Mikhail Kalashnikov’s original soviet assault rifle, the AK47 entered service in 1947 and since then has been fielded in dozens of countries around the world by national armies as well as criminals, terrorists and “freedom fighters.” Unlike the semi-auto version available to civilians in America, the original military AK47 fires in both semi and full auto. Original chambering was the 762×39 MM cartridge.
There have been upgrades and spinoffs from the original design over the years, including the introduction of the AK47’s successor in 1974, the AK74, which fires a 5.45 x 39 MM cartridge similar to that fired by the American M16. There have been some upgrades to the AK74 since its introduction, but mostly it’s the ability to attach electronic sights such as red dot reflex, lights and infra red to the rifle.
In 2012, Russia introduced a new, more sophisticated replacement for the AK47 and AK74, the AK12. It features an adjustable length stock and can be chambered for any one of four different cartridges: the original 7.62x39mm of the AK47, the 5.56x45mm of the M16, the 5.45x39mm of the AK74/94 or the 7.62x51mm NATO rifle round. Accuracy is far better than its predecessors. It looks like a very promising 21st century infantry weapon. Unfortunately for the Russians, they don’t have the money to outfit the entire Russian army with the AK12 and with more than one million older AK models in their inventory, for now the AK12 will be limited to Russian Spetznaz and other special forces teams.