he world’s best-known military weapon was born at the end of 1941 in the battles in Briansk. Here, a young officer by the name of Mikhail Kalashnikov was badly injured, thus having to leave for a long period of convalescence the tank unit in which he was fighting. After healing, not being able to fight, he was transferred to the artillery corps where he focused his efforts on the field of small arms design, considering that by this he can make his contribution to the victory of his country.
The actual birth is marked by the meeting of the People’s Commissariat for Arms on June 15, 1943. On this occasion, an automatic rifle, captured of German origin, was presented, which caused a natural cataclysm in the Soviet military and political circles. The German weapon that helped inspire the creation of the AK (Avtomat Kalashnikova) was the Sturmgewehr 44 (Assault Rifle 1944) also known as the MP43 and MP44. Many historians claim that just as the AK-47, the STG-44 was ahead of its time because of the accuracy and powerful round the gun was shooting.
What Mikhail has taken and improved from the STG-44 was the firing mechanism which allowed for a good fire rate whilst maintaining a controllable recoil, however, the problem that the STG-44 presented sometimes was the failure to eject the empty cartridge after firing. This problem mostly occurred after a long period of constant firing.
The session of this meeting ended with a firm order to design and introduce such a weapon as soon as possible. Because the ammunition used by the German army was standardized on 7, 92 mm (in the case of the presented weapon, 7, 92×33 mm), and the Soviet army, on 7, 62 mm, the research starts naturally with the creation of a compatible cartridge, which is easy of product with Russian technology, but which would equal or even exceed the qualities of the German cartridge.
The problem was solved by the special construction office OKB-44 and a team made up of Nikolai Jelisarov, chief engineer Pavel Rjasanov and technician Boris Sjomin who launches the short cartridge of 7, 62×39 mm, but with excellent ballistic qualities for fighting at short distances and environments. Then begins the competition for the project for the corresponding weapon in which participated 15 famous designers of weapons, among which names like Degtjarev, Tokarev, Sudajev or Spaghin were enough to discourage participation of any newcomer. Kalaşnikov was not even among the 15 participants in the competition.
The main project was based on the model created by Major Sudajev, but, after his unexpected death, the team’s position is occupied by the young Kalashnikov, at the recommendation of General Blagonravov, responsible for the research in the field of firearms at the Moscow Aeronautical University. He sensed the potential of the young man when he was presented with a model made by Kalashnikov together with the engineer Kasakov. The project was by no means great, but it was enough to propel young Michael into the company of the elite of gun designers.
Kalaşnikov’s big chance was to be in the right place at the right time. Kalashnikov’s first automatic weapon project dates from 1941, after the episode in Briansk, from the time he was on the hospital bed. However, it did not find its materialization, being surpassed by Sudajev’s project with PPS 43. This is the moment when the young lieutenant concentrates on designing a semi-automatic rifle with a rotary lock, intended for M43 7, 62 × 39 mm cartridges. It had been created, but this project would not be completed because of the assimilation into the production of Simonov’s SKS carbine.
The caliber 7, 62 × 39 mm cartridge was initially designed for an “avtomat”(automated) assault weapon designed to balance the ratio of forces affected by the emergence and spread of the 7, 93 × 33 Kurz cartridge fired by the German Sturmgevehr assault weapons. . However, thanks to this ammunition, the SKS rifle can be considered an assault weapon, even if it only fires in semi-automatic mode and has a fixed cartridge of 10 cartridges. From that moment, the young Kalashnikov channeled his efforts to create a true assault weapon using M43 cartridges.
Three weapons will arrive in the final of the Soviet selection: Bulkin’s TKB-415 from Tula, Dementjev’s KPB-520 from Kovrov and Khalashnikov’s KBP-580. On January 10, 1948, the commission selects the automatic that would become the future AK, to the detriment of Bulkin’s engineer model. The AK series continues its ascent with the appearance of the AKM in 1959, slightly smaller than the original AK, made of stamped steel parts. AKM’s biggest advantages over its big brother were the lower production costs and lower weight.
Although Mikhail Kalashnikov was not himself an inventor but a designer with broader visions, being favored also by the political circumstances, he created the most successful weapon in history. Despite the fact that the locking system, the triggering mechanism, the safety, the gas system, and the warehouse, were all taken over and adapted from other weapons, it was Kalaşnikov’s merit that he managed to combine all these elements into one weapon. -the unequaled right.
Once established in the Soviet Union, it began to be exported, and the first countries that benefited from this or the right to manufacture it were those in the communist camp, members of the Warsaw Pact, as well as other communist countries. from Europe and Asia: RDG, Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, China, Yugoslavia, North Korea.
Mikhail Kalaşnikov occupies a special place, it is more than a name, it is synonymous with the automatic weapons of the military in the former communist countries but used equally by guerrilla troops or terrorists.