Translator’s Note: My personal experience has been with the use of the ‘AK74’. The version I used fired 5.45 ammunition – but could also fire any captured NATO 5.56 ammunition. The Red Army designed this so that NATO forces could not use any captured Warsaw Pact ammunition in their standard infantry weapons – whilst the Warsaw Pact forces could use any and all standard NATO ammunition. Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov (1919-2013) was born within Revolutionary Russia during the Russian Civil War (1918-1921), and fought during the ‘Great Patriotic War’ (1941-1945) as a Red Army Tank Mechanic and later as a Tank Commander. He was from a peasant family which benefitted extensively from the Socialist System of the USSR – including free education. Mikhail Kalashnikov was well-known as a very good engineer with a lucid technical mind. As he was of relatively short-stature – he was conscripted into the 24th Tank Regiment, 108th Tank Division during 1938 (specialising in the operation of T-34s). This was during the time of the USSR having to defend itself against Finnish and Japanese fascism! He was always designing new versions of weapons and changing existing designs which was noted by his Officers quite early on. As he was wounded in 1941 during brutal fighting against the Nazi German invasion, he was overtly aware of many wounded Red Army soldiers lying in hospital beds exclaiming that if only their service weapons were of a better ‘design’ – then it would be the Nazi Germans retreating instead of themselves! This laid the foundations in the mind of Mikhail Kalashnikov for a better and more effective ‘long’ infantry weapon for the average Red Army soldier (usually of peasant stock), that could equal and surpass the best weaponry that the capitalist and fascist countries could construct and deploy against the Soviet Union!
Despite a number of distorted Western narratives attempting to suggest that Mikhail Kalashnikov ‘regretted’ designing his famous rifle, the reality is the exact opposite! Mikhail Kalashnikov stayed loyal to the USSR post-1991 and never once criticised the ideology of Marxist-Leninism which so improved the life of himself, his family and his class! Although US authors tend to emphasis the fact that many so-called ‘terrorists’ make extensive use of the ‘AK47’, a little background data may be of interest to the general reader. A recent academic article states that since 1945 until the present time – the US Military has killed between 20 – 30 million people around the globe in protection of the capitalist system. This number amounts to more people killed by the US than Hitler killed during the Holocaust. This number also nearly resembles the 27-40 million men, women and children who were murdered by the Nazi Germans between 1941-1945! These facts fly in the face of the usual US perception of its own reputation. Furthermore, Hillary Clinton has publicly admitted that it was the US that brain-washed, funded and armed the anti-Socialist ‘Mujaheddin’ forces in Afghanistan during the 1980s! The ideological descendants of this movement (‘Al Qaeda’) would carry-out the 911 terror attacks in New York in 2001 – a price Hillary Clinton described as ‘worth it’ to see the defeat of Communism! As the US ideologues used religious ignorance and fascism to oppose ‘Socialism’ – it must have seemed ‘funny’ to them to arm these ‘anti-Socialist’ terrorists with the very weapon the USSR had designed for the working-class to use to overthrow the forces of capitalism (which includes ‘religious ignorance’! If certain terrorists in the world today prefer to make use of the ‘AK47’ – it is because the US has willed it so and has nothing to do with the USSR or Mikhail Kalashnikov (who won a further design contract for his version of an AK74U later in his life)! ACW (8.5.2021)
How to distinguish between models of a Kalashnikov assault rifle
For almost 70 years in the USSR and Russia, several dozen modifications, prototypes and concepts of the most popular small arms in the world – the Kalashnikov assault rifle – have been developed. The universal foundation of the base-design allows you to design “guns” for almost every taste: folding, shortened, with a bayonet, optics or under-barrel grenade launcher, for special forces or individual branches of the military.
AK (AK-47) ‘Avtomat Kalashnikova’ 7.62 Calibre
The AK series designs are recognized as the best ‘machines’ in the world
The classic – the very first AK-47 – adopted for service in the Red Army in 1949 is difficult to confuse with any other model. Made of iron and wood, without any “bells and whistles”, it has long become a symbol of reliability and ease of use in any conditions. At the same time, this design did not become such a complete machine immediately: it took Mikhail Kalashnikov several years to bring his creative design to fruition.
