A weapons foundry was established by order of Emperor Alexander I on June 10, 1807, on the banks of the Izh River. It represented the beginnings of the Izhevsk plant, and it also contributed to the development and, in fact, the salvation of Izhevsk as a city. The fact was that the already existing ironworks, which the city had formed around, had fallen into almost complete neglect at that time, which in turn impacted life in Izhevsk. Mining engineer Andrey Deryabin, to whom the grateful residents of Izhevsk later erected a monument, oversaw construction of the new plant. Today the plant is located on a street named after Deryabin. During construction the plant was combined with the ironworks. As a result, the enterprise did not experience any difficulties obtaining raw materials. Already in the autumn of 1807 the plant created its first weapon: the soldier-issued smoothbore flintlock 0.7 caliber rifle, which was called the "number 15".
The Patriotic War
By the beginning of the war with Napoleon, the production of weapons for the Russian imperial army was in full swing. During the first four years of its existence, the factory produced 2,000 guns, and during the war, the enterprise supplied the army of Mikhail Kutuzov with more than 6,000 flintlocks, increasing the original amount of issued weapons by a factor of 10 times.
The need for a separate spacious building to store finished products at the plant had grown significantly due to the production volumes of the time. Small rooms that had been appropriated for such purposes could no longer satisfy this role. The construction of other historical buildings in Izhevsk was connected with the weapons plant, including the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, which was built in 1823. Alexander Nevsky was the patron saint of gunsmiths.
30,000 barrels per year
For the first time the enterprise exceeded its designed capacity in 1830 when it produced more than 26,000 guns. By 1836 the factory was producing more than 30,000 barrels. By the early 1840s, the provincial newspaper "Vedomosti" wrote: "The technical facilities at the plant have now been improved to the greatest extent possible."
The Izhevsk plant changes its name
The appearance of the factory changed due to the fact that in 1867 the Izhevsk gunsmiths received their freedom, and starting from that point the management of the factory was commercially leased. Lessees of the factory, including the brother of the famous inventor Ludvig Nobel, managed to make serious improvements to the plant. During the years when it was leased, the enterprise was converted to accommodate a much greater volume of production (up to 70,000 guns a year). Its machinery received significant upgrades, and the plant's power supply also made a great leap forward. The plant was the location of the first telegraph station, telephone system, and in-plant rail transport system. The most popular item produced at the Izhevsk plant in those years was the small 0.4 caliber Berdan system rifle, which was produced from 1874 through the 1890s. The Izhevsk plant produced 162,455 Berdan rifles in 1878 alone for the Russo-Turkish War of 1877—1878.
100th anniversary of the enterprise
During the first century of its existence, the Izhevsk plant produced more than four million units of different weapons. A monument was erected to Andrey Deryabin during the celebrations to commemorate the anniversary. Three variants of the Mosin–Nagant rifle, which had been in production since 1893, were created at the factory in 1907 to be issued to infantry, dragoons and Cossacks, respectively. A carbine version of the Mosin–Nagant also entered commercial production.
World War I
During the war the factory underwent a series of transformations to both its arms and steel production. The number of workers grew three times. Women and children began to work alongside men. The factory's output doubled. Altogether during the First World War the factory sent more than 1.4 million new rifles to the front and repaired almost 188,000 ones. By the summer of 1917, 34,000 people worked here.
During the first years after the Revolution the factory changed hands four times. In August 1918 the famous Izhevsk-Votkinsk Uprising broke out here, and then in November the rebels were crushed by the Red Army, who seized the plant. In April 1919 the enterprise was taken over by Kolchak's troops, who were then knocked out by the Bolsheviks in June. Of course, the fighting had a huge impact on the condition of the enterprise: most of the equipment was rendered inoperable or removed. The number of qualified personnel working at the enterprise also suffered also suffered. Despite this, the Izhevsk plant was able to maintain its production capacity. Already in August 1920 it produced 48,000 rifles. Moreover, during the Civil War it was able to begin production of new products: breech casings for Fedorov system automatic rifles and cartridges. It developed metallurgical production and the production of various tools. Immediately after the end of hostilities in the autumn of 1923, a five-year program was proposed to improve, reconstruct, clean and convert the plant.
In 1930, the company organized an independent machine-tool shop, and it established a new woodworking shop. In the same year the machine shop began to produce the first machine tools. In 1933, the Izhevsk plant for the first time in the Soviet Union produced five powerful crankshafts made of special steels, including for the AN-1, ANT-25 and other aircraft. In April of the same year the company opened the Bureau of New Designs (BOC), which took over weapons development. Today, this work is carried out at the Concern's weapons design center.
World War II
During World War II thousands of people worked at the Izhevsk Mechanical Factory, where they produced millions of weapons, ranging from rifles to aircraft guns. The production of all types of small arms underwent rapid development during the war. Already in 1941 production of the Mosin–Nagant rifle reached 12,000 per day. Thus, each day the plant was able to arm one entire rifle division. In 1945, the production of weapons almost tripled compared to 1941. During the four-year war the plant produced as many small arms as it had over the previous 92 years before the war combined. More than 11 million rifles and carbines, more than 15,000 aircraft guns, and more than 130,000 anti-tank rifles were produced during the war. During this time, the workers of the Izhevsk Mechanical Factory were awarded the Red Challenge Banner 10 times for having won the All-Union Socialist Competition. The plant was the first in Udmurtia to win such an order. On January 18, 1942, it was awarded the Order of Lenin, and on October 20, 1944, it received the Order of the Red Banner. The Banner of the State Defense Committee was transferred to the enterprise for permanent storage.
Kalashnikov Assault Rifle
The AK assault rifle and its variants are the most common small arms in the world. It is estimated that this weapon type (including licensed and unlicensed copies, as well as third-party weapons based on the AK) accounts for 1/5 of all small firearms in the world. For 60 years more than 70 million Kalashnikovs in various modifications have been produced. They are used in 50 foreign armies. The main competitor of the Kalashnikov is the American M16 automatic rifle. About 10 million M16s have been produced, and it is used in 27 armies around the world. According to many experts, the AK is the benchmark for reliability and ease of maintenance. An entire family of military and civilian firearms of different calibers have been created based on the 7.62-mm Kalashnikov assault rifle, including the AKM and AK74 and their modifications, the Kalashnikov machine gun, Saiga rifles and shotguns and others, including those made outside of the Soviet Union.
200th anniversary of the enterprise
On the 200th anniversary of the enterprise in 2007, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexy II, conducting a liturgy in Izhevsk, thanked the gunsmiths for their service to Russia and blessed them for their new achievements. For the services of the plant to the Fatherland the Patriarch awarded the Izhmash team one of the highest awards of the Russian Orthodox Church: the Order of the Holy Grand Prince Dmitry Donskoy (2nd Degree).
Today the plant is named after the legendary designer Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, who worked at the enterprise until his death. Currently the plant is undergoing a new stage of development. A contract has been signed to supply the Ministry of Defense with Vikhr guided missiles. With the renaming of the plant and its incorporation within the Concern, work towards improving and modernizing production has been further strengthened.