An old friend of mine...
Back in the early 1990s, not long after a cloud had come over the land in the form of the election of one William Jefferson Clinton, a small group of us began to plan in earnest for the possibility of bad times. Now this was just a group of guys who liked to hike and camp and shoot, but the constant push out of Washington back then for more control over our lives, and more gun control and gun bans in particular, caused our regular hiking/camping trips to take a more serious tone, a "what if" tone.
We all knew that we could survive if need be, either as individuals or as a group, but we also knew that to operate as a group--a small unit, if you will--that we'd be best served by standardizing around one fighting rifle in particular.
Now that only makes sense, you say as you read this. If we all have the same rifle that shoots the same ammunition from the same magazines, it vastly simplifies logistics and training in every way. However the choice of which rifle to choose became the subject of many discussions around a campfire and many trips to the range, for each of us had our own preferred rifle, and in true American individualistic fashion, weren't any of us looking to admit that ours might not be the best--and only--choice for the group to adapt as primary.
And yeah, the fact that we were all young guys, none of whom could afford to buy another new rifle and all of the accessories that make it work, definitely factored into the equation.
One friend was a die-hard AR guy, having bought his back when your only real choice was to buy a new Colt AR-15A2 or a used Colt AR-15A1. They all came with 20" barrels--standard or heavy--and nobody else was making them.
I was equally adamant that the Springfield Armory M-1A was the only sensible choice, both because of it's accuracy and it's 7.62mm round, and because I already owned one.
We argued, we compared, we took our respective rifles on many camping trips and hikes in which their various attributes--and flaws--came to light, but it wasn't until President Clinton and the Democrats passed one of their first attempts at banning the AK-type rifles that we all rushed out to buy our own, just because "weren't no one going to tell us what we could or could not have. 'Murrica!"
This ugly little stamped-metal AKM from Maadi of Egypt cost me $179.00 new, if I recall properly. It also came with a ridiculous "sporter" buttstock designed to give it more import points, but that stock went by the wayside just as soon as I could order a correct laminated "orange crate wood" stock and pistol grip for it. (That was perfectly legal back then, but the Democrats were just getting started.)
Note that as newbies, our "basic load" was determined by a simple formula:
1.) Buy a large ALICE pack.
2.) stuff it with as much gear in the way of canned food, camping gear and ammunition as possible, packing it until you could only lift it off the floor and shoulder it with difficulty.
3.) Adjust weight by removing as much non-gun stuff as you thought you could live without.
Until we learned better, this method ensured that we would always be cold, hungry, wet (if it rained) but well-armed, and if nothing else, we slept great at night because we were wiped out from hauling hundreds of rounds of rifle ammo up and down some wicked terrain "just in case".
Now I will own up to briefly switching to an M-1 carbine for these trips, as they were the lightest, smallest rifles out there, but I got tired of hearing "nice pistol" or "what's it going to be when it grows up?" every time I unslung it.
Yeah, we were feral men, and we lived under a code in which the weak and the non-conformists were mocked, and those weak enough to be mocked into conforming were mocked for that, too. As I recall, this ultimately resulted in us going on week-long winter camping trips along the shore of Lake Superior IN THE WINTER, just because...well because no one wanted to be the one wuss who suggested that we not do it, or suggest that we not do it again after surviving the most recent such trip. We all would have voted for that, but we'd have still mocked whoever dared propose it. So no one proposed it and we went every year for years, until that notable year when each of us brought his wife or significant other and the chicks all put THEIR feet down on about the third day and screamed "This lunacy stops NOW and we're all going HOME!"
Ah, but I digress.
Back to the AK.
Of course times change. Eventually all of my friends married away, (and to be fair, I almost got trapped myself back then), and married guys with new families can't go out and run around the woods every week-end, so the trips came to an end. The AK, not terribly handy as a target rifle when I transitioned to Hi-Power match shooting, went into storage, and though it pokes it's head out of the safe every now and again, it's been years since it's chambered a round.
Methinks I need to do something about that, and soon.
A friend of mine here has a nice new Ruger Mini-30 that he just acquired. I'm thinking that we'll need to get out to the range soon, if for no other reason than for me to show him what kind of rifle that the 7.62x39mm round was actually made for.