No weapon since maybe the sword has conjured the images of war and conflict better than that of the distinctive Ak-47 assault rifle. A simple weapon has existed and proliferated around the world for the last 75 years. In nearly every armed conflict from around the world one side or both sides can be seen carrying this firearm into battle.
The AK-47 was the brain child of Soviet engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov during the second world war. The Soviet army was greatly unmatched in the field in both training and weaponry compared to their Nazi counterparts. After being wounded and witnessing the awesome power of German submachine guns and assault rifles, especially the feared Sturmgewehr 44, Kalashnikov realized the Soviets needed a small arm to match the power and volume of fire the Germans’ enjoyed.
Kalashnikov’s answer was the AK-47 or Avtomat Kalashnikova model 47. The weapon he designed while recovering from injuries was a simple gas operated assault rifle with select fire options. The ammunition was picked for the gun was 7.62x39mm rifle cartridge feed into the weapon by a drum or banana clip. The drum clip was disregarded for the banana clip and it’s 30-round magazine.
The weapon was introduced into service in 1949 and has since been the standard Soviet rifle, as well as China’s and countless other nations. The weapon was quickly mass produced in the tens of millions and sold or given to dozens of Soviet backed or friendly nations. Few variants were produced over the years but changes were minor.
The gun’s long lasting life comes from many different factors. One being it’s simplistic design , parts, and assembly procedures. It breaks down into around 10-12 parts all universal in construction. The stock is made of wood making it lighter then most metal and cheaper than most plastics. All of these make the learning curve on usage, cleaning and repair very short allowing the gun to be used easy to understand and maintain by the average Russian conscript and sadly an average 10 year old child.
Another important factor in the creation of the gun was durability. It was initially designed to stand up against the most harsh Russian winter or wettest and filthiest Russian swamp in spring. It has been rumored the gun can be left underwater for weeks, in a sand dune for years or in ice for decades and still fired as if it just came off the assembly line.
The AK-47 has become the weapon of choice for armies, terror groups, drug cartels, and international criminals around the world. The weapon has seen even more action since the fall of the Soviet Union as it became a weapon of choice on the black market with a circulation of about 75 million worldwide. It is estimated by the UN and World Bank that 1/5 of small arms on earth are a variant of the AK-47.
The weapon has been elevated from the battle field to be a symbol of resistance, terror and struggle. It can be seen in the weapon of choice in the hands of bad guys in big budget Hollywood films and is incorporated as into the flag of Mozambique and inserted into the coat of arms of East Timor and Zimbabwe.