In 1941, a young Soviet tank officer was recovering in hospital, after being wounded at the Battle of Bryansk. An infantryman asked him why German troops were equipped with a much more accurate, rapid-firing rifle. The officer decided that once he was discharged, he would become a weapons designer, devoting himself to producing an efficient, automatic assault rifle. By 1946 a prototype had appeared. By 1947 it was ready for service. That soldier was Mikhail Kalashnikov (1919–2013). The rifle would bear his name and the year of its birth — the AK-47, the Avtomat (Automatic) Kalashnikov.
The AK-47 became a legendary weapon that is still being produced in many parts of the world. Some sources claim it is still being used today by 106 national armies. It is estimated that in all its versions, around 100 million weapons have been manufactured in over thirty countries, particularly in the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Some were even manufactured in the USA. The US government purchased large quantities of the rifle to sell to what were, in the 1980s, its Afghan warlord allies.
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