An AK-47 Rifle.
|Country of origin:||Soviet Union|
|Used by:||Warsaw Pact, most developing countries|
|Number built:||Over 100 million|
|Weight:||3.8 kg (9.5 lb) empty, 4.3 kg loaded|
|Length:||870 mm (34.25 in)|
|Barrel length:||415 mm (16.3 in)|
|Rate of fire:||600 rounds/min|
|Muzzle velocity:||710 m/s (~2,330 ft/s)|
|Effective range:||300m (330 yds)|
The AK-47 (Russian Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года, Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947) is a gas-operated, selective-fire assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov. Over 100 million have been manufactured, making the AK-47 the most widely used firearm in the world. During the design, Kalashnikov built upon many elements introduced by the Nazi Sturmgewehr44 and the M1 Garand of the United States. The modernized version of the AK-47 is the AK-74 assault rifle, the standard-issue infantry rifle of the Russian Federation.
After being wounded in combat against Nazi forces during World War II, Kalashnikov realized that most firefights in modern combat occurred within approximately 100 meters. Noting this, he began to design an assault rifle with a smaller cartridge than a standard rifle, a higher rate of fire, and more power than a submachine gun. The aesthetic design of the gun is similar to that of the Sturmgewehr44, but the moving parts of the gun look more like those of an M1 Garand rifle.
The AK-47 has a reputation for durability, having been fully submerged in water and filled with sand without significant affects on the gun's performance. This is due to the distance between major moving parts, allowing a greater tolerance. However, this comes at a cost of accuracy; the distance between parts means that the gun cannot be as precise and, therefore, not as accurate. The AK-47 has seen widespread use, being involved in virtually every armed conflict since it's design.
The AK-47 is undoubtedly one of the most culturally influential weapons in history. Due to the widespread use of child soldiers in Africa, young boys are often known as "Kalash". The flag of Mozambique depicts an AK-47. The AK-47 is often thought of as being used by terrorists and criminals; however, the AK-47 and it's derivatives are the standard-issue rifles to the official military forces of Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Finland, China, and many more.
The AK-47 has many variants. These include the RPK, AKMS, and AK-101. The Soviet Union used AK-47's until 1978, when they began upgrading to the AK-74 line of weapons. The leftover AK-47's were sold to the highest bidder, many of which are still used in combat today.
The AK-47 in the U.S. News Media
Due to its relative popularity in the United States as a civilian sporting arm, semi-automatic variants of the AK have become part of the American cultural landscape. Unfortunately, negative examples of this include the portrayal of this rifle as part of the rap "thug" lifestyle, or usage by criminal gangs.
Due to the negative cultural associations this firearm has acquired amongst Americans unfamiliar with firearms, the news media often exploits the AK-47 meme for the purposes of sensationalism. If a crime is committed with a semi-automatic AK-47 variants (such as a Romanian WASR), the news media deliberately misleads the viewer into believing that a fully-automatic variant (which in reality costs $12,000 or more in the United States) was used in the crime. Further, the news media is quick to exploit any unclear descriptions of long-guns by assuming them to be an "AK-47 assault weapon", even when the firearm used was an unrelated SKS (Samozaryadanaya Karabina Simonova), a shotgun, or even a .22 caliber rifle. This sensationalism allows the media to draw parallels between petty crime and the violent images Americans see in Hollywood films and in carefully-edited news reports, causing a state of fear which can then be further exploited for profit or political agenda.