SOS Children offer a complete download of this selection for schools for use on schools intranets. Before you decide about sponsoring a child, why not learn about different sponsorship charities first?
A Type 2 AK-47, the first machined receiver variation
|Place of origin||Soviet Union|
|Used by||See Users|
|Number built||approximately 75 million AK-47s,
100 million Kalashnikov-family weapons
3.47 kg (7.7 lb) AK
2.93 kg (6.5 lb) AKM
0.43 kg (0.95 lb) (early issue)
0.33 kg (0.73 lb) (steel)
0.25 kg (0.55 lb) (plastic)
0.17 kg (0.37 lb) (light alloy)
16.3 g × 30 = 0.49 kg (1.1 lb)
|Length||880 mm (35 in) fixed wooden stock
875 mm (34.4 in) folding stock extended
645 mm (25.4 in) stock folded
|Barrel length||369 mm (14.5 in) rifled
415 mm (16.3 in) total
|Action||Gas-operated, rotating bolt|
|Rate of fire||Cyclic 600 rounds/min, practical
40 rounds/min semi-automatic
100 rounds/min fully automatic
|Muzzle velocity||715 m/s (2,350 ft/s)|
|Effective range||400 metres (440 yd) semi-auto
300 metres (330 yd) full auto
|Feed system||Standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds; there are also 10-, 20- and 40-round box and 75- and 100-round drum magazines|
|Sights||Adjustable iron sights with a 378 mm (14.9 in) sight radius:
100–800 m adjustments (AK)
100–1000 m adjustments (AKM)
The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the USSR by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova (Russian: Автомат Калашникова). It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an AK or in Russian slang, Kalash.
Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year of World War II (1945). After the war in 1946, the AK-46 was presented for official military trials. In 1948 the fixed-stock version was introduced into active service with selected units of the Soviet Army. An early development of the design was the AKS (S—Skladnoy or "folding"), which was equipped with an underfolding metal shoulder stock. In 1949, the AK-47 was officially accepted by the Soviet Armed Forces and used by the majority of the member states of the Warsaw Pact.
The original AK-47 was one of the first assault rifles of 2nd generation, after the German StG 44. Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most widely used and popular assault rifles in the world because of their durability, low production cost, and ease of use. It has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces worldwide. The AK-47 was the basis for developing many other types of individual and crew-served firearms. More AK-type rifles have been produced than all other assault rifles combined.
The first assault rifle to see service was created in 1915 by Vladimir Fyodorov, following the experience gathered in the Russo-Japanese War. Several countries had already developed and adopted low-power rifle cartridges since 1890s (such as 6.5×52mm Mannlicher-Carcano) as their standard infantry ammunition. The Russo-Japanese war, however, had demonstrated the regular rifles' lack of suppressive firepower, in addition to the excessive range of their ammunition. The latter was also confirmed in World War I. The Fyodorov's assault rifle went out of production after the Soviet armed forces decided to standardize its infantry weaponry around only the most popular types of cartridges following the Russian Civil War. The Soviet Union had returned to the development of an assault rifle in 1942 when the need for an intermediate-powered rifle became clearly evident. By that time submachine guns were already in widespread use but they could not replace service rifles because of limited power of pistol cartridges. Like the Germans, the Soviets designed an intermediate cartridge that could be made on existing production lines (despite Vladimir Fyodorov's insistence on a special small-calibre cartridge). The work on the weapons for the new ammunition commenced in 1943, with the AK-47 of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the SKS-45 of Sergei Simonov and the RPD of Vasily Degtyaryov emerging as the victors.
Mikhail Kalashnikov began his career as a weapon designer while in a hospital after he was shot in the shoulder during the Battle of Bryansk. After tinkering with a submachine gun design, he entered a competition for a new weapon that would chamber the 7.62×41mm cartridge developed by Yelizarov and Syomin in 1943 (the 7.62×41mm cartridge predated the current 7.62×39mm M1943). A particular requirement of the competition was the reliability of the firearm in the muddy, wet, and frozen conditions of the Soviet front line. Kalashnikov designed a carbine, strongly influenced by the American M1 Garand, that lost out to the Simonov design (scaled down PTRS-41), that later became the SKS semi-automatic carbine. 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, but trials found it 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 a breech-block mechanism similar to his 1944 carbine, and a curved 30-round magazine.
