back to article AK47: the open-source weapon that took the world by storm

Sixty years ago, a former tank sergeant named Mikhail Kalashnikov submitted an assault-rifle design to the Red Army for trials. It was selected as the new personal weapon for most Soviet soldiers, and designated Automat Kalashnikova 1947 – AK47 for short. That designation went out of official use in 1959, but to this day “AK47” …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    OS anology good, but not quite right

    One slight error in your anology, 5-95 yr olds could pick up an AK and get it working in seconds. Can the same be said of Linux?

    Oh God, what have I said....

    And cue Fanboys......

  2. kain preacher

    “insert a fresh magazine (clip, in American

    only in the media its STILL MAGAZINE. clips are the stuff you put in your hair

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Military thinking...

    'Perhaps reasoning that the German “assault rifle” concept couldn’t have been so all-fired clever or the Germans would have won the war*'

    The old-fashioned 'not invented here syndrome'.

    Strangely the Americans weren't so reticent about all those other dead-end German inventions of World War II - ballistic, cruise and anti-tank missiles; TV-guided bombs, anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank guns, nerve gas, swept and delta wings' practical helicopters...

    ...oh and Fanta.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NATO standardisation: a story of the tail wagging the dog

    It's a pity the article doesn't mention the sad tale of the British EM-2--sometimes referred to as "the best rifle that never was". This used a 7mm cartridge of intermediate power that offered the same advantages as the SturmGewehr and the AK* series, and in a nice convenient bullpup package, something that may have a passing resemblance to the modern-day SA80 but which was actually a really nice rifle by all accounts.

    Of course the boneheaded American generals insisted that nothing less powerful than the good ole 30-06 would do, and besides the 7mm is Not Invented Here, we can't possibly consider some design by inferior foreigners. And so the 7.62 NATO was forced through in spite of offering no improvement to anybody. Due to the UK's now familiar lack of political backbone the EM-2 and the almost as good Taden machine gun were thrown on the scrapheap and the British Army instead adopted the FN FAL and MAG respectively, the irony being that the Belgian rifle was itself originally designed for the British round.

    The capricious American generals were quick enough to desert the useless round that they'd lumbered the rest of NATO with for the almost equally useless 5.56mm, and the rest as they say is history. Of course now they're finally thinking "maybe a 7mm round might do the trick" 50 years after someone else thought of it first.

  5. Stu

    AK47 = Microsoft DOS then?

    Heres a different analogy, without the open source slant.

    In kind of the same way as MS made it big, and importantly - the norm - by striking a deal to package MSDOS and early Windows with IBM PCs. The AK made it the norm by being easily available, freely reproduced, cheap to buy, and so the standard weaponry for armies to buy.

    Nobody ever got fired at a workplace for buying IBM.

    Nobody ever got executed at an army base for buying Kalashnikov.


    I found it interesting to note that given its crap accuracy, the AK was used to great effect in the Jungles of Vietnam by the Viet Cong or NVA by digging in deep and waiting till they could see the whites of the GIs eyes before opening fire. Oh and the 7.62 rounds went straight through tree trunks and were fired by untrained monkeys (not literally).

    Given a modern day conflict in Vietnam, if one were to come about, that the situation would probably be the same! Even modern day Apache Helecopters would be rendered useless, kind of like how they were pretty useless in Afghanistan.

  6. Mike Moyle

    Geek alert. **

    "Another insane piece of gun phraseology. In the British forces, the command 'Load' means 'insert a fresh magazine (clip, in American) of bullets into the weapon,' as in 'with a magazine of twenty rounds – Load.' The old Self-Loading Rifle/SLR was a good gun, but it couldn’t actually change magazines on its own, as its British name would imply to a British user. Your correspondent pointed this out to a training sergeant long ago, and was commended for his perspicacity before being invited to bash out a quick thirty press-ups."

    Did he give you another thirty for calling a "magazine" a "clip"?

