I’m Thinking About Going Back

| December 17, 2015 | 33 Comments

Back to the AK, that is.

I started my first two SBR projects about five years ago. One was my now failed Glock enclosure project, and the other was a Mini Draco AK47 SBR. I carried the Mini Draco for some time before opting for my AR15 pistol in .300 Blackout. The primary driver for the change was weight.

Loaded with a 20-round metal “Tanker” mag, my AK47 weighs 8.5 pounds. The AR15 as configured today weighs 7 pounds, 11 ounces. Add in the additional weight of spare 30-round magazines, and there is a considerable difference.

However, there are some advantages to the AK that made me reconsider :

  1. Despite training with the AR for the last two seasons (with a few exceptions), I still don’t feel as comfortable with the AR compared to other weapons. This can be overcome by training.
  2. Ammunition availability. 300 Blackout is getting more plentiful and less expensive, but it is still more rare than 223 or 7.62×39. Either of those two rounds can be had for about a quarter apiece. I am able to reload my own ammunition, but it takes time. 300 is particularly intensive to reload, given the case modifications on top of rifle cartridge reloading in general. Less ammo means less training.
  3. In observing the weapons used by active shooters and terrorists, the predominant rifle is the AK47. When attackers use ARs, they are chambered in 5.56. While some might choose their PDW / SBR based on what bad guys are NOT carrying, the AK47 allows for a greater chance of “liberating” magazines from attackers.
  4. Training with rifle caliber pistols is more difficult due to a more aggressive stance by the ATF. Going through classes sucks with a cheek weld only. Using a buffer tube and a brace for face indexing is feasible in a pinch, but there is a difference in shooting this way versus a real stock.

If I am going to make the transition back to the AK, I need to put the whole package on a diet.

First step is to reduce weight by only carrying 20 round magazines. There is a 1.4 ounce difference between a 20 rounder and a 30 round AR mag loaded with 300 Blackout. I’ll be giving up 20 rounds this way, but going back to the AK makes magazine acquisition possible.

I’d like to try to get a more lightweight forend on there. Manticore Arms makes one that is about 60% lighter than my Midwest Industries rail, but at $200 I’m still looking for other options. It’s also Keymod, and I would need to buy a different mount for my light.

Hopefully MagPul will announce a 20-round polymer AK mag next year at SHOT Show, but I am not holding my breath.

Overall, I’m going up about 13 ounces. Since my AR build increased in weight and I’m saving some weight by using 20-rounders, the overall difference is much less than it used to be.

We’ll see how it goes; I’ll probably run this experiment for the rest of the year and see if the change will stick.


About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

33 Comments on "I’m Thinking About Going Back"

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  1. DAN says:

    Here’s the problem as I see it….you ID bad guys as using Kalashnikov platform weapons. Then you want to justify yourself using an AK because you could ratfck the bad guy’s AK mags ? Seems to me if you’re a citizen responder with the AK sillouette weapon, a good guy with an Armalite may end up plugging YOU !

    I love your 300 BLK pistol concept/use. One can buy 20 round boxes of Nosler the 110 grain 300 BLK for $13-15/box. Reloading it is no different than 5.56mm. A hard hitting 30 cal in an AR platform. What’s not to lpve ?

    Or you could use an Armalite platform in 5.56mm with 77 grain rounds.

    Bottom line is that you, me, we, us, have to settle down and start to and continue to PRACTICE with the same platforms, optics and calibers. That or we’re going to waste money and never get proficient with one’s SHTF weapon(s).

    Myself, I have 2 Kalashnikovs; one a Bulgarian Arsenal chambered in 5.56mm. I never shoot either. Nothing wrong with them. But between my ARs and TAVOR, I don’t have time.

    Whatever you choose to do, good luck. Just try to settle on one platform and concentrate. Try. It is difficult. So many choices.

    Be safe.

  2. MattCFII says:

    Some WECSOG weight saving ideas, again since it is AK not as easy as AR world.

    There is a guy that put a Magpul 870 for end on a Mini Draco and there are also people that have cut down ultimate for optic rails. You could use an MOE mount in the handguard slot for a light. Probably still lighter and cheaper than the Manticore keymod:

    On the magazines, I have converted some 10 round Saiga mags into 15 with some lug geometry changes and the K-Var 5 to 10 round magazine follower kit. I did this specifically to fit a AK-105 into a Emdom Gym-E bag.