Kalashnikov's rifles (codenamed AK-1 and −2) proved to be reliable and the weapon was accepted to second round of competition along with designs by A. A. Dementyev and A. A. Bulkin. In late 1946, as the rifles were being tested, one of Kalashnikov's assistants, Aleksandr Zaitsev, 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. Eventually, however, Zaitsev managed to persuade Kalashnikov. The new rifle proved to be simple and reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics. Production of the first trial series began in the early 1948, and in 1949 it was adopted by the Soviet Army as "7.62 mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK)".
The AK-47 is best described as a hybrid of previous rifle technology innovations: the trigger mechanism, double locking lugs and unlocking raceway of the M1 Garand/ M1 carbine, the safety mechanism of the John Browning designed Remington Model 8 rifle, and the gas system of the Sturmgewehr 44. Kalashnikov's team had access to all of these weapons and had no need to "reinvent the wheel", though he denied that his design was based on the German Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle. Kalashnikov himself observed: "A lot of Russian 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." There are claims about Kalashnikov copying other designs, like Bulkin's TKB-415 or Simonov's AVS-31.
There were many difficulties during the initial phase of production. The first production models had stamped sheet metal receivers. Difficulties were encountered in welding the guide and ejector rails, causing high rejection rates. Instead of halting production, a heavy machined receiver was substituted for the sheet metal receiver. This was a more costly process, but the use of machined receivers accelerated production as tooling and labor for the earlier Mosin–Nagant rifle's machined receiver were easily adapted. Partly because of these problems, the Soviets were not able to distribute large numbers of the new rifle to soldiers until 1956. During this time, production of the interim SKS rifle continued.
Once manufacturing difficulties had been overcome, a redesigned version designated the AKM (M for "modernized" or "upgraded" (in Russian: Автомат Калашникова Модернизированный [Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernizirovanniy]) was introduced in 1959. This new model used a stamped sheet metal receiver and featured a slanted muzzle brake on the end of the barrel to compensate for muzzle rise under recoil. In addition, a hammer retarder was added to prevent the weapon from firing out of battery (without the bolt being fully closed), during rapid or automatic fire. This is also sometimes referred to as a "cyclic rate reducer", or simply "rate reducer", as it also has the effect of reducing the number of rounds fired per minute during automatic fire. It was also roughly one-third lighter than the previous model. Both licensed and unlicensed production of the Kalashnikov weapons abroad were almost exclusively of the AKM variant, partially due to the much easier production of the stamped receiver. This model is the most commonly encountered, having been produced in much greater quantities. All rifles based on the Kalashnikov design are frequently referred to as AK-47s in the West, although this is only correct when applied to rifles based on the original three receiver types. In most former Eastern Bloc countries, the weapon is known simply as the "Kalashnikov" or "AK". The photo above at right illustrates the differences between the Type 2 milled receiver and the Type 4 stamped, including the use of rivets rather than welds on the stamped receiver, as well as the placement of a small dimple above the magazine well for stabilization of the magazine.
In 1974, the Soviets began replacing their AK-47 and AKM rifles with a newer design, the AK-74. This new rifle and cartridge had only started to be manufactured in Eastern European nations when the Soviet Union collapsed, drastically slowing production of this and other weapons of the former Soviet bloc.
|Type 1A/B||Original stamped receiver for AK-47. -1B modified for underfolding stock. A large hole is present on each side to accommodate the hardware for the underfolding stock.
