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This article is about the assault rifle. For other uses, see AK-47 (disambiguation).

Template:Infobox Weapon

The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known in the Soviet documentation as Avtomat Kalashnikova (Russian: Автомат Калашникова). It is also known as Kalashnikov, AK, or in Russian slang, Kalash.

Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year of World War II (1945). After the war in 1946, the AK-47 was presented for official military trials. 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 1949, the AK-47 was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces[1] and used by the majority of the member states of the Warsaw Pact.

Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most popular and widely used assault rifles in the world because of their substantial 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 worldwide, and was the basis for developing many other types of individual and crew-served firearms. As of 2004, out of the estimated 500 million firearms worldwide, approximately 100 million belong to the Kalashnikov family, three-quarters of which are AK-47s.[2]



Throughout World War II, Soviet soldiers found themselves consistently outgunned by heavily armed German troops, especially those armed with the Sturmgewehr StG 44 assault rifles, which the Germans fielded in large numbers.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10] The select-fire StG 44 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.[5]

On July 15, 1943, a Sturmgewehr was demonstrated before the People's Commissariat of Arms of the USSR.[11] The Soviets were so impressed with the Sturmgewehr, that they immediately set about developing an intermediate caliber automatic rifle of their own, to replace the badly outdated Mosin–Nagant bolt-action rifles and PPSh-41 submachine guns that armed most of the Soviet Army.[7][11][12][13][14][15]

The Soviets soon developed the 7.62×39mm M43 cartridge, 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] In the 1960s, the Soviets introduced the RPK light machine gun, itself an AK-47 type weapon with a stronger receiver, a longer heavy barrel, and a bipod, that would eventually replace the RPD light machine gun.[16]

Development and competition

Mikhail Kalashnikov began his career as a weapon designer while in a hospital after he was shot in the shoulder during the Battle of Bryansk.[4][19] After tinkering with a submachine gun design in 1942[20] and with a light machine gun in 1943,[21][22] in 1944 he entered a competition for a new weapon that would chamber the 7.62×41mm cartridge developed by Yelizarov and Syomin in 1943 (the 7.62×41mm cartridge predated the current 7.62×39mm M1943).[citation needed] In the 1944 competition for intermediate cartridge weapons, Kalashnikov submitted a semi-automatic, gas-operated carbine, strongly influenced by the American M1 Garand, but that lost out to a Simonov design, which was adopted as the SKS-45.[23]

In the fully automatic weapon category, the specifications (тактико-технические требования – TTT) number 2456-43[24] passed down by the GAU in November 1943 were rather ambitious: the weapon was to have a 500–520 mm long barrel and had to weigh no more than 5 kg, including a folding bipod. Despite this, many Soviet designers participated in this category, Tokarev, Korovin, Degtyarev, Shpagin, Simonov, and Prilutsky are some of the more prominent names who submitted designs;[25] Kalashnikov did not submit an entry for this contest.[24] A gun presented by Sudayev, the AS-44 (weight: 5.6 kg, barrel length 505 mm), came up ahead in the mid-1944 trials.

However subsequent field trials conducted in 1945 found it to be too heavy for the average soldier and Sudayev was asked to lighten his gun; his lightened variant (5.35 kg, 485 mm barrel) turned out to be less reliable and less accurate. In October 1945, the GAU was convinced to dispense with the built-in bipod requirement; Sudayev's gun in this variant, called OAS (облегченный автомат Судаева – ОАС), weighed only 4.8 kg. Sudayev however fell ill and died in 1946, preventing further development.[26][27][28]

The experience gained from the reliability issues of the lightened Sudayev design convinced the GAU that a brand new competition had to be held, and for this round the requirements were explicitly stated: a wholesale replacement of the PPSh-41 and PPS-43 sub-machine guns was what they were after. The new competition was initiated in 1946 under GAU TTT number 3131-45. Ten designs had been submitted by August 1946.[29]

Kalashnikov and his design team from factory number two in Kovrov submitted an entry. It was a gas-operated rifle which had a breech-block mechanism similar to his 1944 carbine, and a curved 30-round magazine. Kalashnikov's rifles (codenamed AK-1 and −2, the former with a milled receiver and the latter with a stamped one) proved to be reliable and the weapon was accepted to second round of competition along with designs by A. A. Dementyev (KB-P-520) and A. A. Bulkin (TKB-415). In late 1946, as the rifles were being tested, one of Kalashnikov's assistants, Aleksandr Zaitsev, suggested a major redesign of AK-1, particularly 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. The new rifle (factory name KB-P-580) proved to be simple and reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics; prototypes with serial numbers one to three were completed in November 1947. Production of the first army trial series began in early 1948 at the Izhevsk factory number 524,[30] and in 1949 it was adopted by the Soviet Army as "7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK)".[1]


File:AK-47 type II Part DM-ST-89-01131.jpg
A Type 2 AK-47, the first machined receiver variation

