It’s as Russian as borscht, but the AK-47 will soon be made in Florida.
The weapon of choice for guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of armies around the world, some 100 million AK-47s have been made in Russia since it rolled off the line in 1947. But now, the company’s U.S. arm is planning to manufacture the gun at a plant in Pompano Beach, Fla.
“An iconic firearms platform, revered the world over, with a history of intrigue and controversy, now reborn as the new American Kalashnikov,” the company said in a statement.
“Whether you are a sport shooter, hunter, protecting family, home and country, the new Kalashnikov USA firearms will exceed your expectations of how a firearm should perform.”
The rifle dreamed up by Russian Army tank commander Mikhail Kalashnikov as he lay on a hospital bed after being wounded fighting the Germans in the 1941 Battle of Bryansk, became the world’s most popular firearm. The signature AK-47 — which stands for "Avtomat Kalashnikov," or “Kalashnikov’s machine,” and the initial year of production, was long available for import from Moscow until the U.S. imposed sanctions in 2014 in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Last year, RWC, which was the official importer and distributor of Kalashnikov firearms, was forced to cut ties with the Russian company. But it retained the U.S. rights to the name and initially opened a small assembly facility in Tullytown, Pa. Now, the company is planning a full-fledged manufacturing plant in the Atlantic Coast community just north of Fort Lauderdale.
“Whether you are a sport shooter, hunter, protecting family, home and country, the new Kalashnikov USA firearms will exceed your expectations of how a firearm should perform,” the company statement read.
Pompano Beach spokeswoman Sandra King said the company plan had been approved by the city, but did not have details on how many jobs the factory would generate or what its annual output would be. Kalshnikov USA spokeswoman Laura Burgess could not be reached for comment.
The company launched new rifle and shotgun models last week at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, the annual conference of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The new firearms include the “Alpha” line of rifles, with 30-round magazines.
While the company will offer various guns, the AK-47 will likely be a top seller. In the U.S. market, its main competition is the AR-15, but both are reliable weapons, said firearms instructor Steve Norrris, who teaches at the Markham Park Target Range in nearby Sunrise.
“The AK-47 is just as good, if not better,” he said. “One problem has long been getting parts, which maybe now would not be an issue. A lot of people have always bought AK-47s just for the history.”
Mikhail Kalashnikov, who died in December 2013 at the age of 94, once said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.
"I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," he said in 2007.