My review of AK-47: The Weapon that Changed the Face of War


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briansmithwins
November 4, 2010, 11:47 AM
(I figured that this is a book that purports to be about a rifle and most of my gripes are about technical inaccuracies so it kinda belongs in the rifle forum.)

Posted this review over at amazon.com. I gave the book 1 star as it may still be useful for fire starting needs or as toilet paper. H

Kahaner's book reads like it was written by a person that started 'knowing' the conclusion they wanted to reach and didn't worry about fact checking or research overly much.

The first couple of chapters that discuss technical or mechanical detail are rife with errors:

-p16 'Many regular rifles, like the M1 Garand, the mainstay of U.S. troops during World War II, came in both full-length and carbine versions.'

The M1 Garand was only ever issued as a full length rifle. There was a M1 Carbine, but it's mostly cosmetically related to the Garand.

-p21 'Kalashnikov... used a "short stroke" piston to push back the bolt and eject and load another round.'

The AK47 type rifle uses a long stroke gas piston to operate the weapon. Additionally, the power for loading comes from the recoil spring, not the gas piston.

-p23 'The bolt rotated widely, making it easy for the round to find its proper place in the chamber., Think of trying to poke a pencil into a hole. It would be much easier if, when you got the pencil tip near the hole, even slightly askew, you rotated it.'

The bolt on AK pattern rifles does not rotate until the cartridge is almost completely chambered. The mechanism that Kahaner describes is interesting, but it's not implemented in any self loading firearm that I'm aware of. Maybe he should apply for a patent.

-p23 'designing components with looser tolerances, more space between parts.'

The author is confusing tolerance with clearance. A tolerance would be: Make this steel rod 10mm wide, it can be up to .01mm either fatter or skinnier than 10mm. That the steel rod is going to fit in a hole 12mm wide has absolutely no bearing on the tolerance, just the clearance.

-p30 'added a new trigger assembly component that increased the 'cyclic rate' during automatic fire'

The hammer delay actually slows the cyclic rate by introducing a delay into the hammer's fall.

-p35 'The FAL and its successors went on to be adopted by Britain, Belgium, Canada, and other NATO nations- all except the United States-'

I'm sure the (West) Germans would be surprised to hear this, since they developed and issued the G3 series of rifles. So would the Greeks, Turks, Norwegians, and Danes, all members of NATO and all G3 users.

-p40 'This eliminated the gas piston, and getting rid of a part is always a plus for a weapon.'

The gas piston in the AR15 series is formed of two parts, the piston is the back half of the bolt and the gas cylinder is formed by the interior of the bolt carrier.

I haven't gone thru the rest of the book with the same level of detail nor do I care to. If Kahaner writes that sun comes up in the east, I'll get up extra early and check myself.

BSW

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pikid89
November 4, 2010, 11:56 AM
lol you should write the author a letter

sturmgewehr
November 4, 2010, 11:59 AM
Great catches, it's amazing what gets into print sometimes. I have a book of the "Guns of the World" and I use it for bathroom reading material because as a reference document it's utterly worthless.

One point:

-p35 'The FAL and its successors went on to be adopted by Britain, Belgium, Canada, and other NATO nations- all except the United States-'

I'm sure the (West) Germans would be surprised to hear this, since they developed and issued the G3 series of rifles. So would the Greeks, Turks, Norwegians, and Danes, all members of NATO and all G3 users.
Germany did issue the FAL, called the G1, from 1956 through 1958 when they moved over to the CETME Mod.58 which ultimately became the G3.

jonnyc
November 4, 2010, 12:03 PM
Kahaner's political comments towards the end are the real focus of the book. I have slightly higher hopes for the new AK book by C.J. Chivers. Heard him in an interview and he/the book sounded interesting. He sounded like a true "gun guy".

briansmithwins
November 4, 2010, 12:09 PM
Germany did issue the FAL, called the G1, from 1956 through 1958 when they moved over to the CETME Mod.58 which ultimately became the G3.

Yes, they did. But the number of G1s is insignificant compared to the number of G3s that they issued.

Didn't the G1 deal fall apart because FN refused to license West German production?

BTW, I have read The Gun by Chivers. It's very good.

BSW

The Expert
November 4, 2010, 12:11 PM
I've been thinking about gettin' me one of these AKs.