The AK-47 is best described as a hybrid of previous rifle technology innovations:[31] the trigger mechanism,[32] double locking lugs and unlocking raceway[citation needed] of the M1 Garand/M1 carbine, the safety mechanism of the John Browning designed Remington Model 8 rifle,[citation needed] and the gas system of the Sturmgewehr 44.[citation needed]

Kalashnikov borrowed the long stroke piston design from the M1 Garand, with the op rod and piston mounted on the top instead of the bottom of the rifle.[33]

Kalashnikov's team had access to all of these weapons and had no need to "reinvent the wheel",[31] though he denied that his design was based on the German Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle.[34] 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[35] or Simonov's AVS-31.[36]

Receiver development

File:AKMS and AK-47 DD-ST-85-01270.jpg
AKMS with a Type 4B receiver (top), and an AK-47 with a Type 2A

There were many difficulties during the initial phase of production. The first production models had stamped sheet metal receivers. Difficulties were encountered in welding the guide and ejector rails, causing high rejection rates.[37] Instead of halting production, a heavy machined receiver was substituted for the sheet metal receiver. 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. 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.[37]

Once manufacturing difficulties 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.[38] 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.[37] 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-third lighter than the previous model.[38]

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 photo above at right illustrates the differences between the Type 2 milled receiver and the Type 4 stamped, including 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.

Receiver type Description
Type 1A/B Original stamped receiver for AK-47. -1B modified for underfolding stock. A large hole is present on each side to accommodate the hardware for the underfolding stock.

(this naming convention continues with all types)

Type 2A/B Milled from steel forging.
Type 3A/B "Final" version of the milled receiver, from steel bar stock. The most ubiquitous example of the milled-receiver AK-47.
Type 4A/B Stamped AKM receiver. Overall, the most-used design in the construction of the AK-series rifles.

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.


The AK-47 was designed to be a simple, reliable automatic rifle that could be manufactured quickly and cheaply, using mass production methods that were state of the art in the Soviet Union during the late 1940s.[40] The large gas piston, generous clearances between moving parts, and tapered cartridge case design allow the gun to endure large amounts of foreign matter and fouling without failing to cycle. This reliability comes at the expense of accuracy, as the looser tolerances do not allow for precision and consistency.

Operating cycle

File:Viet Cong soldier DD-ST-99-04298.jpg
Vietcong guerrilla stands beneath a Vietcong flag carrying his AK-47 rifle. Note: fire selector, bolt handle and magazine lever.
File:Chinese type 56 AK47.jpg
The gas-operated mechanism of a Chinese AK-47

The AK-47 uses a long stroke gas system, as was found in the M1 Garand.[33] To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, pulls back and releases the charging handle, and then pulls the trigger. In semi-automatic, the firearm fires only once, requiring the trigger to be released and depressed again for the next shot. In full-automatic, the rifle continues to fire automatically cycling fresh rounds into the chamber, until the magazine is exhausted or pressure is released from the trigger. As each bullet travels through the barrel, a portion of the gases expanding behind it is diverted into the gas tube above the barrel, where it acts on the gas piston. The piston, in turn, is driven backward, pushing the bolt carrier, which causes the bolt to move backwards, ejecting the spent round, and chambering a new round when the recoil spring pushes it forward.[41]

This long-stroke piston design used by the AK-47 (and notably in the designs of the M1 Garand and IMI Tavor)[42] is generally associated with greater reliability in adverse conditions.[43]

Fire selector

The prototype of the AK-47, had a separate fire selector and safety.[44] These were later combined in the production version to simplify the design. The fire selector is a large lever located on the right side of the rifle, it acts as a dust-cover and prevents the charging handle from being pulled fully to the rear when it is on safe.[45] It is operated by the shooter's right fore-fingers and has 3 settings: safe (up), full-auto (center), and semi-auto (down).[45] The reason for this is, under stress a soldier will push the selector lever down with considerable force bypassing the full-auto stage and setting the rifle to semi-auto.[45] To set the AK-47 to full-auto requires the deliberate action of centering the selector lever.[45] To operate the fire selector lever, right handed shooters have to briefly remove their right hand from the pistol grip, which is ergonomically sub-optimal. Some AK-type rifles also have a more traditional selector lever on the left side of the receiver just above the pistol grip.[45] This lever is operated by the shooter's right thumb and has three settings: safe (forward), full-auto (center), and semi-auto (backward).[45]


File:Bakelite AK magazines.jpg
"Bakelite" rust-colored steel-reinforced 30-round plastic box 7.62×39mm AK magazines. Three magazines have an "arrow in triangle" Izhmash arsenal mark on the bottom right. The other magazine has a "star" Tula arsenal mark on the bottom right.

The standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds. There are also 10, 20 and 40-round box magazines, as well as 75-round drum magazines.

