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Some Insight On The Kalashnikov AK47

Posted on 30 Nov 2017
Some Insight On The Kalashnikov AK47

Introduction To The Kalashnikov AK-47 Assault Rifle

As World War II was coming to end, when Hitler's war machine had been thrust effectively to Poland and back into Germany itself by the Red Army, the Soviets were faced on a regular basis with the most recent German military developments.  The Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44 or "Storm Rifle") was one of these developments, and in essence was the first quantitatively-deployed and successful weapon of its kind - this weapon is now in the "assault rifle" category.  This type of assault rifle had a shorter length compared to the standard-issue service rifles that many armies during that time had and was able to fire a cartridge that was similar while also possessing a machine gun's automatic firepower capabilities. This firepower enabled a soldier to deliver heavy fire and suppression effects at a range without needing a multi-person, dedicated machine gun crew carrying around a dangerous weapons system.  

StG44 (which was also called "MP43/MP44" after "Machinenpistole") engineers were able to accomplish this feat through the development of a shorter cartridge that, although at longer ranges was less lethal, was ideal for the close ranges that were intended for an "assault" or "storm" rifle, which allowed for the achievement of controlled automatic fire from a very compact weapon.  This initiative gave rise to the "7.92x33 Kurz" intermediate cartridge.  The StG44 used a tilting bolt, gas-operated firing action and 30-rounds were managed from a curved detachable spring-loaded box magazine.  Its gas cylinder was located on top of the barrel and recoil support was provided by a solid, fix shoulder stock.   The forend worked as the forward grip on a two-hand firm hold along with complete three-point control (with the shoulder stock providing support).  This weapon was able to achieve the equivalent rate-of-fire to 600 round-per-minute and before the war ended there was a production of 425,000 examples - with some even being used in service in the years that followed.  The StG44 filled the assault weapon role very successfully since it was first introduced in September 1943 on the Eastern Front and after the war ended was heavily studied by the Allies.     

In 1938 Mikhail Kalashnikov was conscripted by the Red Army.  He worked as a tank driver and became injured in 1941 during the Bryansk Battle.  While he was in the hospital,  he started working on a firearm design that would fulfill the specific requirements for a gun competition that was being held for the 7.62x41mm cartridge.  Although Kalashnikov lost the competition, he was part of the team and worked to fulfill a new need of the Soviet Red Army for an assault weapon that was chambered for firing the new 7.62x39mm M1943 cartridge.  Although the war came to an end in 1945, new automatic weapon developments continued to occur.  The Kalashnikov design (with a prototype called "AK-46") was tested successfully in 1946, and in 1945 a more reliable and revised form appeared for additional testing.  The new weapon had robust qualities that the Red Army liked and in 1949 it accepted the "AK-47" (AK stands for "Avtomat Kalashnikova").

Outwardly, the AK-47 can easily be appreciated as a highly modified StG44, but due to its recognizable Kalashnikov styling, it does invariably take on a form of its own.  In fact, the AK-47 is highly functional and has a very clean design for the unceremonious battlefield role that it played.  The original form featured a lot more modern furniture which made this series instantly recognized by anyone. The weapon came fitted with a wood-covered forend and pistol grip as well as a solid wooden buttstock.  The receiver was very slab-sided and fairly featureless other than the ejection port on the body's right-hand side and the large charging handle. The rear sight was set well-forward on the upper part of the receiver, at the gas cylinder close to the forend area.  The forward sight was located just aft of its muzzle.  It featured an unobstructed pistol grip that was integrated into the curved, slim trigger unit, with the trigger sitting inside a thin guard and just ahead there was a magazine catch.   

One of the AK-47 series' most telling features was its curved detachable metallic box magazine holding 30 rounds of ammunition.  The over-barrel positioning of its gas cylinder was another telling featured - and when combined with the curved magazine and wood furniture - gave the AK-47 a very distinct appearance even to casual observers.  The gas cylinder's forward end was clamped onto the mid part of the barrel.  A polished steel, rotating and gas-operated bolt system was used by the AK-47, where the gas piston was affixed permanently to the bolt carrier.  Chromium was used for lining the gas cylinder, firing chamber and barrel and that served to combat any general operating abuse.  The AK-47 was also designed as a select-fire weapon which meant that it fired in a semi-automatic manner by default (with one cartridge being fired for each pull of the trigger).  There was also a full-automatic mode (with one single trigger pull resulting in the continuous firing of all of the available cartridges) available through managing the selector switch that was included. The weapon overall was a very robust and highly utilitarian assault system that appears to have a certain mysterious beauty.  Just ask any user or owner of an AK-47 who will tell you to buy an AK-47.

