AK-47 Assault Rifle

AK-47 Assault Rifle

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AK-47 Assault Rifle.

The Ak-47 is without doubt the worlds most successful assault rifle. Since it was first produced around 10 million have been made. It was the standard rifle of the Soviet bloc during the Cold war and remains the main weapon of its type in Russian service since 1957. It has spread throughout the world being a symbol for many insurgent movements around the world. the AK-47 is the perfect weapon for Guerrilla warfare , sturdy, cheap, small and impressively reliable even when exposed to dirt, sand and abuse. It has a 30 round magazine and fires a 7.62mm round at a velocity of 710m (2329ft) per second, with an effective range of 300 meters (330 yds). It has been manufactured in most former Warsaw Pact countries as well as China (as the type 56), North Korea, and Finland (M62 and M76 variants). There are many variants with plastic, wooden and folding stocks but the best way to determine country of origin is to examine the language of the words on the 'Single shot' and 'Auto' selectors.

History of the AK-47

It’s one of the most popular assault rifles in the world. Even after 70 years, it still poses a significant threat to anyone who crosses it. It has become a cultural icon, a symbol, and a source of pride. It is one of the most influential inventions to ever come out of the 20th century, and its design has stood the test of time. I am talking, of course, of the history of the AK-47.

It is a rifle that has its share of imitations, though many say none compare with the original. The Soviets put it on a coin, and other nations have had it on their coats of arms. The nation of Mozambique, as well as the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, even went so far as to put it on their flags. It is a symbol of armed resistance and liberation.


The AKM is an assault rifle chambered in 7.62×39mm Soviet intermediate cartridge. It is a selective fire, gas operated with a rotating bolt, firing in either semi-automatic or fully automatic, and has a cyclic rate of fire of around 600 rounds per minute (RPM). The gas operated action has a large bolt carrier with a permanently attached long stroke gas piston. The gas chamber is located above the barrel. The bolt carrier rides on the two rails, formed on the side of the receiver, with a significant space between the moving and stationary parts. [3] Despite being replaced in the late 1970s by the AK-74, the AKM is still in service in some Russian Army reserve and second-line units and several east European countries. The GRAU officially designated the AKM as the 6P1 assault rifle.

Improvements over AK-47 Edit

Compared with the AK-47, the AKM features detail improvements and enhancements that optimized the rifle for mass production some parts and assemblies were conceived using simplified manufacturing methods. Notably, the AK-47's milled steel receiver was replaced by a U-shaped steel stamping. As a result of these modifications, the AKM's weight was reduced by ≈ 1 kg (2.2 lb), the accuracy during automatic fire was increased and several reliability issues were addressed. The AK-47's chrome-lined barrel was retained, a common feature of Soviet weapons which resists wear and corrosion, particularly under harsh field conditions and near-universal Eastern Bloc use of corrosively primed ammunition.

The AKM's receiver is stamped from a smooth 1.0 mm (0.04 in) sheet of steel, compared with the AK-47 where the receiver was machined from heavier gauge steel. A rear stock trunnion and forward barrel trunnion are fastened to the U-shaped receiver using rivets. The receiver housing also features a rigid tubular cross-section support that adds structural strength. Guide rails that assist the bolt carrier's movement which also incorporates the ejector are installed inside the receiver through spot welding. As a weight-saving measure, the stamped receiver cover is of thinner gauge metal than that of the AK-47. In order to maintain strength and durability it employs both longitudinal and latitudinal reinforcing ribs.

Barrel Edit

The AKM has a barrel with a chrome-lined bore and four right-hand grooves at a 240 mm (1 in 9.45 in) or 31.5 calibers rifling twist rate. The forward barrel trunnion has a non-threaded socket for the barrel and a transverse hole for a pin that secures the barrel in place. The AKM's barrel is installed in the forward trunnion and pinned (as opposed to the AK-47, which has a one piece receiver with integral trunnions and a barrel that is screwed-in). Additionally the barrel has horizontal guide slots that help align and secure the handguards in place. To increase the weapon's accuracy during automatic fire, the AKM was fitted with a slant cut compensator that helps redirect expanding propellant gases upward and to the right during firing, which mitigates the rise of the muzzle during an automatic burst when held by a right-handed firer. The compensator is threaded on to the end of the barrel with a left-hand thread. Not all AKMs have slant compensators some were also fitted with the older muzzle nut which came from the AK-47. Most AKMs with muzzle nuts were older production models. The AKM's slant compensator can also be used on the AK-47, which had a simple nut to cover the threads.

Gas block Edit

The gas block in the AKM does not have a cleaning rod capture or sling loop but is instead fitted with an integrated bayonet support collar that has a cleaning rod guide hole. The forward sling loop was relocated to the front handguard retainer cap. The handguard retainer also has notches that determine the position of the handguards on the barrel. The AKM's laminated wood handguards have lateral grooves that help securely grip the rifle.

Gas relief ports that alleviate gas pressure in the piston cylinder (placed horizontally in a row on the gas cylinder in the AK-47) were moved forward to the gas block and placed in a radial arrangement.

Bolt carrier assembly Edit

The AKM's bolt carrier has a lightening cut milled into the right side halfway before the handle. The handle has its profile slimmed down too. The stem of the AKM bolt is fluted in another measure to help reduce weight. The round, fluted firing pin of the AK-47 was also replaced with a flat one on the AKM. All pieces are typically painted black instead of left "in the white".

Stock Edit

The buttstock, lower handguard and upper heatguard are manufactured from birch plywood laminates like the later model AK-47 furniture. [4] Such engineered woods are stronger and resist warping better than the conventional one-piece patterns, do not require lengthy maturing, and are cheaper. The wooden buttstock used in the AKM is further hollowed in order to reduce weight and is longer and straighter than that of the AK-47, which assists accuracy for subsequent shots during rapid and automatic fire. The wooden stock also houses the issued cleaning kit, which is a small diameter metal tube with a twist lock cap. The kit normally contains the cleaning jag to which a piece of cloth material is wrapped around and dipped into cleaning solution. It also contains a pin punch, an assembly pin to hold the trigger, disconnector and rate reducer together while putting these back into the receiver after cleaning the weapon, and a barrel brush. The kit is secured inside the butt stock via a spring-loaded trapdoor in the stock's pressed sheet metal butt cap. The stock is socketed into a stepped shaped rear trunnion with single upper tang and two screws. The rear trunnion itself is held to the stamped receiver with four rivets (two on each side). Under folding models instead have a U-shaped rear trunnion that reinforces the locking arms and is held to the receiver with six rivets (see Variants for more info).

