Kalashnikov Conspiracy Theories and How to Refute Them, Part 2: Schmeisser vs. Mikhtim

Airbrushed Completely authentic photo of Mikhail Kalashnikov's reaction to hearing that people don't think he designed the AK-47. Don't make Mikhtim sad by spreading hateful fascist lies!

Continuing on from where we left off yesterday, in this article we’ll address the arguments that center around the Sturmgewehr’s designer – Hugo Schmeisser – and his career in Izhevsk. Let’s get on with it:


4. The AK-47 looks just like the StG-44! Schmeisser must be the true designer!

I have so far tried to stay away from the more inane arguments that come up in these discussions, but this argument is so ubiquitous, and entertained by so many respected voices, that I feel I need to address it.

I’ll be blunt: This argument is essentially founded in confirmation bias. It’s possible to take any two weapons that are in the same broad category and find numerous similarities between them, and that’s invariably what’s going on with this train of logic. The proponents of this argument take the two rifles side-by-side, and point out their similarities, without also laying out their differences, or considering the influence of other weapons from the period.

As an example of this, in his article AK and StG – Kissing Cousins, Ian McCollum argues that the trunnions of the AK-47 and StG-44 give strong evidence that they are directly related (he calls them “very similar”). However, if we actually examine the trunnions themselves, we find there are virtually no major shared characteristics between them, aside from the fact that they are steel trunnions designed for stamped receivers.

akstg-trunnions (1)

Virtually every major design element of these two tunnions is different, including their locking surfaces, sheet metal attachments, and magazine support. In fact, the front end of the StG-44 trunnion is more similar to the earlier Russian PPSh-41 submachine gun than it is to the AKM! Image source: Ian McCollum, forgottenweapons.com. Used with permission.


My goal in writing the article Rifle Paternity Test: Pinning Down The M1 Garand’s Influence On The AK was to present something similar to these kinds of arguments that honestly and accurately noted not only the similarities and differences between the AK and other rifles, but also to account for the broader context and the possible influence of other contemporary weapons.

In that article (which presents a thorough mechanical comparison between the AK and StG-44, and which should be read in addition to these two articles for the full picture), I conclude:

Is the AK a clone of the MP 43?

Certainly not.


Was the AK inspired by/a response to the MP 43?

It certainly was a response to the German rifle, but Russian engineers would have been aware of the concept previously.


What was the MP 43’s influence on the AK’s design?

Here and there, there are details that may be indicative of some design DNA transfer, but mechanically speaking the MP 43 can claim only marginal influence.


5. Hugo Schmeisser worked at Izhevsk, and was the true designer of the AK-47

In June of 1945, the occupied city of Suhl, where StG-44 manufacturer Haenel was based, changed hands from the Western Allies to the Soviet Union. The USSR seized the factory and the technical documents pertaining to the StG-44, and even reportedly constructed 50 examples of their own from pre-existing parts. As well, they captured Hugo Schmeisser himself, and transported him to Izhevsk to assist in small arms projects there.

For many, this is damning evidence that the AK-47 must have been derived from the sturmgewehr, or even designed secretly by Schmeisser himself! However, the facts as we know them don’t line up well with this theory. Izhevsk, although it was a site of AK-47 and AKM production, was not where the weapon was actually designed – that was the Degtyarov Plant in Kovrov, almost 1,000 km away. Therefore, Schmeisser’s presence in Izhevsk during the late 1940s is actually a very strong piece of evidence that he didn’t have anything to do with the AK-47, contrary to what many believe.

We must also remember that Hugo Schmeisser was getting fairly old by this time, and probably was in no mood to assist the Russians in developing a new weapon. Russia was just just a year or two prior the mortal enemy of Germany, and Schmeisser – well into his 60s by this time – surely was not thrilled about working for them. Indeed, it seems the Soviets realized this, as they reportedly set him to working on manufacturing, rather than design. Even at that, Schmeisser seems to have been largely uncooperative, from what little evidence we do have.

Ultimately, Schmeisser’s career in Izhevsk will still be shrouded in mystery until pertinent documents are requested for declassification (and approved), but he simply wasn’t in the right place at the right time to have helped with the AK-47’s design, much less been responsible for it. This should come as no surprise, either, as the AK-47 doesn’t really seem like a Schmeisser design, having very few particular elements and flairs in common with his previous projects.

Therefore, in the absence of any real evidence, and the presence of significant evidence to the contrary, we can only conclude the allegations that Hugo Schmeisser is the true designer of the AK-47 are simply untrue.


6. If Mikhail Kalashnikov was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the AK?

This is a very petty argument, but it does come up a lot. A major problem with this argument is that you can apply it to many other small arms designers just as well as you can Kalashnikov. For example:

  • If John Garand was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the M1?
  • If James Paris Lee was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the Lee-Enfield?
  • If Georg Luger was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the Luger?
  • If Eugene Stoner was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the AR-10?
  • If Dr. Richard Gatling was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the Gatling Gun?
  • If Hiram Maxim was such a talented designer, why didn’t he ever design anything besides the Maxim Gun?

Et cetera. Many of you may be thinking “but those people did design other guns!” and that’s correct, but Mikhail Kalashnikov did, too. He invented numerous machine guns, selfloading and automatic rifles, submachine guns, and other weapons that remained prototypes and were never adopted. Only the AK, and its belt-fed derivative, the PK, were ever adopted. Yet, that’s very normal for many small arms designers, as the examples above illustrate.