In 1946, the military leadership of the USSR announced a competition for the creation of a machine gun for an intermediate (in terms of destructive power – between a pistol and a rifle) cartridge. The new weapon was supposed to be manoeuvrable, quick-firing, have a sufficient lethality of a bullet and accuracy of fire. The competition was held in several stages, it was prolonged more than once, since none of the gunsmiths could produce the required result. In particular, the commission sent for revision the AK-46 models No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 (with a folding metal butt).
The improved Kalashnikov assault rifle, which was assigned the AK-47 designation, as Sergei Monetchikov writes in the book “History of the Russian Assault Rifle”, was almost completely redesigned. The best ideas were borrowed from the designs of the other competitors’ weapons, implemented in individual parts and whole units. This follows the Socialist principle of the broad ‘people’ designing the best models for general usage.
The assault rifle did not have a classic one-piece stock. Taking into account the strong receiver, the retention of the weapon when firing was facilitated by the separate wooden butt and forend. The receiver was redesigned, it was fundamentally different from the previous ones with a special liner rigidly fixed to it, connecting it to the barrel. On the liner, in particular, a reflector of spent cartridges was attached.
The reloading handle, made integral with the bolt carrier, was moved to the right side. This was demanded by the testing soldiers who noted: the left-hand position of the handle interferes with shooting in motion or on the move without stopping, by touching the stomach. In the same position, it is inconvenient to reload the weapon.
The transfer of the controls to the right side of the receiver made it possible to create a successful fire switch (from single to automatic), which is also a fuse, made in the form of a single turning part.
The large mass of the bolt carrier and a powerful return spring ensured reliable operation of the mechanisms, including in adverse conditions: dusty, dirty and thickened grease. The weapon turned out to be adapted for trouble-free operation in a range of air temperature changes up to 100 degrees Celsius.
The wooden parts of the new weapon – the butt, forend and barrel pad, as well as the pistol grip, made of birch blanks, were covered with three layers of varnish, which ensured their sufficient resistance against swelling in damp conditions.
AKS (AKS-47) ‘Short’ 7.62 Calibre
Simultaneously with the AK-47, a model with the letter “C” meaning “folding” was adopted. This version of the assault rifle was intended for Special Forces and the Airborne Forces, its difference was in a metal but not a wooden butt, which, moreover, could fold under the receiver.
“Such a stock, which consisted of two stamped-welded rods, a shoulder rest and a locking mechanism, ensured the convenience of handling the weapon – in the stowed position, when skiing, parachute jumping, as well as its use for firing from tanks, and armoured personnel carriers, etc. . “, – writes Sergey Monetchikov.
Shooting as a machine gun was supposed to be carried out with the butt unfolded, but in case of impossibility it was possible to shoot the weapon with the stock folded. True, it was not very comfortable: the butt rods had insufficient rigidity and strength, and the wide shoulder rest did not fit into the shoulder groove and therefore tend to shift when firing in bursts.
AKM and AKMS ‘Modern’ and ‘Modern Short’ 7.62 Calibre
Interesting facts from the history of production and distribution of AK in the world
The modernized Kalashnikov assault rifle (AKM) was adopted 10 years after the AK-47 – in 1959. It turned out to be lighter, have a longer-range and was more convenient to use.
“We, and especially the main customer, were not satisfied with the accuracy when firing from stable positions, lying down from a sudden stop and standing from a stop. Later, a muzzle compensator was developed, which made it possible to improve the accuracy in battle during automatic firing from unstable positions, standing, kneeling, lying with the gun retained in the hand. ”
The retarder allowed the bolt carrier to stabilize in the extreme forward position before the next shot, which affected the accuracy of the fire. The muzzle compensator in the form of a petal was installed on the barrel thread, and was one of the clear distinguishing features of the AKM. Due to the compensator, the barrel cut was not vertical, but diagonal. By the way, mufflers could be attached to the same thread.
Improving the accuracy of fire made it possible to increase its aiming range to 1000 meters, as a result, the aiming bar also changed, the range scale consisted of numbers from 1 to 10 (on the AK-47 – up to 8).