  3. Martin Luther says:


    How would your local/state laws affect your deployment, carry and use of a sbr compared to a pistol?

  4. MattCFII says:

    Argh Damn autocorrect For end=forend,

  5. David says:

    The premise that you’re gonna “liberate mags” from an AK-wielding terrorist seems kinda fanciful. Is there a documented case of that ever happening? Not to mention that if you can liberate their mags, you can liberate their gun, too. I also agree with Dan that if terrorists = AK, I’m not sure I’d want to be rolling with an AK in that kind of situation.

    The weight issue also seems substantial to me; if I were insistent on running with a rifle-caliber SBR on a day-to-day basis, I would really look into the SU-16D9 / PLR-16 SBR. Yes, Kel-Tec… but you won’t find anything lighter, and it can fold really compact.

    • Ethan says:

      I’m inclined to agree. Not that its impossible, but that it is unlikely to the point that (IMHO) it shouldn’t have any impact on your planning.

      Essentially to alter your plan based on the chance of battlefield pickups, you have to assume the following things will happen in order:

      1 – You are not killed by the first barrage of fire.

      2 – You have time to deploy your PDW

      3 – You successfully neutralize the first terrorist (or group of), and are still undamaged enough to be mobile and fight-effective.

      4 – There are other terrorists (or groups of) that are distant enough that they are not aware of you engaging their comrades – enabling you to loot the corpses of the fallen combatants without being fired on.

      5 – You have the time and need to stop and loot for ammo when the slaughter is ongoing. This means [A] You don’t feel confident that you have enough ammo on hand to end the fight (IMO that indicates your plan was inadequate), and [B] you are willing to stop and pull mags from pockets and chest rigs, and find a place in your pockets to put them while more civilians are being killed nearby. Maybe it sounds simple, but another person is being shot every 7 seconds (statistically), time is life.

      6 – The terrorists are using the same caliber AK as you have (7.62×39 and not 5.45×39 or 5.56×45). The x39 is the most popular caliber, but others are in common use.

      Again, we are far out in speculation left field here, but I personally would rather carry as many rounds as I possible could within the weight and size limits of my EDC bag.

      Ultimately I see the doctrine that drove the switch from .30-06 to 5.56 for our military rearing its head here – more rounds for less weight. An AR in 300BLK allows you to carry more rounds for less weight than an AK in 7.62×39.

      Loved the article btw Shepherd, very thought provoking.

  6. Stefan says:

    Immediately after San Bernardino I had the same idea that if there are going to be more terrorist attacks that the Bad Guys would be using weapons familiar to them i.e. AK47s — but then the pic’s came out and they used AR15s… so much for that.

    Also I guess I didn’t know AK’s were used over AR’s in US shootings… would like to see some data on that.

    as far as the training goes I 100% agree. I carry a AR pistol in .300BLK and for training I slap on a .223 upper – perfect? no but it works.

  7. Nick says:

    Not that I am pro or anti either idea, 300blk weight savings, costs more money. BADLW UPPER AND LOWER will save weight. Going super light hand gaurd saves weight and 20 round magazines.

    Ak has its advantages but also limited projectile types. I dunno if the ATF would be happy/happier you used and SBR vs a Rifle Cal Pistol vs Handgun. Either way if your in the right you are in the right but everything is under a microscope if you are in a “terrorist/active shooter” situations. I would hate to use my rifle caliber pistol during a bad shoot by shouldering the brace. Hypothetical nightmare.

    Also you mention a stock, did you not SBR the 300blk? Is that an option?

    • Cymond says:

      I think his AR is a pistol with Sig brace, the AK is a SBR. Hence, he’s considering carrying the AK SBR because he’s tired of dancing around the law against shouldering the Sig brace.

  8. A-Game says:

    If you go AK go to http://www.arizonaresponsesystems.com you would be hard pressed to find some one more knowledgeable about rebuilding the AK platform.

    Get a Haley Strategic chest rig. They are small enough to backpack with your SBR. That gives you 4 mags plus whatever else you carry in pocket or pack. You also will have handgun plus 2+ mags. Point being picking up ammunition off enemy body is meaningless. If you use a different platform and you ran out of ammunition then you pick up said enemy weapon and continue the fight.

    You are comfortable with both AK and AR that’s good. But changing platforms based on picking up enemy magazines is silly when their weapon is laying there for the taking IF you ran out of ammo.

