Mikhail Kalashnikov is the man who invented AK 47 although in reality it was designed essentially by a committee that was headed up by Mikhail Kalashnikov.
After the war, the Soviet army held a very long and tortuous competition to select a new rifle, a number of designs were submitted, evaluated, resubmitted then reevaluated. Like if you look at the first design that the Kalashnikov group submitted for the competition it differed from the final rifle that was adopted in a number of significant ways, like, for example, it didn’t have a removable dust cover but instead you broke it down like the FN FAL for field stripping. The removable dust cover was ‘borrowed’ from another design that was taking part in the competition because the military said they preferred it for ease of field stripping and it made the whole gun more robust. The rifle went through a number of iterations, refinements and trials before it was finally adopted. Originally it was designed to have a stamped receiver but the Soviet industry at the time proved unable to mass produce stamped receivers so as a stop-gap measure a milled receiver version was engineered and that later became known as the classic AK47 design, which, btw, was actually adopted by the military only in 1949.
German engineers that the Soviets poached at the end of WWII like Hugo Schmeisser would certainly have taken part in the work on the weapon but one would have to know very little about guns in general and about the history of the AK47 in particular to claim that it was Hugo Schmeisser that actually designed the AK 47 or that the Kalashnikov group simply copied the Stg-44. For one, the concept of an assault rifle was not new, it had been around since the first world war when Russia deployed the first experimental assault rifle, the Fedorov Avtovat in limited numbers in the Carpathian front – it looked more similar to the bolt action rifles of the period than to modern assault rifles but it had all the essential elements of an assault rifle, it was a select fire weapon with a box magazine and a ‘reduced-power’ cartridge – it used the Japanese 6.5 rifle cartridle which had a markedly lower recoil impulse than the Russian 7.62x54r rifle cartridge.
Now if you look at the internals of the AK 47, it uses a differnt bolt locking mechanism, and overall it’s put together in a markedly different manner than the Stg-44 and last but not least it’s important to undrestand the design process that went into the AK47, it was not a one-man show, as I mentioned above it was a long and tortious process of evolving a design through trial and error in close cooperation with the military that were constantly providing feedback on what kind of weapon they wanted and what improvements they wanted to see in it. Thus the resulting emphasis on ruggedness, reliability under adverse conditions and ease of maintenance since it was supposed to be the general issue weapon for a conscript army. So in a way it could be argued that nobody really invented it as it wasn’t an invention, rather it was essentially a research project that involved first developing a basic design and then reworking it over and over again through several iterations until it met all the requirements of the military and by reworking I mean that some pretty substatial changes were made to it so that the final weapon differed a great deal from the initial design that was submitted for the competition.
It was a process very different from the kind of competitions that you see today being held by various militaries where they simply test several designs and pick one that fits their purposes best, like the recent competition the French army held for a replacement for their FAMAS rifle, in which they picked the HK416, the USSR didn’t have that kind of choice, there were several design bureaues that submitted their designs and then they would all go back to the drawing board rework their designs and come back again and again, the group headed by Kalashnikov just proved to be the most willing to meet the army’s demands.
AK 47 is easy to maintain, all that is needed is a bootlace and motor oil, tie it in a knot and run it through the barrel. It’s safe to say the AK will be around long after you and I are dust, and with the firepower it offers, I can’t see why it wouldn’t be.
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