AK-47

AK-47[N 1]
AK-47 assault rifle.jpg
AK-47 Type 3A with ribbed stamped-steel magazine
TypeAssault rifle
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1949–1974 (Soviet Union)
1949–present (other countries)
Used bySee Users
WarsSee Conflicts
Production history
DesignerMikhail Kalashnikov
Designed1946–1948[1]
ManufacturerKalashnikov Concern and various others including Norinco
Produced1948–present[2][3]
No. built≈ 75 million AK-47s, 100 million Kalashnikov-family weapons.[4][5]
VariantsSee Variants
Specifications
MassWithout magazine:
3.47 kg (7.7 lb)
Magazine, empty:
0.43 kg (0.95 lb) (early issue)[6]
0.33 kg (0.73 lb) (steel)[7]
0.25 kg (0.55 lb) (plastic)[8]
0.17 kg (0.37 lb) (light alloy)[7]
LengthFixed wooden stock:
880 mm (35 in)[8]
875 mm (34.4 in) folding stock extended
645 mm (25.4 in) stock folded[6]
Barrel lengthOverall length:
415 mm (16.3 in)[8]
Rifled bore length:
369 mm (14.5 in)[8]

Cartridge7.62×39mm
ActionGas-operated, rotating bolt
Rate of fireCyclic rate of fire:
600 rds/min[8]
Combat rate of fire:
Semi-auto 40 rds/min[8]
Bursts 100 rds/min[8]
Muzzle velocity715 m/s (2,350 ft/s)[8]
Effective firing range350 m (380 yd)[8]
Feed system30-round detachable box magazine[8]
There are also 5- 10-, 20- and 40-round box and 75- and 100-round drum magazines available
Sights100–800 m adjustable iron sights
Sight radius:
378 mm (14.9 in)[8]

The AK-47, officially known as the Avtomat Kalashnikova (Russian: Автома́т Кала́шникова, tr. Avtomát Kaláshnikova, lit. 'Kalashnikov’s automatic device'; also known as the Kalashnikov and AK), is a gas-operated, 7.62×39mm assault rifle, developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is the originating firearm of the Kalashnikov rifle (or "AK") family. 47 refers to the year it was finished.

Design work on the AK-47 began in 1945. In 1946, the AK-47 was presented for official military trials, and in 1948, the fixed-stock version was introduced into active service with selected units of the Soviet Army. An early development of the design was the AKS (S—Skladnoy or "folding"), which was equipped with an underfolding metal shoulder stock. In early 1949, the AK-47 was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces[9] and used by the majority of the member states of the Warsaw Pact.

Even after seven decades, the model and its variants remain the most popular and widely used assault rifles in the world because of its reliability under harsh conditions, low production costs compared to contemporary Western weapons, availability in virtually every geographic region, and ease of use. The AK-47 has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces and insurgencies worldwide, and was the basis for developing many other types of individual, crew-served and specialised firearms. As of 2004, "Of the estimated 500 million firearms worldwide, approximately 100 million belong to the Kalashnikov family, three-quarters of which are AK-47s".[4]

History

Origins

During World War II, the Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle used by German forces made a deep impression on their Soviet counterparts.[10][11] The select-fire rifle was chambered for a new intermediate cartridge, the 7.92×33mm Kurz, and combined the firepower of a submachine gun with the range and accuracy of a rifle.[12][13] On 15 July 1943, an earlier model of the Sturmgewehr was demonstrated before the People's Commissariat of Arms of the USSR.[14] The Soviets were impressed with the weapon and immediately set about developing an intermediate caliber fully automatic rifle of their own,[10][11] to replace the PPSh-41 submachine guns and outdated Mosin–Nagant bolt-action rifles that armed most of the Soviet Army.[15]

The Soviets soon developed the 7.62×39mm M43 cartridge,[14] the semi-automatic SKS carbine and the RPD light machine gun.[16] Shortly after World War II, the Soviets developed the AK-47 assault rifle, which would quickly replace the SKS in Soviet service.[17][18] Introduced in 1959, the AKM is a lighter stamped steel version and the most ubiquitous variant of the entire AK series of firearms. In the 1960s, the Soviets introduced the RPK light machine gun, an AK type weapon with a stronger receiver, a longer heavy barrel, and a bipod, that would eventually replace the RPD light machine gun.[16]