Tommygunn
November 4, 2010, 12:33 PM
The AK47 type rifle uses a long stroke gas piston to operate the weapon. Additionally, the power for loading comes from the recoil spring, not the gas piston.

This is a bit semantically confusing. "The power for loading" ? If by "loading" you mean pushing the next round up in the mag, you're right, but if you mean loading the upper round into the breech, the recoil spring does that when it pushed the BCG forward. I suppose you could say the gas piston does it if you want to ignore the fact that it's only pushing the BCG back; it's that springthing that shoves it forward.

It is odd to me the author of the book you review would confuse the garand with a carbine in that manner. I have a M-1 Carbine and it is in no way a "mini" Garand.
The actuator is sort of similar and the bolt has two ears that lock up in a manner not unlike the Garand, but other parts are very, very different.

briansmithwins
November 4, 2010, 12:53 PM
It is a bit confusing: It's arguable that everything happens because of the gas piston as that's where the energy that's stored in the recoil spring comes from. I'd argue that at the point where the bolt carrier is fully back the gas piston is just along for the ride and the recoil spring is doing all the work of loading and locking the breech closed.

As a thought experiment if you fired the rifle w/o the recoil spring the action would still open and the empty case eject but the next round would not load.

Conversely, if you removed the gas piston and started with the bolt carrier fully back, the recoil spring would load the next round and the rifle would be able to fire. Of course, it would not be able to open the action w/o the gas piston. BSW

Carl N. Brown
November 4, 2010, 01:11 PM
The Amazon.com reviews on Kahaner "AK47" are not too kind either. 45 reviews averaging 2.5 out of 5 stars. Lotsa very caustic one star reviews (lowest grade possible).

Chris Chiver's "The Gun" on the same subject seems like a better choice, but even that one is not perfect (6 five star reviews based on content, 2 one star reviews complaining about Kindle pricing not the content of the book, some 3 or 2 star reviews based on content).

Geez. WHB Smith Small Arms of the World is expensive but worth it.

GunTech
November 4, 2010, 03:53 PM
Collector Grade Publications publishes the best gun books, IMO.

Check out "Kalashnikov - the Arms and the Man". Ezell and Stevens are to be relied upon for technically correct and detailed references. I haven't read this one, but I have it's progenitor, the AK47 story, which is excellent.

Review on Crufflers: http://www.cruffler.com/Features/NOV-01/bookreview-November01.html

JTH
November 4, 2010, 07:20 PM
I'm glad I have my Norinco MAK90, just getting ready for a furniture swap out to an all wood acrylic set. I'd still like to get a Draco pistol also but I think I'm going to get a new SD High capacity 9mm or 45ACP pistol for CCW pistol first, then see how my budget is down the line. I really like my Norinco Tok(bought NIB in mid 90's for $110) but just not enough capacity, would be nice if there was a longer single stack mag that would fit it. I don't know of any made, is there?
JT

shotgunjoel
November 4, 2010, 08:04 PM
-p23 'designing components with looser tolerances, more space between parts.'

The author is confusing tolerance with clearance. A tolerance would be: Make this steel rod 10mm wide, it can be up to .01mm either fatter or skinnier than 10mm. That the steel rod is going to fit in a hole 12mm wide has absolutely no bearing on the tolerance, just the clearance.
True, but if your have lenient tolerances, or variance in the dimensions of parts, then you have to have larger clearances to allow a larger sized part to still fit and function.

briansmithwins
November 4, 2010, 08:10 PM
True, but if your have lenient tolerances, or variance in the dimensions of parts, then you have to have larger clearances to allow a larger sized part to still fit and function.

I'll post some pics later of some manufacturing drawing for the AK. The tolerances are really any bigger than you would expect to see on anything made in the States for mass
production.

BSW

Vertical453
November 4, 2010, 08:17 PM
-p16 'Many regular rifles, like the M1 Garand, the mainstay of U.S. troops during World War II, came in both full-length and carbine versions.'

The M1 Garand was only ever issued as a full length rifle. There was a M1 Carbine, but it's mostly cosmetically related to the Garand.


The Author is right here. There were 'Tanker' Garands that were cut down M1s which provided better maneuverability inside tanks.