Recoil/return spring assembly Edit

The AKM uses a modified recoil/return spring mechanism, which replaces the telescoping recoil spring guide rod with a dual "U"-shaped wire guide.

Trigger assembly Edit

The AKM has a modified trigger assembly, equipped with a hammer-release delaying device (installed on the same axis pin together with the trigger and disconnector) commonly called a "rate reducer" or "hammer retarder" (Russian: замедлитель срабатывания курка ). In fact its primary purpose is not to reduce the rate of automatic fire it is a safety device to ensure the weapon will only fire on automatic when the bolt is fully locked, as the hammer is tripped by the bolt carrier's last few millimetres of forward movement. The device also reduces "trigger slap" or "trigger bounce" and the weapon's rate of fire, which also reduces the dispersion of bullets when firing in fully automatic mode. The hammer was also changed and equipped with a protrusion that engages the rate reducer and the trigger has only one notched hammer release arm (compared with two parallel arms in the AK-47). [5] [6]

Sights Edit

The AKM's notched rear tangent iron sight is calibrated in 100 m (109 yd) increments from 100 to 1,000 m (109 to 1,094 yd) and compared with the AK-47 the leaf's position teeth that secure the sliding adjustable notch were transferred over from the right to the left edge of the ramp. The front sight is a post adjustable for elevation in the field and has a slightly different shape with the "ears" being angled with the back of the base instead of strait and its bottom portion is more narrow compared with the AK-47. Horizontal adjustment requires a special drift tool and is done by the armoury before issue or if the need arises by an armourer after issue. The sight line elements are approximately 48.5 mm (1.9 in) over the bore axis. The "point-blank range" battle zero setting "П" on the 7.62×39mm AKM rear tangent sight element corresponds to a 300 m (328 yd) zero. [7] For the AKM combined with service cartridges the 300 m battle zero setting limits the apparent "bullet rise" within approximately −5 to +31 cm (−2.0 to 12.2 in) 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, according to Russian and former Soviet doctrine) 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. [7]

Magazines Edit

The early slab-sided steel AK-47 30-round detachable box magazines had 1 mm (0.039 in) sheet-metal bodies and weigh 0.43 kg (0.95 lb) empty. [8] The later steel AKM 30-round magazines had lighter sheet-metal bodies with prominent reinforcing ribs weighing 0.33 kg (0.73 lb) empty. [8] [9] To further reduce weight a light weight magazine with an aluminium body with a prominent reinforcing waffle rib pattern weighing 0.19 kg (0.42 lb) empty was developed for the AKM that proved to be too fragile and the small issued amount of these magazines were quickly withdrawn from service. [10] As a replacement steel-reinforced 30-round plastic 7.62×39mm box magazines were introduced. These rust-coloured magazines weigh 0.24 kg (0.53 lb) empty and are often mistakenly identified as being made of Bakelite (a phenolic resin), but were actually fabricated from two-parts of AG-S4 moulding compound (a glass-reinforced phenol-formaldehyde binder impregnated composite), assembled using an epoxy resin adhesive. [11] [12] [13] [14] 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. [14] A second generation steel-reinforced dark-brown (colour 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 coloured and has a matte non-reflective surface finish. The current issue steel-reinforced matte true black non-reflective surface finished 7.62×39mm 30-round magazines, fabricated from ABS plastic weigh 0.25 kg (0.55 lb) empty. [15] Early steel AK-47 magazines are 9.75 in (248 mm) long, and the later ribbed steel AKM and newer plastic 7.62×39mm magazines are about 1 in (25 mm) shorter. [16] [17]

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. 10.12 kg (22.3 lb) ammunition load*
AK-47 (1949) 7.62×39mm 16.3 g (252 gr) slab-sided steel
430 g (0.95 lb)
916 g (2.019 lb) [18]
11 magazines for 330 rounds
10.08 kg (22.2 lb)
AKM (1959) 7.62×39mm 16.3 g (252 gr) ribbed stamped-steel
330 g (0.73 lb)
819 g (1.806 lb) [9] [19]
12 magazines for 360 rounds
9.83 kg (21.7 lb)
AK-103 (1994) 7.62×39mm 16.3 g (252 gr) steel-reinforced plastic
250 g (0.55 lb)
739 g (1.629 lb) [9] [19]
13 magazines for 390 rounds
9.61 kg (21.2 lb)

Note: All 7.62×39mm AK magazines are backwards compatible with older AK variants.
*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-style magazines.

Accessories Edit

The AKM comes supplied with a different accessory kit that contains a M1959 6H4 or 6H3-type bayonet and comes with synthetic or steel magazines. Both the 6H3 and 6H4 bayonet blade forms a wire-cutting device when coupled with its scabbard. The polymer grip and upper part of the scabbard provide insulation from the metal blade and bottom part of the metal scabbard, using a rubber insulator sleeve, to safely cut electrified wire. The kit also comes with a punch used to drive out various pins and a device that aids in assembling the rate reducing mechanism. The GP-25 Grenade launcher can also be fitted onto the AKM. There is also the PBS-1 silencer from the 1960s, designed to reduce the noise when firing, mostly used by Spetsnaz forces and the KGB.

Ammunition Edit

The weapon uses the same ammunition as the AK-47: the 7.62×39mm M43 intermediate rifle cartridge. The AKM mechanism's design principles and procedures for loading and firing are practically identical to those of the AK-47, the only difference being the trigger assembly (during the return stage of the bolt carrier on fully automatic mode) as a result of incorporating the rate reducer device.

The main variant of the AKM is the AKMS (S – Skladnoy – Folding), which was equipped with an under-folding metal shoulder stock in place of the fixed wooden stock. The metal stock of the AKMS is somewhat different from the folding stock of the previous AKS-47 model as it has a modified locking mechanism, which locks both support arms of the AKMS stock instead of just one (left arm) as in the AKS-47 folding model. It is also made of riveted steel pressings, instead of the milled versions of most AKS-47s, and is more inline like the fixed stock AKM. Due to the stamped receiver, it also has a reinforcement plate beneath the pistol grip spot welded in place to prevent damage to the receiver if the gun is dropped on its pistol grip as well as better absorb the recoil with the stock folded.

The AKM was produced in the following versions: AKMP, AKML and AKMLP, whereas the AKMS led to the following models – AKMSP, AKMSN and AKMSNP. It is designed especially for use by paratroopers–as the folding stock permits more space for other equipment when jumping from a plane and then landing.

