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The AK-47 (shortened from Russian: Автомат Калашникова образца 1947 года, Avtomat Kalashnikova 1947) is a gas-operated assault rifle designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov, and produced by Russian manufacturer Izhevsk Mechanical Works and used in many Eastern bloc nations during the Cold War. It was adopted and standardized in 1947. Compared with the auto-loading rifles used in World War II, the AK-47 was generally more compact, with a shorter range, a smaller 7.62 × 39 mm cartridge, and was capable of selective fire. It was one of the first true assault rifles and remains the most widely used. The AK-47 and its numerous variants and descendants have been produced in greater numbers than any other assault rifle and are in production to this day.
Legal Status [[[USA]]]] Private ownership of fully-automatic AK-47 rifles is tightly regulated by the National Firearms Act (NFA) of 1934. The Gun Control Act of 1968 ceased importing of foreign-manufactured fully-automatic firearms for civilian sales and possession, effectively halting further importation of civilian accessible AK-47 rifles. In 1986, an amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act stopped all future domestic manufacture of fully-automatic weapons for civilian use.
However, machine guns manufactured domestically prior to 1986 and imported prior to 1968 may be transferred between civilians in accordance with federal and state law. Several Soviet and Chinese rifles made it into the U.S. during the mid-1960s, when returning Vietnam veterans brought them home after capture from enemy troops. Many of these were properly registered during the 1968 NFA amnesty.
Nevertheless, several states have laws on their books outlawing private possession of fully-automatic firearms even with NFA approval. Certain semi-automatic AK-47 models were banned by the now-expired Assault Weapons Ban of 1994–2004.
[[[Canada]]] In Canada, the AK-47 and variants are illegal for purchase, acquisition, or import, the sole exceptions being the Valmet Hunter, the Valmet Hunter Auto and the Valmet M78 rifles which are based on the AK-47 action. However, as with many gun issues in Canada presently, the particular issue of "grandfathered" AK-47 rifles remains unclear.
[[[Europe]]] Much of Western Europe has enacted comprehensive national firearms laws which prevent the lawful ownership of AK-47s or variants thereof. The United Kingdom, for instance, has outlawed, through the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988, semi-automatic centerfire rifles (See Gun politics in the United Kingdom for more complete information). It is possible to own AK derivatives in the UK provided they have been produced as "Manual Straight Pull" rifles which need to be manually cocked after each shot. This involves a modification to the weapon to essentially remove the gas system by permanently closing the gas port above the barrel (may also involve the removal of the gas piston).
In Norway it is forbidden for civilians to possess any form of fully automatic firearm unless a special permit is issued. Similar laws are in force throughout most of Europe.
[[[Australia]]] In Australia, the purchase of semi-automatic centerfire rifles has been effectively banned since 1996 (See Gun politics in Australia for more information), and therefore AK-47 rifles, even in semi-automatic form, are not allowed. However, as the 1996 laws covered only high-capacity magazines, shotguns and rifles, AK-47s in pistol configurations remain legal for purchase in Australia.
[[[Mexico]]] In Mexico, its possession is of the exclusive use of the Mexican National Army. The federal firearms and explosives law prohibits the civilian possession of this category of weapon in its Article 11.. However the AK-47, known as "Cuerno de chivo", is widely used by the criminal organizations.
[[[Illicit Trade]]] Throughout the world, the AK-47 and variants are among the plethora of commonly smuggled small arms that are sold to governments, rebels, criminals and civilians alike, with little international oversight. This trade ensures a ready supply of inexpensive weapons to a number of conflicts, including (but certainly not limited to) the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. In some countries that are recovering from war or that are at war, prices for AKs are very low. In Somalia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Congo and Ethiopia, among others, prices are between $30–$125.