    Strictly speaking, one can have an external magazine, as in the AKs, M-16s,, and an internal magazine, as in the American M-1 rifle from WW II. A full load of cartridges, held in a spring-loaded "clip" was inserted into the M-1's "magazine" and the clip would be ejected automatically after the last shot was fired*.

    It was only after soldiers got used to inserting a full load of cartridges in one motion that the name was extended to calling any external magazine a "clip".

    * Some opponents learned to listen for the distinctive sound of the clip being ejected in order to attack while the American troopss were reloading. ...To which the GIs adapted by carrying empty clips and, on occasion, throwing them to the ground to draw the enemy into sight while they still had loaded rifles.

    ** I DID warn you!

  7. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Power v quality

    The author seems to say that the adoption of lower caliber AK74 was an acknowledgement of inferiority of the Soviet weapons design. This is definitely not true. The trend to lower the caliber and power of the ammunition was driven by combination of practicality (lower power makes the weapon easier to operate) and increased lethality (lightweight bullets tumbled on impact causing much more damage to the target). The design remained virually unchanged - just scaled down.

    Today both in Russia and in the West there is a reverse trend - to go back to higher power ammunition, because the increased use of body armour makes the lightweight bullets ineffective - they don't get a chance to tumble as they spend their energy on penetrating the armour. But again the design remains the same.

    And the key thing is that the design of AK is excellent and balanced - it is easy to operate, reliable, accurate enough and easy to manufacture. There are some things (bugs you might say) you just have to learn in the beginning (such as that recoil will raise the muzzle, so you better aim lower than higher if you shoot on automatic) and then it becomes the second nature.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She decided to risk it / and go as a biscuit

    On the second page there's a shot of a rifle, with the caption:

    "The AKM of 1959. Not actually a big difference."

    Judging by Maxim Popenker's addictive, mildly disturbing "", that's actually an AK-103 from the late 1990s. It has plastic handgrips, whereas the original AKM had wood, just like a trendy hi-fi system.

    The other US "assault rifle also-ran" was the M1 Carbine, a small, short, wooden semi-automatic device that wasn't quite powerful enough to be a proper assault rifle, but which was along the same lines. Some of them were manufactured by IBM, so that's your IT angle right there.

    If only there were more guitars in the world.

  9. Tom

    Interesting stuff...

    I think more should have been made of the differences between the AK and the British army SA80. I was in the army in the late 80s when my unit converted from the SLR to the SA80. We were not allowed to call it "SA80" because we were getting it 10 years after the supposed intro date. Instead it was officialy referred to as the "Rifle, 5.56." in back-to-front army speak.

    It was an expemsive, over-engineered, fragile piece of junk which was almost universally reviled. At the time the inevitable comparisons were made with the "soldier-proof" AK and it's legendary ruggedness.

  10. Eugene Goodrich

    Americanese Clip vs. Magazine part 2

    The illiterate among us Americans do often refer to a magazine as a clip, still.

    The technical phraseology is that a clip and a magazine are both devices to hold ammunition to be placed into a firearm, but a magazine encloses the ammunition; a clip does not.

    Thus stripper clips (for rapidly reloading some weapons' magazines through the top of the action) and moon clips (for rapidly reloading many revolvers while at the same time using the grooved, rimless cases automatic pistols digest) are still properly referred to as clips.

    * Note I'm from the Northwest continental United States, and my language knowledge may not apply to some other parts of the country, especially the deep South.

  11. illspirit


    Great article! While I'd agree the AK is the grandfather of open-source weapons, the AR-15 platform is probably a lot more like Linux these days. Since the patent expired, hundreds of small-arms developers have popped up to create thousands of variations and accessories. And, like Linux, the user can pick and choose which bits they want, and build a unique rifle (or even pistol version) from the ground up.

  12. Ian Michael Gumby

    AK-47 Accurate?

    The AK-47 is not "accuate".