The AKMP rifle uses subdued Radium-illuminated aiming points integrated into the front and rear sight. These sights enable targets to be engaged in low-light conditions, e.g. when the battlefield is illuminated with flares, fires or muzzle flashes or when the target is visible as a shadow against an illuminated background. The sliding notch on the sight arm is then moved to the “S” setting (which corresponds to the “3” setting in the AKM). The sight itself is guided on the sliding scale and has a socket, which contains a tritium gas-filled capsule directly beneath the day-time notch. The tritium front post installs into the front sight base using a detent and spring.

The AKML comes equipped with a side-rail used to attach a night vision device. The mount comprises a flat plate riveted to the left wall of the receiver housing and a support bracket fixed to the mounting base with screws. To shield the light-sensitive photo detector plate of the night vision sight, the weapon uses a slotted flash suppressor, which replaces the standard recoil compensator. The AKML can also be deployed in the prone position with a detachable barrel-mounted bipod that helps stabilise the weapon and reduces operator fatigue during prolonged periods of observation. The bipod is supplied as an accessory and is carried in a holster attached to the duty belt.

The AKMN comes equipped with a side-rail used to attach a night vision device. The model designated AKMN-1 can thus mount the multi-model night vision scope 1PN51 [20] and the AKMN2 the multi-model night vision scope 1PN58. [21]

The AKMLP is a version of the AKML with tritium sights (as in the AKMP).

The AKMSP rifle is based on the folding stock AKMS variant but fitted with tritium night sights, as in the AKMP.

The AKMSN model is derived from the AKMS and features an accessory rail used to mount a night vision sensor as seen on the AKML and additionally a flash hider and bipod. The left arm of the AKMSN's folding stock is bent outwards in order to avoid the sight mount bracket during folding and the sling loop was moved further to the rear. Similarly to the AKMN-1, the AKMSN-1 can mount the multi-model night vision scope 1PN51 [20] and the AKMSN2 the multi-model night vision scope 1PN58. [21]

A version of the AKMSN additionally supplied with factory tritium night sights is called the AKMSNP.

A version of the AKM with a modified lower handguard designed to accept the 40 mm wz. 1974 Pallad grenade launcher was developed in Poland and designated the karabinek-granatnik wz. 1974.

Foreign variants Edit

Peru Edit

Diseños Casanave International LLC has made an upgraded version of the AKM known as the Diseños Casanave International LLC SC-2026, which has a retractable polycarbonate stock and a railed handguard. [22] It has a range of 400 meters and weights less than 4 kilograms. [22]

DICI also makes the Diseños Casanave International LLC SC-2026C, a carbine version of the SC-2026 made for vehicle crews/personnel and for special forces operators. [22]

Vietnam Edit

The STL-1A was made by Z111 Factory as early as 2015 by changing parts of used AKMs with new plastic handguards, folding buttstocks, pistol grips and muzzle brakes resembling the AK-74, with an attachment lug for use with an M203 grenade launcher. [23] [24] In 2018, an upgrade, known as the STL-1B was developed, which included Picatinny rails, since the 1A uses a side-type attachment. [24]

Vietnam also makes the AKM-1, an AKM version which has replaced the wood stock and handguards with Polyamide, and implemented a Soviet-style accessory rail. [25]

Romania Edit

The Pistol Mitralieră model 1963 (abbreviated PM md. 63 or simply md. 63) is a Romanian assault rifle chambered in the 7.62×39mm cartridge, patterned after the AKM. It is exported as AIM.

Hungary Edit

The AK-63 (also known in Hungarian military service as the AMM) is a Hungarian variant of the AKM assault rifle manufactured by the Fegyver- és Gépgyár (FÉG) state arms plant in Hungary. It is currently used by the Hungarian Ground Forces as its standard infantry weapon, and by most other branches of the Hungarian Defence Forces.

China Edit

The Type 56 (Chinese: 56式自动步枪 literally "Type 56 Automatic Rifle") also known as the AK-56, [26] is a Chinese 7.62×39mm rifle. It is a variant of the Soviet-designed AK-47 (specifically Type 3) and AKM rifles. [27] Production started in 1956 at State Factory 66 but was eventually handed over to Norinco and PolyTech, who continue to manufacture the rifle primarily for export.

North Korea Edit

The Type 68 also known as Type 68 NK, is a North Korean version of the AKM, adopted in 1968 to replace the Type 58. It has no rate reducer. [28] It has its own bayonet, which is based on the AK-47 bayonet, but it has a different pommel mount for it. [29] These bayonets were also issued in Cuba, which have green scabbards instead of tan scabbards, which is used the Korean People's Army. [30]

Semi-automatic only variant Edit

The WASR-10 is a semi-automatic only variant developed from the AKM series rifle but is not another version rather a derivative or variant due to significant changes. The lack of the dimple over the magazine well is a peculiar WASR feature helpful in identification of WASR series rifles. [31]

The WASR series are manufactured in Romania by the arms-maker Cugir and widely imported into the United States for the sporting gun market by importer Century International Arms who modifies them with TAPCO stocks. [32] Century began installing the TAPCO Intrafuse AK G2 trigger group in 2007 to eliminate bolt slap trigger finger injuries. [33]

    a machine-translated version of the Russian article.
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The following table represents the Russian method for determining accuracy, which is far more complex than Western methods. In the West, one fires a group of shots into the target and then simply measures the overall diameter of the group. The Russians, on the other hand, fire a group of shots into the target. They then draw two circles on the target, one for the maximum vertical dispersion of hits and one for the maximum horizontal dispersion of hits. They then disregard the hits on the outer part of the target and only count half of the hits (50% or R50) on the inner part of the circles. This dramatically reduces the overall diameter of the groups. They then use both the vertical and horizontal measurements of the reduced groups to measure accuracy. This circular error probable method used by the Russian and other European militaries cannot be converted and is not comparable to US military methods for determining rifle accuracy. When the R50 results are doubled the hit probability increases to 93.7%.

  • R50 means the closest 50 percent of the shot group will all be within a circle of the mentioned diameter.

In general, this is an improvement with respect to firing accuracy to the AK-47. The vertical and horizontal mean (R50) deviations with service ammunition at 800 m (875 yd) for AK platforms are.

Characteristics [ edit | edit source ]

All variants [ edit | edit source ]

Previously mentioned above, there are many variations of the AK-47, but the most common version one would find is the 30-inch long, wooden stocked Kalishnikov variant, using 7.62x39mm bullets, gas-operated with a rotating bolt action, black metal with a 16.3 inch barrel with adjustable iron sights.