(this naming convention continues with all types)
|Type 2A/B||Milled from steel forging.|
|Type 3A/B||"Final" version of the milled receiver, from steel bar stock. The most ubiquitous example of the milled-receiver AK-47.|
|Type 4A/B||Stamped AKM receiver. Overall, the most-used design in the construction of the AK-series rifles.|
The main advantages of the Kalashnikov rifle are its simple design, fairly compact size, and adaptation to mass production. It is inexpensive to manufacture and easy to clean and maintain. Its ruggedness and reliability are legendary. The AK-47 was initially designed for ease of operation and repair by glove-wearing Soviet soldiers in Arctic conditions. The large gas piston, generous clearances between moving parts, and tapered cartridge case design allow the gun to endure large amounts of foreign matter and fouling without failing to cycle. This reliability comes at the cost of accuracy, as the looser tolerances do not allow for precision and consistency.
The bore and chamber, as well as the gas piston and the interior of the gas cylinder, are generally chromium-plated. This plating dramatically increases the life of these parts by resisting corrosion and wear. This is particularly important, as most military-production ammunition (and virtually all ammunition produced by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact nations) during the 20th century contained potassium chlorate in the primers. On firing, this was converted to corrosive and hygroscopic potassium chloride which mandated frequent and thorough cleaning in order to prevent damage. Chrome plating of critical parts is now common on many modern military weapons.
Aside from USSR the AK-47 and its variants were/are made in dozens of countries, with “quality ranging from finely engineered weapons to pieces of questionable workmanship.” For example, an Arsenal-made AK has a system life of 15,000 rounds.
To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, pulls back and releases the charging handle, and then pulls the trigger. In semi-automatic, the firearm fires only once, requiring the trigger to be released and depressed again for the next shot. In full-automatic, the rifle continues to fire automatically cycling fresh rounds into the chamber, until the magazine is exhausted or pressure is released from the trigger. As each bullet travels through the barrel, a portion of the gases expanding behind it is diverted into the gas tube above the barrel, where it impacts the gas piston. The piston, in turn, is driven backward, pushing the bolt carrier, which causes the bolt to move backwards, ejecting the spent round, and chambering a new round when the recoil spring pushes it forward.
The gas operation uses what is known as a long-stroke, that is the piston moves back into the receiver a long way, pushing the bolt carrier along. This contrasts most other gas operated rifles of the 20th century which used a short-stroke piston. Those designs have a piston that gives a single sharp blow to get the bolt group moving through transfer of momentum rather than pushing it all the way back. Rifles using that system are the commonly used FN FAL and AR-18, along with the derivatives of the latter such as the SA-80. The comparison is of importance because the FAL, and later the M16 have been the rifles which faced the Kalashnikov in battle throughout the 2nd half of the 20th century. In contrast to the AK, the gas system of the M16 does not use a piston at all.
The prototype of the AK-47, the AK-46, had a separate fire selector and safety. These were later combined in the production version to simplify the design. The fire selector is a large lever located on the right side of the rifle, it acts as a dust-cover and prevents the charging handle from being pulled fully to the rear when it is on safe. It is operated by the shooter's right fore-fingers and it has 3 settings: up = safe, center = full-auto and down = semi-auto. The reason for this is, under stress a soldier will push the selector lever down with considerable force bypassing the full-auto stage and setting the rifle to semi-auto. To set the AK-47 to full-auto requires the deliberate action of centering the selector lever. Some AK-type rifles also have a small vertical selector lever on the left side of the receiver just above the pistol grip. This lever is operated by the shooter's right thumb and has three settings: forward = safe, centre = full-auto and backward = semi-auto.
The AK-47 has a 378 mm (14.9 in) sight radius. The AK-47 uses a notched rear tangent iron sight, it is adjustable and is calibrated in hundreds from 100 to 800 metres (100 to 1000 metres for AKM models). The front sight is a post adjustable for elevation in the field. Horizontal adjustment is done by the armory before issue. The "fixed" battle setting can be used for all ranges up to 300 metres. This " point-blank range" setting marked "П", allows the shooter to fire at close range targets without adjusting the sights. These settings mirror the Mosin–Nagant and SKS rifles which the AK-47 replaced. Some AK-type rifles have a front sight with a flip-up luminous dot that is calibrated at 50 metres, for improved night fighting. All current AK-47s (100 series), have a side rail for mounting a variety of scopes and sighting devices, such as the PSO-1 Optical Sniper Sight. However, their side folding stocks cannot be folded with the optics mounted.
