The AK in AK-47 or AK-74 stands for Avtomat Kalashnikova, which is Russian for “automatic Kalashnikov” from its designer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov. It is the first of the series of semi-automatic rifles called Kalashnikov rifles.
This AK-47 is the most popular Kalashnikova-designed rifle, but certainly not the only popular one. The AK-47 “is a gas-operated assault rifle that is chambered for the 7.62×39mm cartridge.”
The AK-74 is also a very popular design, coming nearly 30 years after its predecessor.
Both designs spawned a family of variants including the AKS-74, AK-74M, AK-101, AK-102, AK-103, AK-104, and AK-105.
AK-47: A Short History
The AK line really started with the AK-47, so let’s take a deep dive there.
In 1942, Kalashnikov began creating prototypes for a submachine gun tailored for soldiers like him. After several unsuccessful attempts, the AK-47’s final design was finished in 1947 and was then introduced to the military. It wasn’t until 1949 that the AK-47 became an official firearm of the Soviet Armed Forces and was then called the “7.62 mm Kalashnikov rifle.”
The 1947 design featured a long-stroke gas system above the barrel, with its upper and lower receivers fused into a single receiver. “The selector and safety were combined into a single control lever/dust cover on the right side of the rifle. And, the bolt-handle was simply attached to the bolt-carrier.”
The AK-47 is known for its easy handling, wide availability, low production cost, and superior reliability even under adverse conditions.
One of the best things about the AK-47 is that it continues to perform well even with huge amounts of build-up and fouling in it. That’s because of its tapered cartridge case design and ample spacing between moving parts, as well as its long-stroke gas piston.
Of course, with more play and slop in tolerances often comes less accuracy. So, that’s the downfall of the AK-47 as built by some manufacturers.
The 7.62×39mm cartridge has a muzzle velocity of 715 m/s, with its projectile weighing 122 grains. These features plus the AK’s penetrating power make it an excellent choice when shooting through heavy foliage or cover, including thick metals.
Good news is, if you want an AK-47 that bad, it’s possible to own one, as long as it’s legally registered before the Firearm Owners Protection Act was enacted in May 1986. But get your bank account ready because it will cost a fortune to get an original!
However, plenty of companies make semi-automatic versions in the US that are easy to get a hold of. For example, PSA has a line of really well put together guns that run from $1000-1500.