  • The rifle also has a long, curved detatchable box magazine that can house thirty 7.62x39mm rounds, and can fire each bullet about three-hundred and eighty yards.
  • One of the many reasons this rifle is sought after by third world countries and terrorist organizations is that the rifle was built to last, it can still be fired if it is dirty or soaking wet, only having minor issues soaked in mud. This means that guerrilla fighters make exceptional use of this rifle.

Magical variant [ edit | edit source ]

The AKR-47 is the magical variant of this rifle. While the Soviet Union typically did not utilize or manufacture magi-tec, there were some versions of this weapon available to wizards in the Soviet Armed Forces.

History [ edit | edit source ]

The true story of AK began late in 1942, when Soviet troops captured several specimen of the very new German MKb.42(H) machine carbine (assault rifle), along with some 7.92 Kurz ammunition. By mid-1943 the MKb.42(H) along with the US-supplied M1 carbine were evaluated by Soviet experts, and it was decided on top level that similar weapons, firing the intermediate power cartridge, must be developed for the Soviet army as soon as possible. The task of initial development of new ammunition was

The first Soviet 'true' intermediate cartridge (7.62x41 M43) assault rifle, Sudaev AS-44, as tested in 1944. Unfortunately, Sudaev fell severely ill in 1945 and died next year before finalizing his design.

accomplished in a rather short time. By November 1943 technical specifications for the 7.62x41mm cartridge, having bottlenecked, rimless case and firing 8-gram pointed bullet, were sent out to all Soviet small arms design bureaus and organizations. By the spring of 1944, there were at least ten designs of automatic weapons in the works (not counting semi-automatic carbines that resulted in adoption of SKS and bolt-action carbines that went nowhere). In mid-1944, trials commission selected the AS-44 assault rifle, designed by Sudaev, as the overall best, and ordered a limited production run for troops trials. Some AS-44 rifles were manufactured in spring of 1945, and these were evaluated by troops in summer of 1945, just after the Victory in Europe. Troops generally liked the AS-44, as it has longer effective range compared to PPSh-41 submachine gun, and provided better accuracy in semi-automatic fire. The problem was that AS-44 was overly heavy (more than 5 kg empty), and trials commission ordered next round of development and trials, which started early in 1946. Enter Mikhail Kalashnikov, the young sergeant of Soviet tank forces, who, after being wounded in combat in 1942, designed a prototype submachine gun while on medical leave. His first weapon was rejected on the grounds of complexity, but the designer himself was assigned to the Red Army's Small Arms and Mortar Research & Proving ground (NIPSMVO) near Moscow to continue his education and work on other weapons. Here Kalashnikov designed a semi-automatic carbine, heavily influenced by the American M1 Garand rifle. This carbine, while not suc

The first Kalashnikov assault rifle prototype of 1946, also known as AK-46. Note that it had numerous internal and external differences from the later models, including separate safety and fire mode selector switches, as well as non-reciprocating charging handle, all located on the left side of the weapon

cessful by itself, served as a starting point for the first Kalashnikov's assault rifle, provisionally known as AK No.1 or AK-46. In November of 1946 the AK-46 project was chosen for prototype manufacture along with 5 other projects (out of 16 submitted to commission), and Kalashnikov was sent to the city of Kovrov (also not far from Moscow), to manufacture his weapon at the small arms factory there. The AK-46 was a gas operated, rotary bolt weapon that utilized short-stroke gas piston above the barrel, and a two-part receiver with a separate trigger unit housing and dual controls (separate safety and fire selector switches on the left side of the trigger unit).
In December 1946 new assault rifles were tested at NIPSMVO range, with the AS-44 being used as a control (its development has ceased earlier in 1946 due to untimely death of the Sudaev, who was severely ill by the 1945). As an initial result of these tests, the AK-46 was selected for further development by trials commission, with two more weapons selected for further evolution being rifles from designers Dementiev and Bulkin. The second round of trials, which included three weapons (AK-46 by Kalashnikov, AB-46 by Bulkin and AD by Dementiev), resulted in rejection of the improved AK-46, which was inferior to other rivals in many aspects. Despite that failure, Kalashnikov, using his contacts and support from some member of trials commission (whom he knew from his earlier work at NIPSMVO in 1943-46) pursued the head of the trials commission to review the results, and finally got a green light to continue his development for next round of trials. Following the technical failure of the AK-46, Kalashnikov and his companion designer Zaitsev (who was a staff weapons designer at Kovrov plant) decided to completely rework the design, using successful technical solutions borrowed from various weapons, including direct competitors. For example, the long-stroke gas piston, attached to the bolt carrier, along with captive return spring assembly and receiver cover were apparently inspired by Bulkin's AB-46 rifle the idea of large clearances between bolt group and receiver walls, with minimum friction surfaces, was inspired by the Sudaev's AS-44, the safety / dust cover lever was copied from Browning designed Remington model 8 hunting rifle etc.
Such copying and borrowing of ideas was actually encouraged by the trials commission (and the whole Soviet ideology), as all intellectual property in USSR was considered to be property of 'the people', or the state. Thus, any state-owned intellectual property could (and must) have been used to the benefit of the people / the state by anyone. And creating a new, most effective assault rifle for the victorious Soviet army was certainly on the top of the list of things, beneficial for the Soviet state at the time.

After extensive tests, conducted in December 1947 - January 1948, which included the slightly improved Dementiev KB-P-410, Bulkin TKB-415 and all-new Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles, results were somewhat inconclusive. The AK-47 was found to be most durable and reliable out of three contestants, but it also dragged behind the other two in the accuracy department, especially in full automatic (which was, and still is considered the primary mode of fire for assault rifle in Russia). In fact, the only weapon that fulfilled accuracy requirements was the Bulkin AB-47 / TKB-415, but it had certain problems with parts durability. After lengthy discussion, trials commission finally decided that the better is the enemy of the good, and it is advisable to have not-so accurate but reliable weapon now, rather than to wait indefinitely for accurate-and -reliable weapon in the future. This decision ultimately lead commission to recommend AK-47 for troops trials in November, 1947. It was decided that the production of the new weapon must be commenced at Izhevsk arms plant (now Izhevsk Machine building Plant or IzhMash in short). Kalashnikov has moved from Kovrov to Izhevsk to help with production of the new weapon, which commenced in mid-1948. Official adoption followed late in 1949, with standard nomenclature being '7.62mm avtomat Kalashnikova AK' (7.62mm automatic carbine Kalashnikov). At the same time, a folding buttstock version was adopted for airborne units use, as '7.62mm avtomat Kalashnikova skladnoy AKS' (7.62mm automatic carbine Kalashnikov, folding).
It must be noted that the original design of the receiver, which was assembled from stamped steel 'box' with large machined steel insert pinned at the front, caused a lot of troubles at factory. The technology (equipment and labor) level of the time resulted in extremely high percentage of rejected receivers due to misformed walls, improper pinning of parts, bad geometry etc. After critical revision of the process at the factory it was calculated that it will be more economically feasible to return to the 'old-school' machined receivers. New, machined receiver was designed by one of factory's staff designers, and after approval by military, it was put into production at IzhMash in 1951, under the same basic designation.