    Size, weight and reliability would be a larger determining factor for what to carry. Which for fire power that is 300 Blackout.

    Travis Haley is promoting his new 9″ BCM 300 Blackout SBR and how little it weighs with good reason.

    You don’t know what the next Islamic terrorist is going to be packing.
    We are in America NOT the third world so carry what you have the biggest chance of surviving.

  9. Robert says:

    I have to echo what others have already said. Usually, I feel like your rationale for things is well-thought out, but I cannot agree with your thinking here. You made four arguments. Against #1, I’d say you already know the answer: more training. I can’t speak knowledgeably about reloading (#2), but if cost of ammo is an issue, set up a similar AR upper in 5.56 for most of your training. #4, just sell your arm brace and SBR the AR. You are Short Barreled Shepherd, after all!

    #3 concerns me the most. My understanding is that, with your AR pistol, you carry 3 mags total? Not sure if any are 20s, but if they are all 30s, that’s 90 rounds. I think you need to train with a true Tier One guy like Paul Howe, who “assigns”, in his mind, 3-5 rounds per bad guy. So that’s 6-10 bad guys per mag, 18-30 bad guys total. What sort of situation can you possibly anticipate that would require you to neutralize 18-30 people all by yourself, or even with the she-shepherd??? Many would question your choice to lug around the PDW at all, but if you think you’re going to expend your ammo and then crawl around stealing theirs to use in yours (based on dubious “data” that bad guys prefer the AK?), then I think you need to do a big rethink. Plus, many LE have told me that, if they get called to an active shooter situation and see someone with an AK, that person WILL get ventilated.

    Food for thought.


    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hi there! Thanks for the comments.

      I wanted to respond to #3, as it appears that there are different philosophies that are emerging (which is fine).

      I do not assign rounds to a number of expected attackers for several reasons, and maybe I’ll write about that another time. I see extra mags as necessary for either reloading OR fixing problems. If I have an extended stoppage, I remove the magazine and will not reuse it if possible. I am also trained to pro-actively reload, and if I can perceive my initial magazine is running low, I will reload if possible and safe. So if I only carry one spare, and I use that to reload, and THEN there’s a malfunction, I either have to transition to my handgun or attempt to remedy any problems with the magazine.

      In attending lots of handgun and rifle classes, magazines are typically not “defective,” (although I’ve seen that happen, too) but it is common to see a round get halfway extracted from a magazine and stuck, etc. I do not believe in diagnostic weapons clearing, so taking the time to figure out why the weapon / magazine isn’t working is not how I’m trained.

      I’m not sure if this makes sense or not, but I see an extra mag as a hedge against problems, not a hedge against an APC full of bad guys.

      • Robert says:


        I hear you and understand on the proactive reloads. The thing in your article that jumped out at me was your talk of “liberating” mags from the bad guys. To me, that presupposes that you’ve run out of your own ammo, because, personally, I’m not going to trust the maintenance schedule of some booger eater and use his mags unless I’ve expended every round of my own. And if I’ve expended my 90 rounds, like I said, that should be 18-30 bad guys leaking from new holes.

        If you want to roll with the AK because you like it, because you’re more effective with it, because it fits in a bag better, because its ammo is cheaper, or because you think it looks cooler, that’s fine. But I think the idea of liberating mags from bad guys to use in your own gun is a fallacious argument. You’re not with MACVSOG operating in Laos where resupply might be difficult and where you and your five best buddies are fighting an NVA regiment. Even if Mumbai happens in downtown Minneapolis, I couldn’t imagine getting too many rounds downrange before the cavalry arrives. Don’t overthink it.

        Happy Holidays!


      • Ethan says:

        Shepherd, I want to offer you a quick piece of encouragement, even though several people (myself included) are disagreeing with parts of your hypothesis.

        *THIS* is where learning happens, when new ideas are tried out and allowed to succeed or fail. No one ever advanced technology or their personal mastery by accepting the status-quo.

        This kind of conversation is healthy, and beneficial, and necessary. It got a lot of people engaged and thinking, even if they come to different conclusions.

        Please keep writing articles like this.

        • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

          No problem! I am really grateful for ALL of the responses. I’m still kicking this idea around. I carried the AK for a year, and the AR for a year. I thought it would be a good time to reflect.

