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Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov and the AK-47: Half an Obituary

| December 23, 2013

The AK-47, most popular assault weapon in the world.

Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, the designer of the AK-47, the world’s most popular machine gun among soldiers, mercenaries and militiamen–and one of the world’s deadliest weapons–died on Monday, Dec. 23, in Izhevsk, in east-central Russia, at age 94. Kalashnikov was frequently promoted and propagandized by the Red Army and the Soviet Union as a hero, using his weapon as a symbol of Soviet power, and since 1991, of what remains of Russian power. The brief history of the weapon below appeared in March 2012 as a backgrounder to a local homicide involving an AK-47 and another incident in Jacksonville involving the weapon. You can read fuller obituaries of Mikhail Kalashnikov here, here, here, here and here.

It was an AK-47, remember, that William Merrill was allegedly playing with when he pulled the trigger and killed his wife, Stefanie, in February 2012, in Palm Coast. And now this.

the live wire flaglerliveFrom the Times-Union: “The fired Spanish teacher who killed Episcopal School of Jacksonville head Dale Regan on Tuesday brought with him nearly 100 rounds of ammunition for an AK-47 assault rifle he purchased at a Jacksonville gun show early last month, a police source familiar with the investigation said Wednesday. It’s unlikely anyone will ever know why Shane Schumerth chose Regan as his only target, shooting her as many as 10 times before killing himself, the source said. Investigators have yet to find a note or other indication as to Schumerth’s motive, said the source, who has not been authorized to speak publicly about the case.”

The AK-47 was approved for general use by the Soviet military by Josef Stalin in 1947 (hence the 47). It’s the invention of Mikhail T. Kalashnikov (born in 1919, still alive as of 2012), hence the K. The A stands for Automatic. Avtomat Kalashnikov, to be precise. From The Times on Nov. 11, 2004: “The story that surrounds General Kalashnikov reads like Soviet legend, the tale of the archetypical proletarian man. He was the uneducated son of peasants who became a sergeant assigned to a tank, was injured in World War II in battle against the Nazis and then labored through countless nights – first in his hospital bed, later in secret institutes – to create weapons for the masses. In 1947, one of his prototypes won a state competition and was selected for mass production. It was given a mundane designation: AK-47, an abbreviation for “automatic by Kalashnikov,” followed by the year of its selection. The abbreviation would in time enter martial lexicon.”

And here’s Jo Durden-Smith, writing in The Times on May 29, 2994: “The Kalashnikov isn’t just a gun; it’s a legend, a currency, a symbol of liberation and violent, random death. And it changed the way wars are fought forever. It’s cheap — an AK costs anywhere from $500 to a bottle of brandy — and it works everywhere, in sand and water and ice and jungle. Stories abound of AK’s found buried in graves or in swamps and coming up firing; stories about how they could always be made to work with a kick start, like a motorcycle, or with a couple of pebbles pushed down the barrel with a cleaning rod. Anyone can learn to use an AK-47 in two or three minutes. You don’t even have to clean it much. And that has made it the perfect weapon for peasant irregulars and professional infantry alike. During the Vietnam War, American G.I.’s picked up Kalashnikovs from the dead and threw away their M16’s; today, 16-year-old rebels in Rwanda may lack uniforms but not AK’s. In the Sudan, one marching song translates roughly to: “Can’t get no cash, you’re trash without a Kalash.” In the United States, the inner cities teem with AK-47’s; earlier this month, after heated Congressional hearings, their importation was banned, along with the production or importation of 18 other assault rifles.”

See below for a more complete history of the AK-47.

Download The AK-47: the world’s favourite killing machine

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37 Responses for “Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov and the AK-47: Half an Obituary”

  1. Outsider says:

    And if you want to write a story about a device responsible for millions more deaths and injuries than the AK in the U.S., you can detail the history of the automobile.

  2. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    The NRA will be ALL over me for this, but NO private citizen should be allowed to own one of these things; their sole purpose is to kill PEOPLE, as many as possible, as quickly as possible.

    • Outsider says:

      Well, let’s think about this wild comment for a moment, shall we? If the “sole purpose” was to kill as many people as quickly as possible, then the world population would be a lot smaller than it actually is. I have had mine for several years, and have killed no one with it; haven’t even considered it. I would suggest that some other “purposes” for having one (or more) are for the enjoyment of shooting something other than people, say, a target, for appreciating the historical value of the weapon, and simply to complete a gun collection as one sees fit. So, the idea that the “sole purpose” for owning this weapon is as you say is simply not factual.