The AK-47's 30-round magazines have a pronounced curve that allows them to smoothly feed ammunition into the chamber. Their heavy steel construction combined with "feed-lips" (the surfaces at the top of the magazine that control the angle at which the cartridge enters the chamber) machined from a single steel billet makes them highly resistant to damage. These magazines are so strong that "Soldiers have been known to use their mags as hammers, and even bottle openers."[46][47] This contributes to the AK-47 magazine being more reliable, but makes it heavier than U.S. and NATO magazines. The early slab-sided steel AK-47 30-round detachable box magazines weigh Script error: No such module "convert". empty.[48] The later steel AKM 30-round magazines had lighter sheet-metal bodies with prominent reinforcing ribs weighing Script error: No such module "convert". empty.[48][49] To further reduce weight a light weight magazine with an aluminum body weighing Script error: No such module "convert". empty was introduced for the AKM that proved to be insubstantial and was quickly withdrawn from service. As a replacement steel-reinforced 30-round plastic 7.62×39mm box magazines were introduced. These rust-colored magazines weigh Script error: No such module "convert". empty and are often mistakenly identified as being made of Bakelite (a phenolic resin), but were actually fabricated from two-parts of AG-S4 molding compound (a glass-reinforced phenol-formaldehyde binder impregnated composite), assembled using an epoxy resin adhesive.[50][51][52] Noted for their durability, these magazines did however compromise the rifle's camouflage and lacked the small horizontal reinforcing ribs running down both sides of the magazine body near the front that were added on all later plastic magazine generations.[52] A second generation steel-reinforced dark-brown (color shades vary from maroon to plum to near black) 30-round 7.62×39mm magazine was introduced in the early 1980s, fabricated from ABS plastic. The third generation steel-reinforced 30-round 7.62×39mm magazine is similar to the second generation, but is darker colored and has a matte nonreflective surface finish. The current issue steel-reinforced matte true black nonreflective surface finished 7.62×39mm 30-round magazines, fabricated from ABS plastic weigh Script error: No such module "convert". empty.[53] Early steel AK-47 magazines are Script error: No such module "convert". long, and the later ribbed steel AKM and newer plastic 7.62×39mm magazines are about Script error: No such module "convert". shorter.[54][55]

The transition from steel to mainly plastic magazines yielded a significant weight reduction and allow a soldier to carry more rounds for the same weight.

Rifle Cartridge Cartridge weight Weight of empty magazine Weight of loaded magazine Max. Script error: No such module "convert". ammunition load*
AK-47 (1949) 7.62×39mm Script error: No such module "convert". slab-sided steel
Script error: No such module "convert".
Script error: No such module "convert".[42]
11 magazines for 330 rounds
Script error: No such module "convert".
AKM (1957) 7.62×39mm Script error: No such module "convert". ribbed stamped-steel
Script error: No such module "convert".
Script error: No such module "convert".[49][56]
12 magazines for 360 rounds
Script error: No such module "convert".
AK-103 (1994) 7.62×39mm Script error: No such module "convert". steel-reinforced plastic
Script error: No such module "convert".
Script error: No such module "convert".[49][56]
13 magazines for 390 rounds
Script error: No such module "convert".

Note: All, 7.62×39mm AK magazines are backwards compatible with older AK variants.
Note *: 10.12 kg (22.3 lb) is the maximum amount of ammo that the average soldier can comfortably carry. It also allows for best comparison of the three most common 7.62×39mm AK platform magazines.

Most Yugoslavian and some East German AK magazines were made with cartridge followers that hold the bolt open when empty; however, most AK magazine followers allow the bolt to close when the magazine is empty.


Rear sight of a Chinese Type 56
Note: Script error: No such module "convert". settings and omission of a battle zero setting

The AK-47 uses a notched rear tangent iron sight calibrated in Script error: No such module "convert". increments from Script error: No such module "convert"..[57] The front sight is a post adjustable for elevation in the field. Horizontal adjustment is done by the armory before issue. The "point-blank range" battle zero setting "П" on the 7.62×39mm AK-47 rear tangent sight element corresponds to a Script error: No such module "convert". zero.[57][58] These settings mirror the Mosin–Nagant and SKS rifles which the AK-47 replaced. For the AK-47 combined with service cartridges the 300 m battle zero setting limits the apparent "bullet rise" within approximately Script error: No such module "convert". relative to the line of sight. Soldiers are instructed to fire at any target within this range by simply placing the sights on the center of mass (the belt buckle) of the enemy target. Any errors in range estimation are tactically irrelevant, as a well-aimed shot will hit the torso of the enemy soldier. Some AK-type rifles have a front sight with a flip-up luminous dot that is calibrated at Script error: No such module "convert"., for improved night fighting.[57]

Side rail

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-1 Optical Sniper Sight.[59] The side rails allow for removal and remounting of optical accessories without interfering with the zeroing of the optic. However, the 100 series side folding stocks cannot be folded with the optics mounted.


