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AK-47[1]
Rifle AK-47
Standard AK-47
Type Assault rifle
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1949–present
Used by See Communist forces
Production history
Designer Mikhail Kalashnikov
Designed 1944–1947
Manufacturer Izhmash
Number built approximately 75 million AK-47
100 million AK-type rifles[2][3]
Variants See Variants
Specifications
Weight 5.21 kg (Bad rounding hereScript error lb) with loaded magazine[4]
Length 870 mm (Bad rounding hereScript error in) fixed wooden stock
875 mm (Script error in) folding stock extended
645 mm (Script error in) stock folded
Barrel length 415 mm (Script error in)

Cartridge 7.62×39mm M43/M67
Action Gas-operated, rotating bolt
Rate of fire 600 rounds/min
Muzzle velocity 715 m/s (Bad rounding hereScript error ft/s)[5]
Effective range 400 metres (Script error yd) semi-automatic[6]

300 metres (Script error yd) full automatic[6]

Feed system 10, 20 , 30 , 40, 75, or 100-round detachable box and drum style magazine
Sights Adjustable iron sights, 100–800 meter adjustments, 378 mm (Script error in) sight radius

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 (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 1947 the fixed-stock version was introduced into service with select 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 true "assault rifles" to be manufactured, after the original Sturmgewehr 44.[7][8] 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.[2]

Firing the 7.62×39mm cartridge, the AK-47 produces significant wounding effects if the projectile tumbles and fragments in tissue;[9] but it produces relatively minor wounds when the projectile exits the body before beginning to yaw or does not yaw or fragment.[10][11]

HistoryEdit

Design backgroundEdit

During World War II, the Germans first pioneered the assault rifle concept. The power and range of contemporary rifle cartridges was excessive for most small arms firefights. As a result, armies sought a cartridge and rifle combining submachine gun features (large-capacity magazine, selective-fire) with an intermediate-power cartridge effective to 300 meters. To reduce recoil and manufacturing costs, the 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge case was shortened, the result of which was the lighter 7.92x33mm Kurz.

The resultant rifle was the Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44). An earlier firearm, the Italian Cei-Rigotti combined similar features but suffered poor reliability and ejection mechanism, as well as inferior magazine capacity. Towards the end of the war, the Germans fielded the StG44 against the Soviets.

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.[12] After tinkering with a submachine gun design, he entered a competition for a new weapon that would chamber the 7.62x41mm cartridge developed by Elisarov and Semin in 1943 (the 7.62x41mm cartridge predated the current 7.62x39mm 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 Aleksei Sudaev in 1944, but trials found it to be too heavy.[13] 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 Demetev and F. Bulkin. In late 1946, as the rifles were being tested, one of Kalashnikov's assistants, Aleksandr Zaytsev, 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, Zaytsev managed to persuade Kalashnikov. The new rifle was produced for a second round of firing tests and field trials. There, Kalashnikov assault rifle model 1947 proved to be simple and reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics. In 1949 it was therefore adopted by the Soviet Army as "7.62mm Kalashnikov assault rifle (AK)".[14]

Design conceptEdit

The AK-47 is best described as a hybrid of previous rifle technology innovations: the trigger, double locking lugs and unlocking raceway of the M1 Garand/M1 carbine,[15] the safety mechanism of the John Browning designed Remington Model 8 rifle,[16] and the gas system and layout of the Sturmgewehr 44. Kalashnikov's team had access to all of these weapons and had no need to "reinvent the wheel",[17][18] though he denied that his design was based on the German Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle.[19] 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."[20]

Receiver developmentEdit

AKMS and AK-47 DD-ST-85-01270

AKMS on a Type 4B receiver (top), with a Type 2A

AK-47 type II Part DM-ST-89-01131

A Type 2 AK-47, the first machined receiver variation

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.[21] Instead of halting production, a heavy machined receiver was substituted for the sheet metal receiver.[22] 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.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[23] 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.[25] 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 being exported to eastern European nations when the Soviet Union collapsed, drastically slowing production of this and other weapons of the former Soviet bloc.

Receiver type Description
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.

FeaturesEdit

Marine AK-47

United States Marine firing an AK-47

Afghan AKS-47

An Afghan National Police instructor using a Type 56, a Chinese copy of the AK-47

AK47-rear-sight

Rear sight of a Chinese Type 56

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.[26][27] 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. Reflecting Soviet infantry doctrine of its time, the rifle is meant to be part of massed infantry fire, not long range engagements. The average service life of an AK-47 is 20 to 40 years depending on the conditions of use.[8]

The notched rear tangent iron sight is adjustable, and is calibrated in hundreds of meters. The front sight is a post adjustable for elevation in the field. Windage adjustment is done by the armory before issue. The battle setting (-П-) places the round within +/-33 cm from the point of aim out to 300 m (Bad rounding hereScript error yd).[28][29] This "point-blank range" setting allows the shooter to fire the gun at any close target without adjusting the sights. The field adjustment procedure for AK-47, AKM and AK-74 family requires 4 rounds to be placed in a 15 cm group at a distance of 100 meters.[30][31] Longer settings are intended for area suppression. These settings mirror the Mosin–Nagant and SKS rifles which the AK-47 replaced. This eased transition and simplified training.

