Mihkail Kalashnikov, creator of the AK-47 assault rifle, is dead. The Soviet firearms craftsman and Russian Lieutenant General was the chief designer of the Soviet-era infantry rifle that would go on to become the most popular rifle in the world.
Kalashnikov designed the eponymous rifle as part of a 1946 competition being held to select a design that would chamber the newly developed 7.62mm rifle round. The weapon would win the competition and go on to become famous across the globe for its reliability and power. It went into mass production in 1949, and quickly acquired a good reputation as a rugged, easy to maintain field assault weapon. Although it is not regarded as the most accurate weapon in its class, it has certainly become the most ubiquitous.
The Soviets exported large numbers of Kalashnikovs to governments and even rebel forces in Africa, Asia and Latin America, aiding the weapon’s reputation as the freedom fighter’s weapon of choice. It has also become popular with illicit forces such as drug cartels and terrorists.
Variants of the weapon, known variously as the Kalashnikov or just the AK, are produced all over the world. It is acclaimed for being cheap to mass produce, and has found its way into service with militaries on several continents. Mikhail Kalashnikov’s design has also served as the inspiration for numerous weapon platforms similar to the AK-47.
The weapon is gas-operated, selective-fire rifle capable of automatic fire of over one hundred rounds per minute. It has a muzzle velocity of over 2,300/fps and an effective range of over 400 yards. The weapon has been redesigned a number of times to make it lighter and simpler to manufacture, and it is available with a variety of possible field modifications.
In popular culture, the AK-47 has achieved fame beyond the world of the professional and para-professional soldier. It is featured in many films and especially in modern combat video games that emphasize realistic violence. One need only pick up a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops or Battlefield to see a very realistic representation of the weapon.
In the Hollywood movie The Lord of War, the arms dealer played by actor Nicholas Cage refers to the weapon, famously saying that “After the Cold War, the Ak-47 became Russia’s biggest export. After that came vodka, caviar and suicidal novelists.” He also refers to it as the world’s most popular assault weapon, and one that all fighters love.
The father of the weapon, was more ambivalent about the weapons popularity with outside forces. He stated before his death that he intended the AK-47 to be a weapon of defense, to protect his motherland. Despite the wishes of the designer, it is hard to argue that the Kalashnikov has not become a primarily offensive tool.
Mikhail Kalashnikov, weapons designer and creator of the AK-47, is dead at the age of 94. His legacy as the inventor of the planet’s most popular firearm will live on for decades to come.
By Mark Clarke
Times of India