Who's Buying Russia's Kalashnikovs? Americans
US consumers now buy as many AKs as Russian soldiers, police
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 15, 2012 3:22 PM CDT
Dmitry Medvedev holds a Kalashnikov gun as he visits a plant manufacturing them in the central Russian city of Izhevsk, Feb. 19, 2008.   (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, pool)

(Newser) – When you think "Kalashnikov," you probably think of Russia. But these days the Russian factory that makes the AK-47 is relying heavily on demand from American gun aficionados, the New York Times reports. US sales of the "Saiga," the civilian model of the AK, rose 50% last year, meaning Americans now buy about as many of the rifle as the Russian army and police force. America is a ripe market thanks to its famously lenient gun laws; buying an AK in Russia is considerably harder.

Civilian demand is essential for the factory, because military demand has evaporated. Used AKs are easy to come by, because over the years about 100 million have been made, or roughly one for every 70 people on earth. Chinese manufacturers have also cut into sales with cheaper imitations. But Chinese guns aren't legal in the US, and gun enthusiasts want the genuine article."I bought a Saiga because it was made in Russia," says one owner. "No rifle in the world has been as reliable."