File:AK-47 bayonet and scabbard.jpg
AK-47 6H3 bayonet and scabbard

Accessories supplied with the rifle include a Script error: No such module "convert". long 6H3 bayonet featuring a Script error: No such module "convert". long spear point blade. The AK-47 bayonet is installed by slipping the Script error: No such module "convert". diameter muzzle ring around the muzzle and latching the handle down on the bayonet lug under the front sight base.[60]

File:AK103 GP 34.jpg
AK-103 with GP-34 Grenade Launcher

All current model AK-47 rifles can mount under-barrel 40 mm grenade launchers such as the GP-25 and its variants, which can fire up to 20 rounds per minute and have an effective range of up to 400 metres.[61] The main grenade is the VOG-25 (VOG-25M) fragmentation grenade which has a 6 m (9 m) (20 ft (30 ft)) lethality radius. The VOG-25P/VOG-25PM ("jumping") variant explodes Script error: No such module "convert". above the ground.[62]

The AK-47 can also mount a (rarely used) cup-type grenade launcher, the Kalashnikov grenade launcher that fires standard RGD-5 Soviet hand-grenades. The maximum effective range is approximately 150 meters.[63] This launcher can also be used to launch tear-gas and riot control grenades.

Terminal ballistics

Main article: 7.62×39mm
Wound Profiles of Russian small-arms ammunition compiled by Dr. Martin Fackler on behalf of the U.S. military.

The AK fires the 7.62×39mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity of Script error: No such module "convert"..[64] The cartridge weight is Script error: No such module "convert"., the projectile weight is Script error: No such module "convert"..[65] The AK has excellent penetration when shooting through heavy foliage, walls or a common vehicle's metal body and into an opponent attempting to use these things as cover. The 7.62x39mm M43 projectile does not generally fragment when striking an opponent and has an unusual tendency to remain intact even after making contact with bone. The 7.62x39mm round produces significant wounding in cases where the bullet tumbles (yaws) in tissue,[66] but produces relatively minor wounds in cases where the bullet exits before beginning to yaw.[67][68][69] In the absence of yaw, the M43 round can pencil through tissue with relatively little injury.[67][70]

Most, if not all, of the 7.62x39mm ammunition found today is of the upgraded M67 variety. This variety deleted the steel insert, shifting the center of gravity rearward, and allowing the projectile to destabilize (or yaw) at about Script error: No such module "convert"., nearly Script error: No such module "convert". earlier in tissue than the M43 round.[71] This change also reduces penetration in ballistic gelatin to ~Script error: No such module "convert". for the newer M67 round versus ~Script error: No such module "convert". for the older M43 round.[71][72] However, the wounding potential of M67 is mostly limited to the small permanent wound channel the bullet itself makes, especially when the bullet yaws.[71]


The AK-47's accuracy has always been considered to be "good enough" to hit an adult male torso out to about Script error: No such module "convert"..[73][74] "At Script error: No such module "convert"., expert shooters (firing AK-47s) at prone or at bench rest positions had difficulty putting ten consecutive rounds on target."[75] Despite the Soviet engineers best efforts and "no matter the changes, the AK-47's accuracy could not be significantly improved; when it came to precise shooting, it was a stubbornly mediocre arm."[75] An AK can fire a 10 shot group of Script error: No such module "convert". at Script error: No such module "convert".,[76] and Script error: No such module "convert". at Script error: No such module "convert".[75] Curiously, the newer stamped steel receiver AKM models are actually less accurate than their predecessors.[74] "There are advantages and disadvantages in both forged/milled receivers and stamped receivers. Milled/Forged Receivers are much more rigid, flexing less as the rifle is fired thus not hindering accuracy as much as stamped receivers. Stamped receivers on the other hand are a bit more rugged since it has some give in it and have less chances of having metal fatigue under heavy usage."[74] As a result, the milled AK-47's are capable of shooting Script error: No such module "convert". groups at Script error: No such module "convert"., whereas the stamped AKM's are capable of shooting Script error: No such module "convert". groups at Script error: No such module "convert"..[74] The best shooters are able to hit a man-sized target at Script error: No such module "convert". within five shots (firing from prone or bench rest position) or ten shots (standing).[77]

Service life

The AK-47 and its variants are made in dozens of countries, with "quality ranging from finely engineered weapons to pieces of questionable workmanship." [78] As a result, the AK-47 has a service/system life of approximately 6,000,[79] to 10,000,[80] to 15,000[81] rounds.[7] The AK-47 was designed to be a cheap, simple, easy to manufacture assault rifle,[82] perfectly matching Soviet military doctrine that treats equipment and weapons as disposable items.[83] As units are often deployed without adequate logistical support and dependent on "battlefield cannibalization" for resupply, it is actually more cost-effective to replace rather than repair weapons.[83]

The AK-47 has small parts and springs that need to be replaced every few thousand rounds. However..."Every time it is disassembled beyond the field stripping stage, it will take some time for some parts to regain their fit, some parts may tend to shake loose and fall out when firing the weapon. Some parts of the AK-47 line are riveted together. Repairing these can be quite a hassle, since the end of the rivet has to be ground off and a new one set after the part is replaced."[57]


