If you read through my work on Reaper Feed then you’ll know it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the iconic Kalashnikov. I’ve shot almost every variation of the weapon in countries around the world which has only grown my fondness for the weapon (except for the Chinese made one that backfired on me. But that’s another story, for another day). I’m also no stranger to the world of Kalashnikov myths.
Like there are dog people and cat people in the world of normies, in the gun world there are AK people and AR people. They don’t intend on getting along and agreeing to disagree anytime soon. In my opinion, a true lover adores both weapons equally.
One thing that gets under my skin is hearing myths perpetrated about the Kalashnikov with no evidence to back them up. This is a consistent problem in various gun groups. So in today’s post, I’m going to debunk 5 of the most commonly held myths about the Kalashnikov and provide you with the facts that give the real lowdown on the most iconic weapon ever made.
Myth 1: The Kalashnikov is a rip off of the German STG-44
The background of this myth is not hard to find. The Kalashnikov and the late-war Nazi produced STG-44 both look remarkably similar in design. However, claiming that the Soviets stole their post-war weapon designs from the Germans is a (partial) myth but the most important to start the article off with!
The reason this is a myth is that the STG-44 was launched into combat service in 1944 two years after development plans for the weapon began in 1942. Thus the Soviets first got their hands of the weapon that year. However, the Soviet weapons designer Alexey Sudayev had presented the first Soviet assault rifle prototype, what would become known as the AS44, to the Soviet high command in 1943. Alexey Sudayev died in 1946 and his work was carried on by Mikhail Kalashnikov.
However, this partial myth is not without its valid truths. In the form of the AS44, the Kalashnikov was born without German ideas. But after the Soviet victory in 1945, they forcibly dragged the designers who formerly worked at Hugo Schmeisser to Russia. The German weapons designers were sent to the weapons manufacturing city of Izhevsk where they helped to fine-tune the AK-47.
But in conclusion, whilst they may look slightly similar on the outside, the AK-47 and STG-44 are vastly different internally. The assembly and disassembly configurations are unique to both weapons respectively. As are the firing mechanisms and the housing for the magazines.
Myth 2: The AK47 was created by Kalashnikov alone
In a similar vein to the first myth debunked, many people assume that the Kalashnikov was created by Mikhail Kalashnikov alone as he is the one so closely associated with the weapon. But building a revolutionary weapon (excuse the pun) is no easy feat. Despite the fact that Mikhail Kalashnikov was an exceptional weapons designer, the idea that he did it all on his lonesome is simply a myth.
“I am ready to shake hands with anyone who designs a better assault rifle than mine.”– Mikhail Kalashnikov
As mentioned in the previous point, the groundwork for the Kalashnikov was laid by Alexey Sudayev when he created the AS44. Kalashnikov, the captured Germans who formerly worked for Hugo Schmeisser, and a whole team of Soviet engineers worked together in order to create and fine-tune the Kalashnikov.
Myth 3: Kalashnikovs aren’t accurate over 300 meters
Since it was created back in 1947, the Kalashnikov has become a defining feature of almost every armed conflict that has plagued the world since. As a result, the weapon has been used by everybody from child soldiers to drugged up rebels, whose performance has spawned the myth of the Kalashnikov’s inaccuracy. It’s also been the weapon of choice for Hollywood bad guys, who always tend to miraculously miss the movie hero of choice, which is another factor that hasn’t helped the accuracy prowess of the AK.
The Kalashnikov is in fact an accurate weapon dependent on whose hands it is in and how it’s been configured in regards to accuracy. A trained shooter with experience of the Kalashnikov will find little difficulty in hitting targets at 300 meters or more, especially if it’s a custom AK47 is fitted with optical sights. Take this video by TFB TV for example, where he pits a Yugoslavian AK against an AR15 in an accuracy test:
The Kalashnikov is beaten in 300-meter accuracy tests with its Cold War rival of the M16, but not by much and it doesn’t detract from the fact that the Kalashnikov is still a deadly and accurate weapon when in trained hands.
