Egyptian AKs (Misr, Maadi) – The First Kalashnikovs in The US. Part 1: History

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy
Egyptian AKs (Misr, Maadi) – The First Kalashnikovs in The US. Part 1: History

If you’ve ever seen a cult classic movie “Red Dawn” (obviously I am talking about the 1984 version, not the 2012 remake), you probably remember that all Soviet soldiers were equipped with authentic Kalashnikov rifles. But the guns they were using were not, in fact, Soviet, they were Egyptian AKs. 16 years ago TFB published a post about it when one of the original “Red Dawn AKs” was sold at an auction.

But how did Egyptian AKs end up in the US at the height of the Cold War? We will talk about it today and also I will try to shed some light on the part of Egyptian AK history that is completely unheard of.

If you try to search for some info about the history of Egyptian AKs, there is not much to look at. Allegedly, the Soviet Union built the factory, Egyptians started production, bought some funny-looking East German “crutch” stocks and that is pretty much it, the end of the story.

Author with the first "crutch" stock he encountered in North Iraq.

But that simple story never really worked for me. I’ve seen plenty of select-fire Egyptian AKs in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where I worked as an armorer, and they always attracted my attention.

For the armorers, Egyptian AKs were always the biggest pain in the neck. Egypt was the only country that used “Hindi” numerals instead of the Arabic numerals we are used to. I only learned those numerals to read serial numbers on Egyptian AKs.

Most people are not that dedicated, so often I’ve seen guns with inscriptions in Arabic ground away with “normal” numbers engraved in the same place. No ATF in Afghanistan, so if you don’t like the font of your serial number, there are always options.

Egyptian serial number with "Hindu" numerals

However, one thing that never made sense to me was the fact that many Egyptian AKs had selector markings with the Latin S-A-R letters. Those are the markings used on Romanian guns (if you have time, check out my three-part article about Romanian AKs).

Also, when I drove from Suez to Cairo (if you worked in maritime security you know this particular route), I was always surprised by how many soldiers at checkpoints had AKs with Romanian “dong” grips on the handguard.

The selector markings alone could have been a coincidence, but markings and Romanian handguards on Egyptian Aks are a clear indication that Romanian engineers must have been involved in production. But zero sources confirmed it.

Egyptian AK photographed in Kabul with a typical “dong” handguard

So what is the Romanian connection? Let’s dive into history. The Soviet Union supported Egypt from the early 50s and at that time it meant one thing – a massive supply of armaments.

I actually heard that the first AK that was captured by “Western” forces belonged to Egyptians and got into the hands of Israeli forces in 1956 during the Suez Crisis (Second Arab–Israeli War). However, I could not find any confirmation of that. If you know anything about it, let me know in the comments.

But in 1971 new Egyptian president Anwar Sadat reorinted the country’s foreign policy, and in 1972-1973 most Soviet advisors were expelled from Egypt. The country was left with a massive arms industry and few experts who could run it.

Egyptian AK photographed in the South of Iraq

The facility responsible for AK’s production was called Factory 54 (Maadi Company for Engineering Industries) in the capital of Egypt, Cairo. This is where the most popular nickname of the Egyptian AK, “Maadi”, comes from.

Another name for this rifle, “Misr” is the name of Egypt in their own language. It wasn’t as common of a name as “Maadi”, but it was still occasionally used.

This is where other Eastern bloc countries came in – we know that funny crutch stock was developed in East Germany (if you have time, check out my three-part article about East German AKs).

Note S-A-R markings on the receiver, identical to selector markings of Romanian AKs

I was searching for the truth for a few years, until in December of 2021, I finally had a chance to get to the source of knowledge. I was in Cairo and talked to one of the high-ranking army officers in charge of the Egyptian defense industry.

He consulted with his peers and confirmed my suspicion: “Very little is remembered now, but mass production of Egyptian AKs was, in fact, started with the help of Romanians somewhere around 1976”. The mystery was finally solved.

Romanians helped to keep the factory running, and since relations with the US improved, in 1982 the first semi-automatic Egyptian AKs were imported into the US. Like many former Soviet allies, the Egyptian government cared more about getting hard currency than hurting the feelings of their former comrades.

Ad from a gun magazine in the early 80s

Importer, a company from New Jersey called Steyr was a subsidiary of the famous Austrian arms manufacturer with the same name. These days, those rifles are sold at auctions for $3000-4000.

When The Red Dawn was filmed, Egyptian AKs were a great option for movie armorers: the best clones of Soviet AKs on the market. 53 such rifles were used in the movie, and 32 rifles from this batch were converted to full-auto by a company called Pearl Manufacturing specifically for the film.

In Part 2 of this article, I will talk about the quality issues I experienced with Egyptian AKs and the current state of AK production in Egypt.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: Instagram: YouTube:

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  • SP mclaughlin SP mclaughlin on Apr 10, 2024

    While the 2012 Red Dawn is really bad, it does have what I wager are Arsenal Bulgaria AK-103s as the NK troops' rifle, and also a few of what are likely SLR-107URs. They're kinda neat to see from the AK enthusiast perspective.

  • Colonel K Colonel K on Apr 19, 2024

    When the first semi auto Maddis arrived in the US the initial asking price I recall seeing was $2000 (the sample add shows $1200). Either price was a king's ransom and apparently few of them sold because several years later I managed to pick one up NIB for about $600. As for the Romanian influence, I presume it was to keep the factory functioning. To me the rifle appeared to be identical in appearance to the standard Russian issued rifle except for the lack of a full auto option and the presence of Egyptian markings. It was fun rifle to shoot and my very first AK. When the original Red Dawn movie came out I was informed the Soviet small arms used in it were actually converted Valmets. This confusion is understandable because Valmets did stand in for RPKs.