File:AK 47.JPG
1955 AK-47 Type 3

Early variants (7.62×39mm)

  • Issue of 1948/49 – Type 1: The very earliest models, stamped sheet metal receiver, are now very rare.
  • Issue of 1951 – Type 2: Has a milled receiver. Barrel and chamber are chrome plated to resist corrosion.
  • Issue of 1954/55 – Type 3: Lightened, milled receiver variant. Rifle weight is Script error: No such module "convert"..[84]
  • AKS (AKS-47) – Type 1, 2, or 3 receiver: Featured a downward-folding metal stock similar to that of the German MP40, for use in the restricted space in the BMP infantry combat vehicle, as well as by paratroops.
  • AKN (AKSN) – Night scope rail.[85]
File:AK-47 bullets from China, Pakistan and Russia.jpg
7.62x39mm cartridges from Russia, China and Pakistan

Modernized (7.62×39mm)

  • AKM – A simplified, lighter version of the AK-47; Type 4 receiver is made from stamped and riveted sheet metal. A slanted muzzle device was added to counter climb in automatic fire. Rifle weight is Script error: No such module "convert".[64] due to the lighter receiver. This is the most ubiquitous variant of the AK-47.
    • AKMS – Under-folding stock version of the AKM intended for airborne troops.
    • AKMN (AKMSN) – Night scope rail.
    • AKML (AKMSL) – Slotted flash suppressor and night scope rail.[86]
  • RPK – Hand-held machine gun version with longer barrel and bipod. The variants – RPKS, RPKN (RPKSN), RPKL (RPKSL) – mirror AKM variants. The "S" variants have a side-folding wooden stock.

Low-impulse variants (5.45×39mm)

  • AK-74 – Assault rifle.
    • AKS-74 – Side-folding stock.
    • AK-74N (AKS-74N) – Night scope rail.
  • AKS-74U – Compact carbine.
    • AKS-74UN – Night scope rail.
  • RPK-74 – Light machine gun.
    • RPKS-74 – Side-folding stock.
    • RPK-74N (RPKS-74N) – Night scope rail.

The 100 Series

5.45×39mm / 5.56×45mm / 7.62×39mm

Other weapons

AK-12 series

  • AK-12 – The AK-12 uses the same gas-operated long-stroke piston system of previous Kalashnikov rifles, with many modern features that are radically different from other guns in its family. However, in late September 2013, the AK-12 was passed over by the Russian military.[88]

Production outside of the Soviet Union/Russian Federation

Military variants only. Includes new designs substantially derived from the Kalashnikov.

Country Variant(s)
Albania Automatiku Shqiptar model 56 (ASH-78 Tip-1) Albanian Automatic Assault Rifle Model 56 Type-1 [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Straight forward copy of Type 56, which in turn is a clone of the Soviet AKM rifle)

Automatiku Shqiptar Tipi 1982 (ASH-82) Albanian Automatic Assault Rifle Type 1982 [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Straight forward copy of AKMS)

Automatiku Shqiptar model 56 (ASH-78 Tip-2) Albanian Light Machine Gun [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Straight forward copy of RPK)

Automatiku Shqiptar model 56 (ASH-78 Tip-3) Albanian Automatic Hybrid Rifle Model 56 Type-3 [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Hybrid rifle for multi-purpose roles mainly Marksman rifle with secondary assault rifle and grenade launcher capability)

Other unknown variants.
Several other unnamed & unidentified versions of the AKMS have been produce mainly with short barrels similar to the Soviet AKS-74U mainly for special forces, Tank & Armoured crew also for Helicopter pilots and police.
There have also been modifications and fresh production of heavily modified ASh-82 (AKMS) with SOPMOD accessories, mainly for Albania's special forces RENEA & exports.

Armenia K-3 (bullpup, 5.45×39mm)
Azerbaijan Khazri (AK-74M)[89]
Bangladesh Chinese Type 56
Bulgaria AKK/AKKS (Type 3 AK-47/w. side-folding buttstock)

AKKMS (AKMS), AKKN-47 (fittings for NPSU night sights)

AK-47M1 (Type 3 with black polymer furniture)

AK-47MA1/AR-M1 (same as -M1, but in 5.56 mm NATO)

AKS-47M1 (AKMS in 5.56×45mm NATO)

AKS-47S (AK-47M1, short version, with East German folding stock, laser aiming device)

AKS-47UF (short version of -M1, Russian folding stock), AR-SF (same as −47UF, but 5.56 mm NATO)

AKS-93SM6 (similar to −47M1, cannot use grenade launcher)

RKKS (RPK), AKT-47 (.22 rimfire training rifle)

Cambodia Chinese Type 56, Soviet AK-47, and AKM
People's Republic of China Type 56
Colombia Galil ACE
Croatia APS-95
Cuba AKM[90]
East Germany[91] MPi-K/MPi-KS (AK-47/AKS)

