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Old 10-26-2016, 10:50 AM   #1
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The Kalashnikov Conspiracy

The Firearm Blog's Nathaniel F. has a two part series that addresses the notion that Kalashnikov didn't actually design the AK-47. It's a very interesting read for those interested in the history of military small arms.

Part 1
No, Germans Didn't Design the AK-47: Kalashnikov Conspiracy Theories and How to Refute Them, Part 1 - The Firearm Blog

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

I have always said that the MP-44 was inspired more by Soviet designs than the other way around. Most of what can be found in the MP-44 you will find in Soviet small arms that pre-date the MP-44. Most of what's in the AK can be found either in the M1 Garand, or earlier Soviet designs.

I really think (and I wish I were a historical researcher so I could prove it) that the Germans came onto the Assault Rifle concept when the Germany-Soviet non-aggression pact was signed, which included technology sharing between the two nations. While I'm sure the Germans were heading that direction before, it wasn't until after that treaty that you see big advances; many of which show influences from earlier Soviet designs.
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Old 10-26-2016, 01:46 PM   #2
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The SVT Tokarev predates a lot of German WW2 Autoloading rifle designs. I tend to go with your theory. Maybe cross pollination went on, but the Russians had plenty to contribute.

I am not sure if Germany did any Auto-Rifle projects in WW1. France did, maybe Russia did as well, but I am sure the 1916-1920s time frame had a lot of upheaval which might be reflected in lack of documentation. The Russians had done some work back that far, as I recall, even looking at the Japanese 6.5mm cartridge as an early "Intermediate Power" round for autoloaders.

9 Prototype Soviet Assault Rifles From WWII - The Firearm Blog

Fedorov ? The First Assault Rifle? Forgotten Weapons

Mauser 1905/06 semiauto rifle Forgotten Weapons
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Old 10-27-2016, 11:05 AM   #3
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In my readings, seems the Russians were well ahead of most everyone in the area of individual weapons. And Germany was ahead of everyone in the realm of machineguns. Russia just never had the money to put any of their designs into full scale production, and then systematically work out the bugs. The Federov rifle was put into limited production, but they really couldn't afford that rifle so it eventually fell by the wayside. Even when they built the Federov, he wanted more of an intermediate cartridge, but they couldn't afford to make a cartridge for the rifle, which is why he chose the 6.5 Arisaka round, because it was closer to an intermediate cartridge. So I guess technically it's not the first assault rifle, but it was supposed to be.
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Old 10-27-2016, 06:33 PM   #4
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The Germans at least had a definite idea for what was to become the assault rifle.
Between the wars the German General Staff did a staff study to determine what a better infantry rifle and cartridge would look like.
They questioned if a 1200 meter cartridge in a 1000 meter rifle was really the best choice for actual combat.

They gathered together "average" infantry companies and had them do shooting and observation tests.
These "average" companies were composed of raw recruits right out of training and highly experienced WWI veterans.
Shooters were selected from poor to experts to insure a good average.

What they found out was that the "average" soldier could not see an enemy soldier at over 400 meters because of the dull colored uniforms coming into use.
They found that the average soldier could not hit an enemy soldier at anything over 400 meters due to the limited time a soldier would expose himself and lack of time to react and get into s solid shooting position.

They asked why not develop a practical 400 meter cartridge and rifle to shoot it.
A lower powered cartridge would be cheaper to make and require less critical materials.
It would be easier to train recruits with a lower recoiling rifle with less muzzle blast.
The recruit could shoot faster and more accurately and could carry more ammo.
Since the ammo would be less powerful the rifle could also be smaller and lighter, and it would be possible to give the rifle full-auto capability.
This would allow it to serve the role of rifle and submachine gun.

The Germans did development of intermediate cartridge designs and since the Germans and Russians were working with each other during that period, the Russians learned about the cartridge developments and the idea for the rifles.
The Russians were first off the line with their 7.63x39 cartridge, but failed to develop a true assault rifle for it. The closest they came was the SKS.

When the idea was presented to Hitler he turned it down.
He was convinced the Mauser rifle he'd used in the last war was the correct rifle and cartridge. He did like the submachine gun and was a big supporter of it.
The whole assault rifle idea laid there until the war was underway.

The German generals decided they really needed an intermediate rifle and secretly developed several rifles all using the M43 7.92 shortened cartridge.
Apparently the original concept for the cartridge was to be somewhere around a .25 to .27 caliber, but with the war going they couldn't tool up to make a special bullet and used the 7.92 instead.

