Preferred weapon of drug cartels, revolutionaries and child soldiers, the brain child of a wounded Soviet tanker and embroidered on the flags of Mozambique, terrorist forces across the world and former Brooklyn Nets player Andrei Kirilinko, the AK-47, Kalashnikov. Kalash or simply the AK is an icon of both Russia and the 3rd World. It’s the most iconic gun in existence and it’s one of simple design and simple construction.
To save on space, I will begin the talk of the AK with the 7.63 AK’s, so the AK series from the original AK to the AKM as well as most Combloc versions. The AK was a blend of different designs, comprising ideas from the German STG, Lend Lease M1 Carbines and many older rifles, like the Federov. This was compiled together by a Russian tanker wounded in battle in 1941.
A Russian Tanker hospitalized following the Battle of Bryansk in 1941, during his time, he heard his fellow troops complain about their weapons and began working on more soldier-centric designs. The first was a submachine gun design that went nowhere, but got him attention and had him sent to the absurdly long Central Scientific-developmental Firing Range for Rifle Firearms of the Chief Artillery Directorate of the Red Army. There he worked on a carbine design that failed against the the Simonov SKS in 1946, but the carbine’s basic design led to the AK-47, which won a Russian weapon trial in 1949.
The AK-47 was very popular with the Communist Bloc, and became standard for most of the 2nd World during the Cold War. Many copies were made by the Communist Countries. The East German MPi series, the Yugoslavian M70, the Romanian AIM, the Hungarian AMD and the very common Chinese Type 56, the AK has a long history of mass production.
75-100 million AK rifles have been made in general, if one was to tally together every rifle in the world, one in 5 would be an AK model. And with a number of variants, Russian and other wise, it’s not hard to see why. The Russians had other models, including the paratrooper/tanker AKS-47 with under folding stock, modern versions like the AK-103 and the 1960′s era AKM, with compensator, palm swell handguard and other modernization features.
With this, the AK series became the USSR’s hottest commodity next to Lada cars. It’s appeared across the globe, in the arsenals of world powers and illegal cartels. It was reliable, reasonably accurate and very powerful, something everyone liked. It became a common weapon in the arsenal of revolutionary armies, as the 2nd World helped bolster them as much as the 1st World. It’s a rifle that appears today as much as any other rifle of it’s type.
Whether worn and grey or plated in gold, the AK series is a common sight in the media, both in the real world and in the consumer media. Ever since Vietnam, the US has always had a fascination with the AK. For almost every conflict we’ve been in since Korea, it’s been in the arsenal of the opposing force. With the rise of movies based on real events or the crazed action of blockbuster action movies, AK’s are forever present.
Almost every variety of AK has been pictured in film, from the 1980′s onward. From the Polytech AK’s and Chinese Type 56 rifles to the oddball varieties, it’s as common in a films armory as it is in real life. It fits any situation, from the jungle combat of Vietnam to the urban crime world. It’s made infamous by the news and music and the movies, and you know how this segways.
With video games taking cues from the media, movies and real life, the AK’s as common as the M16 in games. It’s use has ranged from the arsenal of USSR soldiers in everything from Metal Gear Solid 3 to Wargame:Red Dragon, the standard assault rifle for the nameless terrorist forces of most modern combat games, realistic or not. It’s always a common sight if criminal forces, such as in the Far Cry series as well as the action movie styled Max Payne series.
These extends to a number of AK variants, from the Russian series to other countries’s AK’s, like the AMD and Type 56′s. It’s first appearance dates all the way back to Goldeneye 007 on the N64 and as long as AK’s appear in the media, AK’s will appear in video games.
And that is the stories of the AK-47 rifle, the most common assault rifle in the world. It’s not the best rifle out there, but it has no need to be. It just works. It’s worked for over 70 years and shows no sign of stopping now. From the deserts of the Middle East to the Jungles of Central Africa to the streets of the US, it’s as common as ever. It’s the icon of rebellion, and whether it’s black or gold plated, it’s good enough for any situation. It’s simple, it’s reliable, it’s an AK.
And with a gun as iconic as this, we must end on a quote by a great man.
“Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It’s the world’s most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn’t break, jam, or overheat. It’ll shoot whether it’s covered in mud or filled with sand. It’s so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people’s greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars.”
In 1943 the 38 year old Ukrainian woman Mariya Oktyabrskaya learned that her husband had been killed while fighting the Germans in World War II. A terrible loss for any spouse, Mariya grieved the loss of her husband in a way that is typically unusual for most widows. She sold all of her worldly possessions and used the proceeds to buy a T-34 battle tank. She agreed to donate the tank to the Red Army, but only under one condition; that she be the driver of the tank.
After completing five months of tank training, rare considering most Soviet tankers were rushed into battle, Mariya and her tank “Fighting Girlfriend” joined the 26th Guards tank brigade in September of 1943. Mariya’s skills and bravery would be proven during her first action on October 21st, 1943. There she and her tank crewmen spearheaded an assault on a fortified German position, smashing through enemy lines while destroying several machine gun nests and artillery pieces. Throughout the next year she gained a reputation as a veteran tank driver and courageous fighter. Also a skilled mechanic as well as driver, when her tank was damaged she would often jump out into the open, exposing herself to enemy fire, so that she could conduct repairs and get back into the fight.
On January 17th, 1944 while conducting her usual routine of sowing terror and destruction, Mariya’s tank took a hit from an anti-tank gun which disabled the vehicles tracks. Under heavy fire, and despite the protests of her crew, Mariya exited the tank to conduct repairs. Exposed to enemy fire she was struck in the head by a piece of shrapnel. She lingered in a coma for two months before passing away on March 15th, 1944.
For her bravery and fierce conduct during World War II, Mariya was posthumously award the Heroine of the Soviet Union title on August 2nd, 1944.
Allies on exercise – the man on the right is a Soviet tanker identifiable by his black overalls and yellow tank patch just visible embroidered on the right breast. The non-Soviet Warsaw Pact allies opted not to deploy the newer T-62 when it became available and instead relied on enormous fleets of T-54/55s seen here. When they did upgrade their tank divisions they selected the T-72.
And last, but certainly not least of all, thanks to everyone who started following my blog in the past year, and everyone who has been around from the early days as well! This wouldn’t be nearly as fun if no one was reading along! Happy New Years!