The butt was raised up, which brought the stop point closer to the firing line. The external shape of the wooden forend was changed. On the side, it received finger rests. The phosphate-lacquer coating, which replaced the oxide one, increased the anticorrosion resistance tenfold. According to Monetchikov, the body was made not of sheet steel, but of light alloys, causing radical changes. To increase reliability and protect against deformation, the side walls of its body were reinforced with stiffeners.
The design of the bayonet-knife attached under the barrel was also improved. The rubber-tipped scabbard for electrical insolation allowed the bayonet to be used to cut through barbed wire and live wires. The combat power of the AKM increased significantly due to the possibility of installing the GP-25 “Koster” under-barrel grenade launcher. Like its predecessor, the AKM was also developed in a foldable version with the letter “S” in the name.
AK-74 (Issued to Red Army in ‘1974’) 5,45 Calibre
Five advantages of the AK over the M16
A unique “underwater” machine gun was shown in Moscow
In the 1960s, the Soviet military leadership decided to develop small arms for a low-pulse 5.45 mm cartridge. Despite its advantages, it was a fact is that the AKM could not achieve a high accuracy of fire. The reason was the too powerful cartridge rejection mechanism.
In addition, according to Monetchikov, in the hands of Soviet military specialists were also captured combat trophies from South Vietnam – these were examples of American AR-15 rifles (issued to the Vietnamese ‘traitor’ forces) – an automatic version of which was later adopted by the US Army under the designation ‘M-16’ (renowned for ‘jamming’ under combat conditions). Even then, the AKM was inferior in many respects to the AR-15, in particular, in the area of ‘accuracy during battle conditions and the probability of direct or exact hits.
“In terms of the difficulty of development, in the search for different approaches, the design of an assault rifle chambered for 5.45 mm calibre can be compared, probably, only with the birth of the AK-47 – the father of the entire family of our system. A number of factory managers expressed the idea that there is no need to look for something new, they would say, a simple over-barrel would be enough. I marvelled at the naivety of such a judgment, “Mikhail Kalashnikov recalled about that period.” Of course, change the barrel of a larger calibre for a smaller calibre – and the designation of ‘47’ for ‘74’ – became something of a standing joke in the USSR! However, things were far more subtle in reality.
The main feature of the new machine gun was a two-chamber muzzle brake, which, when fired, absorbed about half of the recoil energy. On the left of the receiver, a bar for night sights was mounted. The new rubber-metal construction of the butt-head with transverse grooves reduced its sliding along the shoulder when conducting aimed shooting.
The forend and stock were originally made of wood, but switched to black plastic in the 1980s. The external feature of the butt contained grooves on both sides, they were made to lighten the overall weight of the machine (and could be used to distinguish the ‘74’ from the ‘47’ in the dark. This was a time of great innovation in the development of very good, hard, and resistant plastics – which replaced the previously used wood and metal construction. This made lighter and more aerodynamic designs much easier to design and produce.
AKS-74 ‘Short’ 5,45 Calibre
For the Airborne Forces, a modification was traditionally made with a folding stock, although this time it was retracted to the left along the receiver. It is believed that such a solution was not very successful: when folded, the machine turned out to fire wide and rubbed against the skin when worn behind the back. When worn on the chest, it was inconvenient if it was necessary to fold the butt without removing the weapon. A leather cheek muff appeared on the upper side of the butt; to protect the shooter’s cheek from freezing metal part in winter conditions.
Kalashnikov developed a rifle for a 21st century soldier
Compared to the AKS-74, the barrel was shortened from 415 to 206.5 millimetres, which made it necessary to carry the gas chamber further back. This, writes Sergei Monetchikov, entailed a change in the design of the front sight. Its base was made in conjunction with a gas chamber. This design also led to the transfer of the sight closer to the shooter’s eye, otherwise the sighting line turned out to be very short. Finishing the topic of the sight, we note that the assault rifles of this model were equipped with self-luminous nozzles for shooting at night and in conditions of limited visibility.
The greater pressure of the powder gases required the installation of a reinforced flame arrester. It was a cylindrical chamber with a bell (funnel-shaped expansion) in front. The flame arrester was attached to the muzzle of the barrel, on a threaded fit.