The winning rifle was the Mp43 followed by the Mp44.
These were reported to Hitler as submachine guns and he was pleased by the increased SMG production numbers.

Famously Hitler was meeting with his Eastern Front generals and asked what they needed most. When they asked for more of the new rifles Hitler was astounded to find it was in production and that his own personal bodyguard had armed themselves with it.
He renamed it as the Assault Rifle and it was off into history as the first true assault weapon.
There were any number of earlier contenders, including the M1 Carbine. but none had everything we now recognize that makes an assault weapon.

Like all Soviet weapons, the AK-47 was developed by a number of design bureaus, all in competition with each other and all drawing ideas from each other.
As per standard Soviet practice the new weapon was attributed to the head of the bureau that had the winning final design, in this case Kalashnikov.
Kalashnikov had great input to the design but no one man or one bureau was totally responsible for it.

Hugo Schmeisser was in Izhevsk during the time the AK-47 was developed and it's likely he at least was aware of the development and possibly had some small amount of input or advice.
However the Mp44 and AK-47 are totally different designs with virtually nothing in common as any examination will show.

As for Kalashnikov, as head of the design bureau that was accepted he got all the credit, and the Soviets did surround him with one of the infamous Soviet Fairy Tales For the Masses they were famous for.

In the end, like all firearms and ammunition developments it's really impossible to state for certain who or what was "first" as an assault weapon.
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Old 10-27-2016, 09:06 PM   #5
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Last edited by SpecialEd; 10-28-2016 at 06:26 AM.
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Old 10-28-2016, 08:31 AM   #6
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Excellent write up, but I do believe the Soviets were the originators of the idea. Federov's Avtomat of 1915 would have been the first true assault rifle if he got his way. But they wouldn't allow him to develop a new cartridge for the rifle, which is why he turned to the 6.5 Arisaka; which was probably the closest thing to an "assault rifle" cartridge in 1915 that the Russians would have been acquainted with.

When you look at the AK, there isn't a single feature on the rifle that can be attributed to Schmeisser, the MP-44 or even earlier German arms. Conversely, the MP-44 has some rather obvious Soviet roots in the design of the bolt and bolt carrier. The bolt is straight out of the Tokarev SVT 38/40, and the bolt carrier design is somewhat similar to the Sudavev AS-44, a design that Sudavev had been working on for nearly a decade.

The point being, Western gun press has been giving the credit to the Germans both for the MP-44 and the AK for decades, when factually that just doesn't hold up to scrutiny at all.
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Old 10-28-2016, 05:37 PM   #7
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During the late 20's and through much of the 30's the Germans and Soviets had a rather uneasy but active relationship.

Stalin allowed the Nazis to train pilots and armored troops and to develop concepts for deployment of air and armored power on Soviet ground, far from the eyes of the West.
It was ironic that the Soviets first saw what was to become the Blitzkrieg that was used against them in 1941, on Soviet soil in the 1930's.
The Soviets sent critical war raw materials and oil to the Nazis, with a final train load actually crossing the German border to the West on the exact same night the Germans were launching their invasion of Russia to the East.

In return the Soviets got the benefits and first looks at the superior German technology, including the intermediate cartridge and rifle concepts.
Apparently the Germans did cartridge testing in Russia and the Soviets picked up brass and loaded cartridges and used them to help develop their 7.62x39 cartridge.

What role, if any that Hugo Schmeisser may have played in the AK-47 was probably not in the mechanical design.
At the time Schmeisser was a world leading expert on using stamped sheet steel fabrication for weapons.
If he had input it may have been on how to fabricate the rifle with stamped, riveted, and welded construction techniques.

Russian technology was not up to what was needed to build a more powerful stamped steel rifle.
They were experts at stamped steel designs for submachine guns, but not to the more demanding higher power of a rifle.
The first AK-47 rifles were stamped steel, but the rifles were not able to handle the increased demands, so they switched to something they did understand which was machined from stock steel receivers.
It took some years before the Soviets were able to build the original concept stamped steel AK rifle.

Finally, no matter what precursors there were or weren't, or what ideas there may have been, the Germans had the first of what we now understand as an assault rifle.

Like the Thompson Model 1921 submachine gun before it, no one fully understood that it was a totally new class of weapon for some years.
The Russians were faster off the mark at that recognition then we were.
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Old 10-28-2016, 06:13 PM   #8
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This article may be of interest.
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