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The true story of AK began late in 1942, when Soviet troops captured several specimen of the very new German MKb.42(H) machine carbine(assault rifle),along with some 7.92 Kurz ammunition. By mid-1943 the MKb.42(H) along with US-supplied M1carbine were evaluated by Soviet experts, and it was decided on top level that similar weapons, firing the intermediate power cartridge, must be developed for Soviet army as soon as possible. The task of initial development of new ammunition was accomplished in rather short time. By November 1943 technical specifications for the 7.62x41mm cartridge, having bottlenecked, rimless case and firing 8-gram pointed bullet, were sent out to all Soviet small arms design bureaus and organizations. By the spring of 1944, there were at least ten designs of automatic weapons in the works (not counting semiautomatic carbines that resulted in adoption of SKS and bolt-action carbines that went nowhere). In mid-1944, trials commission selected the AS-44 assault rifle, designed by Sudaev, as the over all best, and ordered a limited production run for troops trials. Some AS-44 rifles were manufactured in spring of 1945, and these were evaluated by troops in summer of 1945, just after the Victory in Europe. Troops generally liked the AS-44, as it has longer effective range compared to PPSh-41 submachine gun, and provided better accuracy in semi-automatic fire. The problem was that AS-44 was overly heavy (more than 5 kg empty), and trials commission ordered next round of development and trials, which started early in 1946.
MIKHAIL KALASHNIKOV IN HIS EARLY DAYS
Even, Mikhail Kalashnikov, the young sergeant ofSoviet tank forces, who, after being
wounded in combat in 1942,designed a prototype submachine gun while on medical leave. His first weapon was rejected on the grounds of complexity, but the designer himself was assigned to the Red Army's Small Arms and Mortar Research & Proving ground(NIPSMVO) near the Moscow to continue his education and work on other weapons. Here Kalashnikov designed a semi-automatic carbine,heavily influenced by American M1Garand rifle. This carbine, while not successful by itself, served as a starting point for the first Kalashnikov's assault rifle, provisionally known as AK No.1 or AK-46. In November of 1946 the AK-46 project was chosen for prototype manufacture along with 5 other projects (out of 16 submitted to commission), and Kalashnikov was sent to the city of Kovrov (also not far from the Moscow), to manufacture his weapon at the small arms factory there. The AK-46 was gas operated, rotary bolt weapon that utilized short-stroke gas piston above the barrel, and two-part receiver with separate trigger unit housing and dual controls (separate safety and fire selector switches on the left side of the trigger unit). In December 1946 new assault rifles were tested at NIPSMVO range, with AS-44 being used as a control (its development has ceased earlier in 1946 due to untimely death of the Sudaev, who was severely ill by the 1945). As an initial result of these tests, the AK46 was selected for further development by trials commission, with two more weapons selected for further evolution being rifles from designers Dementiev and Bulkin. The second round of trials, which included three weapons (AK-46 by Kalashnikov, AB-46 by Bulkin and AD by Dementiev), resulted in rejection of the improved AK-46, which was inferior to other rivals in many aspects. Despite that failure, Kalashnikov, using his contacts and support from some member of trials commission (whom he knew from his earlier work at NIPSMVO in 1943-46) pursued the head of the trials commission to review the results, and finally got a green light to continue his development for next round of trials. Following the technical failure of the AK-46, Kalashnikov and his companion designer Zaitsev (who was a staff weapons designer at Kovrov plant) decided to completely rework the design, using successful technical solutions borrowed from various weapons, including direct competitors. For example, the long-stroke gas piston, attached to the bolt carrier, along with captive return spring assembly and receiver cover were apparently inspired by Bulkin's AB-46 rifle; the idea of large clearances between bolt group and receiver walls, with minimum friction surfaces, was inspired by the Sudaev's AS-44, the safety / dust cover lever was copied from Browning designed Remington model 8 hunting rifle etc.
It must be noted here, that such copying and borrowing of ideas was actually encouraged by the trials commission (and the whole Soviet ideology), as all intellectual property in USSR was considered to be property of 'the people', or the state. Thus, any state-owned
intellectual property could (and must) have been used to the benefit of the people / the state by anyone. And creating a new, most effective assault rifle for the victorious Soviet army was certainly on the top of the list of things, beneficial for the Soviet state at the time.