The standard AK-47 or AKM fires the 7.62×39mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity of 715 m/s. The cartridge weight is 16.3 g (0.6 oz). The projectile weight is 7.9 g (122 gr). The cartridge produces significant wounding effects if the projectile tumbles in tissue; but it produces relatively minor wounds when the projectile exits the body before beginning to yaw.
The AK-47's accuracy has always been considered to be "good enough." The milled AK-47s are capable of shooting 3–5 inch groups at 100 yards, whereas the stamped AKM's are capable of shooting 4–6 inch groups at 100 yards. "There are advantages and disadvantages in both forged/milled receivers and stamped receivers. Milled/Forged Receivers are much more rigid, flexing less as the rifle is fired thus not hindering accuracy as much as stamped receivers. Stamped receivers on the other hand are a bit more rugged since it has some give in it and have less chances of having metal fatigue under heavy usage." As a result, the newer stamped steel receiver AKM models are actually less accurate than their predecessors. The AKM, with the 7.62×39mm cartridge, has a battle range of around 350 metres (1,150 ft). The best shooters are able to hit a man-sized target at 800 metres with 5 shots (firing from prone position or a trench) or 10 shots (standing).
A major but often overlooked factor in a firearm's reliability is the design of its magazine. The AK-47’s magazine has a pronounced curve which allows it to smoothly feed ammunition into the chamber. Its heavy steel construction combined with "feed-lips" (the surfaces at the top of the magazine that control the angle at which the cartridge enters the chamber) machined from a single steel billet makes it highly resistant to damage. This makes the AK-47 magazine more reliable, although heavier than U.S. and NATO magazines.
The steel AK-47 magazine weights 334 g (0.74 lb) empty. There were also 164 g (0.36 lb) aluminium alloy magazines which appeared in 1961. They were too sensitive to damage and were soon replaced by plastic ones (20 g (0.71 oz) heavier). The plastic magazines were modernized in 1967 by the addition of steel magazine hooks and reinforcing plates to the feed lips - these improvements have increased the (plastic) magazine's life expectancy by 4 times. The current-issue plastic magazine weights .25 kg (0.55 lb) empty.
Most Yugoslavian and some East German AK magazines were made with cartridge followers that hold the bolt open when empty; however, most AK magazine followers allow the bolt to close when the magazine is empty.
The AK-47 magazines are interchangeable with the 40-round box and 75-round drum RPK magazines. There are also 10- and 20-round box and 100-round drum magazines.
All current model AK-47 rifles can mount under-barrel 40 mm grenade launchers such as the GP-25, GP-30 & GP-34, which can fire up to 20 rounds per minute and have an effective range of up to 400 metres. The main grenade is the VOG-25 fragmentation grenade which has a 6 metres lethality radius. The VOG-25P ("jumping") variant explodes 0.5–1 metre (1.6–3.3 ft) above the ground.
The Zastava M70s (AKM-type rifle) also have a grenade-launching sight and gas cut-off on the gas block, and are capable of launching rifle grenades. To launch them a 22 mm diameter grenade launching adapter is screwed on in place of the slant brake or other muzzle device. Other AK-47 variants tuned for launching rifle grenades are the Polish Kbkg wz. 1960/72 and the Hungarian AMP-69.
The AK-47 can also mount a (rarely used) cup-type grenade launcher that fires standard RGD-5 Soviet hand-grenades. The soup-can shaped launcher is screwed onto to AK-47’s muzzle. To fire first, insert a standard RGD-5 hand-grenade into the launcher and then remove the safety pin. Second, insert a special blank cartridge into the rifles chamber. Third, place the butt-stock of the rifle on the ground and fire from this position. The maximum effective range is approximately 150 metres. The RGD-5 hand-grenade has a lethality radius of 25 metres.
