Travis Haley Interview (Part 2): What is the Best AK?

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy

In Part 1 of this interview that I recorded in 2018, Travis Haley talked about his first gun, a Chinese AK rifle, and why he bought it. In Part 2 I asked him about the pros and cons of this AK weapon platform in general.

Vlad: What would you say are the strengths and weaknesses of this platform?

Travis: I mean, it's hard for me when people ask: “Hey if you had to grab a gun and go right now, what would you grab?” I'd probably grab one of my AKs, depending on what I had to do with it.

I think the pros and cons of the AK… Well, are we comparing that to something else? Are we comparing it amongst AKs in general? People ask “Which AK is the best among all variants produced by all those countries’?

Vlad: I'm always asked that and, in one of my articles I wrote about it. When I worked in Afghanistan I was repairing guns for an embassy. We had guns from 10 different countries. But I could never answer which AK is the best because you'll have to take samples from every country, probably 10 of every type.

Photos from the embassy’s armory by author

Travis: And you need military samples, right?

Vlad: Yeah. And you need millions, millions of rounds to test it. Nobody ever gonna do it. So there is no answer to that.

Travis: I only have my personal preferences in the country. You know, and I think it probably goes in line with what Kalashnikov himself said. Russia and Bulgaria…

You know, all the Bulgarians that I have, they're my favorite guns. But they're not military-spec guns. They are guns that used to be parts kits, that is the problem in America.

I mean if I want a good AK, I take it to Jim (Fuller). And Jim works on it for me and then I know that I'm never going to have a problem.

One of AK 105s that was built for Travis Haley by Jim Fuller. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

I'm not the kind of guy who's going to be against companies making cheaper AKs, because it's America, we can do what we want, it's capitalism. But with some companies, you pay for what you get.

And it's an AK, it's not an AR. To me, an AK is a piece of art. So when you look at the pros and cons… I love the original intent and design, the requirement of the AK. And where it's come from that. It's still like even the guns that I've brought back.

I've got a Type 2 that I picked up. And still mostly the original parts, 1952. And it still will sing man, in full auto. You know, so you can't find an AR platform that does that. So that's a big pro to me and it's to be able to be confident in most battlefield pickups I grab.

Travis Haley on the range with his Type 2 AK. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

So again, I think the technical pros and cons: sighting systems… I mean, can it be accurate? I think it's it comes down to the operator.

Some say the AK is not accurate beyond 200 meters. I can smack a target right now at 700 if you give me an AK. My type 2 Russian which is God knows how many rounds are through it, I could still hit about 4 out of 10 rounds at 700 meters with it.

So now is that me? Is that luck? No, it's science, it's an understanding the bullet never lies.

But yeah, there is a deficiency in accuracy compared to an AR. You're not gonna have the repeatability out of most guns in the 7.62x39.

One of the precision AKs tested by Travis Haley. The image belongs to Haley Strategic

But 5.45, I find it very very comparable to 5.56. I'd rather shoot somebody with a 5.45 than a 5.56 all day long. There's a reason why it's called a “poison bullet”.

Vlad: I wanted to ask about the caliber preference. And I think your answer is 5.45.

Travis: I mean I love them both, I really do.

The pros… It depends on whether we are talking from a commercial standpoint or a military standpoint. Every time I went into a foreign country the first thing I picked up was an AK.

And everybody was like Travis what do you need that for? I'm like: I might need it because eventually, it might save my life. It had before.

Availability, ammo, things like that, that's a huge pro for me. And of course, for us, it is important to be able to blend in.

For the specific mission sets, the AK is not designed for the tech that an AR is. So, for night vision operations, the gun starts to get big. I would love to find a way to streamline the AK down for lasers and lights, which we're working on actually.

But I'm a traditional AK guy. I don't like putting a bunch of shit on my stuff. You'll see my AKs. The ones that have rails and crap all over it, they never get shot. The ones that are more slick, and more traditional but still have a light and an optic on it, they're my “go-to” guns.

I don't need to put a bunch of stuff on them. I'm not really picky with guns. That's like when people say, what's your go-to gun? I'm like, whatever I pick up, man.

In the next part of the article, we will talk about essential modifications for modern AKs.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: Instagram: YouTube:

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  • Jeffy561 Jeffy561 on Jun 27, 2024

    "The ones that are more slick, and more traditional but still have a light and an optic on it, they're my “go-to” guns." My thought too.