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Kalashnikov’s designs faced stiff competition, and had to ultimately win out on merit alone against competing designs from established designers with chests full of Al Capp-style Russian Hero Ribbons awarded for past arms designs. Once the M43 cartridge was adopted for the SKS rifle (then 7.62×41, later 7.62×39), the search began for a selective fire, high capacity assault rifle.

Many designs were submitted during many trials from 1943-1947. As they are essentially unknown in the West, we will briefly illustrate some of the designs submitted by otherwise-famous Russian arms designers, which ultimately lost out to the Kalashnikov.

After having decided on the M43 cartridge, but before there was an SKS rifle or an AK assault rifle, the Soviets built this M1944 Avtomat, based on a shortened Tokarev action, with 30-round magazine.
After having decided on the M43 cartridge, but before there was an SKS rifle or an AK assault rifle, the Soviets built this M1944 Avtomat, based on a shortened Tokarev action, with 30-round magazine.
The experimental Sudayev AS-44 was the first weapon submitted to fire the new 7.62x41mm cartridge. Although heavy, the Sudayev designs were promising, but he fell ill and died in 1944 at age 33.
The experimental Sudayev AS-44 was the first weapon submitted to fire the new 7.62x41mm cartridge. Although heavy, the Sudayev designs were promising, but he fell ill and died in 1944 at age 33.
Experimental Shpagin Model 1944 assault rifle, a competitor in the assault rifle trials, bears striking resemblance to his PPSh-41 submachine gun.
Experimental Shpagin Model 1944 assault rifle, a competitor in the assault rifle trials, bears striking resemblance to his PPSh-41 submachine gun.
Second model of experimental Kubynov M1946 KB-2 assault rifle did not compete well against Kalashnikov’s design.
Second model of experimental Kubynov M1946 KB-2 assault rifle did not compete well against Kalashnikov’s design.
Experimental Bulkin assault rifle AB-47, from the famous Tula armory was a more polished design than some submissions.
Experimental Bulkin assault rifle AB-47, from the famous Tula armory was a more polished design than some submissions.
Another interesting submission from the Tula plant was this Korobov design that was one of the few bull-pup designs submitted during end-of-war trials.
Another interesting submission from the Tula plant was this Korobov design that was one of the few bull-pup designs submitted during end-of-war trials.
Experimental assault rifle model of 1946 by experienced designer S. G. Simonov, inventor of the AVS-36 and  SKS-45 rifles, although a more polished design than some submissions, did not compare favorably with the Kalashnikov AK design.
Experimental assault rifle model of 1946 by experienced designer S. G. Simonov, inventor of the AVS-36 and SKS-45 rifles, although a more polished design than some submissions, did not compare favorably with the Kalashnikov AK design.

(Adapted with permission from The World’s Assault Rifles [Johnston/Nelson, 1200 pages, © 2010 Ironside International Publishers], available at: www.worlds-assault-rifles.net)

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Kalashnikov’s designs faced stiff competition, and had to ultimately win out on merit alone against…