The origin of the AK47

It's a fact, the AK47 can be found everywhere on the planet. The weapon was and still is sold, manufactured and deployed world wide. One doesn't have to be prophet to understand the AK will keep this position for many years to come. In many interviews Mikhail Kalashnikov gave his opinion regarding the issue. He often emphasized that he designed his weapon to protect the borders of his motherland. The answer to the question why his weapon is so successful outside the Russian borders is that the product is good from a military scientific perspective. 

As some marketing experts say: "a good product will sell itself". It is often being said that Russia is solely responsible for the situation of small arms proliferation but this is definitely incorrect. The AK47 has been manufactured by many other countries and what's more this happens without paying license fees to Russia. There are even more parties that have bought and sold the weapon worldwide as a yielding trading device. Different conflict in the past fifty years stimulated the demand of small arms in general. One of these conflicts was the Vietnam war. A few AK producing countries at that time were then working to get the biggest market share. 

 A Russian military instruction poster of the AKM the successor of the AK47 East-German soldiers are cleaning their weapons on this picture you see the MPiKM (upper left) and the lMG K. Courtesy Gerben van Vlimmeren.

A Russian military instruction poster of the AKM the successor of the AK47 

One of the misinterpretation regarding the AK47 is that every assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov is designated as the AK47. This is truly false. A significant improvement of the AK47 was not related with the concept of the weapon itself but related with productivity. The receiver of AK47 (second and third production model) was machined. This is a rather expensive production technique. During the 1950s Kalashnikov succeeded in making several design changes in order to improve productivity. The production was further simplified. Productivity improvements were achieved by using a stamped receiver. Only a metal plate was pressed in the right shaped. A significant number of production steps were no longer necessary. 

Also the AKM was standardized and became the new assault rifle of the entire Warsaw Pact with the sole exception of the Czech Republic. All other Warsaw Pact countries like East-Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Romania were licensed to build the AKM. All these countries exported their AKM variants as far as known every country had its own export agencies. Most of these countries are still producing copies of the AK albeit in lower quantities. Next to the member states also non bloc countries like China and North Korea made a considerable number of Kalashnikov assault rifles. All these variants can be found be back in the Kalashnikov Encyclopaedia.