In fact, the AK-47 wasn’t even the first, second, or third weapon Kalashnikov invented. By the time of its adoption, he was a truly accomplished and talented designer, who commanded great respect from his peers.


This was Kalashnikov’s next project after the AK-47, a 7.62x25mm submachine gun. Few Westerners have ever heard of Kalashnikov’s other work, but that doesn’t mean he was indolent! Image source: Maxim Popenker, used with permission


In a later article, we’ll take a closer look at Kalashnikov’s weapons portfolio (including addressing the claim that the pre-AK-47 prototypes showed more StG-44 influence, also partially covered in Rifle Paternity Test), so stay tuned for that.


7. The Russians won’t declassify all the documents pertaining to the AK’s development, because they don’t want to reveal that Schmeisser was the real designer.

This argument seems to have arisen from confusion regarding the differences in declassification processes in the United States and in the USSR/Russian Federation. In the US, classified documents are declassified automatically after 25 years unless special exceptions are made. Many of the original documents pertaining to the AK-47’s development remain classified even after 70 years, and this has made many people conclude that they must reveal something damning or shocking, or else they would already have been declassified, surely.

However, Russian declassification procedures are different than those in the United States. Most importantly, there is essentially no provision for automatic declassification of most documents, and therefore documents typically only get declassified upon request. In other words, unlike how all US classified documents get automatically declassified after 25 years, in order for a Russian classified document to be declassified, its declassification must be requested by an interested party, and that request reviewed by a declassification board.

Therefore, the fact that documents pertaining to the AK-47’s development haven’t been declassified yet doesn’t necessarily indicate that the Russian government has something to hide, it may just mean that those documents haven’t been requested yet. Given that interest in Soviet archives is mostly restricted to a handful Russian historians and enthusiasts (for whom the AK-47’s development is not very controversial, as it is here in the US), it seems perfectly plausible that these documents have remained classified due to a lack of particular interest.


Conclusion, and what does it mean to “design a rifle”?

There are many more arguments I could address, but that’s all that’s worth addressing for now. One final subject I wanted to touch on addresses what it means to be a weapon’s “designer”, and how Kalashnikov fits in to this definition. While it’s true that some weapons designers in the past did work alone, in the modern era the normal arrangement for professional design firms is for there to be a team of engineers, draftsmen, and craftsmen, headed by a director or chief engineer. It’s this spot at the top that Kalashnikov occupied in the development of the AK-47. While others were responsible for drafting the drawings and specifications, manufacturing the prototypes, and even offering engineering advice, Kalashnikov was the captain of the ship, so to speak, and has therefore received nominal credit for the design. This arrangement is far from unusual – it is actually typical – and in fact Eugene Stoner headed a similar kind of design team that created the Armalite AR-10, for which he is credited.

Necessarily, this kind of arrangement implies that not every element of the AK-47 was Kalashnikov’s doing, and we certainly shouldn’t assume that the rifle sprung forth fully formed as his brainchild. It was, instead, a team effort that took several years to perfect – and let’s not forget either that some of the hardest work was done after Kalashnikov’s team moved on, during the production engineering phase. Still Kalashnikov gets the credit, and that’s his right by tradition. We should neither forget the efforts of the other people on Kalashnikov’s team, nor should we confuse their presence for evidence of some deep Soviet conspiracy to obscure the truth.


Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • There is one important argument (involving Bulkin) that often comes up that I didn’t address in these two posts. That’s because I intend to address it in a standalone post later on.

    • Devil_Doc

      Have you read “The Gun”, by C.J. Chivers?

      • Yes.

        • Devil_Doc

          I respect your work, but I know you get a bit touchy if you feel you’re being challenged. Please don’t mistake this for anything but an honest question.. But, according to Chivers (whose research I have no reason to doubt), Kalashnikov himself cast doubts on the state story of the AK. It seems pretty obvious that very little of what we think we know about who designed the AK, and how, is at all accurate. It strikes me that the accepted story of an untrained tanker whipping out this design is just as plausible as the Soviets creating the story out of whole cloth for propaganda reasons. What would play better with the Russian people? That only captured German engineers could help move Soviet weapons designers from open bolt blow-backs like the PPD and PPSh, or that an untrained tanker one-upped the evil fascists/capitalists on a scrap of paper? Even if the Russians gave access to classified material detailing what really happened, would/could anyone trust data from an era where the truth was highly malleable?

          • Steve Truffer

            The propaganda story is “wounded tanker makes people’s rifle”. The more researched answer is “Somewhat notable engineer who made a number of submachine guns makes rifle while in hospital (AK46). Army decides it is too complex for mass manufacturing and issuance. Falling back on his submachine gun work, he simplifies the rifle (Type I AK47). Intermediate cartridge hammers this apart. A machined recrever is used (AK47) until an acceptable balance between stamping and machining is found(AKM)”
            Which one would a government rather stick on a propaganda poster?

      • Kalash

        That is simply Western propaganda, written by a New York journalist who obviously has no knowledge of the subject.


        • Joseph Goins

          Why is everything with you “propaganda”?

          • Kalash

            Can you provide a link to your doctoral dissertation so we can read it for ourselves?