The prototype of the AK-47, the AK-46, had a separate fire selector and safety.[32] These were later combined in the production version to simplify the design. The fire selector acts as a dust cover for the charging handle raceway when placed on safe. This prevents intrusion of dust and other debris into the internal parts. The dust cover on the M16 rifle, in contrast, is not tied to the safety, and has to be manually closed. Russian army handbooks for AKM and AK-74 do not cover target engagement using the semi-automatic setting, and advise the use of short and long bursts (but still recommend short ones).[30][31]

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.

The construction of the AK magazine is very robust with reinforced feed lips that contribute to the reliable functioning for which the design is noted. 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.

Operating cycleEdit

Chinese type 56 AK47

The gas-operated mechanism of a Chinese AK-47

To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, pulls back and releases the charging handle, aims, and then pulls the trigger. In this setting, the firearm fires only once (semi-automatic), requiring the trigger to be released and depressed again for the next shot. With the selector in the middle position (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.[33]

DisassemblyEdit

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.[33]

BallisticsEdit

The standard AK-47 or AKM fires the 7.62x39mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity of 715 m/s.[5][34] Projectile weight is normally 8 g (123 grain). The AK-47 and AKM, with the 7.62×39mm cartridge, have a maximum effective range of around 400 metres (Bad rounding hereScript error ft).

VariantsEdit

Kalashnikov variants include:

AK 47

1955 AK-47 Type 3

  • AK-47 1948–51, 7.62x39mm – The very earliest models, with the Type 1 stamped sheet metal receiver, are now very rare.
  • AK-47 1952, 7.62x39mm – Has a milled receiver and wooden buttstock and handguard. Barrel and chamber are chrome plated to resist corrosion. Rifle weight is 4.2 kg (Bad rounding hereScript error 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.
  • RPK, 7.62x39mm – Hand-held machine gun version with longer barrel and bipod.
  • AKM, 7.62x39mm – A simplified, lighter version of the AK-47; Type 4 receiver is made from stamped and riveted sheet metal (see schematic above). A slanted muzzle device was added to counter climb in automatic fire. Rifle weight is 3.1 kg (Bad rounding hereScript error lb) due to the lighter receiver. This is the most ubiquitous variant of the AK-47.
  • AKMS, 7.62x39mm – Folding-stock version of the AKM intended for airborne troops. Stock may be either side- or under-folding
  • AK-74 series, 5.45x39mm
  • AK-101/AK-102 series
  • AK-103/AK-104 series
  • AAK-107/AK-108 series
  • AK-200 series
  • Saiga semi-automatic rifle]] – AK variant for hunting and civilian use. Built on AK receiver with hunting style stock and hand guard in 223/5.56, 7.62x39, 5.45x39, 308WIN
  • Saiga semi-automatic shotgun – AK variant for hunting and civilian use. Built on AK receiver with hunting style stock and hand guard in 12-Gauge, 20-Gauge, and .410-Bore.
  • KSK shotgun – A new version of AK variant military using shotgun

Usually the AKn was introduced in year 1900+n.

Production outside of the Soviet Union/RussiaEdit

Military variants only. Includes new designs substantially derived from the Kalashnikov.