Through the following years, the design of AK incorporated many minor changes and updates, but it was the experimental Korobov TKB-517 assault rifle (tested by Soviet army in mid-fifties) that spurred further development of AK. The Korobov TKB-517 assault rifle was a great deal lighter than AK, about 1/3 cheaper to manufacture, and significantly more accurate in full automatic fire. This lead the Soviet army to issue new requirements for a lighter and more effective assault rifle, which were formulated in 1955. These requirements were also complemented by requirement for a companion squad automatic / light support weapon (light machine gun in Russian nomenclature). Trials for new weapons were held in 1957-58. Kalashnikov team from Izhevsk submitted an improved AK with new type of stamped receiver and other minor improvements, which competed against a number of weapons from other design teams from the Kovrov and Tula. In technical terms, the Kalashnikov entry fared about average in these trials, with certain rival weapons proving to be more combat-effective and less expensive to make. The trials commission, however, decided again that the better is the enemy of the good, and recommended the improved AK for adoption due to its proven performance and familiarity to the industry and troops. It was officially adopted in 1959 as the AKM ( Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovannyj - Kalashnikov Automatic rifle, Modified) along with companion RPK squad automatic weapon / light machine gun.

The key changes in AKM, as compared to AK, were the introduction of the stamped steel receiver instead of the milled one, and an improved trigger/hammer unit, with an added hammer release delay device (often incorrectly referred as a rate reducer). Other changes were the redesigned, slightly raised buttstock and the pistol grip, and the addition of the removable muzzle flip compensator. This spoon-like compensator is screwed onto the muzzle and utilized the muzzle blast to reduce muzzle climb during automatic fire. The compensator could be replaced by the screw-on "PBS-1 noiseless firing device", generally known as a silencer. This silencer requires a special, sub-sonic ammunition with heavier bullets to be used. Another change from AK to AKM was a slightly improved rear sight, with settings from 100 to 1000 (instead of the 800 on AK) meters. Both 800 and 1000 meters, however, are way too optimistic for any practical use, since the effective fire is limited roughly to 300-400 meters, if not less.

In the 1974, Soviet Army officially adopted the 5.45mm ammunition and the appropriately chambered AK-74 assault rifle as its new standard shoulder arm. The AKM, however, was never officially declared obsolete and removed from service, and is still in Russian army stocks. Some non-infantry units of the Russian Army are still armed with 1960s vintage AKM assault rifles. There's also an increasing interest in the 7.62mm weapons since many troops were disappointed by the effectiveness of the 5.45mm ammo during the local conflicts in the 1990s. Some Russian special forces troops (mostly police and Internal Affairs Ministry), currently operating in Chechnya, are using the venerable 7.62mm AKM rifles.

The AK and AKM rifles were widely exported to the pro-Soviet countries and regimes all around the world. Manufacturing licenses along with all necessary technical data packages were transferred (for free or at nominal fee) to many Warsaw Pact countries (Albania, Bulgaria, China, East Germany, Hungary, North Korea, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia). Certain 'non-communist', but friendly countries, such as Egypt, Finland and Iraq, also received manufacturing licenses.

At the present time, despite the world-wide proliferation of the small-bore (5.56 / 5.45mm) weapons, many companies still manufacture 7.62mm assault rifles for military or police use (for example, there's an AK-103, made in limited numbers by the IZHMASH in Russia). Also, production of the semi-automatic only civilian AK derivatives is continued in many countries, including Russia, Bulgaria, Romania, China and others.

The AK-47: Questions About the Most Important Weapon Ever

Several different interests and threads in my life came together as I set out: my experience as an infantry officer in the Marines, where I studied military history and tactics while I commanded an infantry platoon and a company my years covering terror and conflict for The New York Times my assignment to Moscow as a newspaper correspondent. But the real spark flashed after David Rohde (of the Times) and I found reams of Al Qaeda and Taliban records in Afghanistan in late 2001. We brought the materials back to New York, and as we grasped what they said, we realized from the training notebooks that students at Afghan insurgent and terrors schools were all receiving the same opening class as they began their coursesan introduction to the Kalashnikov rifle. These weapons were everywhere and having palpable effects on security, stability and how wars were fought, and they were endlessly assuming surprising new meanings. We wrote a little bit about this, and a former professor of mine contacted me and said, "You know, you really ought to look into this more deeply, and consider a book." That was almost a decade ago. I went to work.

How difficult was the book to research?

The research took many forms and presented many problems. I wanted to put the Kalashnikov in a fuller context and show its place in a larger evolution of automatic infantry arms and shifts in tactics and war fighting. So I had to go back to the beginnings of rapid-fire technology and start my clock from there. This meant years of archival research and tracking down old and out-of-print books and trying to gather materials for lively profiles of people long dead and of weapons and tactics no longer in use.

You could call that traditional historical research, and it in itself took me around the world and into several archives and libraries in the United States.

But that was only part of it. I bounced from country to country, trying to enrich my understanding of how ground war evolved and all the while chasing after all manner of charactersthe first people to use or capture Kalashnikovs, the people who sell them illegally or legally, the terrorists and insurgents who wielded them, the conventional soldiers who train with them or face them in fights, the people who have designed or manufactured them. I wanted to open the book in 1949, the year the Soviet atomic program and the mass-production of the AK-47 came together as a fated pair, and this meant traveling to ground zero in Kazakhstan for the detonation of Stalin's first atomic bomb and researching the blast and touring the crater. I sat in on Kalashnikov training in Iraq, Afghanistan, the United States and Russia I walked scores and scores of combat patrols and saw Kalashnikovs used by both sides and closely observed, in firefights and through reconstructions, how the Kalashnikov has been adapted tactically by various forcesChechen and Ingush terrorists, Afghan government soldiers and Taliban guerrillas, Russian cops and Uzbek state security agencies. I interviewed victims of gunfire, examined medical records, sat in on hospitals and aid stations and beside medics in the field as they worked. At times I was chasing for months after a single interview, and I spent years trying to get the U.S. government to locate, retrieve and release formerly classified records (this was an especially slow and frustrating fight).

