This article will not go into tedious mechanical or operational descriptions of the AK-47, hands-down the most prolific weapon on the face of the globe. You can find that type of info all over the internet without even trying. Chances are that wherever you live, there is an AK nearby, whether legal or not. It’s the common denominator in conflict zones globally, I have encountered them everywhere. Long after we are dead, I do not doubt that the durable Kalashnikov will be still soldiering somewhere.
I would make the argument that the AK is the weapon of choice for space colonists. The subject has been raised in a least two books that I know of, S.M. Stirling’s “The Sky People,” and my own first book, “In the Valley.”
Here’s why I make the argument, based off of my admittedly subjective experience. One, the AK is a killer, and nothing but. When you hit something with the AK, it goes down. The full-metal jacket 7.62×39 M43 round makes graphic wounds, it does not lack for stopping power. If the first round doesn’t do it, the next six will. Two, the AK is childishly easy to use. Literally. Many conflicts in Africa and Asia are fueled by children warriors who have been given an hour or so in instruction on their weapon, and that weapon is usually an AK. Three, the Kalashnikov is very, very simple to maintain. It can be repaired with a rock and a multi-tool, it doesn’t need much cleaning or lubrication. Four, the AK is simple to manufacture. A colony on a new world would be starting from scratch, basic designs for locally produced weapons would be a must.
After all, the basics for human habitation of new worlds would be shelter, food and water, medical care, and security. The AK would meet the “security” test.
There are some cons to using the AK, of course. Its biggest flaw is accuracy. You can expect that a properly zeroed AK can usually hit a man-sized target at 300 meters, but it’s not going to do better than that. Ever. Another flaw is ergonomics. The AK’s magazine change is awkward, it requires some practice to get it right. In contrast, the M16 family’s mag changes are intuitive, easy. Some also hate the safety/selector, but I don’t have a major problem with it. Also, the original AK doesn’t have the option of using cool optics, but that problem has been remedied in recent years. Finally, the bolt does not lock open upon firing the last shot, there is no visual cue for the shooter to realize that he or she has run dry. With experience and some tricks, that negative can be overcome, however.
All weapons choices are compromises, but I think the AK family would be a useful addition to the space colonist’s toolbox, along with shovels, hoes, etc.
What do you, the reader, think?