          • Joseph Goins

            You first. Prove that the Russian archives are a massive Stalin-era propaganda machine.

          • Kalash

            Waiting for the link to your doctoral dissertation and your academic curriculum vitae.

            Put up, or shut up.

          • Joseph Goins

            I play by poker rules. You were the first to make aggressive action and I called you on your bullshi†. You have the obligation to show your cards at which point I will do the same.

      • Tim

        I think Chivers book pretty much covers this entire topic with a fair perspective (except last chapter). He also indicates that Schmeisser was in Izhevsk but probably relegated to manufacturing engineering rather than design.

        My impression is that during the evolution of full auto firearms, from the Gatling gun forward, as covered in excruciating detail by Chivers including almost a full biography of Kalashnikov and an interesting chapter on the M-16/AR-15 notorious growing pains, the Germans first recognized the benefits and need for a medium rifle caliber, short length, light weight automatic rifle which was realized late in the war with the sturmgewehr. This is not surprising considering they had a bolt action infantry and a lot of tank crews. Like many devices today, the need for a gun of this nature was not fully recognized until it was tested and put to use by other armies. Regarding similarities, the AK TEAM did what any good design group does first and reviewed the state of the art, stealing the best ideas from whatever they can find. So of course there will be resemblances. Their own contributions were cheap fabrication, fast assembly and famous reliability in the AKM.

        Kalashnikov was on a team. There is even evidence that to the extent he led the team, his contributions were unappreciated. His rise to fame was more a result of Soviet politics than sole designer. Even he acknowledges this in indiscrete moments.

        • Billy Jack

          I’m trying to remember but didn’t he rise due to Stalin’s purge?

          • Tritro29

            Nope he got forward because he remained among the few designers who had been on the front.

  • Isaac Newton

    We gun nuts seem to focus on the gas system, pistol grip, bolt, and receiver, but another area of complexity in a firearm like this is the “lock work”. In this case, if you look at trigger, hammer, selector, safety of the two firearms, they are not similar.

    • PK

      Agreed. Similarities in FCG design point to wholesale copying of ideas far more. Designing a solidly functional FCG for a select fire firearm is no small task, and takes a bit of doing. Of all the areas that would save time and effort to copy, you’d think the annoyingly fiddly bits such as that would have been copied.

    • Stephen Paraski

      I think the FCG of AKM separates it from all other designs. The way the pins hold it together and the area around FCG (all that empty space) to prevent debris (not just powder residue) from impairing function. That and the simplicity of putting together the mass produced parts. That is demonstrated in the proliferation of “Parts Set”s” or kit’s imported into US. I can still remember buying these chopped receiver kit’s for under $100. Add to that the receiver is a piece of sheet steel that only has to be “Treated” or “Hardened” at trigger and hammer axis holes, the intentional loose tolerances and simplicity of takedown puts the AKM design in a class of it’s own.

  • lowell houser

    Notice how that submachine gun has an obvious AK inspired dust cover, safety lever(trigger too probably). MK was obviously very talented at recycling, and I don’t see why this is a point of shame. There comes a point in time when you just do certain things because they work, and in fact if you look at every single 21rst century design on sale right now they are all the same formula – custom aluminum extrusion cut to length, stuck in a 4-axis cnc machine, finished out, and piston powered guts hung inside. And I would argue that they all descend from the G36, which descends from the AR-18, which in turn is a piston-driven sheet steel AR15, which in turn uses the bolt head from a Johnson rifle(?). Have I made my point yet?

    What MK had was an intermediate cartridge looking for a home(7.62×39), and a German intermediate cartridge weapon that was stupidly complicated and despite being devastatingly effective, it wasn’t even actually working 100% when it got rushed into mass production, as evidenced by the fact that it was issued with a warning to only load 25 rounds into the 30 round mag to keep it from malfunctioning. So he did what any tinkerer would do, he recycled what worked – the general layout- and replaced the complicated tilting bolt with the rotating bolt from other designs he had access to like the M1 while keeping the stg piston setup to operate it. At the same time he simplified the whole thing. You’re never gonna convince me that’s not what he did.

    • Maybe I can’t convince you, but that’s not what he did.

  • Kalash

    Anyone who actually believes the Soviet propaganda about the development of the Kalashnikov is a fool.

    • Bob

      Could you elaborate? Are you refuting the article written here?

      • Kalash

        Can you read? Can you comprehend? Can you post more passive-aggresive questions?

        • Tritro29

          Trolling 101. New private account. No substance in over 60 signs. Ok.

          • Bob

            I am willing to play. ;D

        • Bob

          I am actually quite serious. If you believe the Soviet Propaganda is at work here, please enlighten us about it rather than posting a passive aggressive comment about anyone believing it to be fools. (We project what we see in ourselves onto the actions of others.)

          • Kalash

            You might just want to check this really cool new technology called “Google” and do your own research.

            Or pay some attention to genuine AK-47 experts, unlike Internet forum and blog ninjas just repeating Soviet era propaganda.

            Kalashnikov was not some independent genius designer who dreamed this stuff out of thin air.

            He has a LOT of help and if you don’t think Hugo Schmeisser had a hand in the design, I’ve got some excellent beach front property I’d like to sell you in an old Gulag in Siberia.

