Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

As World War II came to a close, the Soviets began developing the now-iconic AK-47 assault rifle.

Like the German Sturmgewehr 44, the fully automatic AK-47 didn’t shoot full-power rifle ammunition, like a light machine-gun, or pistol ammunition, like a submachine-gun, but instead shot an intermediate round — a shortened .30-caliber rifle round, the 7.62x39mm. The American military considered the AK-47 a machine-carbine.

Russian industry had difficulty producing the AK-47 in large numbers until it was redesigned in 1959 as the AKM with a simpler receiver that didn’t need to be carefully machined. The AKM is the model that was mass-produced and distributed throughout the world. It is estimated that there are 100 million AK-family weapons available worldwide, primarily AKM-style.

The Soviets themselves moved on to a new model in the 1970s, the “cleverly” named AK-74, which uses a glorified .22, like the American M-16 — in this case, 5.45x39mm.

Now, Izhmash, the Russian firm that produces AKs, has a problem. The world is awash in AKs, and the Russian military has 17 million AK-74s for one million troops. So they have designed a new AK, the AK-12, with features that would appeal to foreign buyers:

  • Ambidextrous forward charging handle.
  • Smaller ejection port.
  • New safety switch.
  • New fire control switch with three modes of fire (single shot, 3 round burst and full auto).
  • New hinged top cover. The cover is a lot more rigid that the previous AK rifles.
  • Quad Picatinny rails.
  • Folding and length adjustable stock.
  • Ergonomic pistol grip (with a decent radius between trigger guard and grip).
  • New muzzle brake that attaches to standard NATO 22mm threading.
  • Improved barrel rifling.

Picatinny rails — named for America’s Picatinny Arsenal, which defined the standard — are great for mounting the kind of optics few Russians can afford.


  1. Ross says:


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