Mikhail Kalashnikov dies: Five quick-fire facts about the AK-47 inventor
As the Russian engineer passes away, aged 94, here are five quick-fire facts to get you up to bullet-speed, pronto
Monday 23 December 2013
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."
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