happy birthday to you happy birthday to.....the Russian Ak-47
July 6, 2007 11:20 PM   Subscribe

Ahh that symbol of the Russian endurance and the instrument of forcing peace (or certain radical beliefs) on everyone… Yes it was 60 years ago that a Russian peasant would create a weapon that would be tough, easy to use and easy to make. If the weapon tickles your fancy, then you can buy it here for about $880…
posted by Prunedish (49 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"This is the AK 47 Assault Rifle, the preferred weapon of your enemy. It makes a distinctive sound when fired at you, so remember it." -- Gy. Sgt. Highway, Heartbreak Ridge

"Sergeant, get that contraband stogie out of my face before I shove it so far up your ass that you'll have to stick a match up your nose to light it. " -- Gy. Sgt. Highway, Heartbreak Ridge
posted by rolypolyman at 11:29 PM on July 6, 2007

Today was a good day ...
posted by YoBananaBoy at 11:31 PM on July 6, 2007

A better buy would be one lovingly hand-crafted in Northwest Frontier Province for that made-to-measure feel.
posted by Abiezer at 11:53 PM on July 6, 2007

"AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room. Accept no substitutes."
posted by miss lynnster at 12:04 AM on July 7, 2007

What, no Lord of War quote?
posted by IronLizard at 12:11 AM on July 7, 2007

"Of all the weapons in the vast soviet arsenal, nothing was more profitable than Avtomat Kalashnikova model of 1947. More commonly known as the AK-47, or Kalashnikov. It's the world's most popular assault rifle. A weapon all fighters love. An elegantly simple 9 pound amalgamation of forged steel and plywood. It doesn't break, jam, or overheat. It'll shoot whether it's covered in mud or filled with sand. It's so easy, even a child can use it; and they do. The Soviets put the gun on a coin. Mozambique put it on their flag. Since the end of the Cold War, the Kalashnikov has become the Russian people's greatest export. After that comes vodka, caviar, and suicidal novelists. One thing is for sure, no one was lining up to buy their cars."
posted by IronLizard at 12:13 AM on July 7, 2007 [4 favorites]

Abiezer: Might like this video, if it ever loads.
posted by delmoi at 12:15 AM on July 7, 2007

He smiled: "An arms builder is attached to his designs like a mother to her children."
posted by taosbat at 12:22 AM on July 7, 2007

Lord of War.
posted by homunculus at 12:28 AM on July 7, 2007

BBC Radio prgramme interviewing Michael Hodges, author of AK47 - The Story of the People’s Gun.
posted by liquidindian at 12:33 AM on July 7, 2007

Same event, slightly different take; from the IHT: Inventor of AK-47 blames politicians for bloodshed, not his rifle. Personally I think this article is more interesting than the ABC one.

I'd also be fascinated to get a summary of one of Kalashnikov's books:
Kalashnikov is still active and prolific — he tours the world as a Rosoboronexport consultant helping strike new arms deals, and has penned several books on his life, about arms and about youth education.

"After the collapse of the great and mighty Soviet Union so much crap has been imposed on us, especially on the younger generation," he said. "I wrote six books to help them find their way in life."
The Rosoboronexport website is hoot, too; they seem to have taken down their full online catalog (they used to have "product pages" up for each major item they sell, e.g. tanks, destroyers, whatever you need) but now it seems only the table of contents for each section is available. Here's the Navy products catalog TOC (PDF), just to given an idea. (I wonder if they take American Express?)
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:54 AM on July 7, 2007

Wow, I never saw Lord of War but Nicholas Cage sure snarfed his lines in that clip. I can imagine Harvey Keitel or Kiefer Sutherland or Laurence Fishburne imbuing that speech with a menacing coldness, really selling their love for an implement of efficient destruction.

Cage, on the other hand, sounded like a bored eighth grader forced to read chapter 6, section 3 of a history textbook to the rest of the class.
posted by Riki tiki at 1:02 AM on July 7, 2007

"They always tell me that I would be a multi-millionaire in the West. They always talk about money. Are there no other values? What about having a bronze bust of yourself in your home village?" he added.

