This article will cause controversy and upset a few people, so if you believe that Mikhail Kalashnikov is on the same level as John Browning when it comes to firearms design, you may want to stop reading now.
That said, I do not believe that Mikhail Kalashnikov was as involved in the development of the AK-47 as the Soviets led the world to believe. So who was? Well, there can only be one answer: Hugo Schmeisser. Schmeisser is perhaps most famous for the MP18 (the world’s first submachine gun) and the MP43/44 “Sturmgewehr” (the world’s first assault rifle). Obviously the latter firearm is more pertinent to this article.
Here are a few facts to back my hypothesis:
- In “Tales of the Gun”, Kalashnikov was interviewed and claimed that there were no similarities between his gun and Schmeisser’s. This was in the 1990s.
- Around 2002-2003 he said he drew “a little bit of inspiration” from the Sturmgewehr, negating what he said a few years earlier.
- Then in 2009 he admitted to working alongside Schmeisser and that he “helped” design the AK
- But Schmeisser couldn’t simply “help” him. Schmeisser was working in Izhevsk while Kalashnikov was supposedly developing the AK–47 from 1945 to 1947 in a different plant, in the city of Kovrov.
- Russian experts admit it is hard to determine Hugo Schmeisser’s contribution to the design and development of the AK-47 assault rifle because all official documents pertaining to his time working alongside Kalashnikov as a gun designer are still classified (suspicion increases).
- In 1945 the USSR made 50 StG44s from parts and confiscated 10,785 sheets of technical designs.
- In October 1945, Schmeisser was forced to work for the Red Army and instructed to continue development of new weapons. He worked for them for 7 years, then died the year he moved back to Germany.
- The early AKs were stamped, but came apart forcing the Russians to use a milled receiver.
Ok, so the facts can make even the most stubborn AK fan raise an eyebrow. Also, If you’re familiar with how the USSR did things, then it all makes sense that Kalashnikov would make a great poster child for designing this symbol of national pride. They put this “common soldier” with a humble, agrarian background on a pedestal as an example of how great and excellent communism was. If the above facts are taken in to account, he may for all we know have been Schmeisser’s errand boy. He never spoke like a humble engineer deserved of respect in interviews, and even lied about Schmeisser being involved in the project at all for many decades.
So let us take a look at the MP43 and the AK:
- Both rifles are stamped
- Both use the same diameter bullet as their country’s full sized rifle round, but with a scaled down case and lighter bullet weight
- Both are select fire
- Both use long stroke pistons
- Both have a similar layout (box magazine, pistol grip, sights)
- Indisputably, Hugo Schmeisser had a hand in both designs
Other influences could have been from a number of places, as the two locking lugs and unlocking channel resemble that of the M1 Garand and the trigger and safety mechanism are eerily similar to a Remington Model 8’s:
So with the above listed facts and observations, I am of the opinion that the AK-47 is much more German than Russian, and I am pretty sure that it isn’t Danish.