The Kalashnikov AKM assault rifle (Автомат Калашникова Модернизированный – Avtomat Kalashnikova Modernized) was adopted by the Soviet army in 1959. It was born out of new requirements, issued by the Soviet Ministry of Defense in 1955. These requirements called for a new 7.62x39mm small arms system, consisting of a new lightweight assault rifle and a squad automatic weapon / light machine gun, with intent to replace the Kalashnikov AK assault rifle and the Degtyarov RPD machine gun. Per long-standing Soviet tradition, development was conducted on a competitive basis, with several teams from the Izhevsk, Kovrov, and Tula factories working on their weapons.
First trials started in 1956, and the last round of trials was conducted in early 1958, where the new modernized Kalashnikov assault rifle competed with the rifles by Korobov from Tula and Konstantinov from Kovrov. The trial commission concluded that the new Kalashnikov system was much more mature and familiar for both industry and troops than its competitors. Therefore, on April 8, 1959, the Soviet Ministry of Defense officially adopted the modernized Kalashnikov AKM assault rifle and an accompanying Kalashnikov RPK light machine gun. Adoption of the folding stock version for airborne troops, the Kalashnikov AKMS, was delayed until 1962, as it took more time to make the gun robust enough for hardships of combat parachute landings.
Manufacturing orders for the Kalashnikov AKM were issued to two major arms factories – IZHMASH in Izhevsk and TOZ in Tula. Manufacture of AKM in the USSR lasted until about 1978-79 when the recently adopted 5.45mm AK-74 finally entered mass production. The total production of AKM in the Soviet Union is estimated as slightly over that 10 million guns. Production licenses for the AKM were sold to or transferred to several Warsaw Pact countries, including Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, Poland. Despite being nominally obsolete, both AKM and AKMS served with the Soviet army until the fall of the USSR, and then with the Russian army and other ex-Soviet armed forces. Those rifles were used either in non-infantry units like artillery, air defense, etc or with Spetsnaz. Soviet and Russian Special Forces favored the 7.62mm Kalashnikov rifles over the 5.45mm AK-74 for their capability of effectively firing subsonic 7.62x39mm ammunition through the PBS or PBS-1 sound suppressor. Only relatively recently most suppressed AKM and AKMS rifles in use with Russian Spetsnaz were completely replaced with much more effective integrally suppressed AS assault rifle and VSS sniper rifle, both firing 9x39mm subsonic ammunition.
Besides the screw-on sound suppressor, both AKM and AKMS were capable of mounting 40mm GP-25 grenade launchers for general infantry use, or GSN-19 “Tishina” silent grenade launchers for Spetsnaz use behind enemy lines.
The Kalashnikov AKM had introduced several major updates to the basic design of the AK rifle. First and most important, it re-introduced a stamped steel receiver, although its design was quite different in details from the original AK of 1949. The forward trunnion is much smaller, and the fixed ejector is a part of the receiver rather than the trunnion. The barrel is now pressed into the forward trunnion and then pinned in place, instead of the previous method of screwing it in. The rear trunnion is significantly revised, as well as particulars of assembly of these trunnions into the receiver. The top cover is strengthened by introducing stamped ribbing. Gas block and gas tube are revised. The front sight base is made narrower and lighter. The pistol grip of the late production AKM rifles was made from brown bakelite and had no separate base. The trigger unit is modified with the introduction of the hammer delay device, a ratchet-type subassembly that delays the fall of the hammer for a small fraction of the second without affecting the cyclic rate of fire. This allows for more consistent ignition after stabilization of the bolt group in the forward position. The return spring guide is simplified – instead of a telescoping setup, it is now formed from two elongated loops of steel wire, chained one to another, although this feature may not be present on the AKM guns of earlier manufacture. Another “late” addition, approved only in 1965, which then became standard for most AKM type rifles is the spoon-type screw-on muzzle compensator, which helps to decrease muzzle rise.
The lower handguard was also modified with the addition of gripping protrusions on both sides. All wooden parts also were made from laminated wood rather than older style hardwood. The forward sling loop was moved back from the gas block to the forward metal cap of the lower handguard. Rear sling loops were moved from the rear of the receiver to the rear of the stock, close to its bottom edge on the left side. A bayonet lug was added to the base of the gas block, and a new 6X3 multi-purpose knife-bayonet was designed for the AKM and AKMS.
AKMS, a folding-stock version of the AKM, now featured stamped steel struts for the down-folding shoulder stock, plus an added stop that precluded damage to the lower handguard from folded stock.
Throughout manufacture, many parts that were previously machined were gradually replaced with precision cast parts; those included, among others, front sight base and gas block. Late production guns also featured cold hammer-forged barrels, manufactured on Austrian-made GFM machines, purchased during the early 1970s. During early 1960s, a new polymer magazine was developed to replace older aluminum and steel magazines. Made from characteristically red-brown AG-4 plastic (often erroneously called “bakelite”) and featuring steel reinforcements, those magazines proved to be very successful and even more reliable than steel ones, while also being lighter and cheaper to make.
|Full text name||Kalashnikov AKM assault rifle – Kalashnikov AK Modernized (USSR)|
|Caliber cartridge||7.62x39mm M43 Soviet Intermediate Cartridge|
|Overall length, mm||880|
|Length, folded, mm||640|
|Barrel length, mm||415|
|Weight empty, kg||3.3|
|Magazine capacity, rounds||30|
|Cyclic rate of fire, rounds/min||600|