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.