            A few weeks ago I was with Larry Vickers and asked him about all this and he simply said, “Nobody who knows anything about the history of the AK or the Soviet Union believes all the Soviet-era bullshit about the great and mighty Michael Kalshnikov.”

            But carry on in your fanciful delusions if it helps you sleep better at night.

          • AC97

            Do you have any citations to point to that isn’t hearsay? Who are these “experts” you speak of?

          • Next you’ll be telling us that Larry Vickers designed the AK.

          • Kalash

            Sorry, Nathaniel, for any butt hurt reality causes you. Your great hero was a Soviet propaganda tool, who had far less personal responsibility for the AK’s design and success than the Soviet propaganda machine wanted everyone to believe.

          • Of course he was a Soviet propaganda tool, why wouldn’t they use him for propaganda? That doesn’t mean he didn’t design the AK, and every indication points to him being the team leader on the design.

          • Well I disagree and it seems your train jumped the tracks on that statement.

          • PK

            He didn’t? My worldview has been destroyed.

          • valorius

            Vickers invented the tactical beer belly. 😀

          • Bob

            I don’t like your attitude, so…

            Check Google? Being evasive does not help your case.

            Genuine AK experts? Like you? Who are these experts? Larry Vickers? (See below.)

            Kalashnikov had help? OK, are you going to provide a shred of evidence to counter the article, or specifically Schmiesser’s involvement? It is after all the article you need to address, not me. I’m not actually that excited about this, and only happened to skim the comments and notice your well thought out and detailed approach to the matter.

            Concerning Larry Vickers, that is an appeal to authority, one that would be far more successful if I knew anything about him beyond him going to Russia and shooting some rifles. Oh, I suppose I need to Google him, since I’m already going to go looking for evidence to counter the article because some guy on a blog said to.

            My delusions? Buddy, my interest in the AK’s origins are basically trivia. My real delusions are none of your business, but I will admit they involved my studly good looks and a number of attractive actresses.

          • Dan

            Ok i’ll feed the troll. First you claim the AK production story is propaganda. Then when someone asks you for proof to back up your claims, you resort to “try google” “do your own research”? Sounds about right. That is usually what happens when people make claims they have 0 credible sources on. Burden of proof is on you bud. Quit deflecting. If you know something say it or shut up. You can of course keep posting, but you’re making yourself look like nothing more than a hater of all things Russian and nothing more.

          • Kalash

            The story of the development of the AK as pun by the Soviets was pure Stalin-era bullshit. If you do not understand that, you do not know much about the Soviet Union, specifically, the Stalin era.

            Educate yourself.

          • Joseph Goins

            You keep spinning this bullshi† without ever backing up your claim. You then tell people to educate themselves, they double check what they already know to be true, they then say you are full of shi†, and you have the audacity to say that that they are fools for believing what they read?

            The simple answer is that you are wrong. You have failed to provide ANY evidence that the official history of the AK-47 (that it was designed by Kalashnikov) “is pure Stalin-era bullshi†.”

          • Kalash

            And you have made assertions, first, without a shred of proof, appealing to your mythical “doctorate.”

          • Joseph Goins

            No. I called you on your bullshi†. I go by poker rules. You, sir, have the obligation to go first or you can yield and give in.

          • Gun Fu Guru

            Why don’t you enlighten us: what is “the development of the AK as [s]pun by the Soviets.” You seem to think that the Soviet’s said that God spoke to Kalashnikov and guided his pen as he designed the AK-47 by himself in his workshop.

            The truth is that the Soviets never denied that he:
            – led a team of other designers during the process,
            – had access to small arms (including the Garand and StG44), and
            – benefitted from a weapons procurement cycle post WW2.

            He became famous (Lenin Prize, Hero of Socialist Labor, etc.) because of propaganda. No one says that isn’t the case. However, the fame does not take away from the fact that his contributions to the project largely overshadowed that of everyone else (which it should as the lead designer).

    • Kevin Harron

      Citations please.

    • Joseph Goins

      Unless you speak Russian and have been to their archives, you are not qualified to speak on the matter. Sorry for being blunt, but it’s the honest truth.

      • PlzCheeze

        Congratulations for posting the most retarded comment on this website of 2016.

        Thanks for killing some braincells you mouth breather.

        • Joseph Goins

          Нет. Это действительно не. Я были к их архивам, и я видел их отчеты для моей докторской диссертации. Данных завершена, не как полный однако как американские архивы. Если вы не сделали то же самое, вы высказываетесь невежества.

          • iksnilol

            Awww shiznit, you went full comrade! 😀

          • Gecko9mm

            What is it about you people? What do you mean, you people?

          • Kalash

            We really do not care at all about “doctoral dissertation” … all you did was wade around in the archives of a massive Soviet progaganda machine.

          • Joseph Goins

            Please enlighten us all with your extensive knowledge of the “massive Soviet progaganda machine.” (And it’s propaganda.) I’m sure you are an expert on the subject.

          • Kalash

            Provide a link to your doctrinal dissertation and your curriculum vitae so we can verify your academic credentials and background.

          • Joseph Goins

            If I provide them, it will never be proof of what you claim: it’s all propaganda.

          • Kalash

            Waiting for you to provide the links to your CV and doctoral dissertation. Put up, or shut up.

          • Joseph Goins

            You first. Prove that it is all a propaganda tactic.