    In the jungles of viet nam, they were "accurate enough" however the M-16 is more accurate.

    The deficiencies of the M-16 in Viet Nam were worked out in later versions/variations where you have a highly accurate lightweight rifle.

    In today's combat situations, you are correct that the trend is towards a heavier caliber, 6.8mm Remington SPC (I think) that is highly accurate and carries a knockout punch.

    The HK-47 is a "spray and pray" rifle.

    Do you really want to compare that to Linux?

    I think that the point the author was trying to make was that having cheap, easy to copy OS like Linux means that many countries around the world will be adopting Linux over other OS flavors.

    As others have pointed out, Linux is not a "point and click" OS.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: tumbling bullets

    Regarding the Soviet move to lightweight 5.45mm bullets because they tumbled when they hit the target, this isn't a property that's exclusive to small calibres: the venerable .303 (7.7mm) round was engineered to do exactly the same. This was accomplished by giving it an aluminium tip so that it was tail-heavy; excellent ballistics when sailing through the air but it tumbled rather nastily when it finally hit something.

  14. Dillon Pyron

    7.62x39 vs 7.62NATO

    The Soviet 7.62 x 39 is an inferior round to the 7.62 NATO (aka .308). The 39 is okay to about 100-150 m, while I regularly shoot .308s out to 300-400 m with a high degree of accuracy. The .223 (5.56 NATO) is also a 100-150 m round. A very nice rifle in .308 is the L1.

    .308 holes make invisible souls.

    .50BMG, reach out and touch someone

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As a former soldier I can indeed confirm that the SA-80 was a particularly useless club or fragile bayonet-holder. The Americans were more than happy to sell us the M16 which was a superior weapon in every respect to the piece of 1950s designed shit the 21st century British soldier is still burdened with. No wonder the SAS won't use them!

  16. Google

    5.56 vs 7.62

    In Black Hawk Down (the book that is) the 5.56 round would pass straight through the target (thus not incapacitating him) while the 7.62 rounds fired by a special operative armed with an M14 had the desired effect on the Mob of the Mog.

    Why? All the 5.56 rounds were armour piercing. Apparently the US military didn't consider facing enemies without body armour and had only acquired the 5.56 AP round.

    Despite the AK being less accurate than the M16 this did not matter in the Vietnam theatre. Jungle warfare ranges are rarely larger than 20metres. Enough for the AK to be used effectively. What did matter were the penetration qualities of their rifles in which the AK exceeded its M16 counterpart. It was able to shoot through a tree whereas the M16 was not.

  17. Ishkandar

    Assorted points

    The original command "load" meant grasping the barrel of your weapon near the mouth and slamming the butt to the ground whilst groping for a cartridge from your cartridge box, ripping off the bullet from the cartridge and pouring some of the powder onto the frizzen (no spellchecker ??) pan and the rest into the barrel, raising the ramrod from its holder, reversing it and slamming it down the barrel and raise it, spitting the bullet to the hand holding the barrel and then slamming the ramrod again into the barrel to push the bullet as far down as it will go, raising the ramrod, reversing it and putting it back into its holder. You are now "loaded" !!

    As for clips, the old Lee-Enfield 303 had clips of 5 rounds which were "loaded"/inserted into the integral magazine.

    And, depending on the definition of an "assault rifle", there is that Czech invention, the Brno-Enfield 303 light machine gun, more popularly known as the Bren. It was man portable and had an excellent range and accuracy and pre-dated the German "assault rifle" !!

    With regard to the Vietnam War, the M16 was not the only weapon that was highly unpopular with the US troops. An even more unpopular weapon was the "Pig" - the M60 heavy machine gun. It was know to fly apart under heavy use, which rather defeats the purpose of its use !!

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US vs RA. And the M-16

    I was a Light weapons infantryman with B Co. 2/5, 1st Air Cav, 4JUL66-30JUN67 in beautiful SE Asia...

    I carried three different M-16s.

