I put a shorter barrel the range is decreased. But if there is a pistol grip and detachable magazine it's an "assault weapon". Does that make any sense to anyone?

    I'll wrap this up with a short history on the "assault rifle". The term was derived from Sturmgehwer (Storm rifle in English) by Adolf Hitler to describe the StG-44. The term Strumgehwer eventually became "assault rifle" (note not "assault weapon"). The StA-44 fired a medium powered round (like the AK's 7.62x39, which is much weaker than the 7.62x54R fired by the Mosin-Nagant and the Dragunov), it featured a detachable magazine, it was select fire, and had a pistol grip. These are what define an "assault rifle" not their appearance. A semi-automatic FN FAL is NOT an "assault rifle." Yes it has a pistol grip, yes it has a detachable magazine, but it fires a larger round, and most importantly it lacks full-auto or burst capabilities.