        • AC97

          Have you ever read any of Sermon 7.62’s posts before they got removed?

          • Sermon 7.62

            Sermon 7.62’s posts got removed because the truth hurts

          • AC97

            If you’re someone impersonating them, well played.

            If you’re actually them, well, whatever helps you sleep at night, kid.

          • Kivaari

            They were bordering insanity.

      • Kalash

        Repeating: Idiotic response, as if the Soviet era archives are store houses of factual truth. All you will find there is an archive of selective truth, i. e. propaganda. What a maroon.

        • Joseph Goins

          Maroon? That’s a color. Why do you assume the records are “selective truth. i.e. propaganda”?

          • Kalash

            Why do you assume they are not? Is there something about the Stalinist era in Russian history you can’t understand? Again, for a person claiming to have a doctorate, you certainly are playing the fool here.

          • Joseph Goins

            The onus is the naysayer to disprove the official history. You are the one making a wild claim. You are the one that needs to prove it.

          • Klaus Von Schmitto

            It is not a wild claim that Bugs Bunny called people and ducks “maroons”. Just sayin’

          • Joseph Goins

            True. However, that’s not what I addressed in any fashion with my statement of him making a “wild claim.” The wild claim is that everything we’ve been told by the USSR about the AK-47’s development is all Soviet propaganda.

          • Klaus Von Schmitto

            I’m beginning to think your sense of humor was blown off in the war.

          • Joseph Goins

            I’ve never had a sense of humor to blow off. I’m all business.

          • Kivaari

            Ahhh! You are not a student of that great scholar Bugs Bunny. What a maroon.

          • Joseph Goins

            I have not watched cartoons in decades since I was in the military (11B and 38A) and education (student and teacher). I haven’t had time for cartoons.

          • Kivaari

            It was decades ago when Bugs used that line. He started in the 40s and kept it up for decades. Too bad you missed out on his higher education of the masses.

    • Kivaari

      For starters I’d recommend Ezell’s book, “The AK47 Story”. It gives a great background into Russian gun manufacturing, about 1/3rd of the book is historical data predating the AK project itself. The Russians (Soviets) were not as primitive as many in the west would have us believe. It wasn’t just a hammer and a bottle of Vodka as they paid attention to the latest techniques or developed their own.

    • I guess the vast majority are are fools then:-)

      • Kalash

        The vast majority of people who don’t know much about the AK, or have never bothered to study is development in depth, have bought into the Sovie propaganda about Kalshnikov, the humble tractor mechanic and tank driver, nearly coming up with the AK by divine revelation. It’s just so much BS.

        • Joseph Goins

          And you have? Tell the world about how you came to study the AK’s development history from more than just a conspiracy theory article while on the crapper.

        • Gun Fu Guru

          What is false about that narrative? Was he not a tank driver? Was he not a tinkerer who wanted to design agricultural machines?

  • Bob

    I think it was on Yahoo Answers I once saw a person ask the differences between the STG and AK, and one person actually responded that they were basically the same rifle, using the same and ammunition and with largely interchangeable parts…

    Seriously, I don’t care what that crazy old man babbling about lizard people and whatnot at the gun show told you, you shouldn’t trust him…

    • USMC03Vet

      Read it on yahoo answers. Must be legit! ?

      • Billy Jack

        Yahoo Answers is for people who are too high or too stupid to type the same question in Google. They make Wikipedia look like Encyclopedia Brittanica.
        Maybe hackers stole all the good answers along with the passwords.

    • Ryfyle

      Those folks are idiots that have yet to tear down a rifle to clean it. the internal functions of the locking method makes a huge difference.

  • Gary Kirk

    Better get my waders out.. If this is anything like part one, it’s gonna get real deep in here

    • Sand

      a rubber raft and some popcorn would be my choice.

  • 10x25mm

    The very earliest AK-47s had stamped receivers assembled with weldments, rather like the Kalashnikov SMG you show. These early AK-47s were quickly withdrawn from service due to weldment failures and a milled receiver was adopted as an interim fix. The successful, third generation AK-47’s stamped receiver was assembled front and rear with the hot riveting technique developed at Johannes Grossfuss Lackierwaren u. Maschinenfabrik AG of Doebeln for the MG.42.

    Dr-Ing Werner Gruener, the technical director of Grossfuss’ MG.42 development team was a guest of the Soviet government into the 1950’s and did work with Mikhail Kalashnikov.

    • That’s a nice story, but Type 1 AKs use flush-fitting rivets, not weldments.

      I would be surprised if no piece of German technical expertise was incorporated, but I find this particular narrative difficult to believe, as you probably wouldn’t want to use hot riveting on an AK’s rivets!

      • Jeff Heeszel

        Who says “weldments” ? sound British to me.

        • PK

          Anyone who puts together an HK receiver, that’s for sure.

        • 10x25mm

          Standard American welding terminology from AWS A3.0, ‘Standard Welding Terms and Definitions’. Worked as a CWI in the 1970’s and had the U.S. standard welding terminology beaten into me. My apologies.

        • Stephen Paraski

          Very common in Commercial and Industrial Plumbing Industry, a “Weldment” fitting allows you to weld that fitting to a larger pipe to accept a smaller threaded pipe. Not available at home depot.