Over the course of eight years I gathered an interview-by-interview, trip-by-trip, document-by-document accumulation of materials, notebooks, books, video footage and images, classified records and field reports, until my inhalation filled a garage. Then I began to write. I still often felt like no matter how much I had, I needed more. The subject is so sprawling that my gathering never seemed to be enough. Maybe this is what obsession looks like.

During the course of your research, did you get to meet or talk to Mikhail Kalashnikov?

I met General Kalashnikov several times. He was a fascinating man and a very complicated figurea master of navigating the Soviet system and its aftermath. He is often portrayed as a poor and simple peasant who, through sheer inventive genius, designed the world's most successful automatic arm. But this is an almost absurd distillation, the carefully spun fable of Soviet propaganda mills. He's actually something much richer: a small part of an enormous machine and a most useful and interesting lens with which to look at decades of often dreary and sometimes terrifying Soviet life. He's also charming, beguiling, clever, funny and both intensely proud and publicly humble at the same time. The legends around him are insufficient at best and grossly inaccurate at worst. He's quite a man and a challenging character to render.

Why is so much about the development of the AK-47 still shrouded in secrecy?

After the weapon was fielded, the Soviet Union invested heavily in an official version of its creation. This was not long after the purges, when many prominent Soviet citizens and public figures had been liquidated. A new crop of heroes was being put forward by the Kremlin and the Communist Party. Mikhail Kalashnikov fit this movement perfectlyhe was, by the official telling, the quintessential proletariat success story, a wounded vet with limited education and almost no training who conceived of this weapon and relentlessly conjured it into existence. The truth was more complicated. But this party-approved version was endlessly repeated in official channels, and one result of the propaganda was that many other participants in the weapon's design were sidelined and kept silent. One important figure was even arrested, charged with anti-revolutionary activity and sentenced to hard labor. After the Soviet Union collapsed, some of these other men and their accounts began to circulate. But the archives have never fully been opened, and the myths have hardened into something that can feel like fact. We do know much more than we used to, but the full story, in crisp detail, remains elusive, and the Communist version still stands in many circles. Propaganda is a pernicious thing, and the Kalashnikov tale is an example of just how effective it can be.

At times, it seems like you're making the argument that the development of the AK-47 is equal toor maybe even a bigger deal thanthe development of nuclear weapons, which were happening in the Soviet Union at around the same time. Why is that?

The two weapons were designed simultaneously, and urgently, in Stalin's Soviet Union, and they worked together quite well. Atomic (then nuclear) weapons served to freeze borders in place and prevent total war, while the Kalashnikov percolated from state to state, army to army, group to group and man to man and became the principal firearm used for modern war and political violence, in all of its many forms. The West fixated, understandably and naturally, on nuclear weapons and their risks and developed an enormous intellectual, diplomatic and material infrastructure to deal with them and work against their proliferation. Meanwhile, the Kalashnikovand many arms that complement it in the fieldwere doing the killing and still are. I sometimes ask people, when we talk about the big-ticket weapons as opposed to the weapons that actually see the real use: How many people have you known, or even heard of, who were killed by a submarine? How many by a nuclear bomb? The Kalashnikov, in actual practice over the past 60-plus years, has proven much more deadly than these things. But it gets a lot less official attention.

Why did the Soviet Union think a lightweight, automatic rifle was needed?

The Soviet military had faced the world's first mass-produced assault riflethe German sturmgewehr, or storm riflein battles on the Eastern Front in World War II. It was impressed and wanted its own version. The AK-47 was fundamentally a conceptual copy of the German weapon. The Soviet Union was exceptionally skilled at copying its enemies' ideas and was proud of its espionage and intelligence successes in obtaining enemy equipment and grasping the significance and utility of its opponents' gear. In this case, it wanted an equivalent: a compact rifle, with modest recoil and weight, that could be fired on automatic or semiautomatic and that used smaller ammunition than the rifles of its time. Some people think of the Kalashnikov as revolutionary in design and idea, but it was evolutionary. In hindsight, it marked a natural step in a progression that had been under way for decadesa weapon midway between the large rifles and small submachine guns of the era, the ultimate compromise arm. This had many benefits, including that because the weapon used lighter, lower-powered ammunition, it would be less expensive to manufacture and supply and less burdensome, and each soldier could carry more cartridges per combat load. It all made military sense, and the Soviet arms-design community understood this immediately and went to work on its conceptual knockoff of the pre-existing German arm.

The AK-47 was designed through a contest. Why did the Soviet Union take that approach?

That was how the Soviet Union designed much of its suite of military equipment. Rival teams were given a set of specification and deadlines, and through a series of stages the teams presented prototypes, and contest supervisors winnowed the field. Stalin liked these contests. They created urgency and a strong sense of priorities, and they helped speed along development. This was also a system without patents or even firm notions of intellectual property, at least as we know them in the West. So design convergence was part of the processthe teams and the judges, as time passed, could mix and match features from different submissions. Think of a game of Mr. Potato Head. Now imagine a similar game, in which many different elements and features of an automatic rifle are available to you, and more are available at each cycle, and you can gradually pluck the best features and assemble them into a new whole. In some ways, this was the process here.

What features were they looking for, and why did they want those particular characteristics in a rifle?

They wanted a simple, reliable, lighter-weight weapon that could fire automatically or a single shot at a time and that would use a specific intermediate-size cartridge that the Soviet Union had hastily designed in 1943. The reasons behind this desire were rooted in something the Soviet Union got right. Soviet intelligence officials had captured Nazi Germany's new assault rifles, and they understood that these were both a new class of weapons and the rifles of the future. The advantages were obvious. The Soviet army was ordering up a standard weapon with modest recoil but awesome firepower at short and medium ranges, and that would subject soldiers and logistic trains alike to lighter ammunition burdens. It would also be easy to clean and usevaluable characteristics for a rifle to be issued to peasant conscripts across the socialist world.

Why was the development of the rifle such a secret?

The Soviet Union was reflexively secret, even paranoid the importance of secrecy was ingrained in its culture and amplified by both the recent experience of World War II and by the beginning of the Cold War. The union saw its enemies ringed round and was deeply startled by the United States' development and use of the atomic bomb. Its arms-design centers were utterly closed as the work proceeded. Obviously, though, complete secrecy could not holdthe designers were at work on an item that would be issued to millions of pairs of hands. The physical characteristics of the rifle would not long remain unknown, because the rifle would with time become as commonplace as a conscript's boots. But at first, silence and secrecy reigned.

