In the hands of the VC and NVA, the AK-47 assault rifle proved at times to have the final word in many ambushes and firefights. Rated by many weapons experts as the best small arm ever produced, the AK-47 assault rifle was developed by the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II. The Soviets had always placed a high priority on firepower, equipping many of their units with sub- and heavy machine guns. In the German family of assault rifles – the MP43, 44 and StuG44 – the Soviets knew they had found what they were looking for. The high command soon recognized the potential of weapons which, although capable of delivering rapid firepower, were more accurate than sub-machine guns.
In his quest for a weapon suited to the type of closed quarter combat that now dominated modern infantry warfare, Mikhail Kalashnikov sacrificed long range for sheer volume of fire and based his design around the 7.62mm round that the Germans had used to great effect. The result of his work was the Automat Kalashnikov, Model 1947.
In almost every aspect, the AK-47 was an exceptional assault rifle. The lack of vibration when firing on fully automatic enabled the rifle to shoot accurately up to ranges of 300m, and it could be field stripped without special equipment since there were few moving parts in its gas-operated firing. Despite the inherent weaknesses of mass production, the AK-47 was a very reliable weapon. Much of the credit for this goes to the use of good quality steel pressings and wooden furniture that could absorb any amount of hard use and mishandling.
The AK-47 is often described as a peasants weapon on account of it being a hallmark of communist-supplied forces around the world. The weapon could be fired on one of two settings, automatic and single shot, however, the fact that the first setting was automatic reflects the under lying philosophy that the Soviets thought it preferable to fire on fully automatic.
A large amount of sub-variants sprang from the original design and, for the most part, the communist forces in Vietnam used the Chinese version of the AK-47, designated the Type 56-1. Unlike the Soviet version, the Type 56 had a permanent folding bayonet underneath the muzzle, but a chrome-lined barrel was standard, which extended the life span of the weapon. The AK-47 was perfectly suited to the nature of the war in Vietnam, and the VC and NVA exploited this weapon to the full in countless firefights and ambushes. Massive US artillery and aerial firepower often fell short in a conflict where success or failure depended heavily on close-quarter infantry battles and for many soldiers, the distinctive clack, of the safety catch being taken off the AK-47 was the only warning they had of enemy presence in the area.
The AK-47 Kalashnikov Assault Rifle dimensions:
Feed: 30-round box
Muzzle Velocity: 717m per second
Cyclic Rate of Fire: 600 round per minute