    One jammed intermittently(1 to 11 rounds, before the case rim was ripped off by the extractor, but the brass case remaining stuck in the chamber),

    The second jammed three different ways(spinning the empty case in the breach, blocking the next round; the bolt would lock back; and the the usual one of the fired case hanging in the chamber).

    The third one worked flawlessly.

    John Fowles wrote a book, "National Defense", one section dealing with the M-16.

    Army Ordinance was peeved that it had not been consulted on the development by Armalite of the AR-15, demanded 1) the use of Ball Powder rather than the two part IMR cleaner burning powder(developed by Armalite for the AR-15), and 2) that the muzzle velocity be increased from 2800 to 3100 feet per second.

    The first demand caused fouling of the gas ports, and the second exponentially increasing the chamber pressure, thus over-expanding the tiny .223 (5.56mm) brass, causing it to hang in the chamber.

    My personal take is that during the rapid build-up at the start of the war(62-67) the various manufacturers, some in their haste, bored the chambers with little quality control.

    Their solution was to have a series of bolts, whose head-space(between the back of the brass and the face of the bolt) was cut to compensate for variations in the bores, and assemble them, matching each individually. This was faster than re-boring, or in the case of over-boring, resizing the barrel and re-boring, thus resulting in inconsistent under-boring, shortening the chamber, and was the norm.

    Of course, when GIs cleaned their weapons, it was often in a tin-pot(helmet) full of JP4(kerosene) in which the various bolt mechanisms, from various manufactures, were tossed into, then randomly extracted, thus mismatching the bolts and chambers.

    This inconstancy in finished product becoming one of the major causes of malfunction.

    I have spoken to a number of GIs from Vietnam who used valve grinding compound and/ or dirt and oil and enlarged the chambers using a cleaning rod and fired brass to remedy the chamber hanging problem.

    When I arrived, we had no cleaning rods, I sent home for one, and was very popular for a while until our CO saw me, had a fit, and "got on the horn" to the REMFs, and finally got us all the supplementary "kits" with cleaning rods that the those in the rear, who NEVER fired their weapons, were appropriating. These included bipods which were useless and were tossed immediately.

    Previously, when the brass would hang in the chamber, we were using coat hangers to try to knock the brass out.

    We were, effectively, using muzzle-loaders against the AK-47s.

    In addition, there is the popular misconception, including myself for many years, that most of those who went to Vietnam were conscripts(I being one).

    Two-thirds, 67% were volunteers. That is: their service numbers, in the Army, were RA (Regular Army) not US (Draftees). The overwhelming majority of Marines were volunteers as well.

    I have copies of my Company rosters, an infantry line unit, for four of the twelve months that I was in-country, and they reflect that same 67 percent RA, 33% US.

  19. Morely Dotes

    Well, actually...

    @ Stu Reeves: "One slight error in your anology, 5-95 yr olds could pick up an AK and get it working in seconds. Can the same be said of Linux?"

    Assuming they know how to put a CD in the CD-ROM drive, yes:

    Nothing has to be installed, a KDE version is available (KDE is the "MS Windows-lokking" Linux desktop), and they'll send you the CDs for free, so you don't even need to know how to burn a CD yourself.

    Now, Stu... Do you know how to put the 7.62mm rounds into the AK's magazine, and load that into the rifle?

  20. heystoopid


    Say , as for Black Hawk Down , the movie is basically fiction and a travesty of the real events on the day , and much of really what happened was deliberately covered up ! When the surviving local militia and residents of Mogadishu first saw the pirated movie dvd they treated it as a comedy movie which it was , and much of the audience was in stitches from laughing so hard!

