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Goodbye Mikhail Kalashnikov, thank you for the AK

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As many of you have probably heard by now, Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 rifle has died at age 94. Whether you liked the man and his invention or not, it is undeniable that he has had a profound impact on world history in the second half of the 20th century and beyond. His ubiquitous rifle is well known around the world, and has been involved in every major or minor conflict for the past 60+ years.

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Although he would deny it, Kalashnikov’s AK-47 rifle was loosely based on the German Stg-44, which was considered the world’s first true automatic assault rifle. It is chambered in the 7.62 caliber, can have select-fire capability and uses a gas-operated piston to cycle the bolt and action. Numerous updates and variants were made for the AK over the years, and they were mass-produced in Soviet Russia, as well as a number of other eastern European Soviet bloc states, communist Asian countries and various countries around the globe. The AK is well known for its ruggedness and reliability, which more than make up for what it may lack in accuracy. They are simple to operate and easy to maintain, even by unskilled users, and are fairly cheap compared to other “assault rifles”. It is estimated that there are at least 100 million AK-47 type rifles around the world today.

The AK-47 is both loved and hated around the world, but there is no doubt that it is respected, especially by those who have faced it in combat. Most Western nations tend to dislike the AK, associating it with the old Cold War Soviet enemies, rebels, insurgents, terrorist groups, criminals and drug cartels. However, eastern European countries, most of Asia and Africa, as well as South and Central America, view the AK as a tool of liberation, used by revolutionaries and freedom fighters. The AK is even emblazoned on the national flag of Mozambique, can be found on the flag of Hezbollah, as well as the coat of arms of several other countries.

Before his death, Mikhail Kalashnikov was at work on the AK-12, a new and modernized version of his classic design. Those of us that admire the AK-47 hope that his work will be carried on and stay true to the original.

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