AK47 Assault Rifle

AK 47.  A Cold War Classic, and Still in Use Worldwide.  
AK47 Assault Rifle

The undeniable star weapon of the Cold War, AK47 has endured as one of the most successful assault rifles of all time. Designed by Soviet arms specialist Mikhail Kalishnikov from 1944-1946, it has stood the test time for its reliability and durability. While American troops had to go up against the AK47 in the Vietnam War, they can hardly deny that it was a very good design.

The Vietnam War remains a difficult and controversial subject. It left nearly 60,000 American military personnel dead, many others
that were missing in action, and many thousands with disabilities.   It was an unpopular war that pitted U.S. soldiers who served in it against protesters stateside.  Even some who fought  in it eventually became protesters.
All of this culminated with the Fall of Saigon in 1975, and the resulting rise of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, initiating a bloodbath that killed as many as 2 million in Cambodia and South Vietnam. Most will agree that the Viet Nam was not the United States' finest hour.

Far too many American casualties in Vietnam were caused by equipment failure in the field.  The M16 assault rifles issued to American troops in the Vietnam War quickly gained a reputation for jamming in the heat of battle--a problem the North Vietnamese regulars, armed with AK47 assault rifles, didn't have.

At least the American troops could rely upon  their M1911A Colt Government .45 automatic sidearms.  The trusty .45 was the official sidearm of all American military forces from 1911 through the Viet Nam War. It  was and is a highly reliable weapon that certainly earned more respect and affection from the troops than the ineffectual M16.

The Communist-manufactured AK47 assault rifles used by North Vietnamese regulars proved themselves reliable and highly effective in jungle warfare.  Developed during the twilight years of Josef Stalin's reign of terror before his death in 1953, the AK47 became a definitive symbol of the Cold War that endured into Vietnam and beyond.  Though there were also AK47s of Chinese manufacture, it was the Russian version that was exported to Communist Bloc nations worldwide.  The design was so successful that a great many AK47s are still in use today, worldwide.  Though this rugged assault weapon has undergone numerous modifications over the years, it has remain largely unchanged, owing to its legendary reliability.

The streamlined design of the Russian-made Avtomat Kalishnikova 1947
(or AK47) allowed for fast, easy stripping and cleaning, ease of use, and strong, durable construction.   It was a very cost-effective small arm for mass production and known for rapid, fully automatic delivery of 7.62mm cartridges  in a tumbling trajectory that made it a very effective close-range assault rifle.  As is true with all assault rifles, minimum skill is required for effective use.  Even when its parts were fouled with mud or sand, it remained operational, and could withstand moderately severe overheating of the barrel and receiver  during heavy firing, without jamming.

Wild Bill Hickock's 1851 Navy Colt

The fall of Saigon was the culmination of a lot of factors--not the least of which were undue interference in the war's combat operations by inept civilian politicians and ultimately the American people's loathing for an apparently unwinnable conflict that seemed likely to drag on for years to come, at a horrendous cost in human lives.  And while it certainly can't be said uncategorically that the outcome of the conflict in Vietnam hinged on the effectiveness of the combatant's respective assault rifles, it's interesting to speculate:  What if positions had been reversed, and the American forces had been using the AK47, while  the North Vietnamese had the temperamental and jam-prone M16s? Would the outcome have been any different for the United States in Vietnam?

Very likely not, given all the other factors that prevailed, but at least the American military learned from sorry performance of the M16, and one thing can be stated with certainty:  U.S. small arms developed since the Viet Nam era have been far more effective and reliable.

While not always used by the "good guys", the AK47 is a very good and reliable design, and remainss in use to this day. You can clearly see on the news that many of them are still in widespread use in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Firearm Type: Fully Automatic (selective fire) Gas-Operated, Rotating Bolt
Nation Of Manufacture: Soviet Union, China, Albania, Many others
Military Service Dates : 1949-Present
Variations: AK47, AKS, AKMS, RPK, AKM, and others
Ammunition: 7.62mm Center-fire Cartridge
Wars: Korean War, Vietnam War, countless others, still in use worldwide
Recent Prices at Auction for Originals: US $300-$2,000

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