If you have a bunker mentality, you’ll do no better than the AK-47 or one of its variants when the SHTF. The 7.62x39mm rifle is arguably among the most reliable firearms ever developed, and was meant to be that way the very second Mikhail Kalashnikov took to the drawing board.
Simplicity is one prong of the Soviet-born gun’s dependability. The AK is easily fieldstripped and consists of large components not easily lost in the tall grass, which means troubleshooting any issues is simple and fast.
The other prong is an unlikely attribute when talking dependable rifle designs — loose tolerances. Tight tolerances exist in the rifle, such as where the bolt lugs met the trunnion, but are overall sparingly used.
In turn, it takes a lot of abuse to knock the AK out of action. This latter point, however, is a double-edged sword. Loose tolerances don’t do much to help in the accuracy department.
The AK-47 isn’t exactly the first rifle you’d reach for to make that shot at bighorns atop a ridge a half a mile away. On the other hand, if you had to assault or defend a fixed position, wanted to lay down a high volume of fire, and be certain every trigger squeeze resulted in a shot, then you’d do no better than the Kalashnikov.
There’s little arguing that the 21st century has been the era of the semi-automatic rifle. The firearms world is awash in every conceivable style of gun designed to chew through ammunition as quick as your trigger finger can squeeze it out. But semis weren’t born yesterday.
Firearms innovators have been tinkering with the concept since the first self-contained cartridges were developed. Heck, the Danish Navy adopted the Madsen-Rasmussen all the way back in 1896, giving them the honor of being the first military force to formally adopt an auto-loading rifle.
With that sort of history, there is a slew of rare and common semi-automatic rifles that make dandy additions to any gun safe. But arguably there are some true masterworks — even in their modern iterations — that any diehard firearms enthusiast should pine after. With that in mind, here is a list of five classic semi-automatic rifles you’ve got to own.
A quick note about hunting down some of these guns: Do your research! There are many examples of some of the more vintage rifles on this list that look like the real McCoy, but don’t perform like them. Parts for many of these rifles abound and can be thrown together using less than desirable manufacturing processes. In turn, your hard-earned money can be wasted on what you thought was a functional rifle and turned out to be little more than an expensive wall hanger, if not worse.