In an article you wrote several years ago, you state that "the SKS is junk." Fine. What rifle would you recommend instead? I know you like the AK. Is it the best in your opinion? Please let me know.
Aaack! That's a loaded question, James, because you know that no matter what weapon I pick, I'm going to offend someone! With rite-wingers, guns are a kind of religion. Perhaps this is why our guns are kept carefully hidden away in their closet and basement shrines and never, ever actually pointed in the direction of an enemy of our race. In any case, whatever weapon I choose, someone is going to yell "Blasphemy!"
But what if I were told by a fairy godmother that I could have any semi or full-auto longarm I wanted, for free, but only one? Okay--bearing in mind that my gun experience is way out of date, since I haven't had the funds to do any shooting for well over twenty years---here goes:
My first choice, as you noted, would be the AK-47 and/or AK-74, full auto military version, preferably of proper Soviet or Czech manufacture, or if I must accept a knock-off, a Finnish Valmet. No Iraqi or Chinese imitations, please. I won't get into the reasons why, except to say that fifty million Third World guerrillas and insurgents can't be wrong. The weapon has stood the test of time.
However, what I assume you're interested in is my second choice, which would be (deep breath and hold for outraged screams)---a Ruger Mini-14, in 7.62 caliber. (If memory serves they come in both 7.62 and 5.56mm.)
I am not even sure if these are manufactured any more, but they are probably the best light longarm I've ever handled personally, and that includes the AK, which I only fired once before. The last buzz I heard on the Mini-14 is that they are going for insane prices now, when you can even find them at all, but if you can get hold of one, treasure it. I imagine they came under that stupid ten-round magazine ban under Clinton, but my understanding is that's now lifted.
I am sure all our gun-worshippers on the list will be ready to enlighten us all on the Mini-14 and its nuances and explain why no, no, no, that's not the right weapon to choose at all. Again, with us, guns seem to be an almost religious thing and to praise or question a specific firearm is tantamount to blaspheming against the Gods of Villainous Saltpetre in some eyes. But that would be my choice.