      • 10x25mm

        Can you be certain that the rivets you have seen in early sheet metal AK-47 receivers were not retrofitted after Dr-Ing. Gruener sorted out the manufacturing methodology? This was always my impression. The Soviets and the Russians have never been candid about this and silence seems to have been a condition of Dr.-Ing. Gruener’s parole back to the DDR.

        Dr.-Ing. Gruener’s genius in assembling the MG.42 components was to heat the high carbon rivet stock to 300 C (575 F) prior to riveting, allowing thermal contraction to tension the rivet. This low temperature and the small thermal mass of the rivets is not enough to soften the components being joined by localized tempering.

        Dr.-Ing. Gruener also advocated rivets which spanned the full width of the receiver. Note that these first appeared in the second generation stamped AK-47 receiver. Thermal contraction is an ‘inches per inch’ phenomenon, so this further tensions a riveted joint. Note that the rivets you see in remaining examples of early sheet metal AK-47 receivers do not span the full receiver width.

        • Tritro29

          Hot riveting is solution for thicker sheet stampings (hence the MG42 stampings were almost 3 times thicker). With a thinner 1mm sheet it would have been problematic overtime.

          • Also, you’d have screwed up the temper on the sheet around the hole, meaning your rivets would stretch the metal over time, oblonging the rivet hole.

            No, I am very confident hot riveting was never used on production AKs.

          • Tritro29

            Which looks exactly like the kind of trouble that would hinder the durability of the receiver, instead of reinforcing it.

            I can post the diagram if you want. In the first part of the topic I posted pretty much all that is to know about the issue. OK a good chunk of it.

          • 10x25mm

            GOST 11268, Grade 30ХГСА steel is usually tempered at 550 C to 590 C to achieve the 277 BHN hardnesses typical of AK receivers. Regardless, tempering is a time at temperature effect and a momentary exposure to 300 C temperatures will not markedly affect its properties.

            Keep in mind that extended full automatic fire heats an AK-47 trunnion to temperatures well beyond 300 C. Cold riveted joints would loosen dramatically due to thermal expansion as the rivets expand. Hot riveted joints do not loosen until you exceed the temperature of the rivets at the time of riveting. This was a fundamental part of Dr.-Ing. Gruener’s genius firearms assembly engineering.

            I don’t doubt that semiautomatic AKs are cold riveted successfully. Their trunnions never reach the temperatures that full automatic AK’s trunnions reach.

          • It’s not the trunnion I’m worried about, it’s the stamping. The other thing worth mentioning is that hot rivets have a pretty distinctive look that isn’t really consistent with the rivets we see on AKs.

            Another thing worth noting is that hot riveting was invented in the 19th Century, not by the Germans in the 1940s.

            I’m happy to be proven wrong, though, if you’ll provide any kind of source backing up your claims…

  • RickH

    That’s the thing about the Soviet’s, everything was shrouded in secrecy that it’s very hard to believe anything that they claimed. The development of the German assault rifles and weapons in general is pretty easy to follow, not so with the AK. Kalashnikov may (or may not) have been a talented engineer, but after reading many articles about him, he seems to be more of the “face” for weapon rather then the main designer. I recall some old video of him basically denigrating the AR15 when comparing it to the AK. There can be merits to any firearm no matter how poor the final result is (not saying the AR15), but I didn’t get much of an impression of a talented designer. In my opinion, I’ll always believe that the AK was a total team effort, with possible German influence, and that Kalashnikov was brought out from that team as the poster boy.

    • Joseph Goins

      So: you speak Russian and you’ve been to their archives? If you say “no” to either of those, then you really aren’t qualified to assess the Soviet archive system and their holdings related to the weapon’s design.

      • RickH

        So what are you assuming? No, I don’t speak Russian, the video was being translated into English while he was speaking. And no, I haven’t been to their archives. If you try to read my last sentence again, you’ll see it’s “my opinion”, just like these articles are the authors opinion. Why don’t you ask him if he speaks Russian and has had access to their archives, hmmm?

        • Joseph Goins

          The onus is on the naysayer to disprove the official history. On what are you basing your assumption?

          • RickH

            No assumption, just opinion, like everyone else gets to express on an internet forum. There’s enough doubt about this, otherwise why do these article exist?

          • Tritro29

            Doubt about what? FFS I posted a 150 page book on the Part 1 of this debate, and we have Trolls come and ruin a perfectly good thread. Same MO with CapeMorgan, Kalash and other numb nuts. Get a life.

          • CapeMorgan

            Crybaby. You got schooled and you are still crying about it. Grow up Comrade. I am sorry I made you look like a fool. There…did the booboo go away? Smh.

          • Tritro29

            … Schooled on what? How desperate the White Taliban are? Get a life, a hobby like a pet reading or even liquor. Now switch to Kalash, your alternate account, mister Stalinist slayer.

          • CapeMorgan

            Here you go again. You start controversy and then get schooled and then you cry about it. It is pathetic. You should stop while you are behind. Only a fool keeps digging Comrade. I said I was sorry, I will send you a blanket to cuddle with and wipe your tears.:-)

          • Tritro29

            Ok…I hope there are people to help you in your alternate reality.

          • RickH

            You must be mistaking me with some other poster. Read my o.p., and please try to figure it out.