Dismantling the rifle involves the operator depressing the magazine catch and removing the magazine. The charging handle is pulled to the rear and the operator inspects the chamber to verify the weapon is unloaded. The operator presses forward on the retainer button at the rear of the receiver cover while simultaneously lifting up on the rear of the cover to remove it. The operator then pushes the spring assembly forward and lifts it from its raceway, withdrawing it out of the bolt carrier and to the rear. The operator must then pull the carrier assembly all the way to the rear, lift it, and then pull it away. The operator removes the bolt by pushing it to the rear of the bolt carrier; rotating the bolt so the camming lug clears the raceway on the underside of the bolt carrier and then pulls it forward and free. When cleaning, the operator will pay special attention to the barrel, bolt face, and gas piston, then oil lightly and reassemble.
Early variants (7.62×39mm)
- Issue of 1949 – The very earliest models, with the Type 1 stamped sheet metal receiver, are now very rare.
- Issue of 1951 – Has a milled receiver. Barrel and chamber are chrome plated to resist corrosion.
- Issue of 1954 (1955) – Lightened milled receiver variant. Rifle weight is 3.47 kg (7.7 lb).
- AKS – Featured a downward-folding metal stock similar to that of the German MP40, for use in the restricted space in the BMP infantry combat vehicle, as well as by paratroops.
- AKN (AKSN) – Night scope rail.
- AKM – A simplified, lighter version of the AK-47; Type 4 receiver is made from stamped and riveted sheet metal. A slanted muzzle device was added to counter climb in automatic fire. Rifle weight is 2.93 kg (6.5 lb) due to the lighter receiver. This is the most ubiquitous variant of the AK-47.
- AKMS – Under-folding stock version of the AKM intended for airborne troops.
- AKMN (AKMSN) – Night scope rail.
- AKML (AKMSL) – Slotted flash suppressor and night scope rail.
- RPK – Hand-held machine gun version with longer barrel and bipod. The variants – PRKS, RPKN (RPKSN), RPKL (RPKSL) – mirror AKM variants. The "S" variants have a side-folding wooden stock.
Low-impulse variants ( 5.45×39mm)
- AK-74 – Assault rifle.
- AKS-74 – Side-folding stock.
- AK-74N (AKS-74N) – Night scope rail.
- AKS-74U – Compact carbine.
- AKS-74UN – Night scope rail.
- RPK-74 – Light machine gun.
- RPKS-74 – Side-folding stock.
- RPK-74N (RPKS-74N) – Night scope rail.
The 100 Series
5.45×39mm / 5.56×45mm / 7.62×39mm
- AK-74M/ AK-101/ AK-103 – Modernized AK-74. Scope rail and side-folding stock.
- AK-107/ AK-108 – Balanced recoil models.
- AK-105/ AK-102/ AK-104 – Carbine.
- PRK-74M / RPK-201 / RPKM and RPK-203 – Light machine gun.
- Saiga-12 – 12-gauge shotgun. Built on AK receiver.
- Saiga-12S – Pistol grip and side-folding stock.
- Saiga-12K – Shorter barrel.
- Saiga-20 (S/K) – 20-gauge.
- Saiga-12S – Pistol grip and side-folding stock.
- Saiga-410 (S/K) – .410 bore.
- KSK shotgun – 12-gauge combat shotgun (based on Saiga-12).
- Vepr-12 Molot – 12-gauge combat shotgun. Built on RPK receiver.
- PP-19 Bizon – Submachine gun with helical magazine. Borrows 60% of details from AKS-74U. 9×18mm PM, 9×19mm Luger, .380 ACP; 7.62×25mm TT (box magazine).
- PP-19-01 Vityaz – Submachine gun. 9×19mm Parabellum.
- OTs-14 Groza – Bullpup assault rifle. 9×39mm, 7.62×39mm.
- AK-12 – A family of weapons in a variety of calibers. Currently undergoing trials.
Production outside of the Soviet Union/Russia
Military variants only. Includes new designs substantially derived from the Kalashnikov.