  3. Mario DiGirolamo via Facebook says:

    Screw the NRA. I’m totally with you Angela. All automatic weapons of this type should be banned.

    • Johnny Taxpayer says:

      Yeah! Because as soon as they’re banned (they already practically are) puff! they’ll disappear and deranged individuals will magically stop being deranged. Either that or it will just cost a little more to find one, or they’ll just find another way to accomplish what they’re set on accomplishing.

    • anoun says:

      For you info they are banned to own.Only people with class 3 license can own one.Which means no fully automatic weapon can be owned by the general public.

    • anoun says:

      I am Sorry please give a list on how many time this weapon has has been use in a crime in this country.I bet you can’t.Its illegal to own in this country..Now the semi automatic version is.But again please list all that times it been used.I know you are going to say the guy on covington shot this wife.with with one.It was suppose to be a accident?

  4. and what.. only let the gov and police have weapons like this? that guy could have walked in with a sotgun or rifle from walmart.. whats the difference? guns will continue to be a problem until there is a more effective way to kill people and then it will be that

  5. Anita says:

    I suggest we all send cards, congratulating the NRA for a job well done each time an innocent victim is shot. They’ll get the message.

    • George Orphan says:

      I suggest you read and understand the Constitution of the United States of America and then maybe you will get that message. People who have little to no understanding of this vital document are so readily willing to discard their freedoms at the promise of a some imagined security. Note carefully the position of this amendment with regard to the others… It is the only thing that genuinely guarantees the one before it. An unarmed populace is easily silenced and controlled.

      • Anita says:

        And, all of these shooters are members of an organized militia and have taken all of those wonderful “NRA classes” on how to use and store firearms responsibly, right? Hope Santa & his reindeer shove the tooth fairy down your chimney.

      • Geezer says:

        Very true George. The second amendment levels the playing field,
        where David has equal footing with Goliath.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    This AK47 is made to hunt humans not game. Where is the NRA risponsibility on these weapons abuses.

  7. Kip Durocher says:

    The NRA has on their agenda the licensing of bazookas, rpgs and tanks to private citizens
    with the $$$ for a range and the piece of equipment.
    God bless the NRA.
    I think their “buy a kid a gun for Christmas” program is great.

  8. meh says:

    lets get real, if somebody wants to kill somebody, they’re going to do it regardless of whats available. people use AK’s because they’re glorified in movies and video games, and its just an awesome looking gun. somebody crazy isn’t going to say to themselves “oh darn, if i had an AK i would kill this person, but since all i have is this pump shotgun, i won’t…”

    good article. you write beautifully.

    • Liana G says:

      Good point. More people in Florida die from drowing in a swimming pool than from gun shot wounds.

      “From my dead cold hands”

  9. Bob says:

    Ok…Lets get the info right and stop with all the DIS-INFORMATION. To purchase a SEMI-AUTO AK-47 at any Gun Show in Florida the seller will call the FBI data center and run your drivers license to see if your a felon or mental. Next, the AK-47’s that are sold are SEMI-AUTO rifles….Just like all the AR-15 rifles that are sold. The are LEGAL to own even in California with a 10rd magazine. They have been around for 60 years. There not going to up and disappear. As far as people deciding to kill other people, there is NO WAY any government or police dept. can stop it from happening. You must be a prepared individual with knowledge to protect yourself.

  10. mike says:

    best gun ever made!! everyone should own one! i hunt with mine

  11. Gun Owner says:

    Why does the NRA have to be responsible for these guns? People kill people! EVERYONE who is against gun owning does not have a gun and does not know what you have to do to buy a gun! We could be like Europe. Where guns are outlawed people stab people! THE END.

  12. flagler beach native says:


  13. Outsider says:

    It was just a few years ago where that woman in Texas drowned her five kids in a bathtub. Maybe we should cut off everyone’s hands and outlaw bathtubs too. On a MINOR note, the founding fathers guaranteed the right to bear arms so the citizenry could protect itself from a tyrannical government. That was the original intent, to defend against a dictator. It kind of makes one wonder why our current president stated we needed a national police force as strong as the military. Really? Why?

    • Don says:

      The most dangerous things in Palm Coast are swimming polls, old people driving and kitchen knives. Lits ban them too and lets ban anything thats dangerous

  14. Kip Durocher says:

    Each year, about 4,000 people die from drowning in the United States.  Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury death among all ages.

