The Kalashnikov submachine gun (Russian: Пистолет-пулемёт Калашникова Pistolet-Pulemyot Kalashnikova) is a WW2-era prototype Soviet submachine gun, and the first major firearm designed by famed Soviet firearm designer Mikhail Kalashnikov. While not a successful weapon, the design of the submachine gun allowed Kalashnikov to further his career in firearm design and eventually lead to the creation of the AK-47.
In early October 1941, during the Battle of Bryansk, then Red Army senior sergeant tank commander Mikhail Kalashnikov was injured by enemy artillery and hospitalized. During his six months at the hospital, Kalashnikov conceived the idea of developing a submachine gun to equip the Red Army, since the majority of the troops used Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifles. Kalashnikov read technical and weapon literature in the hospital library, and sketched a design in his notebook.
In January 1942, Kalashnikov recovered and was sent home. Kalashnikov went to the Matai station of the Turkestan-Siberian railway in Kazakhstan, where he worked as an accountant before WWII. With the help of friends and acquaintances, Kalashnikov developed the first model of his submachine gun in the depot workshops at Matai.
With a physical prototype developed, Kalashnikov went to Almaty and showed his weapon to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan. The Central Committee sent Kalashnikov to the Moscow Aviation Institute, which was evacuated to Almaty during the war, where Kalashnikov refined his submachine gun design. Kalashnikov then went to Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where his prototype was examined by the head of the Dzerzhinsky Artillery Academy (which was relocated to Samarkand during the war), Anatoly Blagonravov, a Soviet academician who worked on firearm designs. Although Anatoly's review was generally negative, he noted Kalashnikov's commitment and talent, and wrote a recommendation letter that recommended Kalashnikov to further his technical studies. Kalashnikov was then sent to the Main Artillery Directorate (GAU, today known as GRAU) in Moscow, opening up his future to professional firearm design, leading to the creation of the AK-47.
When the submachine gun was examined by the GAU, the design's originality was noted, but its performance was found to be not better than any of the submachine guns already in use by the Red Army. Its production complexity meant that it was not accepted for service.
The first model of the Kalashnikov submachine gun (now lost) used simple blowback, while the second model used delayed blowback using a threaded shaft. The complexity of this action meant that the weapon would be difficult to manufacture.
- The Gun, C. J. Chivers