    Sadly , even now as for the M16 , the majority of the National Guard Units sent to Iraq are still using the first generation of the rifle , and it is suffering from poor reliability in the dusty conditions , forcing the Guardsmen to carry spare gun oil as in the days of Vietnam!(although since most of the infantry are mounted in small light vehicle units they carry a few Iraqi AK clones for the reason , Oops we shot an innocent civilian , nah he's a bad guy look he has an AK! , end of that problem)

    We also forget Soldiers were rarely taught how to shoot accurately past 100 yards even in the days of bolt action rifles! , due to the logic of using Artillery barrages for longer ranges!

  21. Ed Deckard

    BREN assault rifle?

    "And, depending on the definition of an "assault rifle", there is that Czech invention, the Brno-Enfield 303 light machine gun, more popularly known as the Bren. It was man portable and had an excellent range and accuracy and pre-dated the German "assault rifle" !"

    If we're going to include the BREN under the "assault rifle" category, then there's a whole bunch of earlier designs. Take the Chauchat, the French light machine gun from WW1. At 9 kg it was about 1.25 kg lighter than the WW2 BREN, and much lighter than other LMGs of the era [Brit-issue Lewis (12.7 kg), German MG08/15 (18 kg and belt-fed)], designed to fire from the shoulder, had a fixed barrel and fed from a bottom-mounted magazine. In short, except for firing a full-powered round (8mm Lebel) and being a bit on the heavy side, it had the same features as a modern assault rifle.

  22. corestore

    Best rifle that never was?

    If you want the best rifle that never was, how about the H&K G11:


  23. Chris Knox

    Not just the AK-47 is Open Source

    #include clip vs.magazine terminology rant ;

    The AK-47 is an excellent example of a design that got a life of its own, and is arguably the most successful firearm design of the 20th Century, especially from a geo-political standpoint.

    But it certainly isn't the first example of an Open Source gun. John Browning's venerable automatic pistol design, adopted by the U.S. Army and designated the M1911A1 has been copied, refined, and re-tooled by gun companies and tinkerers across the planet. While the AK was knocked off pretty much unchanged by governments equipping armies, "Ol' Slabsides" was refined and accurized into a myriad of offspring that resemble their parent only in basic function.

    Congratulations on a fine bit of gun writing, and on meeting Genral. K. himself.

  24. thomasthetanker


    Anyone else getting worried looks from co-workers as you read this?

  25. Roger Bradley

    Grow Up

    The more I read The Register and Slashdot, the more I realise that there are a lot of sad prats out there who love guns.

    Good OS analogy? It's brilliant, I have to make sure the safety is on when I use Ubuntu otherwise I'll end up killing someone. Yeah, there's a real analogy between Linux and guns. This makes less sense than a manfromMars posting.

    What a pathetic bunch of immature little boys, playing with guns and pretending that they're not designed to kill. Getting a little stiffy no doubt while you fondle the hard shiny barrel and ram home a clip/magazine, whatever.

    It's articles like this, talking about these bloody things as though they're a work of art or a design icon that ensures we continue to remain at risk from the next inadequate who gets off on guns and kills someone.

    But of course it'll be him not the gun. He could so easily have murdered people at random from a distance with any other kind of weapon couldn't he?

    Grow up you sad bastards.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Like the gun, hate its availability

    The big problem of the AK is: the gun is cheap, ammo is cheap, and the gun doesn't biodegrade. Consequently, several countries have been kept in a state of permanent high entropy due to gun violence.

    More reading at

    "When the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, the vast arms infrastructure did not disappear. Operating for a decade, it had become ingrained in the economy and culture of Afghanistan and neighboring countries. Even before the Soviet withdrawal, Western newspapers took note of the huge supply of AKs in the region, and the notion of a "Kalashnikov culture" entered the lexicon. In Pakistan, for example, a substantial part of the country's economy -- including gangs who robbed and kidnapped, drug kingpins who followed established arms routes, and the small village arms makers who bought, sold, repaired and produced their homemade versions -- depended on the ubiquitous AK"

    > Anyone else getting worried looks from co-workers as you read this?

    No. They are already used to see me wearing camo in the server room.

    One grunt and they are off.