    In 2004 (the most recent year for which data is available), there were 29,569 gun deaths in the U.S:

    • tlouise says:

      Yes lets let them decide what we should do. I mean how should we know how to live our own lives right? Give them all our freedom. Yes maybe there are 29569 deaths by gun every year, how many of these are LEGALLY OWNED” guns. Do you people really think that people who go through proper channels to have a gun are out to kill other people? Yes there are whackos but they are few and far between. Any criminal will get what they need to kill if that is the intention. We have already given them TOO much power. Maybe the swimming pool will be banned next. Heck the just passed this law and look how many die. 113 children/people die in farming equipment accidents every year…oh and look now it is illegal and they banned kids from working on family farms or any farms… no one under 16 is allowed to do so…..yeah what else can we let them run for us…next they will be coming in our homes and telling us what to pack for our kids’ lunch. OH WAIT!! They are doing that too…couple kindergartener’s lunches were taken by federal agents at school and replaced with chicken nuggets and milk..what did they replace? The kids had turkey and cheese sandwich, chips, an apple and a chocolate milk. BAD PARENTS!! Look it was in NC. Screw this…they need to mind their own business and you people who think guns need to be banned need your heads examined. Anyone who tries to come in my house and tell me how to live my life or raise my kids, better bring their own gun, cause I wont be giving any of mine up any time soon.

  15. B. Claire says:

    This I love my AK to hunt and other absurd rationale for gun hording pretty much sums up a citizenry so far right they’re about to fall off their flat earth.

    • Geezer says:

      I hear that a fall from the far left is even worse.
      People with your viewpoint are easy to round up
      and convert to a life of servitude.
      Fidel Castro loves your mindset.

      But I respect your right to be a vulnerable sitting duck.

      If you hear sounds in your home at night, grab your iPad and defend yourself!
      Text the sheriff.

  16. Outsider says:

    B. Claire, I don’t like to hunt. My rationale for having an AK is that it is a weapon of historical value that played a part in many wars and conflicts. No gun collection would be complete without one. Another reason for owning one is simply because I can, as guaranteed by our Constitution. I’d be a liar if I said the fact that it ticks off the left so much they nearly explode knowing we can have one wasn’t a factor in having in the first place. God bless America!

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Outsider, would you apply the same rationale to Zyklon B and how owning it gives some people the pleasure of ticking off Jews? There’s absolutely no difference in what you said, except that as an extermination machine, the ak is probably the only thing that has Zyklon beat.

  17. Outsider says:

    I would no sooner do that than I would drive around Bunnell with a noose in the back window of my car. Either one would be a racist overture, which is not my cup of tea. The satisfaction comes from the fact that I, and millions of other Americans can legally possess such a weapon and harm noone with it. It’s kind of like this: you rattle my brain with your liberal commentary and I’ll rattle your’s by exxercising my constitutional rights. Fair enough?

  18. Bubba Bull says:

    I have owned 2 of these beautiful rifles for 30 years. They are NO more dangerous then your car or mentally disturbed child welding an axe because he can’t play with his video game. The United States needs to be divided into states that allow firearms and to states that allow homosexual marriages and marijuana !!

  19. NortonSmitty says:

    R.I.P. Mr K. Your have achieved every engineers dream. You designed a product so good and ubiquitous your name became a noun like Diesel, Shrapnel and Crapper. Your name entered the worldwide lexicon every time anybody opens up and Slaughters someone with an assault rifle. Not the best eternal remembrance, but at least better than Crappers.

    Your Genius was learned in the trenches and knowing the conditions required reliability above accuracy, the total opposite engineering philosophy than that of your German enemy. Allowing your Cossacks to build ten T-38 tanks in the same time and cost Hitler would build one Panzer Tiger. Same with our Shermans. And purposely designing the tolerances so loose that the first shot would shake out any sand, mud or dirt in the gun, yet still put 5 shots on a pie plate at 200 meters, good enough for 99.9 of combat requirements.

    But the real reason it is on the flag of several nations is that with these loose machining and cheap stamped steel parts, poor oppressed starving people all over the world could afford to buy one to overthrow their repressive and illegitimate governments.

    Which is why we should take a cue from the rest of the world and buy every American boy one for his 15th birthday. And thank Mikhail T. Kalashnikov for his genius.

  20. Geezer says:

    I just love a controversial article. Yummy.

  21. RHWeir says:

    Mikhail T. Kalashnikov. Kinda hard to say anything good about him. No RIP, just R.

  22. Evgeny Borschnitskaya says:

    Americans look crazy to the different countries in this world.
    It is a love romance with guns and its is better to love people.
    Guns are stupid things afor stupid people.\I hope President Obama
    destroy all the guns soon. Maybe army can go to all house
    and take away guns and burn them. I hate all the guns.

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