Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Found in the Back Corner of the Gun Safe

An old friend of mine...

A Maadi AKM.

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.
A third member, just to be contrary, was heavily into one of the newer imports onto the American shooting scene, the AK-47, a rifle still new to American shores that shot ammunition that was not made here yet.

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.)
Surprisingly for me, because I was something of a "gun snob" at the time, I fell in love with the ugly little critter right off. It was a lot lighter and more compact than my M-1A, being almost a foot shorter and nearly four lbs. lighter, to say nothing of the weight of all of the extra magazines that we mindlessly schlepped around back then.

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.
(Cost me $129.00 back then. Shoulda bought dozens.)

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.
For many years, this AK was my companion on camping trips into Michigan's northern woods, usually the Upper Peninsula. it was light, fast to employ, it hit reasonably hard and was effective at the ranges afforded us by northern Michigan terrain, and while it never fired a shot in anger, it did fire thousands of rounds into "hostile" cans and bottles, old junk cars, and countless other targets of opportunity as we guys trained and just plinked with our AKs. Mine even showed it's mettle one winter when a couple of us broke through some thin ice on a snow-covered creek that we hadn't even realized was there. My rifle went to the bottom along with my pack when I jettisoned it, and when it was snagged and dragged out some time later after I'd warmed myself and dried my clothes around a hastily-built fire, it fired off it's entire magazine without a hitch after I merely shook the water out of it. (Try THAT, AR fans!)

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.


  1. What great memories!

    1. Yeah, I'm noticing now that many of my firearms come with memories attached. That makes them all the more special and separates them from those that I just bought on a whim or because I "just had to have it".

  2. Yep, good memories, even if it's a so-so for accuracy :-) But taken care of it'll last and work for a long time!

  3. That's a nice-looking AK. You did the right thing putting the original wood back on it.
    Just DON'T EVER use it for a car/truck/first responder gun. When the cops roll up to a "shots fired, males with rifles" call, the first thing they see will be a male with not only a rifle, but an AK like the Paris terrorists used. Stick with something friendlier-looking. It'll be healthier if you're ever caught in something like that.
    Like yours, most of my guns seem to have memories attached to them. It's almost like I'm getting old or something.

  4. I'm reminded that back in the day, I had the "who needs one of those?" attitude when it came to the $59 surplus SKS carbines they were selling by the crate,

    Yeah, wish now I'd bought a crate or two...

  5. "Surprisingly for me, because I was something of a "gun snob" at the time"
    Wait..What?! You WERE a bit of a gun snob? You mean you were worse? hahahah!

    1. I'm not a gun snob now. I can appreciate that different firearms fill different roles and some do some jobs better than some others.

      Now this does not mean that I won't mock you for putting K-Mart-quality optics on an otherwise decent rifle, as you've been known to do, but that's not snobbery--it's just common sense.

  6. The way things are going out in The World, you might just want to Repack the ALICE and tune up the AK. Just Sayin'...

    1. One of the first lessons that we learned back then was to ditch the large ALICE pack for a medium, since if you have a big pack, you tend to put more stuff in it than you need/can carry. Small packs = more economy in your load and greater range lugging it.

      But one of those mediums is sitting in the back of my vehicle right now as a "get home" bag, and there's often a truck rifle in there with it, although not the AK.

  7. I don't know. I like them all. Can we have enough? And the prices you got them at...steals, I say. The last rifle I bought was $880.00. Shotgun $500.00. Yeck and those aren't even expensive these days. But any gun is worth it, right?