How nice to have a home village. All I got was a provincial cow town in the arse end of nowhere.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:05 AM on July 7, 2007

Wow, odd. I'm in the middle of watching Lord of War right now.

It's a good movie. I've always been and probably always will be an advocate of (or perhaps one that realizes the inevitability of) arms for personal and corporate self defense, but the movie does make one contemplate.
posted by vsync at 1:30 AM on July 7, 2007

I just finished reading "The Gun that Changed the World" by Mikhael Kalashnikov. I wouldn't recommend it. It's translated from Russian and is mostly a clumsy disjointed read. Basically, it's a poor translation written by someone with no real interest in self-analysis. But, that being said, Kalashnikov is a really interesting guy. His family was sent to Siberia under Stalin for being kulaks. He escaped and worked his way up as a weapons engineer. The book did manage to strike a chord in me though. As you can tell by the article, Kalashnikov is completely unrepentant. He has no moral hang ups in regards to inventing a weapon that has unleashed so much death upon the world. It's bizarre to read something where the creation of an instrument of death is talked from such a jovial and detached perspective. The book lacks any kind of self reflection from Kalashnikov. But what is unique about the book, if you're into the Soviet Union, is it gives you an idea of what life was like if you were part of the Soviet elite. This man had a cushy apartment and eventually became a deputy in the politburo. Most of the accounts in the West of the USSR usually focus on either dissidents or the opression of the masses. But while Kalishnikov was part of the elite he was also terrified that his family's history might one day be discovered, which while unsaid in the book, is probably the thing that drove him to become a patriot.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 1:32 AM on July 7, 2007

Riki tiki: Cage, on the other hand, sounded like a bored eighth grader forced to read chapter 6, section 3 of a history textbook to the rest of the class.

Agreed. I thought Lord of War was a good concept, poorly executed. There are others who could have done far better in that role than Cage; he had the opportunity throughout the movie for what probably could have been absolutely chilling monologues and really shown some character development, instead I felt like he was just burnt-out and emo throughout.

Plus, in the CG 'ammo manufacturing' intro, which got a lot of mentions in the reviews of the film, they don't put any gunpowder in, and this annoys me.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:44 AM on July 7, 2007

felt like he was just burnt-out and emo throughout.

Ok, burnt out, I get that. But emo? In that context, what on earth does that mean?
posted by Jon Mitchell at 1:48 AM on July 7, 2007

Lord of War could have been a good movie that Cage absoluted slaughtered with his authentic-wooden-stock delivery. I went with three friends and we all laughed at the wrong times. Then again, the lines Cage had to work with were not exactly top-shelf either.

(The parts about how he longs for his homeland ("I miss my borscht and perogies*") go beyond tin-ear-land and into the territory of Borat-style racial parody. It made me crave George Lucas's brilliant ear for dialogue.)

* paraphrased; I don't have the stomach to rewatch and find the real quote. Suffice to say we groaned a lot in the theatre. If you haven't seen it, imagine how the Internet is described, shown and used in every movie** ever made. I am posting this to save you the pain.

** other than Jay and Silent Bob, of course, which nailed it.
posted by rokusan at 2:40 AM on July 7, 2007

You can actually buy a Yugoslavian-made semi-auto AK47 for less than $300 nowdays.
posted by mrbill at 2:55 AM on July 7, 2007

My mistake, $319 plus tax and shipping and dealer transfer fees.
posted by mrbill at 2:59 AM on July 7, 2007

One more note - seek out the History Channel's "Tales of the Gun" episode about the AK47 - it has a segment where Mr. Kalashnikov met Eugene Stoner, creator of the AR15/M16. Quite a "meeting of the minds".
posted by mrbill at 3:03 AM on July 7, 2007

Huh. Tonight at a 7/7/7 party, I'll be sure to raise a glass of Starka to Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, Soviet patriot and engineer.

