On December 23 the inventor of the world’s most popular firearm–the AK-47–died and was quickly eulogized by the Associated Press (AP) as an inventor of “assault weapons” who “sowed havoc” and “[contributed] to bloodshed.”
Mikhail Kalashnikov was 94 years old upon his death. He designed his remarkable rifle after being wounded by Nazis in 1941 and “[brooding] about the superior automatic rifles he’d seen the Nazis deploy.”
According to the AP, Kalashnikov designed farm machinery until being wounded by the Nazis; thereafter he designed guns.
The “AK” in AK-47 stands for “Avtomat Kalashnikov,” and the “47” stands for the year the rifle began production, 1947. An estimated 100 million are in the world today, and they will fire under conditions that render other guns inoperable.
In 2007, Kalashnikov spoke to the rifle’s dependability when he told stories of how “American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets from dead Vietnamese soldiers [during the Vietnam War].”
Whereas M-16s had to constantly be cleared to remain functional, the AK-47 simply shot every time a soldier pulled the trigger.
Kalashnikov’s story is all the more remarkable when you consider that he was “born into a peasant family in Siberia.” Yet he was able to rise above his poverty and create something that the world still treasures today.
Rather than focusing on his amazing accomplishments, the AP summarized Kalashnikov’s life this way: “Kalashnikov once aspired to design farm equipment, but his most famous invention–the AK-47 assault rifle–sowed havoc instead of crops.”
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