A Kalashnikov rifle is any one of a series of automatic rifles based on the original design of Mikhail Kalashnikov. They are officially known in Russian as "Avtomat Kalashnikova" ("Kalashnikov's Automatic Gun"; Russian: Автома́т Кала́шникова), but are widely known as Kalashnikovs, AKs, or in Russian slang, as a "Kalash". They were originally manufactured in the Soviet Union, primarily by Izhmash, but these rifles and their variants are now manufactured in many other countries.
The primary types of Kalashnikov rifles include:
Early variants (7.62×39mm)pIssue of 1948/49 – The very earliest models, with the Type 1 stamped sheet metal receiver, are now very rare.Issue of 1951 – Has a milled receiver. Barrel and chamber are chrome plated to resist corrosion.Issue of 1954 (1955) – Lightened milled receiver variant. Rifle weight is 3.47 kg (7.7 lb).AKS – Featured a downward-folding metal stock similar to that of the German MP40, for use in the restricted space in the BMP infantry combat vehicle, as well as by paratroops.AKN (AKSN) – Night scope rail.
Modernized (7.×39mm)AKM – A simplified, lighter version of the AK-47; Type 4 receiver is made from stamped and riveted sheet metal. A slanted muzzle device was added to counter climb in automatic fire. Rifle weight is 2.93 kg (6.5 lb) due to the lighter receiver. This is the most ubiquitous variant of the AK-47.AKMS – Under-folding stock version of the AKM intended for airborne troops.AKMN (AKMSN) – Night scope rail.AKML (AKMSL) – Slotted flash suppressor and night scope rail.RPK – Hand-held machine gun version with longer barrel and bipod. The variants – RPKS, RPKN (RPKSN), RPKL (RPKSL) – mirror AKM variants. The "S" variants have a side-folding wooden stock.
Low-impulse variants (5.45×39mm)AK-74 – Assault rifle.AKS-74 – Side-folding stock.AK-74N (AKS-74N) – Night scope rail.AKS-74U (Krinkov) – Compact carbine.AKS-74UN – Night scope rail.RPK-74 – Light machine gun.RPKS-74 – Side-folding stock.RPK-74N (RPKS-74N) – Night scope rail.
The 100 Series
5.45×39mm / 5.56×45mm / 7.62×39mmAK-74M/AK-101/AK-103 – Modernized AK-74. Scope rail and side-folding stock.AK-107/AK-108 – Balanced recoil models.AK-105/AK-102/AK-104 – Carbine.RPK-74M / RPK-201 / RPKM and RPK-203 – Light machine gun.
Other weaponsPK(M) – 7.62×54mmR general-purpose machine gun.Saiga-12 – 12-gauge shotgun. Built on AK receiver.Saiga-12S – Pistol grip and side-folding stock.Saiga-12K – Shorter barrel.Saiga-20 (S/K) – 20-gauge.Saiga-410 (S/K) – .410 bore.Saiga semi-automatic rifleKSK shotgun – 12-gauge combat shotgun (based on Saiga-12).Vepr-12 Molot – 12-gauge combat shotgun. Built on RPK receiver.Bizon – Submachine gun with helical magazine. Borrows 60% of details from AKS-74U. 9×18mm PM, 9×19mm Luger, .380 ACP; 7.62×25mm TT (box magazine).Vityaz-SN – Submachine gun. 9×19mm Parabellum.OTs-14 Groza – Bullpup assault rifle. 9×39mm, 7.62×39mm.
AK-12 seriesAK-12 – A family of weapons in a variety of calibers. Currently undergoing trials.
These rifles have been manufactured in many countries, with and without licenses.
The following rifles were either based on the Kalashnikov design, or have a different design but are superficially similar in appearance:Bernardelli VB-STD/VB-SR (Italy)IMI Galil (Israel) and Galil ACE (Israel and Colombia)INSAS (India)Rk 62, Valmet M76 (other names Rk 62 76, M62/76), Valmet M78 (light machine gun), Rk 95 Tp (Finland)StG 44 (Germany). Developed before the AK-47Type 81 assault rifle (China), BD-08 (Bangladesh)Vektor R4, Truvelo Raptor (South Africa)vz. 58 (Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic)
In the movie Lord of War, the character Yuri Orlov, an arms dealer played by Nicolas Cage, mentions the Kalashnikov:
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.