As some of you may have seen, Mikhail Kalashnikov, creator of the AK-47, died today in Russia. There can be no doubt that he and his rifle have been vilified throughout the years, largely for the firearm’s role in bloody third world conflicts. Indeed from even an American gun owner’s perspective, I find myself somewhat conflicted about the man. However, we must realize the context in which he developed the AK.
Often, we hear inane babbling from both firearms enthusiasts and anti-gun activists that the AK was designed so that children could wield it. While the rifle is incredibly simple, Kalashnikov had no intentions of it being used by child warriors in tribal Africa to commit mass mayhem. Rather, the rifle was the product of Kalashnikov’s undying patriotism and was the result of his experiences in World War Two. Despite the animosity that existed between the Soviet Union and the United States after WWII, it is difficult to fault Kalashnikov for developing a tool to protect his fellow countrymen. It was only after the AK’s development that unscrupulous and ambitious Soviet politicians and bureaucrats decided to ship the rifle to conflict zones all over the world with the hopes of spreading communist influence.
There can be no doubt that the AK has played an impressive role in global conflict over the last 60+ years. Not only has it been directly involved with military action, but its basic design has also served as the foundation for numerous other rifles, such as the Galil, Valmet, and SIG series. To deny Kalashnikov’s legacy in several of these more recent designs would do the man a great disservice.