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AK-47

Assault rifle

AK-47

The AK-47 was one of the best examples of a basic individual infantry weapon

 
 
Country of origin Soviet Union
Entered service 1949
Caliber 7.62 x 39 mm
Weight (empty) 4.3 kg
Length 870 mm
Barrel length 415 mm
Muzzle velocity 715 m/s
Cyclic rate of fire 660 rpm
Practical rate of fire 40 - 100 rpm
Magazine capacity 30 rounds
Sighting range 800 m
Range of effective fire 300 - 400 m

 

   The AK-47 assault rifle was designed in 1946-1947 by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The acronym stands for "Kalashnikov's Assault Rifle, Model 1947". Prototype of this Soviet assault rifle, the AK-46, was basically a reverse-engineered and simplified version of the German StG 44. It had a number of modifications over the StG 44 in order to simplify production and to adapt to available manufacturing methods. Soviets were basically unable to produce the StG 44 in its original form in large numbers as the German weapon required advanced manufacturing methods and precision. The AK-46 was also influenced by the American M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle. The AK-46 never reached production but paved the way for the legendary AK-47.

   The AK-47 was a significantly improved and rechambered version of the AK-46. The resulting weapon had many differences comparing with the German StG 44. Was the AK-47 a Soviet copy of the German StG 44 assault rifle? Certainly not. Even though the StG 44 influenced the AK-47, and both weapons had broadly similar external appearance, but mechanically the StG 44 can claim only marginal influence.

   In 1949 the improved AK-47 was adopted Soviet Army simply as Avtomat Kalashnikova (Kalashnikov's Assault Rifle), or AK. So official designation of this weapon was AK, rather than AK-47 as it is commonly known today. Number "47" in the designation indicates that it is "Model 1947". The AK-47 designation was began to be used when improved versions of this weapon, such as the AK-74 were introduced. So mass production of the AK-47 began in 1949. This design was so successful, that shortly it displaced every other firearm in the Soviet Army, except pistols, machine guns and sniper rifles. It was a standard-issue infantry weapon until 1959, when improved AKM assault rifle was introduced. Modern versions of the AK-47 are still standard-issue infantry rifles with the Russian military.

   Contrary to most beliefs the original AK-47 assault rifle is no longer used. In most cases weapons that we see today are actually not the AK-47 but its newer and significantly improved versions. The names 'AK-47' and 'Kalashnikov' are often incorrectly applied to any Kalashnikov-derived rifle regardless of type or country of origin. Furthermore the original AK-47 with a stamped receiver was actually a failure in mass production. Still though the AK-47 made its name for its reliability, ruggedness, simplicity of operation and maintenance. After its introduction this assault rifle was constantly improved in order to simplify production and improve its capabilities. It took 10 years to develop and perfect a sheet metal fabrication for this weapon. Improved and late production AK-47 rifles have some minor differences. Production of the original AK-47 stopped in the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and this weapon is no longer used. Export operators also retired the original AK-47 in favor of its improved versions.

   Currently newer versions of this assault rifle are used by more than 100 countries. It is estimated that over 90 millions of AK series rifles were produced during the last 60 years. It was license produced in a number of countries around the world. It is one of the best examples of a basic individual infantry weapon. Derivatives of the AK-47 are still manufactured in a number of countries. This extremely successful design became a base for a number of copies and clones. It was also used as a platform for numerous civilian rifles and shotguns.

   This weapon made its name for reliability. It is very reliable in all environments due to its design simplicity. It does not jam or misfire in worst conditions possible. Also it has reliable extraction even with dirty chamber and cases. This assault rifle needs regular cleaning, but it is not that critical. It will still fire with fouled mechanics, dirty chamber and cases. Furthermore it will keep on firing, no matter how fouled, clogged or dirty it gets. Even in case of stoppage it can be easily fixed by bracing the buttstock against the ground and charging the weapon with the foot.

   Also the AK-47 is extremely durable. This weapon withstands harsh battlefield conditions and all abuse that soldier can throw at it. This assault rifle passed rigorous tests before its adoption by the Soviet Army.

   The AK-47 was a child of a Soviet total war concept. It is extremely simple to operate and to maintain. It can be field stripped in one minute without using any tools. This assault rifle has few moving parts. There are no small and fiddly parts that are easy to loose while cleaning the weapon. Internal mechanisms are essentially big chunks of metal.

   This assault rifle is perfectly suitable for poorly trained or untrained recruits. Even children could easily operate it.

   From an engineering standpoint the AK-47 is a simple and low-tech weapon. It was cheap to produce in large numbers. Production of this assault rifle could be easily established using readily available machining technology. This weapon is of conventional design and is made of common materials, such as steel and wood. The parts are manufactured to less precision. Its simplicity was key to its success.

   However the AK-47 also had some drawbacks. It has a poor ergonomics and is badly balanced. Also it has got violent action. This leads to poor firing accuracy. In terms of accuracy this weapon looses to most Western assault or automatic rifles.

   Design of the AK-47 was based on the German StG 44 assault rifle. However it also had some features of the American M1 Garand semi-automatic rifle, such as rotating bolt design and trigger group. Also it had features of the Soviet SVT semi-automatic rifle, notably action spring's arrangement. It is a gas-operated, selective-fire weapon, chambered for the Soviet 7.62x39 mm intermediate ammunition.

   There is a combined safety and fire mode selector switch. In "safe" postition it locks the bolt group and the trigger mechanism. It also serves as a dust cover. The middle position is for full-auto and the bottom position is for semi-auto.

   The AK-47 was produced with a wooden stock. There is a special compartment inside the buttstock, that stores a cleaning kit for the weapon. There was a more compact AKS (or AKS-47) version with an underfolding metal stock. It was used by the Soviet airborne troops. Both weapons have similar design, except the buttstock.

   A standard magazine holds 30 rounds. The AK-47 is compatible with 40 rounds box magazines or 75 rounds drum magazines from a newer RPK light machine gun.

   This assault rifle has a sighting range settings from 100 to 800 meters. However it is way too optimistic, since the effective range of fire is limited to 300-400 meters.

   A bayonet can be attached. It was typically issued togeather with the assault rifle.

   Throughout the years the Soviets kept on improving this basic design and production methods of this weapon. Some countries were licensed to make their own AKs and were supplied with tooling and training. Other countries simply reverse-engineered this weapon.

   Soviets never bothered to patent design of the AK-47 or its improved variants. Some countries simply reverse-engineered this weapon. The only actual patent was issued in 1997 in Russia. Before that there were no serious attempts to prevent unlicensed production of this weapon. The AK-47 has spread all over the world and even made a cultural impact.

 

Variants

 

    AKS (or AKS-47) is a version with an underfolding metal stock. This assault rifle is similar to the basic AK-47, except the buttstock. It was adopted in 1950 and was used by the Soviet airborne troops and some other units that required a more compact weapon.

   AKM is an improved production version. In the mid 1950s Soviet Army issued new requirement for a lighter and more accurate assault rifle. These requirements were also complemented by a squad automatic weapon. Kalashnikov submitted his new version of the AK-47 with a number of improvements, including a stamped receiver. The new weapon was lighter and more accurate. Eventually this improved assault rifle was adopted to service in 1959 as the AKM along with the RPK light machine gun. The AKM was a standard-issue infantry weapon until 1974.

   Direct copies of the Soviet AK-47 are Bulgarian AK-47, Chinese Type 56, East German MPiK, Hungarian AK-47, North Korean Type 58, Polish AK and Yugoslavian M64.

 

 

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