          • Tritro29

            I read your OP and I replied with a whole volume that traces the origins of the AK. MikhTim got his name stamped on a blueprint, because he was indeed a poster-boy but for whole different reasons than propaganda.
            Whole test phase has been made public since the late 90’s and there’s one thing that holds true. Schmeisser had nothing to do with the AK, and the AK should never have been produced or adopted, if it wasn’t for the fact the gun was made as economical as possible. It never got to the actual industrial goal of 12 hours or less, but it came pretty close very early with 14 hours per gun for the inital stamped AK and 16 hours per gun for the milled AK.

            There are myriads of reasons why the AK was kept, one of them is that the industrial tooling to make them and the rest of the family became so perfected until 1960, that it would beat any other serial production of guns on cost, effectiveness and simplicity. This with few remarkable exceptions like the whole mid 50’s delayed blowback frenzy, that came close to killing the AK. Kalashnikov became a Soviet Myth because of the Vietnam war, not because he wanted or tried to become one. The first Mythological essays on MikhTim start around 1978, basically when he asked to retire after the death of his wife. People love to talk about this stuff while not understanding what they imply by that.

            Kalashnikov was used for propaganda, favored because he came from the ranks of the Army while most of the other designers were either People who had been trained during Tzarist times or simply gone from school to design table.

            So no there’s no mystery for people who know this. Only those who can’t get over Germany being whacked by the people it considered sub-human, keep harping about superior Deutsche Qualität.

          • Joseph Goins

            So your opinion is based solely on your distrust of the Russian archives? These articles exist, in part, because people:

            #1. are skeptical about what their enemies say,
            #2. mistake casual relationships with causal relationships, and
            #3. are incapable of admitting Russians could make a good product.

          • RickH

            1. This goes without saying
            2. This means nothing
            3. I have never said the AK is not a good product.

          • Joseph Goins

            I never said YOU thought the AK was not a good product. I said that the things I listed were common reasons why “people” don’t believe the official history thus necessitating this type of article.

            Also, don’t discount what I said about casual v. causal. That is the basis of the captured German engineers myth. Just because the USSR captured several German small arms designers does not mean that they designed, or even participated in the development of, the AK-47.

          • Gun Fu Guru

            What do you mean by #2?

          • Joseph Goins

            Casual v. causal? A very simplified example is as follows: John’s from Maryland? That must mean he like crabs. Not everyone who lives in Maryland likes, or even eats, crabs. It assumes that the casual relationship of Marylanders liking crabs is responsible for the effect (relationship of John liking crabs).

            In this case it is relevant because of the “they had German engineers which must mean that they designed it instead of Kalashnikov” myth.

          • Gun Fu Guru


          • Scott P

            “John’s from Maryland? That must mean he likes crabs. Not everyone who lives in Maryland likes, or even eats, crabs. It assumes that the casual relationship of Marylanders liking crabs is responsible for whether or not John likes crabs.”

            I am proof of your statement. Lived in Maryland for allt of my life until recently, hated crabs (doesn’t help being allergic to them as well).

          • Joseph Goins

            I hear you. I lived in Maryland from birth til age 18 when I joined the Army. I can eat crabs, but they aren’t my favorite.

      • Kalash

        That is funny. You really think archives from the Soviet era are accurate records telling the truth about anything?

        • Joseph Goins

          And you think that the records are falsified because…?

          • Kalash

            For a person who claims to have a doctorate, that is a particularly foolish question to ask. Unless of course, you are a Soviet sympathizer.

          • Joseph Goins

            Resorting to an ad hom is what someone does when he doesn’t have a leg on which to stand.

          • Kalash

            About that doctorate and your CV.


          • Joseph Goins

            You first. Prove that the Russian archives are a “massive Soviet propaganda machine.”

          • Joseph Goins

            You first. Prove that the Russian archives are a massive Stalin-era propaganda machine. Oh wait….you can’t.

          • Kalash

            So at this point we can raise the BS flag on your claim to have a doctorate in this field.

            Just as I thought.

          • Joseph Goins

            1) I never said I had a “doctorate in this field.” You assume. European military history is my minor field. American legal history is my major field.

            2) I am not relenting on you proving your claim that the official history of the AK-47 is a massive Stalin-era propaganda. You made the first claim. You provide the first proof. Do that. Then I will release my information. You said people who didn’t agree with you on the subject are fools. Show us all how foolish we are. It should be easy for you.

  • Walter

    So Stoner only designed the AR-10? Color me surprised as I though he also designed the Stoner63, AR-18, AR-5, etc.

    • RP

      Nathaniel addresses that in the text. Read or reread the article.

    • Stoner designed the AR-10, AR-5, Stoner 62, and AR-16. Arthur Miller designed the AR-18, a roughly scaled down AR-16. Jim Sullivan and Robert Fremont designed the AR-15, a roughly scaled down AR-10, and the Stoner 63, a roughly scaled down Stoner 62.

    • Joseph Goins

      Your critical reading skills need improvement.

  • Reazione Catena

    I like your article, I have read Clinteon Ezells book and he states that the gun is a collective of ideas and I agree; Kalashnikov’s name was used for propoganda purposes… the Seargant of the glorious army designs the ultimate arm…regardless; a great article keep it coming!