In the right milieu, you can get a thoroughly (ab)used but nicely functional AK for a chicken or two. It's a "spray and pray" sort of weapon that's easily handled by Third World ten-year-old boys forced into service as irregulars, and it tends to continue shooting even when it hasn't been field-stripped and cleaned since the last Democrat Administration. In most kinds of modern combat, I'd a hell of a lot rather have a late-issue '47 than an M-16 or M-4.

For you readers out there, I highly recommend AK-47: The Weapon that Changed the Face of War by Larry Kahaner.

I used to be shootin' and drinkin' buddies with a guy who had, among various other hardware, an AK-47, an AKS-74 (newer design, shot a lighter round more like the M-16, and a folding stock and foregrip that made it fun to shoot casually -- a great "fashion accessory" for the 'hood), and a venerable SKS. The '47 was satisfying to shoot, but sorta "loosey-goosey" and not all that accurate at about 100 meters. The '74 was better, and the recoil felt a little lighter, but when I went deer hunting, I always liked to borrow his SKS because it was heavier, felt more solid, and, at least for me, shot a bit more comfortably and accurately than the AK-designed weps did -- like an M-14, only a little more forgiving of less than a two-handed death grip.

Functionally, the only problem I ever had with the AKs was that at first I wasn't comfortable with getting a fresh magazine inserted and seated properly in the mag well. My buddy's twelve-year-old daughter, who could field-strip an AK when most girls were accessorizing their Barbies (she had one of those too), took the rifle from me and easily corrected my screwup.
posted by pax digita at 3:41 AM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Since imitation is the highest form of flatter, I'll just say how the Finnish military assault rifle is based on the design of the AK-47 and I have to agree with pax digita, that the reload isn't as easy as it could be, thanks to the banana clip that needs to be inserted at an odd angle. Practise makes perfect and all that. And at least the RK95 was very accurate at distances above 100m. Says everything you need to know that the design hasn't really changed that much in the last 60 years.

I'll have a glass of Stoli to celebrate tonight. Had to lug that bitch around for good part of a year, so I feel we have a connection.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:43 AM on July 7, 2007

Abiezer, I would love to know how those "blacksmiths" produce rifled barrels using "just the most basic of tools - an electric buffer, a vice, and several tinker’s hammers". At least let them use a vise.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:53 AM on July 7, 2007

At least let them use a vise.

Can't make no rifles till we get that vodka.
posted by yohko at 6:02 AM on July 7, 2007

Kirth - that's how we in the civilised parts of the English-speaking world do spell it. Next we can tire of the tyre question :D
posted by Abiezer at 6:50 AM on July 7, 2007

I'd rather have an M1. But then I won't be trying to depopulate a classroom.
posted by davy at 7:13 AM on July 7, 2007

The AK-47 was preceded by the German Sturmgewehr 44, the first mass-produced assault rifle.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:34 AM on July 7, 2007

See, davy, from my limited knowledge (behind the scenes docus on a myriad of WW2 films/shows/docus) I was under the impression that the m1 Garand is uncomfortable as fuck to fire? The wooden stock couples with the recoil stings and bruises as all hell. Am I mistaken? Or is this more of a stylistic/patriotic choice?
posted by slimepuppy at 8:53 AM on July 7, 2007

Of course, it's not just the assault rifle design we're talking about, but the type of cartridge iitself--basically starting out as a half-length shortened rifle round, later to become a half-sized rifle round.
posted by Brian B. at 9:59 AM on July 7, 2007

Boy, I remember the first time I fired one of these. I managed to spray about a 20 foot circle encompassing my target, and only got about 3 rounds actually on mark. Clearly illustrated how intimidating that much lead flying could be though.
posted by pupdog at 10:34 AM on July 7, 2007

