You might not be able to pronounce his name. You may not even know that he’s Russian (clue’s in the moniker, however)
Or, in fact, that he invented one of popular culture’s most heavily referenced weapons – and a gun that is equally synonymous with mass shootings and terrorism as it is with NWA lyrics and Tarantino's Jackie Brown: the AK-47.
So, as Mikhail Kalashnikov passes away, here are five quick-fire facts to get you up to bullet-speed on the engineer, pronto. Starting with the basics:
1) He invented the AK-47 by winning a competition in 1947.
Hence the name of the gun, which actually stands for ‘Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947’. It’s a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62 x 39mm assault rifle. He won a gun designing competition he entered on behalf of the Soviet Union. Because they had fun events like that in 1940s Soviet Russia.
2) He was completely self-taught.
Kalashnikov was poorly educated, but taught himself how to be a mechanic, and eventually wound up becoming a tank engineer for the Russian military. He was signed up in 1938, and eventually went on to become the Lieutenant General in the Red Army.
3) He’s technically responsible for more deaths than some of the world’s most ruthless dictators.
He might not have been behind the trigger, but he was behind the design of the world’s most prolific weapon. There are thought to be over 10million AK-47s currently in circulation, many of which are used for terrorism, mass-shootings and high-level gang crimes.
4) He “sleeps well”, despite the fact he’s technically responsible for more deaths than some of the world’s most ruthless dictators.
"I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," he said at a ceremony marking the rifle's 60th anniversary in 2007, proudly adding, "During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers.” A year later, however, he appeared to show some remorse, stating: "It is painful for me to see when criminal elements of all kinds fire from my weapon."
5) But he kind of wishes he invented the lawnmower instead.
As one so frequently does. Again, showing some sadness, he said during a visit to Germany in 2002: "I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists.
"I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work - for example a lawnmower."
Need a more detailed description? Check out this feature.
AK-47 is the tool: The gun in pop culture
AK-47 is the tool: The gun in pop culture
1/8 Ice Cube appears to have quite a fondness for the AK-47, frequently name-checking it in his lyrics. He raps on NWA's "Straight Outta Compton".
2/8 Eminem put an AK-47 into George W Bush's hands in an animated video for his protest song "Mosh".
3/8 Philippe Starck painted an 18-carat, gold-plate finish on a cast of an AK-47, topping it off with a lampshade. The 'Kalashnikov AK-47 Table Light' could be yours for just £1,360.
AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE
4/8 In 2004, Playboy placed the AK-47 fourth on their list of 'Fifty Products that Changed the World', deeming it less important than the Apple Mac desktop computer, the Pill, and the Sony Betamax video machine, but more influential than breast implants (at number six), crack cocaine (11) or the Big Mac (29).
FP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI
5/8 * The iPod only made it to number 12 on Playboy's list – but luckily someone has since combined the two inventions. You can buy AK-magazine-shaped MP3 players, that attach to the rifle, and can hold up to 9,000 songs to blast your ears instead of your enemy.
6/8 Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor who never received any royalties for his creation, has instead cashed in with another Russian export – vodka. Kalashnikov describes the 41 per cent proof drink as "military strength", and the bottles come stamped with his name and face.
7/8 As well as endorsements from Samuel L Jackson's character in the film, Jackie Brown, the AK-47 is also declared the "real weapon of mass destruction" by Ethan Hawke's character in the 2005 arms-dealer movie, Lords of War.
8/8 An AK-47-alike toy has made it onto the Christmas wish list. The Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS, a plastic machine gun capable of firing off a round of 18 soft bullets, made it into the 'Dream Dozen' Christmas toys for 2010, according to the Toy Retailers Association.
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