Myth 4: the Kalashnikov is Unrivaled and Unique!
Simple, durable, easy to manufacture, maintain, and learn to use. These qualities have made the Kalashnikov an iconic weapon around the world that few have managed to compete with. However, many of what you think are products of the Soviet Union are largely not.
During the Cold War, the Soviets made the decision to start encouraging its satellite states of the Warsaw Pact to start manufacturing their own domestically produced weapons. But the Soviets likely didn’t foresee that many of these domestically produced, custom AK 47 would take the wind out the Soviet sails as it were.
“I WANTED TO INVENT AN ENGINE THAT COULD RUN FOR EVER. I COULD HAVE DEVELOPED A NEW TRAIN, HAD I STAYED IN THE RAILWAY. IT WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE THE AK-47 THOUGH.”– Mikhail Kalashnikov
In Czechoslovakia for example, domestic weapons manufacturers created the VZ. 58 assault rifle. Almost identical to the Kalashnikov, you would be forgiven for assuming it was. But the VZ. 58 works differently from the Kalashnikov internally as it uses a short-stroke gas piston and shares no parts with the Kalashnikov and has a unique magazine housing. However, reliability issues made the VZ. 58 fall short of achieving worldwide infamy as the Kalashnikov did. Despite this, it still remained in use with police and military forces around Eastern Europe as late as 2010.
To date, well over 100 million Kalashnikovs have been produced by countries all around the world. 50 million of these are fake. Izhmash, the official manufacture of the Kalashnikov only makes around 10% of the world’s Kalashnikov’s currently.
Myth 5: The Kalashnikov was loved from the beginning
Whilst the AK is loved around the world by gun enthusiasts, warlords, and soldiers alike, many people assume that the weapon we know today began production in 1947 and subsequently began it’s journey to fame. However, this is not true.
Initial testing of the original AK47, which was a rather crude and clunky prototype model known as the AK Type-1, was successful. But in the 12 years after its introduction, the weapon was forced to go through an extensive series of fine-tuning to create the infamous weapon we know today.
I was a soldier, and I created a machine gun for a soldier. It was called an Avtomat Kalashnikova, the automatic weapon of Kalashnikov — AK — and it carried the date of its first manufacture, 1947.– Mikhail Kalashnikov
The familiar Kalashnikov image we know is a model of the assault rifle that was spawned in 1959. This model was a result of Kalashnikov listening to the Soviet military and fixing any problems they experienced with the weapon in the field. As well as accuracy issues, these problems were related to the reliability of the early Kalashnikov, which would fail to work when mud, dirt, and snow found its way inside the weapon. The weapon was honed by Kalashnikov and improved to the current weapon.
Bonus Myth! Mikhail Kalashnikov didn’t earn any money from the AK47
This myth stems from the fact that because the Soviet Union was Communist, Mikhail Kalashnikov subsequently didn’t earn a cent for the AK47 and only received a meager Soviet Army wage. Come on! Do you really think that creating the most renowned assault rifle in history doesn’t come with benefits?
Throughout the Soviet Union, Lieutenant-General Mikhail Kalashnikov lived a very good life amongst the high society of the USSR as a result of his military prowess. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kalashnikov didn’t just put on his Siberian woolen socks and retire. He instead embraced capitalism and put his name to a unique brand of Kalashnikov vodka, owned a significant share in a German marketing company, and toured various arms shows in the US to meet thousands of gun enthusiasts keen on meeting the legendary weapons creator.
There was certainly money and prestige to be made from designing such an iconic weapon like AK47, both during and after the Soviet Union.
And there you have it! Five common Kalashnikov myths and a bonus myth debunked. With any weapon that has such a long reputation and iconic image like the Kalashnikov has, it is bound to generate a range of myths over time. Which did you find most surprising? Let us know in the comments and check out our Weapons and Technology department for similar articles.
I would like to thank the great content over at Russia Beyond that allowed us to carry out the research to complete this article.