  27. Andy Silver badge


    Looks> Anyone else getting worried looks from co-workers as you read this?

    Certainly not. It's Saturday night, and I'm home alone.


  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tumbling bullet - dum-dum?

    Would a bullet designed to tumble in the victoms body be in breach of international conventions, like a dum-dum bullet?

  29. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    RE: Grow up

    Guns are designed to kill... Well, yes, but so are many other things - hammers, axes, knives. I was against the Iraq war and I hate the things that are being done in the name of the War Of Terror, but I like guns. Does that make me a villain?

    Wars and military technology is an important part of human civilisation. Our BIOS is programmed (IT angle?) to do that and to kill when circumstances are right (or wrong?). To deny that would be naive, at the very least. Therefore, when I hold a gun I never pretend it is not designed to kill and so I teach my children.

    Si vis pacem, para bellum.

    As to the tumbling bullets - yes, any caliber bullet can be designed to tumble, but the invention allowed to reduce the caliber while maintaining or even increasing the lethality.

  30. Chris Goodchild

    Little boys playing with guns ?

    Guns are dangerous things and are responsible for a great deal of unnecessary death and suffering, they need to be controlled and kept out of the hands of criminals and children. But most of the commenters talking above about the technicalities of AK's etc are obviously for the most part ex service men and not little boys with a hard on for blued steel, those that aren't appear to be sufficiently well informed to be worth listening to. Most anti gun types are N.I.M.B.Y types who when the shit hits the fan will always ask why the government and the army isn't doing something about it but the rest of the time will happily condemn all the people in the armed forces as savages and look down on them from their lofty intellectual perches.It's an unfortunate fact that a fundamental part of the human condition involves sometimes killing people who don't agree with us and untill we evolve out of that we are going to be stuck with various means for killing others in both small or large numbers.

    Oh and as far as I am aware the bren has always been considered a light machine gun, which is, in it's current incarnation the designation. at about thirty pounds much too heavy to classify as an assault rifle. It has a heavier barrel to sustain higher rates of fire than an assault rifle.

  31. Rich

    Utility of a rifle

    I know relatively little about this, but isn't a combat soldier (especially in tank warfare) mostly just about shooting off a quantity of bullets in the general direction of the enemy?

    In Max Hasting's book "Armageddon" he suggests that many allied troops got through the whole (WW2) Western Front campaign without firing an aimed shot.

  32. Mike Moyle

    Re: Utility of a rifle

    Truthfully, Rich, both tactics have their uses. During the 1700s and most of the 1800s, troops were trained to fire in massed volleys. Partly this was done because most troops were isued smoothbore guns which pretty much had the accuracy of a moderately-well-thrown brick, and partly as a way of doing what a modern soldier can do with an automatic waepon - intimidate the enemy into keeping his head down or running away.

    On the other hand, the troops who had rifled guns and stood a better chance of hitting a specific target could fire alone and at will and still do significant damage. This was one of the advantages that the American irregulars had in the American Revolution. It meant, for example, that they stood a better than average chance of shooting the British officers in back of the battle-line without having to first work through the rows of musketeers in front.

    Damnably unsporting.

    It's also the reason why - along with issuing weapons capapble of full-auto fire to the mass of troops - most every major military also trains specialist snipers for long-range "one shot; one kill" tactics (using highly-specialized bolt-action rifles, usually), which can unnerve the enemy in a whole different way.

  33. Mike Weisman

    Cartidge comparisons, and a joy to shoot.

    There was no reduction in power when the soviets went to 5,45x39 cartridge in the AK74. It's a 7,62x39 (AK fodder) necked down to accept the smaller projectile. The total energy is about the same, the result is that the lighter projectile is flung faster. Like 5.56 NATO, the projectile tends to tumble on impact with tissue, and has about the same energy.

    BTW: The 7,62x39 made it debut in a semi-auto battle rifle called the Simonov, or SKS, in '45. The SKS cost more to manufacture than the AK. They looked better in parades, however.

