This report is part of AOAV’s investigation into the US DoD spend on small arms, guns and ammunition from Sept 11, 2001 to Sept 10, 2015. Our research found many discrepancies between the contracts published on the DoD’s website and those found on the Federal Procurement Database System- research that can be read here. For information on what a small arm is, please see here. To understand more about US DoD contracts visit here. The investigation also included an examination of US expenditure for small arms for Iraq, which can be read here, and Afghanistan, see here.
AOAV found that just three out of 412 contracts in the DoD database related to AK-47s. These three contracts had a total value of $203,667,929. Of these three, none related to arms provision to either Iraq or Afghanistan.
In further research, AOAV found that over 800,000 guns were given to Iraq and Afghanistan in the years examined. Of the total 816,608 small arms being sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, 96,481 were found to be AK-47s (95,981 to Afghanistan and 500 to Iraq). Not one of these AK-47s was mentioned anywhere on the DoD contract database.
AOAV found that out of the $180 million in small arms, ammunition and attachments for Afghanistan stated on the DoD, there was no mention of provision of AK-47s. In further research however, it was found that 95,981 AK-47s were found to have been provided by the US to the Afghan government, as a part of a total of 314,662 small arms provided in the years examined. The net worth of these AK-47 contracts was $59,215,000. Not one of these appeared on the DoD contract database. Overall, as little as 3% of small arms contracts destined for Afghanistan have been found to appear on the DoD database. This suggests a significant lack of transparency.
In contracts relating to Iraq, there was just one mention of AK-47s- an $8 million contract for a refurbishment programme for a number of assault rifles, including AK-47s, M16s and M4s. The DoD contracts would have us believe that the US did not provide any AK-47 units whatsoever to the Iraqis in the years examined. Further research tells a different story however; the Overseas Contingency Operation report found that 500 AK-47s, at a cost of $900 each, were provided to the Iraqis in 2015. These reports are not complete; there are many years missing, and it seems likely that with a complete set of reports, the number of AK-47s would be much higher.
The most widely used weapon in the world, with the original design by Mikhail Kalashnikov entering service in the Soviet army in 1951. The appeal of the AK-47 for many lies in its simplicity. It is cheap to produce, easy to use and with few working parts, meaning it can fire single rounds or on automatic without having been cleaned or refurbished for long periods of time. These features have made it the assault rifle of choice for conflict the world over.
The AK47 uses a 7.62×39mm cartridge and has an effective range of 400m. It is ‘selective fire’ (i.e. can be automatic or semi-automatic) and can fire approximately 40 rounds per minute in semi-automatic and 100 rounds a minute in fully-automatic. It’s standard magazine capacity is 30 rounds. These magazines are curved for ease of use and extremely durable; soldiers have been known to use their magazines as hammers and bottle openers because of their heavy steel construction. One disadvantage of this however is that the magazine can be heavier than US and NATO equivalents. Recent transitions from steel to mainly plastic magazines allows soldiers to carry much more ammo without compromising on weight.
It is possible to mount 40mm grenade launchers under the barrel of the AK-47. This can be used to launch traditional cartridges, as well as tear gas and crowd control grenades.
The accuracy of the AK-47 can vary; many report difficulties placing consecutive rounds on target.
For the data on 14 years of DoD contracts for small arms, ammunition and attachments, please go here.
Did you find this story interesting? Please support AOAV's work and donate.