    • Yes, it’s absolutely true that Kalashnikov was used as a propaganda figure, and the Soviet narrative about him isn’t quite right, either. Still, that doesn’t imply he didn’t lead the design team on the gun.

      • Reazione Catena

        I agree

      • Joseph Goins

        Absolutely! The AK platform was his brain child. He deserves credit even though other designers were involved. It’s like saying Jim Sullivan can’t be credited for the AR-15 since he was helped by Eugene Stoner.

      • Kivaari

        AND they kept him around for a long time promoting him to general. If he was naturally talented and was sent to engineering school with a helping hand here and there perhaps he was worth his keep. He had designed a SMG early in his career if the story is correct. He seems like he was talented beyond average and was worth that investment in a propaganda fashion. I suspect he was a real talent.

  • Cal S.

    Well, we all know what a REAL gun designer looks like. Freakin’ John Moses Browning, that’s who.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    Since the first post seems to have devolved into a political morass I’ll make my observation here.
    Based on the lingering influence of Federov and the state of Russian intermediate cartridge development in 1943, the most likely effect of the German stg44 on Russian assault rifle development was as a kick in the pants to stop dinking around and actually put something in production because the Germans have a working design in the field. When you put them side by side an AKM and stg44 have about as much in common as an AKM and a vz 58. For that matter a vz 58 and an stg44 probably have more in common with each other than either does with an AKM. note: I deliberately used the AKM as my example because it had the final stamped receiver Kalashnikov intended.

  • Bob

    Hey, on a lighter note,… has anyone noticed that tear in MK’s eye……doesn’t look like a tear?

    • Billy Jack

      It’s the community tear everyone in Kalishnikov’s district had to share.

      • Bob

        Right,! Looks like Sparky Sperm from GI WWII videos

  • The_Champ

    One of the great insights I gained from James Burke’s “Connections” series is that almost nothing is invented in a vacuum. Of course Kalashnikov wasn’t a lone genius toiling by candlelight to perfect the assault rifle. Of course he was influenced by other designs and assisted by many others.

    I also tend to agree with some other posters here that we will likely never uncover exactly how much assistance and influence Kalashnikov had. Those directly involved are mostly gone, and probably never had the chance to share the full truth anyways. I won’t bother jumping into the debate about Soviet secrecy, records, propaganda, etc.

    Analysing the rifles side by side is however a fascinating thing to study to try and determine their origins.
    Finally I should note that from what I can tell, John Browning likely WAS one of those extremely rare lone geniuses blazing a trail of truly genius innovation.

    • Billy Jack

      Or maybe he was an alien.

      • Bob

        “You do know Elvis is dead, right?”
        “Elvis ain’t dead kid, he just went home.”

        • Billy Jack

          Here you have a man John Browning who clearly was a genius in weapon design. Was he just lucky genetically or was he in communication with intelligences beyond this world? Were his parents abducted and experimented on? Was he even of this world? We may never know.

        • Billy Jack

          He’s high on ludes breakdancing with Tupac in hell.

      • Billy Jack

        Just found out Mr. Browning, probably the most underrated American genius and hero, was a member of the Mormon Church. Just thought it more cool Browning trivia.

  • Noah Tahl

    I had the privilege of knowing Col. George Chinn (look him up). As late as the 1970s, he said of the AK-47 (perhaps quoting/paraphrasing someone else) that it was designed by a genius to be built by the proletariat in a bicycle shop and used by peasants. I suspect he would have said something about copying. He certainly had no restraint about that with other weapons (both in admiring and disparaging terms, where appropriate).

    • I have read Chinn’s magnum opus. He was a very intelligent person who had a far more intimate understanding of how weapons actually work than virtually anyone before or since.

    • Joseph Goins

      The genius of the AK-47 (like the Glock) is in its simplicity.

    • n0truscotsman

      He was a certifiable bad ass. Im glad you brought him up.

  • kyphe

    As far as I am concerned this whole issue is pointless. This is all retrospective pride talk W-boos v C-boos. When the Brits were looking to develop a replacement for the Lee Enfield they made a committee with the specific job of examining every weapon of interest across the globe to pinch any possible good idea that was out there! This is just the normal responsible practice. The development of the soviet automatic rifle was done by committee also so every time they tested the various designs they picked what they liked from each submission and said right this is what we want to keep for the next round. There was no intellectual property issues this is communism we are talking about. My personal opinion is that Kalashnikov’s form factor was chosen thus giving his factory the manufacturing of this gun and so his name on the box, but the operating mechanism is be a mishmash of designs from several sources. Even if you remove the AK from the historical record the Russians have a pretty damn good reputation for small arms and cannons so yet another reason this is pointless.

    • Kevin Gibson

      Correct! It’s one of the few times that communism really contributed to make something superior. For a 1947 design, it was magnificent; FAR advanced over the MP-44 and really un-matched until the M16 20 years later, and even then, the AK held it’s own VERY well. Today it’s getting long in the tooth, but we’ve seen very often that when upgraded, the AK in all its iterations remains a formidable weapon.

  • Stan Darsh

    Page clicks and comment count keep the lights on.

    • normankoessel

      Sure, I get that. I like the discussion. I dread the pointless and ill informed arguments that accompany something like this that really boil down to No One Really Knows. That particular aspect of many discussions on the ‘net still get under my skin.


    The round is great the rifle is junk. Cheep that’s why there are so many.