    The 7.62 NATO is a completely different size cartridge, and there's no point in comparing it to these lower energy cartridges. The Soviet equivalent is 7,62x54, and is used in heaver rifles and for longer range shooting, and has the same kind of overall effectiveness as 7.62 NATO.

    In the news recently: The US army is going to answer complaints about desert dust and the M16's, with a shoot off against some other rifles to consider for use in the middle east. Too bad they don;t consider the Kalishnakov or one of its varients. The Israelies make a nice one called Galil, chambered in 5.56 NATO.

    I have an AK that they sell here in the States, it's been neutered for no full-auto. It's a lot of fun at the range.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Grow up

    "What a pathetic bunch of immature little boys," - Roger Bradley, 2007

    "When I became a man I put away childish things, such as the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up" - C.S. Lewis, 1952

    Interestingly, out of all the comments here, the one telling everyone to "grow up" is the one that sounds most like the whiny 15 year olds that I used to teach.

  35. Dax Farrer

    @Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    "Does that make me a villain?"

    No, but it does make you a potential nutter.... Oi Nutter !

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Interesting angle, but...

    No doubt there's an interesting story behind the AK, but I think more emphasis needed to be put on the fact that illicit trade in the lethal weapon and its illegal employment by the criminal fraternity has contributed to its status today.

    And it's status is, in my opinion, grotesque. Forget looking at it from an engineering or technical point of view: That's not how the majority of its users see it.

    If you ask me the AK is a simple design that functions as well as it could be expected, that has subsequently been exploited then put on a pedestal by idiots.

    When I think of the AK I think of the outlaw and his six-shooter or the wise-guy with a Tommy Gun - thickos who could get their hands on something quite easily that would give them killing power.

    You don't get NWA songs with lyrics like "AK-47 is the tool, don't make me act the motherf*ckin' fool," and Cypress Hill rapping, "A to the motherf*ckin' K homeboy," because of its clever design - it's because it's trendy and widely available.

    According to a BBC article I just read, estimates put the number of AK's currently in circulation between 70 and 100 million, compared with 7 million M-16s.

    Given that statistic I would liken the proliferation of the AK more to a pandemic disease than to clever outsourcing.

  37. andy gibson

    Good article but...

    ... couldn't the El Reg correspondent have at least smartened himself up, put a shirt and tie on for Gods sake to meet such an important man?

  38. Daniel

    More geeky history

    There's also the Finish made copy of the AK called the Valmet Rk.62, which, in turn formed the basis for the Israeli Galil - an AK-like weapon that actually takes the NATO small caliber round. Galils remain common in Southern Africa to this day, because the only nation that would supply the Apartheid government of South Africa with weapons (other than Yugoslavia) was Israel. The South Africans liked to supply their various right-wing puppet guerilla forces, in countries like Angola, with Galil rifles, since - to the untrained eye - they looked like AKs and the guerillas could claim to have equiped themselves with captured weaponry. US sponsored supplies of Chinese Type 59s are often cited for how relatively common these rifles are, in Afghanistan, for the same reason: they look good on camera.

    Perhaps a more telling story, is that of the SVD and FPK sniper-rifles, which were generally equiped at a level of 1, per 30 man-platoon, throughout the Warsaw Pact armies. This, in turn, meant that wherever those government were overthrown in anything resembling a conflict, the situation almost always disolved into grotesque 'sniper' combat.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guns and Guitars

    >If only there were more guitars in the world.

    I got a picture off the BBC news site some months ago of guitars made from AK47 assault rifles. I don't have any way of getting the picture on this thread, but you may be able to find it still. Worth a look. They could catch on (the stuff of TSA nightmares?).

  40. Peter Mellor

    Re: Tumbling bullet - dum-dum?

    In response to the comment posted anonymously on Sunday 5th August 2007 04:07 GMT:

    "Would a bullet designed to tumble in the victim's body be in breach of international conventions, like a dum-dum bullet?"