Here's a quick link I found about it after searching Google for 2 seconds.

http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2009/05/08/the-t26-tanker-m1-garand/

It wasn't used much, especially compared to the M1 Carbine, but it WAS issued in WW2.

briansmithwins
November 4, 2010, 08:22 PM
Issued? As in wide service? Probably not.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1_Garand says:

the T26 uses the standard solid stock, and has a shorter, 18-inch barrel. The Tanker name was also used after the war as a marketing gimmick for commercially-modified Garands

The T26 arose from requests by various Army combat commands for a shortened version of the standard M1 rifle for use in jungle or mobile warfare. In July 1945 Col. William Alexander, former staff officer for Gen. Simon Buckner and a new member of the Pacific Warfare Board, requested urgent production of 15,000 carbine-length M1 rifles for use in the Pacific theater. To emphasize the need for rapid action, he requested the Ordnance arm of the U.S. 6th Army in the Philippines to make up 150 18" barreled M1 rifles for service trials, sending another of the rifles by special courier to U.S. Army Ordnance officials at Aberdeen as a demonstration that the M1 could be easily modified to the new configuration. Although the T26 was never approved for production, at least one 18" barreled M1 rifle was used in action in the Philippines by troopers in the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment (503rd PIR).

The article cites these docs:

-Hutchison, Kevin, World War II in the North Pacific: Chronology and Fact Book, Greenwood Press (1994), p. 247: Col. Alexander had served as General Buckner's naval liaison officer, and was appointed to the Pacific Warfare Board following the General's death on Okinawa in June 1945.
-Weeks, John, World War II Small Arms, New York: Galahad Books (1979), ISBN 0-88365-403-2, pp. 122-123.
-Fact Sheet #5: The M1 'Tanker' Modification, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, National Park Service, [1].
-Walter, John, Rifles of the World, Krause Publications (2006), ISBN 0-89689-241-7, 9780896892415, p. 144.
-Duff, Scott A., The M1 Garand, World War II: History of Development and Production, 1900 Through 2 September 1945, Scott A. Duff Publications (1996), ISBN 978-1-888722-01-7, 1888722010, p. 101: As a major, Alexander had been a proponent of the 18" 'Tanker' Garand ever since testing his own ordnance-modified version on Noemfoor Island, New Guinea.
-Fact Sheet #5: The M1 'Tanker' Modification, Springfield Armory National Historic Site, National Park Service.
-Duff, Scott A., The M1 Garand, World War II: History of Development and Production, 1900 Through 2 September 1945, Scott A. Duff Publications (1996), ISBN 978-1-888722-01-7, 1888722010, p. 101.

BSW

KodiakBeer
November 4, 2010, 08:23 PM
I think the whole "tolerances" thing goes back to the original comparisons between the STG44 and the AK. The German rifle was a very intricate and over-engineered design compared to the AK. That early comparison (because nothing else resembled it) has just become part of the mythology of the AK. The AK has fewer parts and more generous clearances which add to reliability and more importantly; simplify manufacture.

Tommygunn
November 4, 2010, 08:31 PM
The Author is right here. There were 'Tanker' Garands that were cut down M1s which provided better maneuverability inside tanks.

Here's a quick link I found about it after searching Google for 2 seconds.

http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2...ker-m1-garand/

I have heard the "Tanker Garand" was not used in WW2. It was developed by cutting down normal Garands, but they never saw service. Later, "entrepeneuers" tried to sell off cut down Garands as "Tankers" unscrupulously to collectors.
That's my memory of it, but I am not claiming to be an expert.

Al Thompson
November 4, 2010, 08:59 PM
The Author is right here.

:scrutiny: So you are claiming to be the author?

but it WAS issued in WW2.

Nope. Your google fu is weak as is the guy who wrote the book. Maybe you are the author after all. :rolleyes:

Maverick223
November 4, 2010, 10:02 PM
Nope. Your google fu is weak as is the guy who wrote the book. Maybe you are the author after all.LOL; yes, the "tanker" M1Garand was produced and is technically a carbine (not to be confused with the M1Carbine), but not issued to troops.

It does appear that the author is in need of a good editor author. :D

HorseSoldier
November 4, 2010, 10:57 PM
I've also read Kahaner's book and completely agree that it's a one-star sort of work, at best. I think I quit half way through after my wife got tired of me setting it down to bitch about another point he factually mangled.

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