The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW



Avtomat Kalashnikov AK-47 - Characteristics

The AK-47 is a selective fire, gas operated 7.62mm assault rifle developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. All of the Kalashnikov assault rifles are very dependable and produce a high volume of fire. The AK-47 was one of the first true assault rifles and, due to its durability, low production cost and ease of use, the weapon and its numerous variants remain the most widely used assault rifles in the world. The main advantages of the Kalashnikov rifle are its simple design, fairly compact size and adaptation to mass production.

The most commonly used military small arms are the assault rifle and the machine gun. Their essential characteristic is that they are fully automatic; that is, they will fire as long as the trigger is pulled and there are rounds in the magazine. This behavior distinguishes military from civilian small arms: the latter class of weapons, although usually but mistakenly referred to as "automatic," are actually "semiautomatic." In a semiautomatic small arm, the trigger must be pulled every time a bullet is fired. What is automatic in a semiautomatic small arm is the chambering (of rounds) and extraction (of cartridges).

The assault rifle was developed during the last years of World War II and may be looked on as an effort to give the individual soldier some of the potential firepower of the machine gun. The two best-known assault rifles today are the M16 series developed in the United States (the M16A2 is not technically fully automatic, as it is designed to fire three-round bursts) and the various designs of Kalashnikov such as the AK47 and the AK74. The AK-47 is quite different from the M-16A2 service rifle -- the weapon American troops become intimately acquainted with. At a time when the infantry of many armies is armed with sophisticated and fully automatic versions of assault rifles, US foot soldiers are being equipped with the modified M-16A2, a one-pull, three-shot version of the original Colt rifle.

The most commonly used assault rifle bullets have calibers (in millimeters) of 5.45, 5.56, and 7.62. The muzzle velocities range between 2,350 and 3,300 fps. Such velocities are substantially greater than those found in bullets fired by civilian handguns, which typically have muzzle velocities of 800 to 1,200 fps. Their effective ranges often exceed 600 meters and have effective rates of fire up to 400 rounds per minute in the full automatic mode.

The notched rear tangent iron sight is adjustable, and is calibrated in hundreds of meters. The front sight is a post adjustable for elevation in the field. Windage adjustment is done by the armory before issue. The battle setting places the round within a few centimeters above or below the point of aim out to about 250 meters (275 yd). This "point-blank range" setting allows the shooter to fire the gun at any close target without adjusting the sights. Longer settings are intended for area suppression. The fire selector acts as a dust cover for the charging handle raceway when placed on safe. This prevents intrusion of dust and other debris into the internal parts.

To fire, the operator inserts a loaded magazine, moves the selector lever to the lowest position, pulls back and releases the charging handle, aims, and then pulls the trigger. In this setting, the firearm fires only once (semi-automatic), requiring the trigger to be released and depressed again for the next shot. With the selector in the middle position (full-automatic), the rifle continues to fire, automatically cycling fresh rounds into the chamber, until the magazine is exhausted or pressure is released from the trigger. As each bullet travels through the barrel, a portion of the gases expanding behind it is diverted into the gas tube above the barrel, where it impacts the gas piston. The piston, in turn, is driven backward, pushing the bolt carrier, which causes the bolt to move backwards, ejecting the spent round, and chambering a new round when the recoil spring pushes it back.

The AK-47 weighs 4.3 kg (9.5 lb) with empty magazine. It has a length of 870 mm (34.3 in) fixed wooden stock, 875 mm (34.4 in) folding stock extended or 645 mm (25.4 in) stock folded. The barrel length is 415 mm (16.3 in). It is gas operated with a rotating bolt and can fire up to 600 rounds per minute.

The standard AK-47 or AKM fires the 7.62x39mm cartridge with a muzzle velocity of 710 meters per second (2,300 ft/s). Muzzle energy is 2,010 joules (1,480 ft-lb). Cartridge case length is 38.6 millimeters (1.52 in), weight is 18.21 grams (281.0 gr). Projectile weight is normally 8 grams (120 gr). The AK-47 and AKM, with the 7.6239mm cartridge, have a maximum effective range of around 400 meters (1,300 ft) and can travel up to 800 meters (2,600 ft). The bolt of an AK-47 doesn't automatically lock to the rear when the magazine is empty. So users have to really double check that they're cleared before we walk down in front of the weapons.

Early variants of the Automat Kalashnikov (AK-47) had stamped receivers. In many ways, stamping is a subset of forging applied to thin, cold stock. An example outside the firearms industry is a metal car-body panel. Large sheets of flat metal are placed in a stamping press carrying dies that are the negative of the final part. In one blow, the cold sheet metal assumes the shape forced by the die design. Typically, stamping is used to form thinner firearms parts that are not load-bearing, such as magazines and trigger guards. The SK-47 receiver consisted of a right- and left-hand stamped unit that were secured with machined spacer blocks and screwed or riveted together. Most AK-47s were produced with milled receivers.

Join the mailing list

One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias

Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:13:17 ZULU