Posted on February 15 2016
The AK-47—Best Fighting Rifle in History
by Jeff Kirkham
I stood on the first Afghan target I had ever assaulted looking at an AK we had just taken off a body of a man who had decided to fight us.
It was stamped “1953” and I thought to myself that at that point in time that rifle had been in combat for at least 40 years, with little to no maintenance, and was just as deadly that day as the day it rolled off the manufacturing line in Russia.
I thought back to 2002, right before deploying to Kuwait in preparation of the invasion of Iraq. I had the opportunity to do the first non-bias “official” testing on the AK-47 for the Department of Defense (DOD) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
Up to that point in time no data could be located on the performance of the AK, where the DOD had officially tested it. After I finished that week of testing, it forever changed the way I look at the AK rifle and I came to the conclusion that the AK was the best-engineered rifle in history.
Since that time, I have used, carried and taught the AK extensively.. It was my choice of weapon during the years I spent fighting in the Global War on Terror and would be to this day.
During the DOD/SOCOM testing, we exploded all the myths associated with the AK such as accuracy, ergonomics, heat, etc.. We confirmed that the AK did in fact have incredible reliability. We proved that the rifle was well within the parameters of accuracy, the ergonomics just simply needed to be learned and understood, and that it was an incredible feat of engineering.
To understand the rifle, you have to understand the mind set of the men who designed her. Every Russian felt the effects of the war with Germany. Over 20 million Russians died during the war and many soldiers starved or froze on the Eastern Front.
Kalashnikov himself was wounded on the Eastern Front and saw the meat grinder first hand. To assume that every single portion of the AK was not thoroughly thought out is naïve at best. They knew what made a good battle rifle, because they had personal and first hand accounts of the most destructive war the world had ever seen.
What I like to call “Team Kalashnikov” would have all been men who fought against the finest mechanized army the world had ever seen, the German blitzkrieg army. Those same men would have seen friends and family die from starvation and cold, in no small part due to lack of supplies. They would have had burned into their brains that above all, weapons must work, even if logistics are cut off and no maintenance materials are available. Weapons must be easy to fix, or its parts easy to fabricate, and continue to fire even in the harshest of conditions.
One of the brightest mechanical engineers that I know once said to me “Any idiot can come up with a complicated solution to a problem. But it takes a genius to come up with a simple solution to a complicated problem.” I believe that simplicity is the spirit of the AK-47.
The AK is an incredible achievement of engineering that has withstood the test of time and I would argue that it’s the most ergonomic, best thought-out, and least-understood rifle today.
I think it’s fair to say that the men who experienced the horrors of the Eastern Front would have first and foremost wanted reliability in the most extreme circumstances. We’re not just talking about dirt, grime and wear but temperature extremes, hard unrelenting use, little or no lubricant, no solvent, no cleaning supplies and unreliable ammo.
The rifle would need to hold enough bullets that it could be an effective platform for fire suppression and a reduced rate of automatic fire so that a single man could control it.
The rifle would need to be accurate out to 300 meters and we proved in our testing that the 7.62x39 fired from an AK was more than adequate. More importantly, the rifle would need to be accurate even in the hands of a minimally-trained fighter, so the ergonomics would facilitate accuracy in fire, especially under stress.
Any look at current news events, history or use of the AK-47 itself confirms all of the above. But American gun owners, whose experience of a rifle consists of limited range shooting, followed by cleaning, might miss the profound truth of the AK.
Reliability is no bullshit. When you run your rifle through the ringer, as happens on almost any battlefront, you live and die based on how relentlessly your rifle does it’s job.
If that’s your definition, as it is mine, than the AK-47 is your assault rifle.