Historical Firearms: AK-47

  • Jack Collins
Photo Courtesy of Nemo5576

It’s one of the most ubiquitous firearms in the history of the world: the AK-47. With more than 100 million AKs produced worldwide, there’s a reason for that. In nearly every combat zone, from Asia to Africa and the Middle East, soldiers and irregulars alike have fielded the iconic rifle. In this post, we’re going to look at everything you ever wanted to know about the AK-47.

AK-47 Origins

The AK-47, short for “Avomat Kalashnikova,” takes its name from the man who designed it: Soviet Russian gun designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. Kalashnikov had heard soldiers talking about how much they hated their current rifles while recovering from combat in World War 2, and inspiration struck.

He based the AK’s design on the German STG-44, the first true “assault rifle.” After several redesigns, the Red Army eventually adopted the rifle in 1949. The accepted design featured a milled receiver and could be outfitted with an underfolding stock. The Soviet government was so paranoid about keeping the rifle’s design a secret, the West never even found out about it until well into the 1950s.

Kalashnikov would further refine the AK’s design with a stamped metal receiver. This helped to significantly reduce the rifle’s weight. The Soviets dubbed this new stamped rifle the “AKM,” and it’s still the most widely available AK-pattern rifle in the world today. 

Conflicts Involving the AK-47

The AK’s trial by fire came during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. It’s shown no sign of stopping since then. You can probably find AK variants on the battlefield of any conflict worldwide. You’d have an easier time looking for conflicts that didn’t involve an AK-47 than one that did. It’s become so iconic that it even appears on the flag of Mozambique.

Notably, AK-pattern rifles have been the weapon of choice for many of the US’ enemies in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. That’s changed in Afghanistan, though, after the Taliban seized countless M4 carbines to replace their aging AK variants.

Although the Soviets largely replaced the AK-47 with the AK-74 in the late 1970s, that hasn’t stopped the former’s prevalence. You can still find AK-pattern rifles in the hands of insurgents, soldiers, and gun collectors worldwide.

AK-47 Specs

  • Caliber: 7.62×39 (although 9mm, 5.56×45, and 5.45×39 variants also exist).
  • Barrel: usually 16”, chrome-lined.
  • Action: rotating bolt long-stroke gas piston.
  • Rate of Fire: 600 rounds per minute on full auto.
  • Capacity: 30-45 round box detachable magazines.
  • Effective Range: 300 m
  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,330 fps]

Want to see SDI Affiliate Brandon Herrera break an AK with mud? Click here to check it out! 


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