Both the AK-47 and the M1 Garand have quite a kick. It's bearable if you brace it properly against your shoulder; if you don't, you'll have a nice bruise the next morning. I've never had the opportunity to fire an AK in fully auto, but I'm sure it's awesome (and hard as hell to do.)
posted by trim17 at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2007

the M1 has always had a certain appeal to me. maybe it's because i've read too many books on survival where success is based on precise aim and ability to "shoot them in head" from a long distance. Also, Saving Private Ryan was one of the first home theatre movies in surround sound that I ever watched, and I've really wanted to hear the clang of a m1 magazine being ejected.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:22 AM on July 7, 2007

Ahh that symbol of the Russian endurance

posted by Heywood Mogroot at 11:40 AM on July 7, 2007

m1 magazine

M1 clip! Unless you mean the M1 carbine, also a nice gun.
posted by Snyder at 12:08 PM on July 7, 2007

PostIronyIsNotaMyth : Kalashnikov is completely unrepentant. He has no moral hang ups in regards to inventing a weapon that has unleashed so much death upon the world.

In fairness, his reasons for creating it were pretty good. I mean he saw what happened at the Russian front during world war 2, he saw that Russians were being killed in the millions because they didn't have any kind of small arms to fight back. After seeing something like that, creating a reliable, easy to use, easy to build, inexpensive rifle for your country could make you a national hero.

He didn't design the gun to be used in third world countries by revolutionaries or terrorists, he designed it to keep his country-men safe.

And I find it fascinating how vilified the AK47 has become. I have often wondered if Americans dislike it more because it's favored by militants, or because it's popular with gang bangers. The first time I really noticed people bitching about the gun was in reference to NWA, not any kind of foreign enemy.
posted by quin at 1:55 PM on July 7, 2007

I quoted Samuel L. Jackson because I have a rule to refrain from quoting 80% of Nicholas Cage movies. I'm allowed to quote any piece of dialogue from Raising Arizona on a loop though.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:10 PM on July 7, 2007

You know, you could have quoted Amos & Andrew. That gives you Nicolas Cage and Samuel L. Jackson, all in one movie.

You have a frying pan, I have a shotgun. If you I wanted you dead, you better believe me brother, you'd be dead.

Just change 'shotgun' to be 'AK47' to keep it relevant to this thread.
posted by quin at 3:34 PM on July 7, 2007

I used to shoot a Garand at rifle club matches, years ago. They do kick pretty hard, a lot harder than the SKS. But, the Garand is more accurate than either the SKS or the AK. There were guys I used to shoot with who had the full on accurized setup-- precision barrel, float kit,cleaned up trigger, the whole works.

I'm really sorry I never bought an AK when they were still legal in California. Oh well. I passed up on genuine Colt Sporter Lightweight (AR15, looks like an M4 with a legal barrel) back then too because I thought 600 bucks was "too much money."
posted by wuwei at 3:49 PM on July 7, 2007

The M1 will do a number on your shoulder if you're not used to rifles of that caliber and type, but when comparing apples to apples it's no worse than a Mauser 98 (actually, I think the Mauser kicks harder, YMMV). The thing that's really punishing about an M1 is the weight. Carry one of those around for a day and you will be hurting, even if you have a sling.

I've fired an AK-47, and I've also fired the more-modern variant (the 74, which shoots a small round similar to the M-16 -- another development that rightly should be credited to the Germans) in full-auto, and found it impossible to control after the second or third round. I can only imagine the '47 would be significantly worse. Personally, I'd much rather just have a semiautomatic weapon and mash down on the trigger repeatedly, than be spraying bullets far above my target. (And consequently, I think FA is practically useless on anything that's not belt-fed and meant to be fired prone.)

The thing that really bothers me about all the '47 variants that I've ever picked up, is that they all have terrible "creepy" triggers. I have an SKS that I bought for plinking that seems to be about average, and I feel like I have to haul that thing in for about a mile before it touches off. Even with their cleaning issues, I'll take a Stoner or Garand variant (Mini-14, etc.) before dealing with that. But again, I suppose it boils down to differing approaches to tactics and doctrine, and admittedly, the U.S. doesn't have much claim to superiority there.