Can you talk a little bit about the controversy surrounding the AK-47's development?

There are many lingering controversies, most of them related to the fact that the Soviet Union never quite told the truth about the weapon's origins and created a fantastic proletariat parable in its place. Mikhail Kalashnikov participated in this official yarn, with all of its redaction and lies. He obviously benefited from it in terms of material reward and public stature, and he has clung pretty doggedly to much of it in the years since. This is not to say he was not involved in the weapon's creation he was intimately involved. But this was a sprawling state-directed R&D program, and his role was smaller than the myths would have you believe.

The controversies surrounding the development have been many. There are allegations that his early weapon was disqualified and he used insider influence among the judges to be allowed to continue as a contestant, that he lifted ideas from another contestant, that his memoirs took credit for other people's work, and even that the German weapons' designer most responsible for the sturmgewehr was also behind the AK-47 development and participated in its development while living as a prisoner of war in the same arms-factory town where Kalashnikov worked. Some of these claims and allegations are more credible than others. But what is clear is that the weapon came about not through individual epiphany or entrepreneurship but through state-led group design. It was the product of many hands and the output of collective work. It was not the brainchild of a single man. Far from it.

One of the things I wasn't aware of at all was how the United States was so behind the times when it came to machine guns and assault rifles. Why weren't they trying to create something similar?

The Pentagon's arms-design circles were insular and informed by parochialism and biases. One of the biases was an affinity for larger, more powerful rifles. These weapons were unwieldy and, compared to assault rifles, slow to fire. But the romance with long-range marksmanship (which is part of American frontier legend) and the resistance to weapons designed elsewhere (including the Kalashnikov) led to the Pentagon misapprehending the biggest breakthrough in infantry arms since the advent of the machine gun. The Pentagon's arms designers were dogmatic and saw themselves and their weapons as superior. They missed the significance of the sturmgewehr. They took little notice of the proliferation of the Kalashnikov. They ultimately lost the arms race of their lives.

How did the AK become so widely disseminated, and what about it made it such a ripe candidate for dissemination?

One common misperception is that the AK-47 is reliable and effective, therefore it is abundant. This is not really the case. The weapon's superabundance, its near ubiquity, is related less to its performance than to the facts of its manufacture. Once it was designated a standard Eastern Bloc arm, it was assembled and stockpiled in planned economies whether anyone paid for or wanted the rifles or not. This led to an uncountable accumulation of the weapons. And once the weapons existed, they moved. Had the weapon not been hooked up to the unending output of the planned economy, it would have been a much less significant device. If it had been invented in Liechtenstein, you might have never even heard of it.

How many different versions of the AK-47 are there?

Dozens and dozens. The weapon is best viewed as a platform that has been reworked, touched up, modified and improved by other designers around the world and over several decades. It's worth noting that the true AK-47 was short-lived, and the very acronym "AK-47" is typically used for descendant weapons that are not AK-47s at all. It's a shorthand for an entire family of weapons that are better called "Kalashnikovs."

The M-16 was a pretty horrible weapon in Vietnam, especially when up against the AKs. How would you say it fares against AKs now?

The M-16 had a bungled and flawed introduction in Vietnam, and both the rifles and their ammunition have been reworked repeatedly. It's an incomparably better weapon in 2010 than it was in the early and mid-1960s. I carried an M16A2 for several years in the 1980s and 1990s as a Marine. I never had one jam when firing live ammunition. Comparisons are difficult. If I were still in the infantry, there would be some tactical situations where I might prefer a Kalashnikov, and others where I would certainly rather have one of the descendants of the M-16. Keep in mind, though, that these two families of assault rifles were in many ways designed for very different users. The Kalashnikov's simplicity and reliability make it a much better weapon for entire classes of combatants, particularly those with modest training, education and fighting skills and limited access to material support, because it will usually perform in harsh environments with little maintenance. It's a firearm that is exceptionally well-matched to the conditions of war and skills and habits of many of the people who carry them.

Why doesn't the U.S. use the AK-47 now? It's been distributed by our military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States does use Kalashnikovs, albeit in limited ways. As for the selecting of its standard arms, for issue to its own troops, the Pentagon has its own arms-procurement processes and a fidelity to its own weapons, or at least to weapons of Western design. I can't ever see the Pentagon adopting the Kalashnikov on a large scale. It's one thing to buy and issue the weapons to largely illiterate proxy forces or to forces already carrying Kalashnikovs, which simplifies training and logistics. It's another thing entirely to consider the weapon for wide-scale American military use.

Two other factors merit consideration. First, the Kalashnikov is eminently reliable and incomparably abundant, but it's not a miracle weapon. Nor is it ideal for all uses. It is, for example, stubbornly mediocre in terms of its accuracy at even medium ranges. At the longer ranges common to fighting in arid environments, it's not a good choice. So it might not be the best weapon for the West right now even if the Pentagon somehow wanted to issue them. Second, American arming decisions are tied to NATO and to alliance-wide decisions. Changing rifles is a woefully complicated process. The status quo is a powerful thing.

What would you say is the influence or legacy of the Kalashnikov line of assault rifles?

A discussion about the legacy could fill this page and many more. But a few framing thoughts might be helpful. For the Soviet Union, the AK-47 is arguably the most apt physical symbol of the Soviet period and what it left behind. It was the Kremlin's most successful product, even the nation's flagship brand, and it came into existence through distinct Soviet behaviors and traits. But it was a breakout weapon, and its fuller meaning and deeper legacy lie in its effects on security and war. It leveled the battlefield in many ways and changed the way wars are fought, prompting a host of reactions and shifts in fighting styles and risks. Its effects will be with us for many more decades, probably for the rest of this century, at least. This is perhaps its real legacyas the fighting tool like no other, which we will confront, and often suffer from, for the rest of our lives.


AK-47 stands for Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года (Avtomat Kalashnikova, obraztsa 1947 goda), literally "Kalashnikov's automaton, model of the year 1947." The name AK can refer to the original AK model or the AK series of rifles based on the original AK model. The name Kalashnikov rifle is a alternate western name for the general AK series of rifles.

The veracity of the "AK-47" name is a source of controversy among firearm historians. The AK never had a production designation by the name "AK-47", and has been produced by the Izhevsk Mechanical plant under the "Avtomat Kalashnikova AK" designation. The "AK-47" designation was stuck to the AK by western sources, likely because most Russian weapons have a design date in their names.

More confusingly, a few early Russian documents referred to AK prototypes by the AK-47 designation, which was dropped soon after. Ώ] ΐ] Many western sources today recognize AK-47 as the weapon's more common but non-official nickname used in western publishing, while Russian sources would universally refer to the weapon as AK, and the AK-47 name only refers to early AK prototypes.

