«Of course, a weapon is not a tractor or a harvester, not a seeding machine or a plough.
You cannot plough land with it, or use it to make bread.
Yet without it, you cannot defend your native soil or free your land and your people from hostile forces.»
The Kalashnikov rifle first entered into service with the victorious Soviet Army soon after the end of the Second World War, following the putting into production of a new AK assault rifle designed by a talented firearm designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov, at the Izhevsk Machine-Building Plant.
Production of the first Kalashnikov rifle became a milestone in the history of global weaponry. The original AK was simply called “Article No.3”. The new weapon created by the young designer turned out to be the best of almost a dozen prototypes developed by other famous firearms designers, such as Degtyarev, Simonov, Sudaev and Shpagin. On 18th June 1949, by decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, the 1947 model of the Kalashnikov rifle was finally taken into service.
The widespread use of the AKM rifle and its derivatives in the weapon systems of the late fifties and early sixties secured the Kalashnikov’s leading position in world firearm rankings. The Dragunov sniper rifle, developed at the same plant and during the same period, also made an important and coherent contribution to the group’s success.
The AKM rifle
An updated version of the Kalashnikov rifle with a new 7.62 mm calibre was produced in the USSR in the period between 1959 and 1974.
The new rifle almost completely replaced the Simonov SKS semi-automatic carbine previously in service with the Soviet Army and became the standard issue assault rifle of the infantry, airborne and special forces.
Most of the Warsaw Pact member states were granted a license to produce the AKM and its design made a significant impact on firearms development the world over.
Firearms developed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, or at least based on the Kalashnikov design, are used by the armed forces of more than 100 countries worldwide and, as regards small arms manufacture, have yet to be surpassed in terms of quality, reliability and scale of production.
The Kalashnikov is the only modern firearm whose image is depicted on flags and emblems as a symbol of the struggle for independence.
Over the decades, the name “Kalashnikov” has not only achieved recognition as one of the most popular and successful examples of small firearms production in the second half of the twentieth century, it has also become synonymous with reliability, ease of use and flawless performance. The idiomatic expression “as reliable as a Kalashnikov” is often used when referring to anything from a vehicle, to a computer or even a person and is meant to convey a sense of reliability or to describe something unlikely to fail even under the severest of conditions. Unswerving reliability is not however the only attribute of the Kalashnikov brand. Kalashnikov also stands for efficiency, affordability and deployment flexibility. The fact that the Kalashnikov is not just a weapon, but a symbol of liberation, the struggle for independence and freedom is an important notion for many. Kalashnikovs have been used by servicemen and armed combatants alike, not only in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, but also in many other countries around the world, to maintain peace, guarantee freedom and defend national sovereignty
Another important and distinctive feature of the Kalashnikov rifle itself and all the firearms produced by the brand is ease of manufacture, allowing them to be produced inexpensively in their millions whilst at the same time retaining their high performance characteristics. During the Soviet era, assault rifle production levels reached 600 thousand units per annum. Today, there are more than 70 million Kalashnikov rifles in circulation, produced in countries as diverse as Albania, Serbia and the USA. Only those firearms produced in Russia can rightfully bear the Kalashnikov name, however, since these are considered superior both in quality and reliability.
Ongoing development - both of the technology and of the design - is also a distinctive feature of the brand. However, it is the usefulness and relevance of the products themselves, which continue to take pride of place. This particularly applies to the combat weapons function, which is the first to benefit from the introduction of new technologies and solutions. Transferal of these production techniques to civilian weapons manufacture, only takes place following successful appraisal under the most rigorous test conditions. From its inception 70 years ago right up to the present, the “Kalashnikov” brand has been a major force in the creation of the country’s advanced armament systems - such as the new AK-12 and AM-17 assault rifles and the Chukavina SVCh sniper rifle.
Saiga 12 ver. 340
Developed in Izhevsk during the first half of the 1990s and based on the design of the Kalashnikov rifle, the smooth-bore Saiga-12 semi-automatic meets all the requirements of a practical shooting rifle. Small arms enthusiasts from a number of different countries, including Russia and the USA, have been active in the modernization of these hunting rifles for sports purposes. In 2012, IZHMASH teamed up with Russia’s national practical shooting team to produce a version of the Saiga-12 rifle specially adapted for the sport
During the 1990s, as the country was going through a period of dramatic economic and political change, a whole range of new civilian firearms emerged, modeled on traditional combat systems. The designs retained the reliability and ease of use of their predecessors and were also suitable for use in sporting activities such as practical shooting and hunting. Saiga rifles and carbines based on the Kalashnikov design have won deserved recognition worldwide, not only for their authenticity vis a vis combat prototypes, but also for their performance. Suffice to say that, prior to the coming into force of the latest anti-Russia sanctions and according to BATF data, civilian markets in the USA alone were being supplied year on year with no less than a hundred thousand carbines and tens of thousands of smooth-bore rifles based on the Kalashnikov rifle design. In fact, Russian “civilian” versions of the Kalashnikov continue to be valued more highly in the USA than comparable firearms supplied by competitors.
Saiga rifles have become especially sought after items and have not only opened up new horizons in the sport of practical shooting, but also succeeded in gaining immense popularity among fans of “tactical” weapons. The popularity among sportsmen of the “standard” Saiga-12 series has led to the development of a special sports version - the Model 340, which has rapidly become acknowledged as “the choice of champions”, since a good number of Russian national, European and global awards have been won by sportsmen using the rifle. At the 2015 World Cup, for example, the Russian team convincingly finished first in the open category whilst in 2017, the “Kalashnikov” team took first place in the Russian National Rifle Championships.