    Answer: No, but it has the same effect (dumping ALL of its energy into the victim's (sorry - target's) body and ripping his/her innnards to shreds, rather than drilling a neat hole right through, which might be repaired). My understanding was that the driving force behind the development of the Armalite and similar ammunition was precisely that it had this effect without the drawback of being banned.

    The thing that surprised me slightly in the current thread of discussion was to learn that earlier types of ammunition also had this property.

  41. Ishkandar

    Re. growup

    Oh dear, how terrible !! Guns do NOT kill enough people ! Why, cars kill many more people every day than guns do ! Something MUST be done to ban cars worldwide !! Especially in the hands of 40+ year old teenagers who fondle them for the only thrills in their lives !!

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Reading the article above reminds me of the actual rise of the IBM compatable PC itself, and how it has now became the standard, and how IBM failed on the second try on licensing Micro Channel Bus technology.

  43. Ishkandar

    Uncle Sam's AK47s

    Even as we discuss, Uncle Sam has "misplaced" 190,000 AK47s and other weapons !! And they have the cheek to blame others on weapons proliferation !!

    Truly as the Native Americans would have said," White man speaks with forked tongue" !!

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guns don't kill people...

    "AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every m**********r in the room, accept no substitutes." - Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson) in "Jackie Brown"

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 points

    1 - Is that photo of Osma Bin Laden giving us the finger/flipping the biord (for american readers) real, and where did you get it? That's hilarious. It makes him look like some bored whiny teenager with a webcam.

    2 - the argument that the development of the assault rifle was what helped the Vietnamese fight back the Amercians is flawed. Any nation that spent a millenium fighting back the huge nation to the north - China - would have the upper hand. A millenium of patriotic defense of the nation, the heavy jungle, and the local knowledge to turn any combat into close combat guerilla warfare meant they would always have won, or at least drawn. If the US handn't pulled out, it would still be ongoing.


  46. simon

    2007 is the year of the AK47 desktop..

    Or was that last year ?

  47. Frank Silbermann

    What's wrong with killing?

    "The more I read The Register and Slashdot, the more I realise that there are a lot of sad prats out there who love guns. ... What a pathetic bunch of immature little boys, playing with guns and pretending that they're not designed to kill."

    There's nothing wrong with killing people, as long as you kill the right people at the right time for the right reasons. That's why Tony Blair's bodyguard carried a handgun (having no legitimate use other than the killing of human beings). I personally know a man who was instructed by the British government to carry a loaded Glock 19 should the defense of the Royal family ever require him to kill people.

    "Getting a little stiffy no doubt while you fondle the hard shiny barrel and ram home a clip/magazine, whatever."

    Uh, oh! Looks like we have to report this guy to the government for hate speech against us on account of our sexual orientation. That's against the law, you know!

    "It's articles like this, talking about these bloody things as though they're a work of art or a design icon that ensures we continue to remain at risk from the next inadequate who gets off on guns and kills someone."

    Is it?

    "But of course it'll be him not the gun. He could so easily have murdered people at random from a distance with any other kind of weapon couldn't he?"

    I suppose he could use bows and arrows with poisoned tips. (He could even use a catapult to through dozens of poison-tipped darts. Or a doctor could just fill an automobile with shrapnel bombs and park it by a bar popular with single women (reflecting his understanding of the Hippocratic Oath).

    "When the last Soviet troops left Afghanistan on Feb. 15, 1989, the vast arms infrastructure did not disappear. Operating for a decade, it had become ingrained in the economy and culture of Afghanistan and neighboring countries. ... the small village arms makers who bought, sold, repaired and produced their homemade versions (of the AK)"

    Look on the bright side. If we can sufficiently promote the the spread of home-workshop arms-making techniques, maybe we can finally convince people that gun bans are no substitute for the killing of criminals, and that disarming the victims only makes things worse.

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