Concept

A Type 2A AK-47, the first machined receiver variation

Mikhail Kalashnikov began his career as a weapon designer in 1941, while recuperating from a shoulder wound which he received during the Battle of Bryansk.[5][19] Kalashnikov himself stated..."I was in the hospital, and a soldier in the bed beside me asked: 'Why do our soldiers have only one rifle for two or three of our men, when the Germans have automatics?' So I designed one. I was a soldier, and I created a machine gun for a soldier. It was called an Avtomat Kalashnikova, the automatic weapon of Kalashnikov—AK—and it carried the year of its first manufacture, 1947."[20]

The AK-47 is best described as a hybrid of previous rifle technology innovations. "Kalashnikov decided to design an automatic rifle combining the best features of the American M1 and the German StG44."[21] Kalashnikov's team had access to these weapons and had no need to "reinvent the wheel". Kalashnikov himself observed: "A lot of Russian Army soldiers ask me how one can become a constructor, and how new weaponry is designed. These are very difficult questions. Each designer seems to have his own paths, his own successes and failures. But one thing is clear: before attempting to create something new, it is vital to have a good appreciation of everything that already exists in this field. I myself have had many experiences confirming this to be so."[19]

There are claims about Kalashnikov copying other designs, like Bulkin's TKB-415[22] or Simonov's AVS-31.[23]

Early designs

Kalashnikov started work on a submachine gun design in 1942[24] and with a light machine gun in 1943.[25][26] "Early in 1944, Kalashnikov was given some 7.62×39mm M43 cartridges and informed that there were several designers working on weapons for this new Soviet small-arms cartridge. It was suggested to him that this new weapon might well lead to greater things, and he undertook work on the new rifle."[27] In 1944, he entered a design competition with this new 7.62×39mm, semi-automatic, gas-operated, long stroke piston, carbine, strongly influenced by the American M1 Garand.[28] "The rifle that Kalashnikov designed was in the same class as the familiar SKS-45 Simonov with fixed magazine and gas tube above the barrel."[27] However, this new Kalashnikov design lost out to a Simonov design.[29]

In 1946, a new design competition was initiated to develop a new assault rifle.[30] Kalashnikov submitted an entry. It was gas-operated rifle with a short-stroke gas piston above the barrel, a breech-block mechanism similar to his 1944 carbine, and a curved 30-round magazine.[31] Kalashnikov's rifles AK-1 (with a milled receiver) and AK-2 (with a stamped receiver) proved to be reliable weapons and were accepted to a second round of competition along with other designs.

These prototypes (also known as the AK-46) had a rotary bolt, a two-part receiver with separate trigger unit housing, dual controls (separate safety and fire selector switches) and a non-reciprocating charging handle located on the left side of the weapon.[31][32] This design had many similarities to the STG 44.[33] In late 1946, as the rifles were being tested, one of Kalashnikov's assistants, Aleksandr Zaitsev, suggested a major redesign to improve reliability. At first, Kalashnikov was reluctant, given that their rifle had already fared better than its competitors. Eventually, however, Zaitsev managed to persuade Kalashnikov.

1955 AK-47 with a milled Type 3A receiver showing the milled lightening cut on the side above the magazine that for Type 3 receivers is slanted to the barrel axis

In November 1947, the new prototypes (AK-47s) were completed. It used a long-stroke gas piston above the barrel. The upper and lower receivers were combined into a single receiver. The selector and safety were combined into a single control-lever/dust-cover on the right side of the rifle. And, the bolt-handle was simply attached to the bolt-carrier. This simplified the design and production of the rifle. The first army trial series began in early 1948.[34] The new rifle proved to be reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics. In 1949, it was adopted by the Soviet Army as "7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK)".[9]

Further development

AKMS with a stamped Type 4B receiver (top), and an AK-47 with a milled Type 2A receiver

There were many difficulties during the initial phase of production. The first production models had stamped sheet metal receivers with a milled trunnion and butt stock insert, and a stamped body. Difficulties were encountered in welding the guide and ejector rails, causing high rejection rates.[35] Instead of halting production, a heavy[N 2] machined receiver was substituted for the sheet metal receiver. Even though production of these milled rifles started in 1951, they were officially referred to as AK-49, based on the date their development started, but they are much widely known in the collectors' and current commercial market as "Type 2 AK-47".[36][37] This was a more costly process, but the use of machined receivers accelerated production as tooling and labor for the earlier Mosin–Nagant rifle's machined receiver were easily adapted.[38] Partly because of these problems, the Soviets were not able to distribute large numbers of the new rifle to soldiers until 1956. During this time, production of the interim SKS rifle continued.[35]

