My email inbox has been filling up with tips that Mikhail Kalashnikov has died, so I guess you want to talk about it. The story goes that he designed the rifle that bears his name in his head while he lay in the hospital recovering from his wounds as a Soviet tanker in 1939. However, the design which he hijacked from his German enemies didn’t reach the production stage until 1947. From the Washington Post;
Mr. Kalashnikov headed the design team that produced the AK-47 — standing for automatic by Kalashnikov, model of 1947 — as the assault rifle for the newly retitled Soviet Army. It went into service two years later and then was provided to the Soviet Union’s allies and clients, as well as many other countries Moscow was trying to influence during the Cold War and after.
The AK first went into action to put down East Berlin riots in 1953 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Egyptian soldiers used it to assassinate President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Troops on both sides in the Iran-Iraq war carried it. The al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden used a modernized one as a prop in his recruiting videos.
It was easy to shoot and dependable, making it the weapon of the third world “spray and pray” armies and guerrillas and the symbol of communist insurgencies.
No exact count is possible, but experts believe there are about 100 million AKs, modernizations and derivatives around the world, with as many as 1 million more being made each year.
Kalashnikov, oddly enough, was one of Stalin’s kulaks, the middle class that resisted Stalin’s policies. His father died when the family was exiled to Siberia. Odd that he would eventually design the very symbol of Soviet power.