How does one define AK-47?
The terms “AK-47” or “Kalashnikov” are often used loosely, so clarification is in order.
The first AK-47 model was introduced into active service by the Soviets in 1948. For purists, this first iteration is the “true” AK-47. However, the moniker “AK-47” has come to include Kalashnikov offspring — the AKS and the AKM/AKMS, plus the many subsequent variants from nations such as China, Romania, Bulgaria, North Korea, Hungary, Poland, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia.
The AK-47 is also grouped together with the derivatives of it such as the RPK, a light machine gun (imported into this country in civilian form as the VEPR) and the AK-74, which uses a smaller cartridge than the AK-47 (5.45x39mm versus 7.62x39mm). (The AK ‘operating system’ is so robust that some manufacturers produce shotguns in various calibers but that particular variant will not be covered in this book).
In addition to looking very similar to each other, the classic AK-47 and its progeny all feature selective fire. This means that the rifle is capable of semi- and full-automatic fire, as well as burst fire, which usually allows two or three rounds to be fired with a single trigger pull. Full automatic refers to the ability of a gun to fire continuously until the magazine is emptied or the trigger is released.
The AK rifles sold to civilians in this country do not have the select-fire feature that allows for the “full auto” or burst-fire options. One could argue that in this respect, they are not true AK-47s.