Automatiku Shqiptar model 56 (ASH-78 Tip-1) Albanian Automatic Assault Rifle Model 56 Type-1 [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Straight forward copy of Type 56, which in turn is a clone of the Soviet AKM rifle)
Automatiku Shqiptar Tipi 1982 (ASH-82) Albanian Automatic Assault Rifle Type 1982 [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Straight forward copy of AKMS)
Automatiku Shqiptar model 56 (ASH-78 Tip-2) Albanian Light Machine Gun [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Straight forward copy of RPK)
Automatiku Shqiptar model 56 (ASH-78 Tip-3) Albanian Automatic Hybrid Rifle Model 56 Type-3 [Made in Poliçan Arsenal] (Hybrid rifle for multi-purpose roles mainly Marksman rifle with secondary assault rifle and grenade launcher capability)
Other unknown variants.
|Armenia||K-3 (bullpup, 5.45×39mm)|
|Bangladesh||Chinese Type 56|
AKK/AKKS (Type 3 AK-47/w. side-folding buttstock)
AKKMS (AKMS), AKKN-47 (fittings for NPSU night sights)
AK-47M1 (Type 3 with black polymer furniture)
AK-47MA1/AR-M1 (same as -M1, but in 5.56 mm NATO)
AKS-47M1 (AKMS in 5.56×45mm NATO)
AKS-47S (AK-47M1, short version, with East German folding stock, laser aiming device)
AKS-47UF (short version of -M1, Russian folding stock), AR-SF (same as −47UF, but 5.56 mm NATO)
AKS-93SM6 (similar to −47M1, cannot use grenade launcher)
RKKS (RPK), AKT-47 (.22 rimfire training rifle)
|Cambodia||Chinese Type 56, Soviet AK-47, and AKM|
|People's Republic of China||Type 56|
MPi-KM (AKM; wooden and plastic stock), MPi-KMS-72 (side-folding stock), MPi-KMS-K (carbine)
MPi-AK-74N (AK-74), MPi-AKS-74N (side-folding stock), MPi-AKS-74NK (carbine)
KK-MPi Mod.69 ( .22 LR select-fire trainer)
|Egypt||AK-47, Misr assault rifle (AKM), Maadi|
|Ethiopia||AK-47, AK-103 (manufactured locally at the State-run Gafat Armament Engineering Complex as the Et-97/1)|
Rk 62, Valmet M76 (other names Rk 62 76, M62/76), Valmet M78 (light machine gun), Rk 95 Tp
AK-55 (domestic manufacture of the 2nd Model AK-47)
AKM-63 (US gun importers created "AMD-63", AKM-63; modernized AK-55), AMD-65 (modernized AKM-63, shorter barrel and side-folding stock), AMP-69 (rifle grenade launcher)
AK-63F/D (other name AMM/AMMSz), AK-63MF (modernized)
NGM-81 ( 5.56×45mm NATO; fixed and under-folding stock)
INSAS (fixed and side-folding stock), KALANTAK (carbine), INSAS light machine gun (fixed and side-folding stock)
Trichy Assault Rifle 7.62 mm, manufactured by Ordnance Factory Tiruchirappalli of Ordnance Factories Board
|Iran||KLS/KLF (AK-47/AKS), KLT (AKMS)|
|Iraq||Tabuk Sniper Rifle, Tabuk Assault Rifle (with fixed or underfolding stock, outright clones of Yugoslavian M70 rifles series), Tabuk Short Assault Rifle|
IMI Galil: AR (assault/battle rifle), ARM (assault rifle/light machine gun), SAR (carbine), MAR (compact carbine), Sniper (sniper rifle), SR-99 (sniper rifle)
|Italy||Bernardelli VB-STD/VB-SR (Galil AR/SAR)|
|Nigeria||Produced by the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria as OBJ-006|
|North Korea||Type 58A/B (Type 3 AK-47/w. stamped steel folding stock), Type 68A/B (AKM/AKMS), Type 88 (AKS-74)|
|Pakistan||Reverse engineered by hand and machine in Pakistan's highland areas (see Khyber Pass Copy) near the border of Afghanistan; more recently the Pakistan Ordnance Factories started the manufacture of an AK-47/AKM clone called PK-10|
pmK (kbk AK) / pmKS (kbk AKS) (name has changed from pmK – "pistolet maszynowy Kałasznikowa", Kalashnikov SMG to the kbk AK – "karabinek AK", Kalashnikov Carbine in mid-1960s) (AK-47/AKS)