After extensive tests, conducted in December 1947 - January 1948, which included slightly improved Dementiev KB-P-410, Bulkin TKB-415 and all-new Kalashnikov AK47 rifles, results were somewhat inconclusive. The AK-47 was found to be most durable and reliable out of three contestants, but it also dragged behind the other two in the accuracy department, especially in full automatic (which was, and still is considered the primary mode of fire for assault rifle in Russia). In fact, the only weapon that fulfilled accuracy requirements was the Bulkin AB-47 / TKB-415, but it had certain problems with parts durability. After lengthy discussion, trials commission finally decided that the better is the enemy of the good, and it is advisable to have not-so accurate but reliable weapon now, rather than to wait indefinitely for accurate-and -reliable weapon in the future. This decision ultimately lead commission to recommend AK-47 for troops trials in November, 1947. It was decided that the production of the new weapon must be commenced at Izhevsk arms plant (now Izhevsk Machine building Plant or IzhMash in short). Kalashnikov has moved from Kovrov to Izhevsk to help with production of the new weapon, which commenced in mid-1948. Official adoption followed late in 1949, with standard nomenclature being '7.62mm avtomat Kalashnikova AK' (7.62mm automatic carbine Kalashnikov). At the same time, a folding buttstock version was adopted for airborne units use, as '7.62mm avtomat Kalashnikova skladnoy AKS' (7.62mm automatic carbine Kalashnikov, folding). It must be noted that the original design of the receiver, which was assembled from stamped steel 'box' with large machined steel insert pinned at the front, caused a lot of troubles at factory. The technology (equipment and labor) level of the time resulted in extremely high percentage of rejected receivers due to misformed walls, improper pinning of parts, bad geometry etc. After critical revision of the process at the factory it
was calculated that it will be more economically feasible to return to the 'old-school' machined receivers. New, machined receiver was designed by one of factory's staff designers, and after approval by military, it was put into production at IzhMash in 1951, under the same basic designation. HOWEVER THERE IS ANOTHER STORY LINKED TO IT The AK brand of arms is still the best in the world. A lot of people associate them with Kalashnikov. However, the true story of the machine gun and Mikhail Kalashnikov's role in it is not described any-where, a lot of experts say. The creation of the machine gun was linked with a lot of talented Soviet fire arms designers, with military engineer Vasily Lyuty, first and foremost.
Vasily Lyuty was born in 1918 in the settlement of UstLabinsk of the Kuban region. In 1941, after he graduated from the Red Army Artillery Academy, he was sent for further studies to the Moscow region, together with other excelling graduates. Vasily became the testing engineer of the fire arms test ground. During the war, he was in charge of fire arms tests. Mikhail Kalashnikov (1997) The history of the world-known gun started on July 15th, 1943, when a captured complex - an MP-43 gun and a cartridge - were demonstrated at a meeting of the arms committee. Chief designer Nikolay Elizarov and chief engineer Pavel Ryazanov created the Soviet "interim cartridge " within a very short period of time. The technological support was provided by Boris Syomin. After that, scientists started working on a new fire arms system for that cartridge. About 15 designers took part in the competition to create the Soviet gun. Kalashnikov's name was not mentioned among them during the first two years. All tests were performed at the Schurovsky test ground on the outskirts of the town of Kolomna. Major Vasily Lyuty was the chief of the test department.
Mikhail Kalashnikov presented his first machine gun in the middle of 1946. According to the final testing conclusion, the gun was considered imperfect and was not supposed to be developed further. Vasily Lyuty said, Kalashnikov asked him for help in order to revise the official conclusion. Lyuty wrote: "I decided that the whole system should be redesigned. I changed the testing conclusion and recommended the machine gun to be developed. An old friend of mine, engineer Vladimir Deikin, took part in the works on the gun later. We were working until 1947, when we finally produced the testing gun. I personally tested the new weapon." Vasily Lyuty changed the official conclusion and projected 18 fundamental changes. Yet, everyone was hoping for the gun developed by 36-year-old major Aleksey Sudayev. Scientists were testing the third model of the gun, when Sudayev suddenly died. It was Mikhail Kalashnikov, who took his place. He went to work on the gun to the town of Kovrov. "Vasily Lyuty, who took Kalashnikov under his wing, did not mention either positions or ranks of the people, who took part in the competition," scientist Dmitry Shirayev said. - "However, about 15 machine guns of other designers were tested on the same ground too. Testing conclusions on each of them, including the Kalashnikov gun, depended on Vasily Lyuty, the chief of the testing department. Chiefs are supposed to be on a neutral side according to their status, but they interfered in the matter." The stages of the competition were closed. Shpagin and Degtyarov were the first to give up, and only three guns achieved the final stage of the competition in January of 1947: рйB- 415 designed by Bulkin, KBP-520 designed by Dementyev and KBP-580 designed by Kalashnikov.
Bulkin was the leader with his gun according to test results. However, the designer had a very malicious temper, he could not come to consent with military men. As a result, the talented designer was dismissed from the competition. Sergeant Kalashnikov was a lot more agreeable v he was always listening to his instructors - the people of higher rank.
Kalashnikov took account of all recommendations during the last stage of the tests and won the competition. A special committee concluded on January 10th 1948 - preference was given to Mikhail Kalashnikov's gun, the future AK-47 gun. However, the gun should have been called not AK but LDK - Lyuty-Deikin-Kalashnikov (Deikin was another chief of the testing department). In his notes Mikhail Kalashnikov wrote: "Vasily Lyuty was a rather talkative man, he liked making jokes, but there was a serious and professional side in all of his jokes." Vasily Lyuty fell a victim of repression in 1951. He was rehabilitated only after Stalin's death in 1954. At academician Blagonravov's request, Vasily Lyuty returned to the army and to the research institute. In 1965-1957, Lyuty's new works became the base to create an AKM. Later he took part in the development of Strela-1 and Strela-2 complexes. "Kalashnikov hardly ever mentioned any of his instructors in his interviews and in his book. Only he knows the reason why," Vasily Lyuty said. The scientist died in 1990 after several operations. People say that Kalashnikov is a trademark nowadays. This is apparently true. This trademark conceals the work and the mind of a lot of talented Soviet inventors.
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