Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man who designed the world-famous AK-47 assault rifle, died today at age 94.
The AK-47 is considered the world’s premiere firearm.
Kalashnikov passed away in a hospital in Izhevsk in the Russian republic of Udmurtia. No official cause of death has been announced, although he was in the hospital for about a month for an unspecified illness.
He headed up the design team that invented the famous weapon that was used by the Soviet army, insurgent groups, and foes of the West that Moscow sponsored all over the world.
“The AK-47…is the world’s most popular firearm, favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide.”
The AK-47 was used by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army against US forces, and also found its way into many other conflicts around the world.
“The weapon’s suitability for jungle and desert fighting made it nearly ideal for the Third World insurgents backed by the Soviet Union, and Moscow not only distributed the AK-47 widely but also licensed its production in some 30 other countries.”
The much-honored Kalashnikov supposedly got the idea for the assault rifle while recuperating from war injuries in 1941, during which he brooded about the superior firepower of the Nazi army.
Kalashnikov continued to work late in life as chief weapons designer at the Izmash arms factory. The AK-47 was not patented (the invention belonged to the state under the Soviet system), so he never collected royalties on the immensely popular weapon.
Upon his 90th birthday, responding to a question about whether he felt any responsibility for the bloodshed caused by the AK-47, Kalashnikov said, “I sleep soundly. I created a weapon to defend the motherland. It was not my fault that it was sometimes used where it should not have been. That is the fault of politicians.”