The Economist with a fascinating short article on why the AK-47 became such an iconic weapon.
The gun is nothing special. Its controls are unsophisticated; it is not even particularly accurate. But this simplicity is a reason for its success. Compared with other assault rifles, the AK-47 has generous clearance between its moving parts. That is bad for accuracy, but it means that the mechanism is unlikely to jam, no matter how clogged it gets with Sudanese sand or Nicaraguan mud. Designed to be operated by Soviet soldiers wearing thick winter gloves, it is simple enough for untrained recruits (including children) to use. These features explain why the gun has remained in demand. But its success is also down to supply. The Soviet Union wanted to standardise military equipment among its allies, and so shipped giant caches of the weapons to friendly states, where it also established factories to churn out the rifles by the hundreds of thousand. (The USSR was unconcerned with copyright, too, meaning that knock-offs proliferated.) The gun has spread all over the world. But where the Soviet Union had less influence, the AK-47 was less popular. To this day, bandits in the Philippines are more likely to use variants on the M16, an American-made assault rifle supplied to the Philippine army by the United States.