TX2Guns: Let’s Talk AK Ammo for Self-Defense

Originally appeared over at The Tactical Hermit. Later re-posted on American Partisan. -NCS

I get asked a TON of questions about ammo, with the most popular question being:

“What is the best TYPE of ammo to use in an AK for self-defense?” My general response is typically “Whatever you have loaded at the time is fine, the perp won’t being filling out a ballistic critique sheet at the end of the crime or nothing…”

It has been my experience that most people over think things like ammo and gear in general when it comes to self-defense. I mean that whole “Software before Hardware” thing does have meaning! And yeah, it MAY sound like a smart ass thing to say, but yes, in fact, ANY ammo that goes BOOM and not CLICK when you pull the trigger will most likely work and do the job.

I mean lets be real, you are using an AK-47 Rifle here to defend yourself! Not exactly a mouse fart gun! But, since you tuned in to this post to read something educational, (I hope), here it goes.

This, by the way, is in no way a complete list of ammo types that are out there, just the broad strokes to give you an ideal.

Ammo Types

FMJ or Full Metal Jacket: A full metal jacket is a bullet consisting of a soft core encased in a shell of harder metal, such as gilding metal, cupronickel or less commonly a steel alloy. An FMJ bullet is encased only on the front and sides, leaving the bottom as bare lead. This is your standard military issue round. Used mostly in target shooting in the civilian world. Quite simply, this is one hunk of lead that is designed to simply penetrate and not expand.

HP or Hollow Point:  A hollow-point bullet is an expanding bullet that has a pit or hollowed out shape in its tip often intended to cause the bullet to expand upon entering a target in order to decrease penetration and disrupt more tissue as it travels through the target. Used primarily by Law Enforcement and civilians for self-defense. There is also JHP or Jacketed Hollow Point where the jacket, which is sometimes bonded to the core metal to prevent separation of the two metals, helps control expansion and helps prevent the lead core from disintegrating on impact.

SP or Soft Point:  A soft point bullet is a jacketed bullet with a soft lead core, which has some of the lead exposed at the front end of the bullet. Soft point bullets may be round nose, flat point, or pointed. Soft points are used extensively in hunting loads, as they provide steady, controlled expansion and with proper shot placement, a clean kill of the animal. There are also BCSP or Bonded Core Soft Point. Bonded or Bonded Core is a bullet in which the lead core is soldered or chemically bonded to the copper alloy jacket.

FR or Frangible: A Bullet designed to disintegrate on impact with a soft or hard target, thus virtually eliminating the possibility of over-penetration. Used mostly by Law Enforcement in confined spaces, like with SWAT entries into houses.


OK, so now you know all the types, let’s talk what is best for the AK Rifle for defense purposes. First, and foremost, forgetting ballistics and penetration and co-efficient data for a moment, let’s talk what matters most in a self-defense weapon: RELIABILITY.

If the gun does not go bang when it is supposed too, or does not feed reliably, what good is it? And yes, generally there is not a more reliable assault rifle in the world than the AK-47, but why is that? Having worked and used the AK for some time, I can narrow that answer down to three things:

  • Loose Tolerances
  • Beefy Bolt
  • Mag Design

The AK has been called the “Fire Breathing Sewing Machine” and to see one in action, that description is spot on. Watch an AK feed a round again and again and you will see that big, beefy bolt extract and feed rounds without fail…provided the round feeds SMOOTHLY. When the weapon was designed some 65+ years ago it was designed around the FMJ military ammo type, which because of its sharp nose cone, feeds like a champ up the feed ramp. Now if you peruse some AK forums or web sites, you will see reports of different ammo types, like HP and SP causing feeding problems, because either the space in the Hollow Point bullet or the soft lead in the Soft Point bullet “catches” the edges of either the feed ramp or barrel. I can also tell you that over time, soft point ammo carried in AK mags can get deformed and cause FTF (Fail to feed) or FTE (Fail to eject) issues. I have also had on occasion, the dreaded “double feed” with soft point ammo. But to be fair, I have had FAR more feeding issues with SP than HP in AK rifles.

Furthermore, FMJ is generally more accurate at standard AK engagement distances (under 300 to 400 yards) than HP or SP due to the aerodynamic nose design. FMJ will also penetrate most soft body armor. SP will as well, but FMJ carries a slight advantage in penetration as SP does with energy dump. Bonded soft point also performs much better (penetration wise) against HARD TARGETS, such as automobiles, as the entire bullet stays together, dumping more foot pounds of energy per square inch than standard milsurp FMJ.

So, where does that leave us? Well, if you want to fight (or defend yourself) with the AK weapon system as it was intended, and use that “fire-breathing sewing machine” to rain down hell and brimstone on your enemies, shoot what the weapon was designed to shoot and improve your odds dramatically that you will have little to no feeding issues and shoot FMJ. That is not to say that you could not load up a few rounds of good BCSP to hunt a hog or deer if the need arose, but that is an entirely different ball of wax!

And for those of you out there that are into penetration stats for certain types of ammo or just generally like to shoot shit to see it explode, pay a visit to “Old Painless’” site, The Box O’Truth for the straight dope on penetration testing.

Stay Alert, Armed and Dangerous!