Russian/USSR Military AK-47


The AK-47 is a select-fire assault rifle chambered in 7.62x39mm and is the most widely used assault rifle in the world. There are several reasons for this such as reliability, ease-of-use and ruggedness, but the primary reason is it is easy to mass-produce. Each unit is made of stamped parts meaning a machine cut, pressed and molded them in an assembly line. Also, the parts are interchangeable.

Its history begins with a Russian gun maker and soldier named Mikhail Kalashnikov. Shortly after World War II he was asked to create something with the functionality of a submachine gun but with the stopping power of a rifle and in 1947 he introduced what is known today as the AK-47 (named after Kalashnikov and the year). Two years later, after testing, the AK-47 was adopted by the Soviet military.

The AK-47 is very rugged because it can still function after being exposed and submerged in water, sand, dirt, and mud. It uses a very clean gas-piston operating system where propellant gases are captured into a tube near the muzzle, the gas is directed onto a piston, the gas pushes the piston back so it can drive the bolt to the rear, and the bolt ejects an empty casing and loads a fresh round.

The AK-47 was really designed and intended to be a point and shoot rifle. Easy functional features include a select fire switch so users can turn it on semi-auto or full-auto, an oversized magazine release and trigger guard, so a gloved trigger finger can fit into it, a side charging handle, and a pistol grip. And, it is also easy to maintain because it breaks down into only a handful of pieces.

The AK-47 is often compared to the US military’s standard rifle, the M16, because they often face each other on opposite ends of the battlefield. And it really is like comparing apples to oranges. Where the AK-47 is better, the M16 is horrible and vice versa. For example, the M16 is susceptible to dirt and sand, but it is much more accurate than the AK-47.

Since its introduction more than 50 militaries, militias, guerrillas, terrorists… have adopted it. And, several other countries like China and North Korea, to name a few, have produced their own AK-47s. As of today, nearly a hundred million AKs have been produced.

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Caliber: 7.62x39mm
Capacity: 30
Sights: Adjustable iron sights
Features: Gas-piston operated
Action: Full-auto<br />Semi-auto
Stock: Wood
Material/Finish: Steel/blue
Weight: 9.48 pounds
Barrel Length: 16.3"
Overall Length: 34.2"

Editor Review

The legendary durability of the Avtomat Kalashnikov (AK-47) assault rifle is apparent the moment you lay eyes on it. There's nothing fancy about this weapon. Everything about it, from its design to its stamped metal parts, screams economy and reliability. It's clear that the AK-47 was built to last and this no-frills design is exactly why it has done just that.

The AK-47 's designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov, set out to build a weapon that could operate in the frozen and muddy conditions typical of the Russian environment, borrowing from the American-made M1 Garand and Germany's Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifles. The result is a rugged, compact and durable rifle that can be fired, cleaned and taken down even while wearing gloves.  Fit and finish are entirely utilitarian, the components fitting together loosely with the intent of having a weapon that will keep firing when clogged with debris. The grip and fore-end of the Chinese-made model I tested had a rough finish, but still managed to fit my hands nicely.

Firing the gas-operated AK-47, chambered for the 7.62x39 mm cartridge, was strictly a short-to-medium range affair.  The simple and low-cost design that produces its reliability comes with a price, in the form of less than stellar accuracy. The notched rear sight and front post sight were adjustable for elevation only. Windage is set at the factory. 

Thanks to the acquisition by a friend of an BATFE stamp, I was able to sample the AK-47 in full auto.  In the fully automatic mode, it fires at a rate of 600 rounds per minute, dictated by a cyclic rate reducer that was incorporated into the firing mechanism to ensure that the bolt fully closed between each round. This is also the source of its distinctive rat-tat-tat sound. Recoil and muzzle flip were about what I expected from a rifle of this size and caliber. It's a handful, no doubt about it, and it took me a fair amount of practice and ammo to stay on target. I could see where a muzzle break and some modification of the grip might be worth the investment if I were able to do this more often.

Since its introduction to the Soviet Army in 1947, the AK-47 has become by far the most popular assault rifle in the world, out-selling all others combined. So there are numerous manufacturers throughout the world, from Albania to Yugoslavia, cranking out their own versions of it, not all of them licensed. Consequently, there's a wide range in quality between manufacturers. Variants of the AK-47 include the Saiga semi-automatic rifle and shotgun versions, AKS models with folding stocks; AK-47 1952, with chrome-plated barrel and chamber.