          Perhaps another stamp is in order…. 🙂

  10. van der lin says:

    you need to cut MOAR weight by rebuilding your AR w/ lighterweight parts and changing it to a 5.56 w/ 55 grain HP or BT ammo. You will have to increase your barrel length to 8.5-10.5″ but it woudl be worth it. Sure it will be a bit blasty compared to the Blk, but still mild compared to the Draco.

    There are so many LW parts out there man, I’m talking .625″ Ti gas blocks and aluminum carriers, 2A armament LW milled receiver sets, true pencil barrels and the works. If only LAW would bring back the aluminum folding mech.

    since you are in MN w/ the way SBRs can be concealed and w/ the ATF’s stance on shouldering shit I agree a SBR is the way to go, but not the Draco.

    In america, a turrist is about as likely to have a 5.56 AR as an AK in one of the russian chamberings, regarding your battlefied pick up notions.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Good suggestions on cutting weight! I was considering a carbon fiber forend, especially if I stick with the AK.

      • van der lin says:

        Did some more thinking about this and I want to make further argument for an AR of 8.5″ barrel or less in 5.56 shooting 50-55 g ammo, somehting commercial that will frag or expand at a lower threshold than M193.

        Not only can a 22 bore AR be build wicked light, but also the ammo weight adds up quick. Now 762×39 ammo is heavy as hell comparrred to let’ say M193, forget about that, let’s just compare. 556 to 300 BO.

        Say you carried 1 20 rd in the gun and two 30s. For 300 BO the bullet is 110g minimum, that is 55 g heavier/rd, but let’s just call it 50g since the 300 BO has less brass and powder weight. So 80 rds at 50 grain weight penalty/rd = 4000 grains, that is .571 lbs or 9.136 oz. Now this is a very conservative ammo load of 2.66 magazines and even w/ just that you are saving over a half pound. So an extra half pound is nothing in a 5 minute gun fight, but the point of this is to have it on your back always, well ounces is pounds, as they say.

        Now you oculd build a 5.56 AR at under 4 lbs easy with a 7-9″ pencil barrel and folding mechanismn. Aluminum bolt carrier, new metal reinforced carbon fiber receivers, polymer FCG, aluminum barrel nuts and carbon fiber forends. For $500 out the door you could have the 2.98 lb Extar 556 AR pistol, which contains its action spring in its upper receiver. You could SBR it and put a folding mechanism on it. I agree that in your state SBR is the way to go, especially since you train so much and you want to train like you would fight w/ a good shoulder weld.

        W/ <4lb folding micro AR sbr shooting 55 g ammo, how much less would that weight than your AK w/ just the 80 rds of 762×39 ammo? How much more ammo could you carry??

        First rule of a gun fight:
        Have Gun

        Second rule of a gun fight:
        Have ENOUGH ammo. How much is enough? Well, you never know. AFter having a reliable gun the most important thing is to have as much ammo as possible. I challenge you to show me a gun/ammo loadout that would give you more gun and ammo per pound than a Extar556 or custom micro AR SBR in 5.56 mm w/ xM193 or a better commercial ammo… Serious question.

        Say, what does your 300 BO pistol weigh anyway??

        • van der lin says:

          ETA: you AK must weigh 7.09 lbs empty per figure above and the figures in your loaded mag weight comparison post. Jeesus.

          Here are the loaded values according to that mag article (I do not know what bullet weights we are talking about here???)
          20 rd AK Tanker mag: 1.41 lbs
          30 rd AKUS Palm mag: 1.60 lbs
          30 rd Pmag 5.56(29rds): 1.09 lbs

          So your AK and 80 rds of ammo in 2.66 mags = 11.7 lbs

          An Extar 556 and thee 29 rd Pmags, 87 rds = 6.25 lbs, a savings of 5.45 lbs!!

          Of course, to make it more equalivalent you would have to add a little weight to the extar for some sort of stock. If you were going to SBR you could do the a smoke composites closed style receiver extension/stock w/ their castle nut & end plate for a mere additional 4.76 oz and an ace folding mechanism for a few ounces. So let’s call it 6 lbs for the EXTAR vs 11.7 lbs, a 5.7 lb savings, that is over 5 additional mags of 5.56, BTW.

          Note, I am not some sort of EXTAR schill, a custom LW AR might be built as light but there is a good data point w/ the EXTAR.

        • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

          Very cool ideas — thank you for writing this up.

          As configured, the .300 Blackout AR15 pistol I have weighs 6 pounds, 14 ounces unloaded.

