Military and War 19 November 2012 156 1964
It can kill and it can save lives. It's played its role in the bloodiest genocides and in liberations of whole nations. It's killed innocent people but some of the most miraculous rescue operations could not have been performed without it. The weapon of choice for soldiers of every creed and colour. The iconic assault rifle up close on RTD.
When US soldiers were fighting in the jungles of Vietnam, they often abandoned their standard-issue M16s for Soviet-made AK47s. The American-made guns were ill-suited to the sub-tropical climate, jamming when they got muddy and rusting after getting wet. The Soviet assault rifles rarely needed cleaning, and would fire under virtually any circumstances. This made them easy for even fresh recruits to use.
One rifle from every batch of new AK47s is still put through punishing testing to prove they are just as reliable. They are subjected to freezing temperatures, water, poundings, and air filled with fine sand. The iconic weapon’s famous reliability is largely thanks to its creator, Mikhail Kalashnikov. When designing the assault rifle, he strove to make every single part easy to mass produce without compromising durability. The self-taught gunsmith went on to design many more weapons based on one principle – the interchangeability of their parts, which makes them extremely convenient to use in combat zones.
Kalashnikov became a national hero and a household name for his invention. However, he received no compensation, despite the AK47’s incredible success. Ironically, the creator of the M16 became very rich off his design, but practically no one today, apart from hard-core gun enthusiasts, knows who Eugene Stoner was.