Mikhail Kalashnikov has passed away today in Izhevsk, Russia. While the official cause of death has yet to be released, the 94 year old firearm designer had been hospitalized for the past month with various health ailments. Considered a national hero in his home country of Russia, Kalashnikov designed the AK-47 rifle for a national competition, and notably never profited from its production.
Kalashnikov is survived by three children, and perhaps the finest legacy any inventor can dream of. His first successful firearm design was the iconic AK-47 rifleâ€”a true gun of the people for its ease of use. By 2009, various sources estimated over 100 million copies of the design had been manufactured worldwide. The rifle remains in widespread use and dozens of variants are in manufacture today.
Kalashnikov suffered from health problems early in life, but still conscripted into the Red Army at the age of nineteen. He showed an aptitude for mechanical tasks, and was assigned work as a tank engineer. It was during his career in the Red Army that Mikhail Kalashnikov began developing firearms. Kalashnikov suffered a bullet wound to the shoulder in battle, and began designing firearms while recovering in the hospital.
By 1944, Kalashnikov had a design for a semi-automatic, gas-driven rifle, which he submitted to a national competition to design the Russian military’s next weapon. His design lost to the SKS. But by 1946, the Red Army was already looking to replace the SKS.
Another competition was opened up, and Kalashnikov submitted a new design, his â€śAvtomat Kalashnikovâ€ť, or â€śAKâ€ť for short. This design won the national competition and went into immediate manufacture, with the first models rolling out of the factory in 1947. The AK-47 was born.
While Mikhail Kalashnikov continued to design firearms up until his death, none have impacted the world like the AK-47. It is considered to be the single most prolific firearm in all of history. Instantly recognizable, the AK-47 is the gun of both freedom fighters and dictators alike, and its reliability and ease of use means nearly any person in any situation can operate it.
The AK-47 and its variants have been used by various militaries worldwide for over half a century and production continues today.