MPi-KM (AKM; wooden and plastic stock), MPi-KMS-72 (side-folding stock), MPi-KMS-K (carbine)

MPi-AK-74N (AK-74), MPi-AKS-74N (side-folding stock), MPi-AKS-74NK (carbine)

KK-MPi Mod.69 (.22 LR select-fire trainer)

Egypt AK-47, Misr assault rifle (AKMS), Maadi ARM (AKM)
Ethiopia AK-47, AK-103 (manufactured locally at the State-run Gafat Armament Engineering Complex as the Et-97/1)[92]
Finland Rk 62, Valmet M76 (other names Rk 62 76, M62/76), Valmet M78 (light machine gun), Rk 95 Tp
Hungary[93] AK-55 (domestic manufacture of the 2nd Model AK-47)

AKM-63 (also known as AMD-63 in the US; modernized AK-55), AMD-65M (modernized AKM-63, shorter barrel and side-folding stock), AMP-69 (rifle grenade launcher)

AK-63F/D (other name AMM/AMMSz), AK-63MF (modernized)

NGM-81 (5.56×45mm NATO; fixed and under-folding stock)

India INSAS (fixed and side-folding stock), KALANTAK (carbine), INSAS light machine gun (fixed and side-folding stock), a local unlicensed version with carbon fibre furniture designated as AK-7 [94]

Trichy Assault Rifle 7.62 mm, manufactured by Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli of Ordnance Factories Board[95]

Iraq Tabuk Sniper Rifle, Tabuk Assault Rifle (with fixed or underfolding stock, outright clones of Yugoslavian M70 rifles series), Tabuk Short Assault Rifle (carbine)
Israel IMI Galil: AR (assault/battle rifle), ARM (assault rifle/light machine gun), SAR (carbine), MAR (compact carbine), Sniper (sniper rifle), SR-99 (sniper rifle)

Galil ACE

Italy Bernardelli VB-STD/VB-SR (Galil AR/SAR)[96]
Nigeria Produced by the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria as OBJ-006[97][98]
North Korea Type 58A/B (Type 3 AK-47/w. stamped steel folding stock), Type 68A/B (AKM/AKMS), Type 88 (AKS-74)[99][100]
Pakistan Reverse engineered by hand and machine in Pakistan's highland areas (see Khyber Pass Copy) near the border of Afghanistan; more recently the Pakistan Ordnance Factories started the manufacture of an AK-47/AKM clone called PK-10[101]
Poland[102] pmK (kbk AK) / pmKS (kbk AKS) (name has changed from pmK – "pistolet maszynowy Kałasznikowa", Kalashnikov SMG to the kbk AK – "karabinek AK", Kalashnikov Carbine in mid-1960s) (AK-47/AKS)

kbkg wz. 1960 (rifle grenade launcher), kbkg wz. 1960/72 (modernized)

kbk AKM / kbk AKMS (AKM/AKMS)

kbk wz. 1988 Tantal (5.45×39mm), skbk wz. 1989 Onyks (compact carbine)

kbs wz. 1996 Beryl (5.56×45mm), kbk wz. 1996 Mini-Beryl (compact carbine)

Romania PM md. 63/65 (AKM/AKMS), PM md. 80, PM md. 90, collectively exported under the umbrella name AIM or AIMS

PA md. 86 (AK-74), exported as the AIMS-74

PM md. 90 short barrel, PA md. 86 short barrel, exported as the AIMR

PSL (designated marksman rifle; other names PSL-54C, Romak III, FPK and SSG-97)

South Africa R4 assault rifle, Truvelo Raptor, Vektor CR-21 (bullpup)
Sudan MAZ[103] (based on the Type 56)
Ukraine Vepr (bullpup, 5.45×39mm), Malyuk (bullpup)[104]
United States Century Arms Model 39 (7.62x39mm), InterOrdnance AKM247, M214
Vietnam AKM-1 (AKM), TUL-1 (RPK), Galil Ace 31/32
Venezuela License granted, factory under construction[105]
Yugoslavia/Serbia M-64, M-70, M-72, M-76, M-77, M-80, M-82, M-85, M-90, M-91, M-92, M-99, M-21

Certainly more have been produced elsewhere; but the above list represents known producers and is limited to only military variants. An updated AK-47 design – the AK-103 – is still produced in Russia.


The basic design of the AK-47 has been used as the basis for other successful rifle designs such as the Finnish Rk 62/76 and Rk 95 Tp, the Israeli Galil, the Indian INSAS and the Yugoslav Zastava M76 and M77/82 rifles. Several bullpup designs have surfaced such as the Chinese Norinco Type 86S, although none have been produced in quantity. Bullpup conversions are also available commercially.


OJSC IzhMash has repeatedly claimed that the majority of manufacturers produce AK-47s without a proper license from IZH.[106][107] The Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory acquired a patent in 1999,[clarification needed] making manufacture of the newest Kalashnikov rifles, such as AK-100s by anyone other than themselves illegal in countries where a patent is granted. However, older variants, such as AK and AKM are public domain due to age of design.

