The AK world wide

Though estimations about the total number of Kalashnikov assault rifles made differ considerably from study to study, it seems there is a common consensus that at least 70 million AKs must have been made to date. This is however a conservative estimation other experts believe that at least 150 million AKs have been made. Apart from what the 'true number' is the Kalashnikov assault rifle pops up everywhere around the globe. Mikhail Kalashnikov himself could never have known the export success of his weapon. The AK is by far the most manufactured assault rifle world wide and most wide spread weapon. The story starts in Russia. As from the mid 1950s the third AK47 production model was manufactured. Naturally it followed the first and second production model manufactured in the previous years. The third production model is an important step in the evolution of the AK. The third production model is the definite AK47 design that was made under Russian license. A few years after this third AK47 production model was adopted by the Russian armed forces, several satellite states of the Warsaw Pact like Bulgaria, Hungary, the DDR, and Poland started production of the weapon under Russian license. 

The strict standardization requirements led to several direct copies of the AK47. The Czech Republic was an exception in the Eastern Bloc. This country made the Vz58 a weapon that looks much like an AK47 but technically it is not related with it. The third AK47 production model was also copied by North Korea and China. In fact all these AK manufacturing countries exported their AK copies world wide. Especially during the Cold War this happened in favor of anyone who was fighting against the capitalistic ideology. As this happened to be a great number of countries, groups or even tribes, the AK was and still is and will be involved in practically every conflict for the coming decades. Next to this impressive distribution process the weapon became immense popular for its reliability, robustness and simplicity which in itself stimulated further demand. This self-reinforcing process made that the AK gained such a market position that any other comparable weapon did not even have the slightest chance to thrown of the AK of the throne. In general the result is that the AK47 pops up anywhere around the globe. In this proliferation process not only Russia and the satellite states participated also countries like China and North Korea obtained a tremendous export position. 

The copies made of the third AK47 production model are so precise that it is often rather difficult to determine at a distance the country of origin at a first glance. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s the number of countries producing Kalashnikov assault rifle grew. The Cold War epoch was the first step in the complex and wide spread diffusion of the Kalashnikov assault rifle. The most significant export had still to come. When the AKM was introduced it was again copied by many countries even by countries without any proper license agreements with Russia. The AKM had all advantages of the AK47 but it was much cheaper to manufacture. Copy or derivatives are now manufactured or have been manufactured by many many countries. This is his turn led to the second stage of the proliferation process.