Once the manufacturing difficulties of non milled receivers had been overcome, a redesigned version designated the AKM (M for "modernized" or "upgraded"; in Russian: Автомат Калашникова Модернизированный [Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy]) was introduced in 1959.[36] 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 fully automatic fire.[35] 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 fully automatic fire. It was also roughly one-third lighter than the previous model.[36]

Receiver type Description[38]
Type 1A/B The original stamped receiver for the AK-47 first produced in 1948[2] adopted in 1949. The 1B was modified for an underfolding stock with a large hole present on each side to accommodate the hardware for the underfolding stock.
Type 2A/B The first milled receiver made from steel forging. It went into production in 1951 and production ended between 1953 and 1954. The Type 2A has a distinctive socketed metal "boot" connecting the butt stock to the receiver and the milled lightening cut on the sides runs parallel to the barrel.
Type 3A/B "Final" version of the AK milled receiver made from steel bar stock. It went into production between 1953 and 1954. The most ubiquitous example of the milled-receiver AK. The milled lightening cut on the sides is slanted to the barrel axis.
Type 4A/B AKM receiver stamped from a smooth 1.0 mm (0.04 in) sheet of steel supported extensively by pins and rivets. It went into production in 1959. Overall, the most-used design in the construction of the AK-series rifles.

Both licensed and unlicensed production of the Kalashnikov weapons abroad were almost exclusively of the AKM variant, partially due to the much easier production of the stamped receiver. This model is the most commonly encountered, having been produced in much greater quantities. All rifles based on the Kalashnikov design are frequently referred to as AK-47s in the West, although this is only correct when applied to rifles based on the original three receiver types.[39] In most former Eastern Bloc countries, the weapon is known simply as the "Kalashnikov" or "AK". The differences between the milled and stamped receivers includes the use of rivets rather than welds on the stamped receiver, as well as the placement of a small dimple above the magazine well for stabilization of the magazine.

Replacement

In 1974, the Soviets began replacing their AK-47 and AKM rifles with a newer design, the AK-74, which uses 5.45×39mm ammunition. This new rifle and cartridge had only started to be manufactured in Eastern European nations when the Soviet Union collapsed, drastically slowing production of the AK-74 and other weapons of the former Soviet bloc.

Other Languages
Acèh: AK-47
Afrikaans: AK-47
العربية: أيه كيه-47
অসমীয়া: একে-৪৭
asturianu: AK-47
azərbaycanca: AK-47
বাংলা: একে-৪৭
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: АК-47
български: АК-47
bosanski: AK-47
brezhoneg: AK-47
català: AK-47
čeština: AK-47
dansk: AK-47
eesti: AK-47
Ελληνικά: AK-47
español: AK-47
Esperanto: AK-47
euskara: AK-47
فارسی: کلاشنیکف
føroyskt: AK-47
français: AK-47
galego: AK-47
ગુજરાતી: એ કે-૪૭
한국어: AK-47
Արեւմտահայերէն: Հրացան ԱՔ-47
हिन्दी: एके47
hrvatski: AK-47
Bahasa Indonesia: AK-47
íslenska: AK-47
italiano: AK-47
עברית: AK-47
Jawa: AK-47
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಎಕೆ - ೪೭
ქართული: აკ-47
kurdî: AK-47
Latina: AK-47
latviešu: AK-47
lietuvių: AK-47
lumbaart: AK-47
magyar: AK–47
македонски: АК-47
മലയാളം: എ.കെ-47
मराठी: एके ४७
مازِرونی: کلاشینکف
Bahasa Melayu: AK-47
မြန်မာဘာသာ: အေကေ-၄၇
Nederlands: AK-47
日本語: AK-47
norsk: AK-47
norsk nynorsk: AK-47
occitan: AK-47
Oromoo: AK-47
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: AK-47
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਏ ਕੇ-47
پنجابی: کلاشنکوف
Papiamentu: AK 47
polski: Karabinek AK
português: AK-47
română: AK-47
саха тыла: AK-47
Scots: AK-47
shqip: AK-47
Simple English: AK-47
slovenčina: AK-47
slovenščina: AK-47
Soomaaliga: AK-47
српски / srpski: АК-47
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: AK-47
suomi: AK-47
svenska: AK-47
தமிழ்: ஏகே-47
татарча/tatarça: Калашников автоматы
తెలుగు: ఏకే-47
ไทย: เอเค 47
Türkçe: AK-47
اردو: اے۔کے 47
吴语: AK-47
ייִדיש: AK-47
Yorùbá: AK-47
粵語: AK-47