It’s probably the most recognised firearm in the world. It is used in 115 countries and manufactured in 33 countries. Even after nearly seven decades it remains the most popular and widely used assault rifle in the world. It is simple to maintain, reliable under harsh conditions, costs little to produce and, above all, is easy to use.
The weapon in question is, of course, the Avtomat Kalashnikova -
During World War II, the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle used by German forces made a deep impression on their Soviet counterparts.
On 15 July 1943, an earlier model of the Sturmgewehr was demonstrated before the People’s Commissariat of Arms of the USSR. The Soviets were impressed with the weapon and immediately set about developing an intermediate caliber automatic rifle of their own, to replace the PPSh-
The calibre decided upon was the new 7.62x39mm cartridge. Naturally they would have to design a new rifle for the new cartridge. One of those that submitted a design for a new submachine gun was tank sergeant Mikhail Kalashnikov.
Born in 1919 Kalashnikov was attracted to all kinds of machinery from an early age. After leaving school he found a job as a mechanic at a tractor factory in Kurya.
In 1939 Kalashnikov was conscripted into the Red Army. Because of his small size and his engineering skills he was assigned as a tank mechanic. Later he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and became a tank commander.
He served on the T-
It was while in hospital that he heard fellow soldiers complaining about the Soviet rifles. This is when he came up with the idea of making a new rifle.
His first submachine gun design was not accepted, but his talent as a designer was noted. From 1942 onwards Kalashnikov was assigned to the Central Scientific-
In 1944 he designed a new gas-
In 1946 a competition was held to design the best assault rifle. Although Kalashnikov was competing against more experienced designers such as Vasily Degtyaryob and Georgy Shpagin, his design won.
His winning entry was called the Mikhtim and it became the blueprint for a family of prototype rifles that culminated in 1947 when he designed the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947 rifle or AK-
In 1949 the AK-
To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, pulls back and releases the charging handle, and then pulls the trigger. In semi-
After ignition of the cartridge primer and propellant, rapidly expanding propellant gases are diverted into the gas cylinder above the barrel through a vent near the muzzle.
The moving assembly has about 5.5 mm of free travel, which creates a delay between the initial recoil impulse of the piston and the bolt unlocking sequence, allowing gas pressures to drop to a safe level before the seal between the chamber and the bolt is broken.
The fire selector is a large lever located on the right side of the rifle, it acts as a dust-
To operate the fire selector lever, right handed shooters have to briefly remove their right hand from the pistol grip, which is ergonomically sub-
This lever is operated by the shooter’s right thumb and has three settings: safe (forward), full-
The standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds. There are also 10, 20, and 40-
This contributes to the AK-
All current model AKM rifles can mount under-
All current AKs (100 series) and some older models, have side rails for mounting a variety of scopes and sighting devices, such as the PSO-
A redesigned version designated the AKM (M for “modernized” or “upgraded”; in Russian: Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy was introduced in 1959. This new model used a stamped sheet metal receiver and featured a slanted muzzle brake on the end of the barrel to compensate for muzzle rise under recoil. In addition, a hammer retarder was added to prevent the weapon from firing out of battery (without the bolt being fully closed), during rapid or automatic fire.
This is also sometimes referred to as a “cyclic rate reducer”, or simply “rate reducer”, as it also has the effect of reducing the number of rounds fired per minute during automatic fire. It was also roughly one-
In 1974, the Soviets began replacing their AK-
Throughout the world, the AK and its variants are commonly used by governments, revolutionaries, terrorists, criminals, and civilians alike. In some countries, such as Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Congo and Tanzania, the prices for Black Market AKs are between $30 and $125 per weapon and prices have fallen in the last few decades due to mass counterfeiting.
There are places around the world where AK type weapons can be purchased on the Black Market “for as little as $6, or traded for a chicken or a sack of grain”.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, as well as United States and other NATO nations supplied arms and technical knowledge to numerous countries and rebel forces around the world. During this time the Western countries used relatively expensive automatic rifles, such as the FN FAL, the HK G3, the M14, and the M16. In contrast, the Russians and Chinese used the AK-
In the pro-
After the fall of the Soviet Union, AK-
In Mexico, the AK-
Mikhail Kalashnikov would go on to become a Lieutenant General in the Red Army. He died on 23 December 2013 at the age of 94.
SPOT THE DIFFERENCE: The AK-
THE DESIGNER: A young Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man that designed the AK-