Brief History of the Russian AK-47 Rifle
   The AK-47 assault weapon is one of the best-designed, most durable and reliable rifles of the Industrial Age. This is a brief history and only discusses the Russian AK-47. There's a wealth of information on AK-47 rifles Mfg'd by other Countries available online for the finding. The Russians created the AK-47, and many have improved it in one small way or another, but no matter what Country the AK-47 is Mfg'd in, the basic design always remains the same.
    The "AK" prefix stands for Automat Kalashnikova, (or Kalashnikov's Automatic). After the name of the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. The "47" stands for the year it was first designed, 1947. Kalashnikov started the design work in 1946, But, due to design problems in the beginning, the Soviets were not able to issue the AK-47 to their soldiers until 1956. Now some may be thinking at this point "Hey , wait a minute, I have a Russian AK-47 dated 1952."  That is true, several AK-47 rifles were manufactured well before 1956 issue date when they finally decided on the 1947 design.) So, a rifle dated 1952 was already 4 years old when issued in '56. Even though it was still "new" when issued. 
    Many of the Russian AK-47 rifles on today's battlefields (yes even Iraq) have been sold, smuggled and resold several times. The latest estimates put the number of the weapons in circulation possibly as high as 75 to 100 million worldwide. Though it should be noted that not all AK-47 rifles are made in Russia. Indeed some of the highest quality rifles are made in Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, and even China makes a presentable model.
    Who really designed the AK-47? Well, Mikhail Kalashnikov furiously denies his design was based on the German or Italian model rifles of the era, but it does appear to have borrowed certain specific design features from at least two designs. And it is well documented that in 1946 Mikhail Kalashnikov examined a captured STG44 and used key features of the design to produce his AK-47. The STG44 Sturmgewehr 44 (StG44, MP 44/43) was a mean looking little rascal but used a shorter version of the 7.92 MM rifle round (.8 MM cartridge but shortened in length) Everyone has their own opinion on whether or not the STG44 features were "borrowed" into the design. I see several "similar" design features but, It doesn't matter to me. The AK is a common caliber piece of art that functions flawlessly and is still in production today in many Countries and used by Military units Worldwide. The STG44 is a rifle of the past in an obsolete caliber. It's value as a collector's item now suits it more than any other modern day use.
Some Russian AK-47 Design History
(Helpful things to look for at Gun Shows, READ THOSE DATES ON THE RECEIVER!)
AK-47 1948-51, 7.62 39 mm. The very earliest models had a stamped sheet metal receiver. Barrel bores were not chromed. Extremely hard to find rifle.
AK-47 1952, 7.62 39 mm: This was the newer design. It used a milled receiver, wooden buttstock and hand-guards. Barrel bores and chambers were also chromed.
AKM-47  7.62 39 mm: Was a cheaper design AK-47; the receivers were made from stamped sheet-metal.
AKS-47  7.62 39 mm This model used a folding metal stock instead of the fixed wood stock the previous designs used.