Early AK-47 production was divided into two distinct types of batches - the 1948 version and the one from 1952.  The early forms featured stamped sheet metal receivers and it was proven that they were inherently flawed, mostly due to the sheet-metal stamping technology that was used during that time all over Russia. This led to many of the AK-47s that were being produced to be rejected directly at the factory.   That invariably forced a machined receiver to be used instead (made out of solid steel) and delayed the assault rifle being introduced on a large scale until the middle of the 1950s. 

This machined process was used from 1951 through 1959 for AK-47 production and resulted in the weapon's overall weight increase.  However, this manufacturing method was proving to be far too expensive within the Soviet mass production realm, which resulted in the AK-47 family being forced to be revised.  The effort that resulted from this was called the AKM (M standing for modernized) where the assault rifle construction reverted back to using stamped steel.  After thoroughly studying German wartime methods the process was refined and produced a much lighter and less expensive rifle.  There was the introduction of a new muzzle installment (that came with a notable slant) for combating muzzle climb.  There were several other fairly subtle modifications that were introduced as well and the AKM further branched into becoming AKMS, where a folding metal buttstock was introduced - which as a compact feature that both vehicle crews and paratroopers both respected.  One identifying feature introduced by the AKM series compared to the AK-47 was the dimple shortened imprint over the magazine feed - there was a longer dimple there on the AK-47. The overall production of the AK-47 lasted from 1949 through 1975 and of the facilities included the famous Tula and Izhevsk state arsenal facilities.  

There was a modified light machine gun called the RPK that was developed.  It was completed with a bipod fixture and longer barrel assembly and was able to serve at the squad-level for heavy automatic fire and suppression effect.  The AKS was provided with a metal stock that folded down to make it compact (similar to what the AKMS had) and it was intended as well for paratroopers and vehicle crews.  In 1974 there was a major redesign done to the series when the AK-74 was introduced. The version was chambered for firing the 5.45x39mm cartridge. However, the Kalashnikov pattern stayed the same. 

Some of the more modernized AK-47s (over the past couple of decades) have included the A107/108, AK-105, AK-103/104 and AK 101/102.  They have all taken advantage of the cost-effective, weight-saving polymers and plastics in their construction process.  The AK-101 was an export-friendly version that was chambered for the 5.56x45mm widely accepted NATO cartridge.  The AK-102 was known for its "carbine" shortened form.  The AK-103 modernized the AKM, with the AK-104 being its carbine form.  The AK-74M model Which was a modernized AK-74 that appeared in 1991) had a carbine version represented by the AK-105.  A new gas system was introduced by the AK-107 where the meaning of the "AK" changed from "Avtomat Kalashnikova" into "Alexandrov/Kalashnikov" in honor of  Youriy Alexandrov, the system's developed. The AK-108 was basically the AK-107 that was changed for the 5.56x45mm popular NATO cartridge.  Some of the other Kalashnikov-pattern weapons included shotgun and semi-automatic rifle designs.

The new AK-200, to date, is the most recent AK-47 derivative and the official successor of the series. It made its debut in 2010 and in 2011 went into production with Izhmash, with manufacturing still ongoing as of 2012.  This specific entry is gas-operated and has rotating bolt-firing action but may be chambered for firing the 7.62x39mm, 5.56x45mm NATO and  5.45x39mm from a detachable box magazine, RPK 74-style drum magazine or casket type magazine.  Also, Picatinny rail accessories support was added along with streamlined construction for the most discerning shoppers to buy ak47.


The AK-47 has been licensed to be produced (or downright illegally copes) in a number of different forms within numerous countries all over the world.  The type of weapon became very popular in numerous places all over the world, especially in the allied nations and Soviet satellite states. The  7.62x39mm cartridge was also very popular in these places.  Starting in 1956 China produced the Type 56, which was a copy of the system.  The AK-47 was modified in Hungary and became the AK-63, AMD-65 and AKM-63 rifle forms.  Kalashnikov styling was sported by the Israeli Galil and came in both 7.62mm and 5.56mm forms, while based on the Finish RK 62, which was based on the AK-47. South Africa introduced its Kalashnikov-style R4 assault rifle in 1982 with 5.56mm chambering. It was an Israeli Galil series licensed copy.  Yugoslavia developed its Zastava M82, M77 and M76 rifle lines (as part of several notable forms) based on the Kalashnikov pattern.  The Chinese origin Type 86S was based on the AKM, although it was reworked so that it featured a "bullpup" configuration" where the magazine feed is aft of the trigger unit and pistol. 

It is thought that 50 to 75 million AK-47s int total have been produced since this weapon was originally introduced.  Also, another 100 million units have been produced based on being influenced by the AK-47 from derivative developments which makes the AK family series among the most all-time successful firearms.  One limitation of the AK-47 design is its accuracy past 1,000 feet and lacking any indication of an empty magazine (after the final cartridge is fired the bolt does not hold open).   However, the AK-47's low maintenance requirements, ease-of-use and broad reach have made it very popular with both established armies as well as ad-hoc organizations wanting to instill fear within the general population and propel their movements.

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