Why Is the AK47 So Popular?

Why is the AK-47 So Popular?

You see them in Hollywood action movies and in gun stores across the country. You also see them in newsreels showcasing footage from Middle Eastern and war-torn countries. Almost no matter where you look, the AK47 seems to be a ubiquitous firearm across the world. But how did it get to be this way, and why is the AK-47 so popular?

The AK47’s Origins

The origin of the AK-47 is a story that’s basically a Soviet myth. The details aren’t verifiable and might very well be embellished. Nevertheless, the story goes something like this:

  • Mikhail Kalashnikov was a Russian soldier who joined the Army during World War II. He was wounded during the Battle of Bryansk in 1941. He also had a lot of time to think about improvements to standard Russian guns.
  • During his time on the mend, Kalashnikov began experimenting with an automatic rifle design. He intended for it to be a direct competitor to the machine guns that German invaders were currently using to great effect.
  • Though he didn’t have much engineering or mechanical skill, Kalashnikov nonetheless created the Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 or AK-47, with the “47” marking the year of its completion (1947).

Major Advantages

The AK47 weapon platform is a simple but versatile firearm that’s easy to use and, more importantly, easy to repair. This means that any issued AK-47 firearm can expect service lives of between 20 and 40 years.

If you’re a general and need to furnish your soldiers with affordable but effective weaponry, an AK-47 is a great compromise between budget-friendliness and stopping power.

The AK-47 is also incredibly reliable. They can withstand quite a lot of punishment from inclement weather and from general misuse.


So if you’re a relatively untrained soldier who drops his or her rifle all the time or if you just see combat in sandy environments, an AK-47 is a great fit.

Even if the firearm is damaged, repairing it is a lot more cost-effective compared to a better-made and better-forming platform.

Additionally, AK-47s use so-called “intermediate rounds.” These cartridges are long enough to hold a good amount of powder (enough to be used in rifles as opposed to just pistols).

But they aren’t quite as powerful or long and bulky as full-on semi-auto rifle rounds (like those fired from the US M1 Garand). As a result, AK-47 ammunition is also inexpensive and decently powerful without producing tons of recoil.

But with all these advantages, there are a few downsides. AK-47s aren’t very accurate outside of close range and cannot be used for reliable tactical scenarios.

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In fact, they’re almost exclusively good for general infantry or as “spray and pray” weapons.

How This Relates to Worldwide Appeal

The Soviet Union began mass-producing AK47s in order to provide communist border states and guerrilla groups in proto-communist countries like Vietnam during the Cold War.

The intention was for them to arm rebels and dissidents against the actions of the United States, who armed insurgents of their own allegiance with different weapons.

Notably, the Soviet Union didn’t allow many of its citizens to own AK-47s. But the ease of construction and distribution make the AK-47 a great staple weapon for Cold War activities.

This is why many modern Middle Eastern fighter groups and terrorist organizations still use AK-47 weapons: they got their initial stockpiles from the Soviet Union and the rifles still work today.

There are around 75 million AK-47 units in existence today, out of 500 million total firearms worldwide. As a result, the AK-47 is the most popular or well-used weapon platform as of this writing.

Summary

Gold plated and engraved Kalashnikov rifle in box | Why is the AK-47 So Popular?

Overall, the AK-47 was simply the right rifle built at the right time and features a design sturdy enough that it’s remained relevant over the decades.

There will probably still be AK-47s kicking around in a hundred years, which is quite the legacy for a Soviet rifle originally designed to compete with German engineering!

What do you think about the AK47? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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6 Responses to :
Why Is the AK47 So Popular?

  1. Robert says:

    Great info on the AK-47. I didn’t realize the design was that old

  2. Frank Attikai says:

    How can I get a AK47

  3. David W Kurtz says:

    Looking for a used AK-47

    1. David W Kurtz says:

      Looking for a used AK-47

  4. Tom Nichols says:

    Technically, 1947 was the year the AK-47 was accepted into service. That was a milled version that was difficult to manufacture. A stamped version, the AKM, is what we commonly know as the AK-47 today that was released in the 1950’s.

    The AK’s accuracy may be less than that of an AR’s but at 100m you can easily keep the rounds in a 9″ circle. That coupled with the notion that it’s better to wound an opponent than kill him, (if you wound him you are taking 3 people out of the fight. Him and the two people to carry him out), and you have a very useful weapon.

  5. Kalashnikov Guy says:

    This is yet another example that I’ve run across where the myth of inaccuracy regarding the AK is repeated as though it were fact. It is simply not true. It is as much of an urban legend as the commonly held belief that the M-16/AR-15 is an unreliable weapon. Both of these myths need to be put to rest.

    The fact is, that your average AKM is going to exhibit near identical accuracy to a rack grade M-16/M-4/AR-15 out to around 200 or so meters, and in skilled hands with someone who understands the bullet trajectory of the 7.62x39mm cartridge, it will remain pretty darned close for another 100 meters or so. Beyond that, the newer AK-74 firing its smaller 5.45x39mm cartridge will match the accuracy of the American 5.56 fired from a rack grade rifle out to the effective limitations of the two cartridges.

    So, while it is true that an AK is best suited for close quarters combat, it is important to define what qualifies as “close quarters”. It obviously is not the rifle you’d want to use for producing the smallest groups possible at 500 yards, but it will reliably put round after round into the torso of a human silhouette inside of a couple hundred yards with even a modestly skilled shooter behind the trigger.

    The AK is not without faults though. It is generally heavier than other alternatives, the rock and lock process for inserting/removing magazines is less intuitive for most people than the method used for other rifles, it lacks a last round bolt hold open feature, and generally speaking it’s controls are not as easy to manipulate for most people without disturbing the firing grip.

    Be that as it may, the 7.62x39mm AK offers a larger, heavier projectile than most other “intermediate” type rifles, and is well suited to punching through materials that might otherwise provide cover from smaller, less potent cartridges. It does well in both urban warfare, and in dense brush, where it’s bullet is less likely to be deflected by small branches and such than a smaller/lighter bullet. It is not quite ideal for use on wide open terrain where contact distances can become an extended range proposition.

    The AK remains a popular choice among fighters throughout the world because it simply works. Due to its continued popularity, the AK continues to see aftermarket support which has provided parts and accessories that keep the rifle very competitive with its most modern peers. Its handful of shortcomings can be mostly overcome by those willing to train with the rifle, and a man armed with an AK is at no disadvantage to anyone armed with a different weapon.

    Having said all of that, I am of the firm belief that the AK will continue to be a popular weapon for offensive/defensive use until such time as an entirely new technology comes along that renders firearms as a whole, obsolete. Until then, the AK is here to stay.

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