Kalashnikov AK-47s are legendary in the gun world, but as of last July 16, imports of the weapon were banned—part of the economic sanctions put into place against Russia after its suspected role in the downing of a Malaysian passenger jetliner over Ukraine.
The U.S. distributor of the weapons may have found a loophole, though—by making the guns here.
Tullytown, Pa.-based RWC (the exclusive U.S. distributor of the assault rifle) announced plans to begin manufacturing the guns in the U.S. under the name Kalashnikov USA at this week's SHOT Show in Las Vegas.
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"The change in U.S. foreign policy has forced us to redefine our business model, going from one of an importer to a U.S. manufacturer of the iconic products that are rooted in world history," the company said in a statement initially announcing the move. "We are committed to preserving the traditions of quality, reliability, simplicity of design, and ruggedness, while utilizing all of the technological advancements of the 21st century."
One day after making that announcement, though, RWC officials abruptly stopped talking about the plans, citing guidance from the company's attorneys.
RWC (short for Russian Weapon Co.) is reportedly in negotiations with three states for the location of the production plant – and could begin production as early as this spring, according to OutdoorHub.
Demand for the Kalashnikov AK-47 is steady in the firearms world, and when the import ban was announced, that demand surged. The available supply of Russian-made weapons that were in stock before the embargo went into effect was relatively low, and RWC has warned customers that "Due to the sanctions placed on Russia, we now have a very limited quantity. There will be no more for the foreseeable future."
Prices on the guns range from $800 to over $1,000.
The new factory will ease that supply constraint, but because of the sanctions, RWC is not allowed any form of contact with its Russian business partner. That will inevitably lead to comparisons between the original product and the new line. In general, though, gun enthusiasts have reacted positively to the news.
The Kalashnikov line of guns has a storied history. Named for Mikhail Kalashnikov, a World War II Russian tank veteran who developed the "Avtomat Kalashnikova" rifle in 1947, it is the largest firearms producer in Russia. During the days of the Soviet Uniion, it provided as many as 600,000 rifles a year to the military.