The first model of the AK-47 assault rifle was introduced into service with the Soviet army in 1948. Designed to be cheap and reliable as well as simple to operate and produce, the AK-47 and its derivatives remain the world’s most widely used assault rifles seven decades later. In his book “AK47: The Story of The People’s Gun”, author Michael Hodges estimates that there are as many as 200 million Kalashnikov rifles in circulation, one for every 35 people. On top of its cheap price, the weapon has always proven hugely popular with soldiers, criminals and militants due to its immense durability and reliability.

200 different types of Kalashnikov are now produced in at least 30 countries and vast quantities of the weapons have turned up in trouble spots all over the world for decades, especially in Africa. Hundreds of thousands of them disappeared after the breakup of Yugoslavia, frequently ending up in the hands of terrorists and criminals. Most of the rifles used in the Paris attacks at Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan theater were purchased in Belgium and traced back to the Balkans (and to Serbia in particular).

Considering that the black market is awash with AK-47s, how much would it cost to illegally procure one? A new report from Global Financial Integrity has shed some light on the shady world of arms smuggling and the cost of an AK-47 in several different countries. In Afghanistan, the gun could cost as little as $600 while on Mexico’s northern border with the U.S., the price would increase to $1,200. In Belgium where the Paris perpetrators obtained their Balkan Kalashnikovs, it has a price tag of about $1,135.


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Photo courtesy of PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images

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