          • van der lin says:

            thank you. Dang, your 300 BO pistol is only a few ounces lighter than your AK. Yep, you could do a lot better than that, even w/ a standard bolt carrier group.

            I would add for everyone’s referecen that the figures I used of loaded magazine weights in the comparison up there were for bullets w/ the following weight:
            300 Blk: 110 g
            5.56: 55 grain
            7.62×39: 123 grain.

    • CR Williams says:

      Actually you can run as short as 7.5″ with 55gr though you will lose some ballistic effect (wouldn’t go heavier than that, though). Won’t be enough to matter across the parking lot or down the middle of the mall, though. And there are some 50gr loads that are really good for that short barrel length.

      Question at some point may become “how light is too light?” At what point do you risk reliability or handling issues such as shot-to-shot recovery by trying to make an AR-P as light as a handgun (a bit of hyperbole there, natch’)?

  11. Tierlieb says:

    Since I recently have become a convert: Give the vz58 a look. The system is lighter than the AK, so are the mags. Basic functionality is pretty similar and where it isn’t (BHO), it is awesome.

    CSA offers one with an 8″ barrel and switching the stocks is a lot simpler than on an AK (where half the aftermarket stocks require the upper tang, the other half requires it cut off).

    Price-wise it is cheaper than attempting a light-weight AR-15 build.

    As for picking up mags in an AS event: I’ll leave debating the probability of needing to do that to others.

  12. Cymond says:

    Wait, I’m confused about point #4. You’re switching to 20 round magazines to save weight, but couldn’t you also save weight with Magpul 30-round AK mags? If you’re ok carrying fewer rounds, then consider carrying fewer 30-round magazines.

    Maybe I phrased that badly, but I’d rather have a 20 in the gun and a pair of Magpul 30s than a 20 in the gun and a trio of steel 20s.

    • Cymond says:

      And of course, if you prefer the AR platform, it would be worth filing a Form 1 on it. I’m hoping to build my first SBR soon. I’m sure you could find a stock that’s lighter than the SBX brace.
      Also, since it’s not a SBR yet, you could replace the receiver with a lighter one. There are Mag Tactical lowers on Gunbroker for $59+$18 S&H, that would save you 3 ounces.

    • Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

      Hi — good point, and for clarity I would carry 3 20 rounders (one in the AK, two in the bag), not one loaded + 3 spare.

  13. DAN says:

    Just want to remark on comments about fearing the thugs of BATF and shouldering a pistol stock weapon.

    In a bedlam, shoot-the-bad guy scenario….use the pistol stock weapon. Worry about saving innocent lives. Stop worry about what the thugs of BATF might do.

    Train, practice and circumvent paying taxes whenever and however you can.

  14. Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd says:

    Hi everyone, just wanted to say thank you for the awesome discussion, and all of your points.

    When specific, I attempted to respond to your comments directly.

    I do understand your concerns about an AK weapon being considered “more terrorist-y” than an AR, but I’ve long accepted that our chances of being accidentally shot or killed goes up when responding to an active shooting event with ANY weapon.

    I don’t know how many of you have read my articles about misidentification, but I hope to expand on this topic in 2016.

  15. CR Williams says:

    If you stay with the pistol w/arm brace, I would suggest ditching the Sig offerings and trying the KAK Shockwave. Not nearly as wide and much easier to set up with a LAW or other folding stock.

    Option if you’re going to go back to the AK platform is to find one that works reliably with 5.56 to gain options on ammo choice and reduce carry weight some.

  16. clarence says:

    “As I explore rifles with shorter and shorter barrels, a reoccurring question is : “is it better to have a pistol round in a longer barreled rifle or a rifle round in a shorter barreled rifle?” With PCCs like Brent’s I think the case could very easily be made for a rifle-sized firearm firing pistol ammunition.”


    SBR a CX4 for a 5#, 24″ option.

  17. CR Williams says:

    I realize it’s more weight on the gun, but consider linked 20rd mags on the AR. That’s what I have for an initial load in my AR-P. A Surefire 60 and two or three 30rd mags are in the bail-out bag. This is for a vehicle gun, however. For a bag gun perhaps the linked 20s and two to four 30s would work.

  18. TR says:

    Any updates?

    Saw magpul has 20 round mags!

    Would enjoy seeing your updated AK SBR.

    Thanks for your example.

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