kbkg wz. 1960 (rifle grenade launcher), kbkg wz. 1960/72 (modernized)
kbk AKM / kbk AKMS (AKM/AKMS)
kbk wz. 1988 Tantal ( 5.45×39mm), skbk wz. 1989 Onyks (compact carbine)
kbs wz. 1996 Beryl ( 5.56×45mm), kbk wz. 1996 Mini-Beryl (compact carbine)
PM md. 63/65 (AKM/AKMS), PM md. 80, PM md. 90, collectively exported under the umbrella name AIM or AIMS
PA md. 86 (AK-74), exported as the AIMS-74
PM md. 90 short barrel, PA md. 86 short barrel, exported as the AIMR
PSL (designated marksman rifle; other names PSL-54C, Romak III, FPK and SSG-97)
|South Africa||R4 assault rifle, Truvelo Raptor, Vektor CR-21 (bullpup)|
|Sudan||MAZ (based on the Type 56)|
|Ukraine||Vepr (bullpup, 5.45×39mm), Malyuk (bullpup)|
|Vietnam||Chinese Type 56, Soviet AK-47, AK-74, AK-108 and AKM|
|Venezuela||License granted, factory under construction|
|Yugoslavia/Serbia||M60, M64, M70, M76, M77, M92, M21|
Certainly more have been produced elsewhere; but the above list represents known producers and is limited to only military variants. An updated AK-47 design – the AK-103 – is still produced in Russia.
The basic design of the AK-47 has been used as the basis for other successful rifle designs such as the Finnish Rk 62/76 and Rk 95 Tp, the Israeli Galil, the Indian INSAS and the Yugoslav Zastava M76 and M77/82 rifles. Several bullpup designs have surfaced such as the Chinese Norinco Type 86S, although none have been produced in quantity. Bullpup conversions are also available commercially.
OJSC IzhMash has repeatedly claimed that the majority of manufacturers produce AK-47s without a proper license from IZH. The Izhevsk Machine Tool Factory acquired a patent in 1999, making manufacture of the newest Kalashnikov rifles, such as AK-100s by anyone other than themselves illegal in countries where a patent is granted. However, older variants, such as AK and AKM are public domain due to age of design.
Throughout the world, the AK and its variants are among the most commonly smuggled small arms sold to governments, rebels, criminals, and civilians alike, with little international oversight. In some countries, prices for AKs are very low; in Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Congo and Tanzania prices are between $30 and $125 per weapon, and prices have fallen in the last few decades due to mass counterfeiting. Moisés Naím observed that in a small town in Kenya in 1986, an AK-47 cost fifteen cows but that in 2005, the price was down to four cows indicating that supply was "immense". The weapon has appeared in a number of conflicts including clashes in the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
The Taliban and the Northern Alliance fought each other with Soviet AKs; some of these were exported to Pakistan. The gun is now also made in Pakistan's semi-autonomous areas (see Khyber Pass Copy). "'The Distribution of Iranian Ammunition in Africa', by the private British arms-tracking group Conflict Armament Research (CAR), shows how Iran broke trade embargos and infiltrated African markets with massive amounts of illegal, unmarked 7.62 mm rounds for the Kalishnakov-style AK-47 rifles."
Estimated numbers of AK-type weapons vary. The Small Arms Survey suggest that "between 70 and 100 million of these weapons have been produced since 1947." The World Bank estimates that out of the 500 million total firearms available worldwide, 100 million are of the Kalashnikov family, and 75 million are AK-47s. Because AK-type weapons have been made in other countries, often illicitly, it is impossible to know how many really exist.
