It’d have to be an AK-47 patterned rifle.
While there are several different variants of semi-automatic rifle to choose from, none have developed the reputation for boringly unflinching reliability quite like the AK patterned rifles. Particularly the “47” (chambered in 7.62×39) variants, which will be our topic of our discussion. The reasons are many and well documented. Probably the two biggest contributors are the tapered case, and the ultra-secure “rock ‘n lock” magazine locking system.
The tapered case is an interesting detail in that it’s really a simple thing, if you think about it. Instead of driving into the chamber as a nail would into a board, with the entirety of the body of the case coming into contact (and therefore having friction with) said chamber, the case wedges in place, breaking all contact the moment the bolt opens. This cuts down on stoppages due to stuck cases…dramatically.
The magazine locking arrangement is one of the most reliable designs that I’m aware of. If it clicks into place, you’re ready to go. Really. That simple. Catch the front lip on the front of the magazine well, rock the magazine rearward to engage the catch until it clicks and that’s it. No downloading magazines. No push-pull. No watching your rifle puke out the magazine because you didn’t hold your mouth right when seating it.
Now, this ain’t no target rifle, so getting sub-moa groups from an off-the-shelf AK pattern rifle is about as likely as me getting to name the child-like empress. This is no scalpel. It’s a hatchet. As long as you keep that in mind, you should never be disappointed in its utility. The AK is perfectly well-suited to any task that you could ask a utility rifle in an intermediate caliber to do. Stick a white light on it, and the AK is good-to-go as a defensive weapon. A dot sight furthers it’s capabilities and aids greatly in getting smaller groups at intermediate distances and getting on target faster at all distances. The dot is optional, but it does make a big difference.
Ammo is cheap, surplus magazines are cheap, and parts are cheap (not like you’ll ever need them, but they’re there). The rifles can be found from anywhere from $500 and up, and if you buy one of the proven builds, it’ll run virtually indefinitely