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AK-47 - 'Gun Stories'

It's been said that the history of weapons is indeed the history of the world. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it is certainly true in the case of the Avtomat Kalashnikov 1947: the AK-47.

It's a rifle that has quite literally reshaped the world, adding impressive firepower to insurgencies, border battles, Freedom Fighters, wars - large and small, and yes, terrorists for more than half a century. One thing is certain: where there are conflicts, there are AK-47s.

Much of the success of the AK-47 rests with the cartridge it fires - the 7.62×39mm. Like the gun itself, the short .30 caliber round, roughly 2/3 the size of the .30-06, is not necessarily a stellar performer in many areas, but it does many things adequately. It's cheap, easy to manufacture, reliable, works in ultra-cold or ultra-hot environments, and has acceptable accuracy. It's hard to even imagine how many rounds have been produced since it was designed in World War II.

Ironically, the AK-47 came back to bite its Russian masters during the nine-year war in Afghanistan in the late 1970s and early 80s. The technologically sophisticated Russian army was brought to a standstill by AK-wielding primitive tribesmen. The AK-47 perfectly mirrors the Soviet philosophy of equipping massive poorly-trained armies with simple, effective tools of war. Given the sheer number of AKs around the world, it's safe to say the gun that changed the world will continue its lethal influence for the foreseeable future.

Although Kalashnikov’s rifle made his name one of the most recognizable in the world, fortune didn't follow that fame. He received only a modest stipend from the Russian government and on a first trip to America, Kalashnikov told one of this show's producers that, while he was proud of his rifle, he wished his name was known worldwide for designing something less lethal - like a tractor.

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