Development [ edit | edit source ]

During WWII, the Germans developed the assault rifle concept, based upon research that showed that most firefights happen at close range, within 300 meters. The power and range of contemporary rifle cartridges was excessive for most small arms firefights. As a result, armies sought a cartridge and rifle combining submachine gun features (large-capacity magazine, selective-fire) with an intermediate-power cartridge effective to 300 meters. To reduce manufacturing costs, the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge case was shortened, the result of which was the lighter 7.92x33mm Kurz.

The resultant rifle, the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44) was not the first with these features its predecessors were the Italian Cei-Rigotti and the Russian Fedorov Avtomat design rifles. The Germans, however, were the first to produce and field sufficient numbers of this assault rifle to properly evaluate its combat utility. Towards the end of the war, they fielded the weapon against the Soviets the experience deeply influenced Soviet military doctrine in the post-war years.

Mikhail Kalashnikov began his career as a weapon designer while in a hospital after being wounded during the Battle of Bryansk. After tinkering with a submachine gun design, he entered a competition for a new weapon that would chamber the 7.62x41mm cartridge developed by Elisarov and Semin in 1943 (the 7.62x41mm cartridge predated the current 7.62x39mm M1943). A particular requirement of the competition was the reliability of the firearm in the muddy, wet, and frozen conditions of the Soviet frontline. Kalashnikov designed a carbine, strongly influenced by the American M1 Garand, that lost out to the Simonov design that would later become the SKS battle rifle. At the same time, the Soviet Army was interested in developing a true assault rifle employing a shortened M1943 round. The first such weapon was presented by Sudayev in 1944 however in trials it was found to be too heavy. A new design competition was held two years later where Kalashnikov and his design team submitted an entry. It was a gas-operated rifle which had breech-block mechanism similar to his 1944 carbine and curved 30-round magazine.

Kalashnikov's rifles (codenamed AK-1 and -2) proved to be reliable and the gun was accepted to second round of competition along with designs by A.A Demetev and F. Bulkin. In late 1946, as the guns were being tested, one of Kalashnikov's assistants, Aleksandr Zaytsev, 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 however eventually Zaytsev managed to persuade Kalashnikov and the new rifle was produced for second round of firing tests and field trials. There, Kalashnikov assault rifle model 1947 proved to be simple, reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics. In 1949 it was therefore adopted by Soviet Army as '7.62mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK)'.

Design [ edit | edit source ]

The main advantages of the Kalashnikov rifle are simple design, fairly compact size and adaptation to mass production. Mikhail Kalashnikov denies his assault rifle was based on the German Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle despite circumstantial evidence to the contrary. The AK-47 is best described as a hybrid of previous rifle technology innovations: the double locking lugs and unlocking raceway of the M1 Garand/M1 carbine, the trigger and safety mechanism of the John Browning designed Remington Model 8 rifle, and the gas system and layout of the StG44. Kalashnikov's team had access to all of these weapons and had no need to "reinvent the wheel". Kalashnikov himself observed: "A lot of [Soviet 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." [1]

The Chinese Version Type 56 Assault Rifle. It was used by the North Vietnamese in the Vietnam War and all Communist states. During the Iran-Iraq War, both the Iranians and Iraqis used the Type 56 Chinese Version. Thanks to the very simple construction and well understood components, the AK-47 has been widely coppied directly of in modified forms by a large number of nations. How many rifles produced is unknown, but it is considered the most common assault rifle of the world, well in eccess of any other models.

Variants [ edit | edit source ]

Bolivian Marines sitting on inflatable boats, carrying Type 56 rifles and scuba equipment during the military parade in Cochabamba.

  • Type 56 – Basic variant introduced in 1956. Copy of the AK-47 with a fixed wooden stock and permanently attached spike bayonet. In the mid-1960s production switched from machined to stamped receivers, mimicking the improved (and cheaper) Russian AKM, while the permanently attached bayonet became optional. Still used by Chinese reserve and militia units.
  • Type 56-I – Copy of the AKS-47, with an under-folding steel shoulder stock and the bayonet removed to make the weapon easier to carry. As with the original Type 56, milled receivers were replaced by stamped receivers in the mid-1960s, making the Type 56-1 an equivalent to the Russian AKMS.
  • Type 56-II – Improved variant and copy of AKM. Introduced in 1980, with a side-folding stock. Mainly manufactured for export and rare in China.
  • Type 56-4 – Under folding stock copy of Type 56-1 in 5.56x45 NATO. 1/12 barrel twist to stabilize the M193 Nato cartridge. Under folding spike bayonet. Chrome plated bore and chamber. Selective fire. Barrel is extended past front sight 3 3/4 inches. Threaded flush muzzle cap. English fire control markings "S" and "F" for export version. No marking on the full auto selection. Rear sight calibrated to 800 metres. Stamped receiver. Serial number marked on bolt carrier, bolt, receiver cover, receiver.
  • Type 56C (QBZ-56C) – Short-barrel version, introduced in 1991 for the domestic and export market. The QBZ-56C as it is officially designated in China, is a carbine variant of the Type 56-II and supplied in limited quantities to some PLA units. The Chinese Navy is now the most prominent user. Development began in 1988, after it was discovered that the Type 81 assault rifle was too difficult to shorten. In order to further reduce weight the bayonet lug was removed. The QBZ-56C is often carried with a twenty round box magazine, although it is capable of accepting a standard Type 56 thirty round magazine. Δ]
  • Type 56S or Type 56Sporter, also known as the MAK-90 (Model of the AK)-1990 – civilian version with only semiautomatic mode. Ε]
  • NHM 91 – Sporterized RPK-style version with a stamped receiver and 20" heavy barrel.
  • Type 84S – A civilian version of the Type 56 rifle chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO round.
  • KL-7.62 – An unlicensed, reverse-engineered Iranian copy of the Type 56. The original version of the KL-7.62 was indistinguishable from the Type 56, but in recent years DIO appears to have made some improvements to the Type 56 design, adding a plastic stock and handguards (rather than wood) and a ribbed receiver cover (featured on most AKM variants, but missing from the Type 56).
  • MAZ – Sudanese licensed copy of the Type 56 made by Military Industry Corporation.


Base damage value Initial velocity (m/s)
9 700

For grenade rounds usable with the GP-25, refer to its dedicated article here.

Both variants of the AK-47 and the AK-47 CZ retain access to the same magazine. It requires one free inventory slot to carry:

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