The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known in the Soviet documentation as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as Kalashnikov, 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-47 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.
Even after six decades the model and its variants remain the most popular and widely used assault rifles in the world because of their substantial reliability even under harsh conditions, low production costs compared to contemporary Western weapons, availability in virtually every geographic region and ease of use. The AK-47 has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forces worldwide, and 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.[i]
The reliable measure of stability in many countries is the value of the currency or the price of equities, bread or fuel — but not in Afghanistan: here the key indicator that nearly every Afghan keeps tabs on is the price of a Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. And the bad news is that the market is bullish. The stepped-up Taliban offensive and mounting discord over the outcome of last month’s election have seen the price of a Chinese-made AK smuggled in from Pakistan rise to $400 from $150 in just three months. “People are arming themselves,” a Western official in Kabul noted with alarm.[ii]
At the end of 2012, the reported price of an AK-47 on the black market in Afghanistan was $1,500. Three years prior, the reported price was between $600 to $700 in the country. The price for grenade launchers, pistols and PK machine guns have also risen in 2012. The rise in prices for weapons is caused by increased demand for firearms in anticipation of international forces leaving Afghanistan. [iii]
Fail-safe, simple to use and cheap to produce – the world’s most popular weapon, AK-47, will long remain a monument to its late ‘father,’ Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died in Russia on Monday (23 Dec 2013) at aged 94.
- Mikhail Kalashnikov, who was a tank commander during World War II, began his career as a weapons designer after a shoulder injury during the Battle of Bryansk. While in hospital in 1942, he overheard wounded soldiers complaining about Soviet rifles and decided to change that.
- The first Kalashnikov rifle was produced in 1947, bringing its creator the Stalin Prize and the Order of the Red Star. The AK-47 has been the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet and then Russian army since 1949.
- Durability, low production cost, availability and ease of use are the features, which assured AK-47 global success. Kalashnikov’s creation performs in sandy or wet conditions that jam more sophisticated weapons. The designer called it a“symbol of the creative genius”of the Russian people.
- The AK-47 has made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the most widely spread weapon in the world, with 100 million Kalashnikov rifles currently in use.
- Military and special forces in 106 countries around the globe from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe are now armed with AK-47s.
- Russia not only distributes the Kalashnikov rifles all over the world, but also licensed its production in over 30 other countries, including China, Israel, India, Egypt and Nigeria.
- It is believed that AK-47s have caused more deaths than artillery fire, airstrikes and rocket attacks combined. An estimated quarter of a million people are gunned down by bullets from Kalashnikovs every year.
- But Mikhail Kalashnikov himself never experienced self-reproach about the blood spilled with the help of his invention as he created AK-47 for protection. “I sleep well. It’s the politicians, who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,”he said in 2007.
- Relative cheapness has always been one of the most important advantages of AK-47. The average global price of the assault rifle was estimated at $534 in 2005, according to Oxford University economist Phillip Killicoat. Though in African countries the price of AK-47 is on average $200 cheaper.
- Osama bin Laden always had a Kalashnikov rifle with him during his video appearances. According to some reports, it was the US, which gave the Al Qaeda founder his first AK-47 to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.
- During the Vietnam War, many American soldiers gave up their M16s for the more reliable Kalashnikov rifles, which they picked up from dead enemies. Even now, the US marines carry AK-47 magazines with them because of how common the weapon is.
- The image of AK-47 appears on the flag of Mozambique as well as coats of arms of Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso (1984-97) and East Timor. The Kalashnikov rifle is also present on the flag of Lebanese militant organization, Hezbollah.
- The parents in some African states name their babies ‘Kalash,’ which is another nickname for the Kalashnikov assault rifle, according to a documentary by Russia’s Channel One.
- Russia’s top basketball player, Andrey Kirilenko, born in the city of Izhevsk, which hosts the Kalashnikov rifle factory, has played under No.47 in the NBA and was nicknamed ‘AK-47.’
- Egypt has immortalized the AK-47 by erecting a giant monument, portraying a barrel and bayonet of a Kalashnikov rifle at the Sinai Peninsula.
- A gold coated Kalashnikov assault rifle was recovered by US troops from the weapon collection of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.
- Coins dedicated to Mikhail Kalashnikov and his creation were issued not only in Russia, but also in such a peaceful place as New Zealand, which marked the rifle’s 60th birthday with special two-dollar pieces. They came in cases shaped after the AK-47 magazine.euters / Grant Neuenberg
- French newspaper, Liberation, has named AK-47 the most important invention of the XX century, with the Russian rifle leaving the atomic bomb and space flight behind.
- Mixing vodka, absinth, lemon, cinnamon and sugar is the recipe for the Kalashnikov shot drink. There’s also a Kalashnikov vodka brand, which has been sold in bottles resembling the shape of an AK-47 since 2004.
- Colombian artist, Cesar Lopez, has transformed a dozen of AK-47s into guitars, with then UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, getting one of the musical instruments as a gift in 2007.[iv]