Mikhail Kalashnikov

Engineer and Inventor of the AK - 47 Assault Rifle

Designed by Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, a Soviet Engineer, few other assault rifles are as universally recognized as the AK-47. It has armed soldiers, law enforcement officers, weapons enthusiasts, and terrorists world-wide for almost five decades. The overall design is one of simplicity, yet the weapon performs quiet well.

Mr. Kalashnikov began design of the weapon in the late 1940's with the help of a machinest friend, Zhenya Kravchenko. It was adopted by the Soviet Army in 1949 as the officially designated "7.62mm Automat Kalashnikova, obraztsa 1947 goda" (7.62mm Kalashnikov automatic rifle, model of 1947). This was contracted to the familiar "AK-47".

The weapon was available in two versions: the AK with a fixed wooden stock, and the AKS which had a folding stock and was issued primarily to armor and airborne troops. Neither of the original rifles were issued with bayonets, though this was corrected shortly thereafter. Later versions improved the overall robustness of the weapon, and changed production procedures on the rear sight, receiver, trigger assembly, butt stock and pistol grip. A removeable muzzle compensator was added as well.

The new version was designated "Automat Kalashnikova Modernizirovannyj" (Kalashnikov Automatic rifle, Modified) or AKM. Both the early versions and subsequent models are reknowned for their ease of operation and maintenance.

The AK-47 fires 7.62 x 39-mm M1943 round, a heavy caliber small arms round capable of defeating most body armor. The AK-47 has a cyclic rate of fire of 600 rounds per minute (RPM), and a practical sustained ROF of 90-100 RPM. The weapon is usually equipped with 30 round magazines.

There are some drawbacks to the AK-47's design. The weapon's round has a slow trajectory that makes it unreliable past 300 meters. The layout of the weapon is such that the gas tube is not protected, and damage to that piece can render the weapon useless. The barrel is prone to overeat during prolonged automatic fire and has been known to "cook off" rounds in the chamber.

Taking all things into consideration, Mikhail Kalashnikov's design must be viewed as a success. He created an assault rifle that is production licensed in dozens of countries. Worldwide production numbers are estimated at 90,000,000+. There is no doubt the AK-47 remains a relevant assault rifle fifty years after its conception.