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 as Avtomat Kalashnikova (Russian: Автомат Калашникова). 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-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, availability, and ease of use. It has been manufactured in many countries and has seen service with armed forces as well as irregular forcesworldwide. 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.
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 in 1942 and with a light machine gun in 1943, in 1944 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).
In the 1944 competition for intermediate cartridge weapons, Kalashnikov submitted a semi-automatic, gas-operated carbine, strongly influenced by the American M1 Garand, but that lost out to a Simonov design, which was adopted as the SKS-45. Kalashnikov did not submit an entry for this contest.
Kalashnikov and his design team from factory number two in Kovrov submitted an entry as the others who entered initially could not prove worthy and reliable enough. 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, the former with a milled receiver and the latter with a stamped one) proved to be reliable and the weapon was accepted to second round of competition along with designs by A. A. Dementyev (KB-P-520) and A. A. Bulkin (TKB-415).
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 (factory name KB-P-580) proved to be simple and reliable under a wide range of conditions with convenient handling characteristics; prototypes with serial numbers one to three were completed in November 1947. Production of the first army trial series began in early 1948 at the Izhevsk factory number 524,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.
To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, pulls back and releases the charging handle, and then pulls the trigger.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. 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 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. Forged/milled receivers are much more rigid, flexing less as the rifle is fired, thus not hindering accuracy as much as stamped receivers. Stamped receivers are a bit more rugged, since they have some resilience and are less likely to fail due to fatigue under heavy usage.
As a result, the newer stamped steel receiver AKM models are 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 five shots (firing from prone position or a trench) or ten shots (standing).
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