Russia/Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China, as well as Western countries (especially the United States) supplied arms and technical knowledge to numerous countries and rebel forces in a global struggle between the Warsaw Pact nations and their allies against NATO and their allies called the Cold War. While the NATO countries used rifles such as the relatively expensive M14, HK G3 and M16 assault rifle during this time, the low production and materials costs of the AK-47 meant that the Russia/USSR could produce and supply its allies at a very low cost. Because of its low cost, it was also duplicated or used as the basis for many other rifles (see List of weapons influenced by the Kalashnikov design), such as the Israeli Galil, Chinese Type 56, and Swiss SIG SG 550. As a result, the Cold War saw the mass export of AK-47s by the Soviet Union and the PRC to their allies, such as the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, Viet Cong as well as Middle Eastern, Asian, and African revolutionaries. The United States also purchased the Type 56 from the PRC to give to the mujahideen guerrillas during the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
The proliferation of this weapon is reflected by more than just numbers. The AK-47 is included in the flag of Mozambique and its emblem, an acknowledgment that the country's leaders gained power in large part through the effective use of their AK-47s. It is also found in the coats of arms of Zimbabwe and East Timor, the revolution era coat of arms of Burkina Faso and the flag of Hezbollah.
In parts of the Western world, the AK-47 is associated with their enemies; both Cold War era and present-day. During the 1980s, the Soviet Union became the principal arms dealer to countries embargoed by Western nations, including Middle Eastern nations such as Syria, Libya and Iran, who welcomed Soviet Union backing against Israel. After the fall of the Soviet Union, AK-47s were sold both openly and on the black market to any group with cash, including drug cartels and dictatorial states, and more recently they have been seen in the hands of Islamic groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq, and FARC, Ejército de Liberación Nacional guerrillas in Colombia. Western movies often portray criminals, gang members and terrorists using AK-47s. For these reasons, in the U.S. and Western Europe the AK-47 is stereotypically regarded as the weapon of choice of insurgents, gangsters and terrorists. Conversely, throughout the developing world, the AK-47 can be positively attributed with revolutionaries or freedom fighters against foreign occupation, imperialism, or colonialism.
In Mexico, the AK-47 is known as "Cuerno de Chivo" (literally "Ram's Horn") and is one of the weapons of choice of Mexican drug cartels. It is sometimes mentioned in Mexican folk music lyrics.
In 2006, Colombian musician and peace activist César López devised the escopetarra, an AK converted into a guitar. One sold for US$17,000 in a fundraiser held to benefit the victims of anti-personnel mines, while another was exhibited at the United Nations' Conference on Disarmament.
The AK-47 made an appearance in U.S. popular culture as a recurring focus in the Nicolas Cage film Lord of War. There are numerous monologues in the movie focusing on the weapon and its effects on global conflict and the gun running market, such as:
"Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It's the world's most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn't break, jam, or overheat. It'll shoot whether it's covered in mud or filled with sand. It's so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people's greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars."
The Kalashnikov Museum (also called the AK-47 museum) opened on 4 November 2004, in Izhevsk, Udmurt Republic. This city is in the Ural Region of Russia. The museum chronicles the biography of General Kalashnikov, as well as documents the invention of the AK-47. The museum complex of small arms of M. T. Kalashnikov, a series of halls and multimedia exhibitions is devoted to the evolution of the AK-47 assault rifle and attracts 10,000 monthly visitors.
Nadezhda Vechtomova, the museum director stated in an interview that the purpose of the museum is to honour the ingenuity of the inventor and the hard work of the employees and to "separate the weapon as a weapon of murder from the people who are producing it and to tell its history in our country."
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- People's Republic of China: Type 56 variant was used.
- Republic of the Congo
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Finland: Rk 62, Rk 95 Tp.
- Georgia: Replaced by the M4 carbine in 2008.
- East Germany
- Greece: EKAM counter-terrorist unit of the Hellenic Police.
- Equatorial Guinea
- India: Used by Force One.
- Israel: Captured from Arab armies over the course of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
- North Korea: Type 56 and Type 58 variants were used.
- Iraqi Kurdistan
- Malta: Type 56 variant.
- Pakistan: Type 56 and AK-103 used.
- Philippines: Used by the Santiago City PNP.
- Russia: Replaced by the AK-74M since 1980.
- Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
- Sao Tome and Principe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa: Used by South African Special Forces Brigade.
- Soviet Union: Adopted in 1949.
- Sri Lanka: Type 56 variant.
- South Sudan
- Vietnam: Type 56 variant was used extensively by the Viet Cong.