The designer of the Kalashnikov rifle – the AK – has died today at the age of 94. Mikhail Kalashnikov died after a long, unspecified illness.
Mr. Kalashnikov said the automatic rifle was designed “to protect the motherland” after World War II. But the AK-47 and its descendants and knockoffs became mainstays for armies and guerrilla soldiers around the globe. Light, durable, cheap to manufacture and simple to maintain, the rifle creates a deadly spray of bullets without much of a kick.
Mr. Kalashnikov said he regretted that it became the weapon of choice for guerrilla armies. “It was like a genie out of the bottle, and it began to walk all on its own and in directions I did not want,” he told Britain’s Guardian newspaper in 2003. But he added, “I sleep soundly. The fact that people die because of an AK-47 is not because of the designer, but because of politics.“
In a lot of ways, Kalashnikov’s life is an homage to the self-made man. His family was sent to Siberia after his father was deemed a class enemy, and his family’s land was stolen. Kalashnikov, nonetheless, used his mechanical prowess to design a light, effective, durable rifle that is still being used today. He was a testament to overcoming challenges.
Rest in peace, sir. You’ve earned it.