Too bad the History Channel couldn't have gotten Stoner and Kalashnikov to sit down over a drawing board -- I really wonder what two guys like that could come up with.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:29 PM on July 7, 2007

I've also fired the more-modern variant (the 74, which shoots a small round similar to the M-16 -- another development that rightly should be credited to the Germans) in full-auto, and found it impossible to control after the second or third round.

You're not supposed to fire it for more than 2-3 rounds at a time. They teach you that in the army and, according to my dad, they give you shit if you don't learn proper trigger control.

As far as creepy triggers, you can make them fairly decent pretty easily. But then again, when the action is full of sand...
posted by c13 at 7:08 PM on July 7, 2007

Speaking of triggers, if you've got an AK and want a better trigger, check this one out. It's pricey, but well worth the money. I'd also get that trigger retaining plate.
posted by c13 at 7:12 PM on July 7, 2007

At a gun range in Cambodia we got to try ak-47's and m16's.
The funny thing was the m16 would jam after just a few single shots, while the ak47 had no problem with full auto.
Just like the movies, hehe.
posted by Iax at 11:38 PM on July 7, 2007

Kadin: Oh yeah the Mauser kicks harder. I shot a k98 rechambered to 7.62x51 (Israeli...yes, I know, they're dangerous b/c of overpressure and headspace issues) and it kicked harder than the M1 for sure. I think the M1 gas system does soak up the recoil. I liked the M1 better than the Springfield M1A I shot because the magazine on the M1A gets in the way of things.

I guess a rubber slip on buttpad would probably have been a good idea--not a big fan of the steel. I am not a big fan of the Mini14 either-- I think it's because of the accuracy issues, and the cost vs the AK. Also parts commonality. It's all a moot point b/c I live in California.

My understanding is that the free-floated ARs are the hot setup in "service rifle" matches. A guy at the club had one and I shot it. He built it from a stripped lower. Sweet. Nice trigger too.
posted by wuwei at 2:01 AM on July 8, 2007

quin writes "I have often wondered if Americans dislike it more because it's favored by militants, or because it's popular with gang bangers."

Or because it is popular with poor people.
posted by Mitheral at 8:32 AM on July 8, 2007

...another development that rightly should be credited to the Germans...

Very well; credit where credit is due, then.
posted by pax digita at 9:16 AM on July 8, 2007

Credit also due here and here.
posted by Brian B. at 11:44 AM on July 8, 2007

'... symbol of the Russian endurance and the instrument of forcing peace ... '

BTW, Vyacheslav Molotov has beed dead for 20 years.
posted by _squid_ at 12:17 AM on July 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I understand where you're coming from. Yeah, there was a definite need for an efficient easy to use weapon on the Soviet front. At the same time the AK-47 never saw combat during WWII, so his dream of using it to crush fascists was never realized.

When I admonish Kalashnikov for not being repentant it's because I see a fundamental problem with how he (and others) perceive weapons. You can admire guns for their beauty, their ease and efficiency, but at the end of the day you're glorifying instruments of death, things designed with only one purpose in mind - to kill people. You find that attitude in every country. Shows like "Future Weapons" on the Discovery channel are an American example.

And granted it's a little unfair to ask a gun maker to feel bad about what he makes. But never has he spoken out about how his gun has found itself into the hands of some of the poorest, most oppressed people in the world. He, obviously, had no control over it, it was a decision by the Soviet government to manufacture and distribute a cheap weapon, I'm willing to give him that. But how can he not feel the slightest bit remorse that something he invented has been used for so much evil? The very design, his design, is what makes the AK-47 such an evil weapon. A child can use it, and they do. This is the gun that children used in Sierra Leonne, Liberia and still use in the Congo. It isn't fair to single out Kalashnikov, so... fuck all gun makers and arms dealers and anyone else that traffics in death. Fuck them in their motherfucking asses.

PS I was 5 when NWA dropped their first album. But I'm a huge fan now.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 7:32 PM on July 9, 2007

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