Illicit trade

File:Cambodian AK-47.jpg
Cambodian AK-47 with black furniture

Throughout the world, the AK and its variants are among the most commonly smuggled small arms sold to governments, rebels, criminals, and civilians alike, with little international oversight.[citation needed] In some countries, prices for AKs are very low; in Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Congo and Tanzania prices are between $30 and $125 per weapon,[108] and prices have fallen in the last few decades due to mass counterfeiting. Moisés Naím observed that in a small town in Kenya in 1986, an AK-47 cost fifteen cows but that in 2005, the price was down to four cows indicating that supply was "immense".[109] The weapon has appeared in a number of conflicts including clashes in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.[108]

The Taliban and the Northern Alliance fought each other with Soviet AKs; some of these were exported to Pakistan. The gun is now also made in Pakistan's semi-autonomous areas (see Khyber Pass Copy).[110] "'The Distribution of Iranian Ammunition in Africa', by the private British arms-tracking group Conflict Armament Research (CAR), shows how Iran broke trade embargoes [sic?] and infiltrated African markets with massive amounts of illegal, unmarked 7.62 mm rounds for the Kalashnikov-style AK-47 rifles."[111]

Estimated numbers of AK-type weapons vary. The Small Arms Survey suggest that "between 70 and 100 million of these weapons have been produced since 1947."[112] The World Bank estimates that out of the 500 million total firearms available worldwide, 100 million are of the Kalashnikov family, and 75 million are AK-47s.[2] Because AK-type weapons have been made in other countries, often illicitly, it is impossible to know how many really exist.[113]

Cultural influence

"Basically, it's the anti-Western caché of it ... And you know, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, so we all sort of think, oh boy, we've got a little bit of Che Guevara in us. And this accounts for the popularity of the (AK 47) weapon. Plus I think that in the United States it's considered counterculture, which is always something that citizens in this country kind of like ... It's kind of sticking a finger in the eye of the man, if you will."

— Larry Kahaner, author of AK-47: The Weapon That Changed the Face of War[114]

Russia/Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, as well as Western countries (especially the United States) supplied arms and technical knowledge to numerous countries and rebel forces in a global struggle between the Warsaw Pact nations and their allies against NATO and their allies called the Cold War. While the NATO countries used rifles such as the relatively expensive M14, FN FAL, HK G3 and M16 assault rifle during this time, the low production and materials costs of the AK-47 meant that the Russia/USSR could produce and supply its allies at a very low cost. Because of its low cost, it was also duplicated or used as the basis for many other rifles (see List of weapons influenced by the Kalashnikov design), such as the Israeli Galil, Chinese Type 56, and Swiss SIG SG 550. As a result, the Cold War saw the mass export of AK-47s by the Soviet Union and the PRC to their allies, such as the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Viet Cong as well as Middle Eastern, Asian, and African revolutionaries. The United States also purchased the Type 56 from the PRC to give to the mujahideen guerrillas during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.[115]

The proliferation of this weapon is reflected by more than just numbers. The AK-47 is included in the flag of Mozambique and its emblem, an acknowledgment that the country's leaders gained power in large part through the effective use of their AK-47s.[116] It is also found in the coats of arms of East Timor, the revolution era coat of arms of Burkina Faso and the flag of Hezbollah.

File:MP Inspects Captured AK-47 Vietnam.jpg
A U.S. Army M.P. inspects a Soviet AK-47 recovered in Vietnam, 1968.
File:Mortar attack on Shigal Tarna garrison, Kunar Province, 87.jpg
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan in the 1980s, several sources simultaneously arming both sides of the Afghan conflict, the country was filled with AK-47s and their derivatives.[117]

In parts of the Western world, the AK-47 is associated with their enemies; both Cold War era and present-day. In the pro-communist states, the AK-47 became a symbol of third-world revolution. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union became the principal arms dealer to countries embargoed by Western nations, including Middle Eastern nations such as Syria, Libya and Iran, who welcomed Soviet Union backing against Israel. After the fall of the Soviet Union, AK-47s were sold both openly and on the black market to any group with cash, including drug cartels and dictatorial states, and more recently they have been seen in the hands of Islamic groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, and FARC, Ejército de Liberación Nacional guerrillas in Colombia. Western movies often portray criminals, gang members and terrorists using AK-47s. For these reasons, in the U.S. and Western Europe the AK-47 is stereotypically regarded as the weapon of choice of insurgents, gangsters and terrorists. Conversely, throughout the developing world, the AK-47 can be positively attributed with revolutionaries against foreign occupation, imperialism, or colonialism.[114]

In Mexico, the AK-47 is known as "Cuerno de Chivo" (literally "Goat's Horn") because of its curved magazine design and is one of the weapons of choice of Mexican drug cartels. It is sometimes mentioned in Mexican folk music lyrics.[118]

