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From Spiegel:

This automatic weapon [Kalashnikov], known in Russian simply as an "avtomat," even receives the highest praise from Americans, Rogozin reported. Elite US military units use it, he added, even though the US Congress generally prefers to purchase only American-made weapons.

Do Elite US military units use Kalashnikov weapons?

  • 1
    The big advantages of the AK-47 are that the gun is cheap and that it is reliable. Special forces typically elect their weapons of choice on the basis of performance, not cost and they usually disregard normal procurement rules. There are plenty of weapons that are more accurate, more powerful or better for specialist tasks. They wouldn't choose an AK-47 over them as a standard weapon. – matt_black May 28 '16 at 11:01
  • 1
    Keep in mind that many elite units are involved in covert operations out of uniform. It would defeat the purpose if they carried distinctive Western weapons. – o.m. Aug 30 '18 at 13:50
15

The most commonly known Kalashnikov weapon, so called because of the designer Mikhail Kalashnikov, the AK-47 is not used as a matter of course by US Special Forces. The M4 carbine or M16 rifle is currently the preferred choice, although it is on a long list of weapons.

However, that is not to say that special forces are not trained in the use of the AK-47 or may pick it up as the circumstances dictate.

US Special Forces, AK-47 Training

Special Forces training includes becoming familiar with the various weapons used by the enemy, including the ubiquitous Kalashnikov. U.S. Army Photo by Specialist David Gunn

Source: American Special Ops

  • 2
    These sources aren't very definitive, but I am at a loss as to how to improve. – Oddthinking Jan 19 '13 at 14:41
  • @Oddthinking - I might be able to scare up some .gov or .mil sources, but for the most part Wikipedia already did a good job of curating those sources. – rjzii Jan 19 '13 at 17:52
  • I had a quick looked at Wikipedia's AK-47 users list when I first saw the question to see if I could answer it quickly. It provides references for each country present in the list. However, it doesn't provide references for countries absent from the list, like the USA, showing evidence they don't use them. (Expecting Wikipedia to do that would probably be unreasonable.) It makes it hard to use this as evidence of absence. But what document is going to list the guns that AREN'T used by the US military? I don't know. – Oddthinking Jan 19 '13 at 23:20
  • @Oddthinking The Q asks "use" yet this is more about "are issued" "training". haaretz.com/1.4901496 because veteranstoday.com/2015/11/01/… leatherneck.com/forums/… – LаngLаngС Aug 27 '18 at 10:35
  • @LangLangC: I'm not sure why that comment is directed at me. I agree the sources here aren't definitive. Your second is good evidence that apparently under-supplied US troops are using the AK-47s they find - but the quote is about "elite military units" - presumably they are better supplied (? Or am I falling for the No True Scotsman fallacy?). – Oddthinking Aug 27 '18 at 14:37
9

Kalashnikov AK47

The subject of Spiegel article is the AK47 designed in 1947 and, as that article suggests, now considered somewhat obsolete and inaccurate.

Calibre: 7.62 vs 5.56

The AK47 uses a 7.62×39mm round.

Under US influence, NATO switched from 7.62x51mm to 5.56×45mm to reduce recoil and improve rates of fire.

Recently this policy has been reversed somewhat as the 7.62 round is considered more effective in current conflicts.

In other words, some US military units would prefer to go back to using the older heavier calibre that is effective at longer ranges.

However there are a very large number of US and European made assault rifles that take the larger calibre ammunition - so this by itself is not a reason for using AK47s.

US Elite Units

US armed forces include a large number of units that have been described as elite. The Spiegel claim is therefore extremely vague.

Navy Seals

Navy Seals use a huge variety of assault weapons including

  • Colt M4 Carbine
  • Fabrique Nationale FN Minimi
  • Fabrique Nationale FN SCAR (Mk 16 / Mk 17)
  • Heckler & Koch HK 416
  • Heckler & Koch HK 417
  • Heckler & Koch HK MP5 (and many variants)

    ...

  • Chinese Type 56 AR

The last of these is an AK47 clone. There are reports of the Seals having purchased Chinese made AK47 clones (but not the Kalashnikov manufactured units).

AK47World

BOTH THE U.S. NAVY SEALS & FINLAND CHOSE NORINCO stamped type 56 AKM rifles.

Sofrep

The AK 47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. The SEALs have the AK 47 in the inventory for a variety of missions. It is one of the most reliable weapons ever made and makes for a great choice when having to swim a weapon over the beach.

Conclusion

It isn't too surprising that

  • Some special forces units may be trained to be able to pick up and use weapons dropped by their enemies. Therefore they may buy such weapons for training purposes at least.

  • Some special forces units have access to an enormous range of weapons which they select from according to mission type. The AK47 may be just one of dozens (if not hundreds) of different types of rifle available to them, and may be used occasionally.

  • 3
    7.62 round — there are numerous 7.62mm rounds, you mention full size 7.62×51mm NATO and equate it with intermediate 7.62×39mm, while in fact the full size Russian round is 7.62×54mm. And there is of course a pistol round 7.62×25mm (Tokarev). These are not equal (arguably 7.62×51mm and 7.62×54mm are somewhat equivalent). – vartec May 27 '16 at 23:29
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    KAC SR-47 has been developed for SOCOM, not due 7.62×39mm being superior, but rather due logistics — ability to use captured ammunition. – vartec May 27 '16 at 23:33
  • @vartec designing weapons that can use captured ammunition is actually quite common - notable examples from WW2 were the British Sten gun (which not only could take German 9mm ammo but also could exchange magazines with the German 9mm MP40 SMG), and the US M3 "Grease Gun" which could be modified to take German ammo in the field. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Jun 11 '17 at 0:40
  • Another factor--weapons sound different. In conducting a raid special forces may choose to use enemy weapons because they sound like enemy weapons, thus denying the defenders the ability to identify them by sound. – Loren Pechtel Aug 28 '18 at 23:53

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