Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Okay, full disclosure. It’s not really “my” AK-47. In fact, the gun club (I am a gun owner but no assault rifles) to which I belong has one for rent. I had never fired an AK-47 before, and it is an experience I wanted to have.
I had, in the past, fired an automatic rifle, the AR-15, when I was a civil employee with a police department. That rifle had an adoption kit so it fired .22 caliber rounds, which is what I fired. This was a Lebanese (as I recall) made AK-47, the most popular assault rifle in the world, although the AR-15 is the most popular assault rifle in the US. The AK-47 is, world-wide, the global most popular assault rifle for a couple of reasons. First, as I understand it, it is a very easy and inexpensive gun to manufacture. The gun I fired was made in Lebanon (if I am recalling correctly). When I was the evidence section director we had two AK-47’s in our evidence section, one being Israeli made, and the other being a cheap knock-off. Three AK-47’s, likely three different nations of origin.
Second, as I understand it, the AK-47 can be abused and still fire. I’m told that you can take an Israeli-made AK-47, bury it in sand, dig it up and it will fire flawlessly. My friend was in the military and had training on the M-16. In his experience (as he told me), the M-16 jams up frequently. He had training on at least two different occasions, and he told me that prior to the second time he completely disassembled the M-16, cleaned and oiled it, and re-assembled it after which it had no problems whatsoever. He even went on to sing its praises. But if I’m in a battle zone and can pick up either an M-16 or and AK-47, I’ll grab the AK-47.
This post is not to sing the glories of assault rifles. That is not the point at all. Unfortunately, this past week (as of the writing of this piece) we had not one but actually two separate incidents of mass shootings with assault rifles. Because of that, there is currently a lot of talk about new gun regulations. I’m in favor of this; the reality is that these idiots running around killing people are proof positive that people cannot be trusted to own assault rifles. Some people might think this is harsh, but I wouldn’t trust a toddler to handle boiling water. Until we can figure out the correct formula for background and sanity checks, and rifle capabilities, maybe it’s best to restrict their ownership.
Having said that, I really hope that assault rifles can still be kept by gun ranges for use as rentals inside their shops. I chose to try out the AK-47 as an educational and personal experience. While there, I was asking the employee accompanying me a lot of questions about the gun. Although he was clearly an enthusiast and seemed to be angling towards selling it to me, it was a great opportunity to learn. As he was loading the clip, I had to stop him. The first time I fire any weapon with which I am unfamiliar, I only want one round in it. In Arizona, where children are allowed to fire assault rifles when accompanied with their parents, comes a tragic case that never should have happened. With parents wanting a picture of their seven-year-old firing an AK-47, the instructor loaded five rounds into the clip of this fully automatic weapon. Unprepared (and probably too small) to handle the kick, the child grasped harder as the gun began to raise, meaning she was holding down the trigger until, eventually, she fired over her head and behind her striking and killing the instructor.
Mine was only a semi-automatic. I didn’t even know you could have a semi-automatic AK-47, but for those unaware, a “semi-automatic” means it will fire as fast as you can pull the trigger, but between each shot you must release and re-squeeze the trigger. I still learned a lot from this rifle, which is why I hope that gun stores can keep them for rental.
Firing cautiously, one round at a time initially, I eventually “opened up” shooting as fast as my fingers would allow. What I noticed is that first of all, they’re not terribly easy to aim. The sight was difficult to see and align. Almost all of my twenty shots pulled to the left. It might have been the sight, but it was probably my inexperience. I still was hitting the target in the correct zone, but there was a clear bias.
Second, the rifle is extremely powerful. I’ve fired a .50 caliber magnum handgun, and that handgun had less kick than this rifle. That means that, when firing rapidly, I could barely aim it at all. I cannot imagine controlling this rifle at its automatic rate of 600 rounds per minute. I could fire maybe three rounds a second (probably less), but 10? That would be so wild and hard to aim, although, to be fair, automatic weapons (in automatic mode) are not intended to be aimed. The idea is to sweep through a target, shooting 10 rounds a second in the hopes that maybe three or four will actually hit the target. And the rest? Damaging whatever, and whomever, gets in the way.
Ultimately, now I understand. There are three reasons to own these weapons. First, vanity. I have to admit, my mind did go to “I wonder how much this would cost?” but fortunately I’m smart enough not to buy a rifle I would likely never fire again. Second, target shooting. You would never use this for hunting because it’s just too wild to control the rounds as you fired. If you could keep the rounds on the target, it would tear up a deer so thoroughly that you probably wouldn’t want to eat it. And third, to kill. People. And not just to kill a person, but rather, to kill indiscriminately. Firing into a crowd you would kill and injure a lot of people, but you could never pick out a single individual.
No doubt, there are enthusiasts out there who would disagree with my assessment, and likely vehemently. Mine is not the only opinion, and there is nothing that makes my opinion more valid (OR LESS) than others. These are just my impressions. My advice, if you’ve never fired one before, find a gun range and try it out. Make up your mind as an informed individual. It’s worth finding out for yourself. As an added benefit, if anybody tries to tell me that I’m wrong in my opinion, I can now honestly say that I have fired an AK-47 and their opinion will likely be less meaningful than my experience.