One firearm that most serious gun collectors consider a must-have in their possession is the AK-47 assault rifle. This gun is synonymous with quality as far as assault rifles go, and the name is legendary among adult gun users and the pretend games of children alike. If you have ever wondered about the origins of the AK-47 and its dissemination, look no further!

AK-47 is short for Avtomat Kalishnikova model 1947. It was invented by its namesake, Mikhail Kalishnikov, the famous Soviet gunsmith who was also responsible for designing the RPK and the PK. Kalishnikov designed and completed the AK-47 in 1947 for the Soviet Union and in 1949 it was adopted as the standard weapon of the Red Army. The AK-47 was more compact than previous models of automatic weapons, using a smaller 7.62 x 39 mm cartridge. It was also capable of operating both fully automatic and semi-automatic (selective fire). It incorporates a stamped metal receiver, and later on in its development a muzzle brake was also added.

The AK-47 had several features that made it a hit with the Red Army and later with many countries aligned with the Communist Soviets, including Eastern Bloc nations and countries such as Vietnam and China. In fact, about fifty national armies in Asia, South America, and Europe developed AKs according to their own specs, so gun collectors could make a lifetime hobby of finding the various models. The weapon is very rugged and able to go through terrain from freezing wastelands to tropical jungles without ruining the piece. The gun could also allow a large amount of junk into it without having the cycle jammed due to large spaces in the makeup of the firing mechanisms. These same features also make the gun easy to clean and maintain, making it an ideal infantry gun.

As a product of the Cold War, it should come as no surprise that the AK-47 became and still is a very visual example of the polarization of both sides. Many American movie makers have street gangs and drug lords arm their membership with AKs, reflecting the theme that they are somehow the weapon of choice for forces of evil. On the other hand, there are still countries and organizations which revere the AK and what it represented for the Soviets. It is featured on the national flag of the African nation of Mozambique, and on the coat of arms as well. It is also represented on the flag of the terrorist group Hezbollah.

The AK-47 is still in production today in Russia in the AKM design. In the United States it has become an increasingly difficult weapon to get hold of due to increasing restrictions on both automatics and their components by the National Firearms Act; which in fact makes ownership of the fully automatic version illegal. Many gun collectors in the United States gained access to these famous weapons after they were brought home by American soldiers as souvenirs during the Vietnam War. Most of these AKs were registered under the amnesty of 1968.

The AK-47 is a weapon of legend, and collecting variants and cousins is a lifelong hobby for some gun enthusiasts.