Country Variant(s)
Albania
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.
Several other unnamed & unidentified versions of the AKMS have been produce mainly with short barrels similar to the Soviet AK-74 mainly for special forces, Tank & Armoured crew also for Helicopter pilots and police.
There have also been modifications and fresh production of heavily modified ASh-82 (AKMS) with SOPMOD accessories, mainly for Albania's special forces RENEA & exports.
Bangladesh Chinese Type 56
Bulgaria AKK (Type 3 AK-47), AKKS (Type 3 with 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 5.56x45mm NATO), AKS-47MA1 (same as AKS-47M1, but semi-automatic only)
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, AKT-47 (.22 rimfire training rifle)
BARR-101 (semi-automatic-only version with a 5-round magazine)
Cambodia Chinese Type 56, Soviet AK-47, and AKM
People's Republic of China Type 56
German Democratic Republic MPi-K (AK-47), MPi-KS (AKS), MPi-KM (AKM), MPi-KMS-72 (AKMS), 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[35])
Hungary AK-55 (domestic manufacture of the 2nd Model AK-47)AK-63D/E (AMM/AMMSz), AKM-63, AMD-65, AMP-69, NGM-81(AK-63 in 5.56mm NATO)
Iraq Tabuk Sniper Rifle, Tabuk Assault Rifle (with fixed or underfolding stock, outright clones of Yugoslavian M70 rifles series), Tabuk Short Assault Rifle
India Assault Rifle 7.62 mm, manufactured by Ordnance Factories Organisation[36]
Iran KLS (AKM), KLF (AKS), KLT (AKMS), KL-7.62 (Type 56)
Israel IMI Galil
Finland RK 62, RK 95 TP
Macedonia M60 assault rifle
Nigeria Produced by the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria as OBJ-006[37]
North Korea Type 58A (Type 3 AK-47), Type 58B (stamped steel folding stock), Type 68A (AKM-47) Type 68B (AKMS), Type 88 (AKS-74)[38][39]
Pakistan Reverse engineered by hand and machine in Pakistan's highland areas near the border of Afghanistan; more recently the Pakistan Ordnance Factories started the manufacture of an AK47/AKM clone called PK-10[40]
Poland pmK/kbk AK (name has changed from pmK – "pistolet maszynowy Kałasznikowa", Kalashnikov SMG to the kbk AK – "karabinek AK", Kalashnikov Carbine in mid 1960s) (AK-47), kbkg wz. 1960, kbk AKM (AKM), kbk AKMS (AKMS), kbk wz. 1988 Tantal based on the 7.62 mm kbk AKMS wz. 81, kbs wz. 1996 Beryl
Romania PM md. 63 (AKM), PM md. 65 (AKMS), PM md. 90 (AKMS), collectively exported under the umbrella name AIM or AIMS
PA md. 86 (AK-74), exported as the AIMS-74
PM md. 90 short barrel (AK-104), PA md. 86 short barrel (AK-105) exported as the AIMR
Serbia Zastava M92, Zastava M21, Zastava M70
South Africa R4 assault rifle
Sudan MAZ,[41] based on the Type 56
Vietnam Chinese Type 56, Soviet AK-47, AK-74, AK-108 and AKM
Venezuela License granted, factory under construction[42]
Yugoslavia [[M60 assault rifle, M64 assault rifle (AK-47 with longer barrel), M64A (grenade launcher), M64B (M64 w/ folding stock), M66, Zastava M70, M70A, M70B1, M70AB2, Zastava M76, Zastava M77, M-21

Certainly more have been produced elsewhere; but the above list represents known producers and is limited to only military variants. An updated AKM design is still produced in Russia.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Table data are for AK-47 with Type 2/3 receiver
  2. 2.0 2.1 Worldbank.org
  3. Script error
  4. Dockery, Kevin (2007). Future Weapons. p. 102.
  5. 5.0 5.1 [1]
  6. 6.0 6.1 Bidwell, Shelford. The Encyclopedia of land warfare in the 20th century, p. 199. Spring Books, 1977.
  7. Poyer, Joe. The AK-47 and AK-74 Kalashnikov Rifles and Their Variations. North Cape Publications. 2004.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Script error
  9. Bellamy RF, Zajtchuk R. The physics and biophysics of wound ballistics. In: Zajtchuk R, ed. Textbook of Military Medicine, Part I: Warfare, Weaponry, and the Casualty, Vol. 5, Conventional Warfare: Ballistic, Blast, and Burn Injuries. Washington, DC: Office of the Surgeon General, Department of the Army, United States of America (1990) pp. 146–155
  10. Roberts GK, (21 May 2008) DTIC.mil "U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition Failures and Solutions" NDIA Dallas, Texas
  11. "Wounding Effects of the AK-47 Rifle Used by Patrick Purdy in the Stockton, California, Schoolyard Shooting of 17 January 1989", Fackler, Martin L. M.D.; Malinowski, John A. B.S.; Hoxie, Stephen W. B.S.; Jason, Alexander B.A., American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, September 1990
  12. Script error
  13. Bolotin, D.N, "Russian/Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition", pp 68.
  14. Bolotin, pp 69–71.
  15. Script error
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  20. Bolotin, pp 64.
  21. Poyer, 8
  22. 22.0 22.1 Poyer, 9
  23. 23.0 23.1 Ezell, 36
  24. Poyer, 11
  25. Poyer, 2
  26. Script error
  27. Script error
  28. http://www.scribd.com/doc/35165946/Ak-47-Technical-Manual
  29. http://books.google.com/books?id=qK9Nn-2xocUC&pg=PA42#v=onepage&q&f=false
  30. 30.0 30.1 Script error
  31. 31.0 31.1 Script error
  32. Script error
  33. 33.0 33.1 Department of the Army. Operators Manual for AK-47 Assault Rifle. 203d Military Intelligence Battalion
  34. [2]
  35. Advertisement flyer for manufacturing capabilities of the GAEC – Gafat Armament Engineering Complex. Retrieved on 8 October 2010.
  36. "Assault Rifle 7,62mm". Indian Ordnance Factory Board
  37. "Nigeria to mass-produce Nigerian version of AK-47 rifles." Retrieved on 5 October 2008.
  38. US Department of Defense, North Korea Country Handbook 1997, Appendix A: Equipment Recognition, PPSH 1943 SUBMACHINEGUN (TYPE-50 CHINA/MODEL-49 DPRK), p. A-79.
  39. US Department of Defense, North Korea Country Handbook 1997, Appendix A: Equipment Recognition, TYPE-68 (AKM) ASSAULT RIFLE, p. A-77.
  40. Russia confronts Pakistan, China over copied weapons. Retrieved on 16 October 2010.
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External linksEdit

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