An argument about as old as the AR. Facts, lore, and opinions seem to place many folks firmly on one side or the other. As a veteran of two wars in which I used the AR platform and my opponents the AK platform I've seen merits to both systems. When I competed in 3-gun I used an AK74 with moderate success, while exhibiting all the advantages and disadvantages of that platform when compared to the ARs everyone else was running.
Feel free to add to this list in the comments below, but generally the debate between the two platforms as a combat rifle, defensive tool, or range guns go like this:
The AK is more reliable, needs less maintenance, offers more energy on target at normal range, and is less expensive to shoot. The AK also costs more to build, is less ergonomic, and requires more skill and effort to run well. Recoil is harsher and accuracy only good to normal defensive range.
The AR is more accurate, more pleasant to shoot, and more ergonomic. They can be assembled at home with minimal skill, and have a wealth of after-market support to tweak into any individual's ideal build. The AR also runs hotter and dirtier despite having a generally lower tolerance for filth. There is less energy on target and once barrels get shorter than 16" that energy really starts to drop.
So with them both existing for over 60 years why can't we have the best of both worlds? We've seen steps towards this with 300 Blackout (7.62x35) almost replicating 7.62x39, however it costs too much to shoot and with such a wide variety of loadings it's practically impossible to find the right twist rate for all-around performance.
We've seen blends such as 5.56 AKs, but those miss out on energy. We've seen ARs chambered in 7.62x39 that fixed the accuracy issue, but the gas impingement operation retains its problems.
I think I've found the solution, the ultimate platform that combines the strengths of both the AK and AR into one system.
The solution required someone who understood the AK AND the AR, AND manufacturing. That person is Dean Sylvester, the founder of Primary Weapons Systems (PWS). PWS was able to incorporate the AK's long-stroke piston system into the AR's modern construction and design. He explains a bit in the video series we have from visiting Primary Weapons Systems:
(Hard-to-Find PWS guns HERE )
This system gives us the manual of arms, ease of use, comfort, and modern adaptability of the AR, with the cooler, cleaner-running, suppressor-friendly advantages of a piston system. We tested that in a brief demonstration:
Our newest PWS Upper has me very excited for a number of reasons. Beyond all of the advantages explained in the videos above, we now have a PWS upper with a 11.85" 7.62x39 barrel. This, is what I consider to be the ultimate.
Specs are pulled directly from the product page:
SKU: 18-M111UF0B, UPC: 811154030429
Operating System: PWS Long Stroke Piston System, 3 setting Adjustable Gas Regulator
Barrel Length: 11.85”
Gas System Length: Carbine
Barrel Twist Rate: 1:8
Muzzle Velocity: 2204 fps
Muzzle Device: PWS Triad 30
Upper Receiver: PWS Proprietary Piston Upper, T6 7075 Forged, Anodized
Handguard: PWS M-Lok™ 6.9” Handguard (1.7” width, 2.25” height)
Charging Handle: Radian Raptor™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle
Piston systems add some weight, that is unavoidable for as long as steel weighs more than air. You can't have a steel rod in the same place a steel pipe would be and expect it to be lighter. If you shorten that rod, and the barrel however it saves weight. The problem with 5.56 is that when the barrel shortens you also lose critical muzzle energy which results in reduced effectiveness on target. This 11.85" 7.62x39mm barrel should test to have more energy than a 16" 55gr .223 would. I discovered all of this while doing homework for the Draco AK pistol article that published in the November/December 2020 issue of Combat Handguns magazine.
Additionally, this platform is ideal for suppressors. Unlike the AK we can trust that the threads are concentric, and unlike an AR, the piston system should keep eye-burning gasses out of our face when shooting! Swing back around to this being a compact firearm and we've got a great travel/home defense platform that doesn't cost a ton to shoot so it can be fun at the range too! This IS the answer to AK Vs AR on so many levels.
Where can one find PWS products? That is the tough part. Because these are so advanced and unique you've got to wait for them to be made. This is a much longer wait than more popular AR, or even AK platforms because these uppers can't simply be slapped together from a pile of existing parts made by someone else. Even the upper receiver which looks standard AR is unique to the PWS system. When I visited PWS in October of 2020 I was curious what I would see since I knew they were still in business, yet hadn't been able to find inventory anywhere. To my surprise the factory floor was buzzing with busy workers on every machine going full tilt. Movement everywhere making every part. The truth simply is that demand is so high for every piece they make (both for their own unique systems and for general aftermarket AR and AK parts) that they were selling as fast as they could be made, sometimes faster. So, like everyone else I waited. You can try and purchase direct from PWS here , but may find better luck checking these listings at Brownell's or Primary Arms. Palmetto State Armory also has some listed here.