In 2006, Colombian musician and peace activist César López devised the escopetarra, an AK converted into a guitar. One sold for US$17,000 in a fundraiser held to benefit the victims of anti-personnel mines, while another was exhibited at the United Nations' Conference on Disarmament.[119]

The AK-47 made an appearance in U.S. popular culture as a recurring focus in the 2005 Nicolas Cage film Lord of War. There are numerous monologues in the movie focusing on the weapon and its effects on global conflict and the gun running market, such as:

"Of all the weapons in the vast Soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It's the world's most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn't break, jam, or overheat. It'll shoot whether it's covered in mud or filled with sand. It's so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people's greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars."[120]

Kalashnikov Museum

The Kalashnikov Museum (also called the AK-47 museum) opened on 4 November 2004, in Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic. This city is in the Ural Region of Russia. The museum chronicles the biography of General Kalashnikov, and documents the invention of the AK-47. The museum complex of small arms of M. T. Kalashnikov, a series of halls and multimedia exhibitions is devoted to the evolution of the AK-47 assault rifle and attracts 10,000 monthly visitors.[121]

Nadezhda Vechtomova, the museum director stated in an interview that the purpose of the museum is to honor the ingenuity of the inventor and the hard work of the employees and to "separate the weapon as a weapon of murder from the people who are producing it and to tell its history in our country."


A Soviet Spetsnaz (special operations) group prepares for a mission in Afghanistan, 1988.
A map of states that use the AK. AK-47 operators are marked red, AK derivative operators are marked orange and modernized AK operators are marked pink.

See also



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  2. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named k3
  3. Rottman 2011, p. 9.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "AK-47 Inventor Doesn't Lose Sleep Over Havoc Wrought With His Invention. "It was before he started designing the gun that he slept badly, worried about the superior weapons that Nazi soldiers were using with grisly effectiveness against the Red Army in World War II. He saw them at close range himself, while fighting on the front lines. While hospitalized with wounds after a Nazi shell hit his tank in the 1941 battle of Bryansk, Kalashnikov decided to design an automatic rifle combining the best features of the American M1 and the German StG44. "Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer," said Kalashnikov, frail but sharp at age 87. "I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery."". USA: 6 July 2007. OCLC 36334372. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Machine Carbine Promoted" Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 57, April 1945.
  6. "Born in November 1919—one of 18 children, of whom only six survived—Mikhail Kalashnikov was a Soviet T-38 tank commander in 1941, wounded in the shoulder and back when a German shell smashed part of the tank’s armor into his body. "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 date of its first manufacture, 1947." An interview with Mikhail Kalashnikov, Robert Fisk, The Independent (centrist), London, England. April 22, 2001.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 | Armed Forces History Museum, AK-47 assault rifle
  8. Chapter 1. Symbol of violence, war and culture.
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  10. M16 Rifle Case Study. Prepared for the Presidents Blue Ribbon Defense Panel. March 16, 1970. By Richard R. Hallock, Colonel U.S. Army (Retired) "Used in quantity against the Soviets at Stalingrad, the German Sturmgewehr made a deep impression on the Russians. They copied the ballistics of the cartridge while improving the configuration and improving the weapon. They standardized the weapon in 1947 as the AK-47 rifle."
  11. 11.0 11.1 "The history of the world-known gun started on July 15th, 1943, when a captured complex—an MP-43 gun and a cartridge—were demonstrated at a meeting of the arms committee. Chief designer Nikolay Elizarov and chief engineer Pavel Ryazanov created the Soviet "interim cartridge " within a very short period of time. The technological support was provided by Boris Syomin. After that, scientists started working on a new fire arms system for that cartridge." The History of Kalashnikov Gun. Pravda. 02.08.2003
  12. "Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Kalashnikov, by then a sergeant, was injured within months when a shell stopped his T-34 tank and sent shrapnel through his shoulder. As Soviet history tells it, while Sgt. Kalashnikov recuperated, he began tinkering with infantry weapons, eventually setting his mind on designing a lightweight automatic assault rifle that would expel the better-armed Nazis from Russian soil. Soviet infantry fought World War II with two basic small arms: one was the badly outdated Mosin–Nagant Model 1891 bolt-action rifle. The other was the PPSh series of submachine guns, reliable arms that were effective but only at short range. Something better was needed, and that something was in the hands of the Nazi Wehrmacht. It was called the MP44 Sturmgewehr (assault rifle), and it could fire in full or semiautomatic mode. Chambered for a revolutionary new cartridge, a short 7.92mm round that was less powerful than a full-size rifle cartridge, yet far more powerful than the pistol cartridges for which submachine guns were chambered, the Sturmgewehr made a deep impression on the Soviets who faced it." The Father of 100 Million Rifles Mikhail Kalashnikov was a poor russian farm boy who happened to be a mechanical genius, and for better or for worse, the rifle he designed has changed history. Article by C.J. Chivers. Uploaded on February 28, 2006
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Further reading


External links

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