The shortened assault rifle was equipped with a more massive wooden forend and a gas tube barrel lining; it could use both standard magazines for 30 rounds and shortened magazines for 20.
For a more complete unification of the shortened assault rifle with the AKS-74, it was decided to use the same butt, which leans back to the left side of the receiver.
AK-74M ‘Modern’ 5.45 Calibre
This assault rifle is a more complex modernization of the weapon that entered service in 1974. Having retained all the best qualities inherent in Kalashnikov assault rifles, the AK-74M acquired a number of new ones, which significantly improved its combat and operational characteristics.
The main feature of the new model is a folding plastic stock that replaced the metal one. It was lighter than its predecessors, and was similar in design to the permanent plastic AK-74 stock produced in the late 1980s. When worn, it clings less to clothing, does not cause discomfort when shooting in low or high temperatures. Certain models could fire the standard Warsaw Pact 5,45 calibre and any captured 5,56 NATO ammunition!
The forend and the barrel lining of the machine gun gas tube were made of glass-filled polyamide. In terms of heat transfer, the new material almost did not differ from wood, which excluded burns to the hands during prolonged shooting. Longitudinal ribs on the fore-end made it possible to more conveniently and more firmly hold the weapon during aimed fire.
“Hundredth series” (AK 101-109) (Modern Russia – 5.56 Calibre)
These modifications of the Kalashnikov, developed in the 1990s on the basis of the AK-74M, are called the first domestic family of commercial weapons, since they were intended more for export than for domestic consumption. Including, they were designed for a NATO cartridge of 5.56 by 45 millimetres.
Wooden parts are completely excluded from the designs of the “100” series assault rifles (similar to the best model of the 5.45-mm Kalashnikov assault rifle – AK74M). The stock and forend of all are made of shock-resistant glass-filled polyamide of black color, for which this weapon, as Monetchikov writes, received the name “Black Kalashnikov” from the Americans. All models have plastic butts folding to the left along the receiver and a bar for mounting sights.
The most original in the “hundredth” series were the AK-102, AK-104 and AK-105 assault rifles. In their design, a leap was made to increase the level of unification between standard assault rifles and their shortened versions. Due to a slight increase in the total length (by 100 millimetres compared to the AKS-74U), it became possible to leave the gas chamber in the same place as in the AK-74, thus making it possible to use a unified mobile system and sighting devices on all machines of the series.
The assault rifles of the “hundredth” series differ from each other mainly in calibre, barrel length (314 – 415 millimetres), and sector sights designed for different ranges (from 500 to 1000 meters).
AK-9 Calibre 9.38 (modified 7.62 Round)
This assault rifle was also developed on the basis of the AK-74M, and the developments of the “hundredth” series were also used in it. The same black colour, the same polymer folding stock. The main difference from the classic Kalashnikovs can be considered a shortened barrel and a gas venting mechanism. Experts say an important improvement is the new pistol grip, which has better ergonomics.
The assault rifle was created as a silent, flameless shooting complex for covert shooting. It uses subsonic cartridges of 9 × 39 mm calibre, together with a silencer, making the shot almost inaudible. Magazine capacity – 20 rounds.
There is a special strip on the forend for various removable equipment – flashlights and laser pointers.
AK-12 Calibre 5.45
The most modern assault rifle of the Kalashnikov family, the tests of which have not yet been completed. Of the external changes, the use of Picatinny rails for attaching attachments is striking. Unlike the AK-9, they are both on the forearm and on top of the receiver. At the same time, the lower bar does not interfere with the installation of under barrel grenade launchers – this option is retained. The AK-12 also has two short guides on the sides of the forearm and one on top of the gas chamber.
In addition, the butt of the assault rifle can be easily removed and can be folded in both directions. On top of that, it is telescopic, the cheek and butt plate are adjustable in height. There is a variant of the machine and with a stationary lighter plastic butt.
The flag of the safety-translator of fire is duplicated on the left side, the machine gun can shoot single, short bursts of three shots each, and in automatic mode. And in general, all the controls of the machine gun are made so that the soldier can use them with one hand, including changing the store and juggling the bolt. It can us many different sized magazines up to the experimental drum 95 rounds.
Russian Language Source:
Authored by Ilya Ponosov (Илья Поносов)