The AK-47 was the primary infantry weapon of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and the Vietcong (VC). Originally manufactured by the Soviet Union, most of these "assault rifles" used in the war were made in the People's Republic of China, which was the chief supplier of armaments to NVA and VC forces. Also known as the Kalishnikov, after its Russian inventor, this weapon was sturdy, reliable, compact, and relatively lightweight. It fired a 7.62mm bullet in a fully automatic mode (continuous firing, like a machine gun, as long as the trigger was squeezed). The high muzzle velocity (speed of the bullet after firing) and the tumbling action of the bullet at the point of impact contributed to its effectiveness since the results were large entry and exit wounds, severe tissue damage, and extensive trauma in body areas near the wound. The combination of these effects plus its rapid-fire capability meant that accuracy was not a major requirement, thus reducing the training time before a soldier could be sent into combat.
Most armaments analysts judge the AK-47, which normally holds thirty bullets, to be superior to the U.S. M-16, which became the standard weapon of American, Korean, and South Vietnamese troops. It was more durable and less adversely affected by the climate and conditions of Vietnam. There are a number of accounts of cases in which American troops preferred to use the AK-47 and in fact did use it when combat conditions permitted. The continuing popularity of this weapon is illustrated by its use in many military hostilities since the Vietnam War.