RIP Mikhail Kalashnikov

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mnhorse
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Died today in Izhelesk , Russia. Born 10 Nov 1919 in Siberia.
Principle designer of the rifle gun banners love to hate, the AK47.
Richard


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Pat Holscher
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mnhorse wrote:Died today in Izhelesk , Russia. Born 10 Nov 1919 in Siberia.
Principle designer of the rifle gun banners love to hate, the AK47.
Richard
Born in a violent era, raised in violent times, wanted to design farm machinery but joined the Red Army in 1938. Wounded in WWII and designed the AK47 while convalescing.

It defines the weaponry of the Red Army. Extremely simple, very inaccurate, highly reliable, and overrated.
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wkambic
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"Quantity has a quality all its own." J. Stalin

The AK-47 family certainly certainly personifies this thought. As to the designer, one must give the Devil his due.

RIP.
Bill Kambic

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Pat Holscher
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wkambic wrote:"Quantity has a quality all its own." J. Stalin

The AK-47 family certainly certainly personifies this thought. As to the designer, one must give the Devil his due.

RIP.
I'm certainly not dissing the AK assault rifle. It must be the most widely distributed small arm of all time, although having the Soviet Union and the PRC as a backer no doubt counts for a lot of that.

It's both every bit as much, and not as much, as its reputation would have. In terms of concept, it was not originally, following very closely on the German assault rifles of World War Two. Even the round wasn't original, as the 7.62x39 was first used for the SKS. But as a development of the German short cartridge assault rifle concept, it was probably as perfect as any machine could be. The round itself was better than the 7.92 Kurz round the Germans had used. It was easy to make and got easier to make in the AKM version, which most AKs actually are, rather than AK47s. It is nearly immune to stoppages and tolerant of extreme neglect. The weapon was about as equally submachinegun and semi automatic rifle as any selective fire weapon could be. It was the perfect weapon for a soldier who had nearly no marksmanship training at all, which a lot of its users did, and do, not.

Some of those same things define its defects. Its a rifle that was made with little regard to accuracy, which proved to be a problem for its users whenever the opposing army was armed with an accurate weapon and knew how to use it. It isn't a long range weapon, even though its been used in some long range fights. It's a weapon that poorly suits a well trained army, even when well suited to an army that's little trained.

Its one of the greatest military weapons of all times, even while its one of the most boring weapons a really trained and knowledgeable rifleman can shoot. And it equipped an Army that we left standing in control of the field, the VC/NVA and which equipped several forces we bested. It arrived at the assault rifle concept before we did, and it's just stayed there, an extremely numerous obsolete weapon that will go on equipping second and third world armies for decades.

I suppose its kind of like its designer. Born at the height of Soviet power and lasting after the USSR was but a memory.
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Mr. Kalashnikov's passing has really hit the news. In seeing the various articles about him, I've now hit two that are sort of the "merchant of death" variety. Indeed, one called him that.

In thinking on this, I'm struck, perhaps in a contrarian fashion, by the thought that I don't know if he really had any impact on history at all. Probably some, to be sure, but all in all, I think he probably ranks with "Carbine" Williams rather than with John Garand or Peter Paul Mauser.

Indeed, I think that the AK47 is probably really spread around the glove more for the USSR being the country that made it, rather than due to its attributes, which isn't to say it didn't have any.

But let's think about it. What did this design do that was new or novel? Nothing at all.

It didn't introduce a new concept. The short round, full caliber assault rifle was a German invention and was fully proven as to its merits and demerits by 1945.

It didn't introduce a new cartridge. It utilized the 7.62x39, a cartridge the Soviets actually came up with during World War Two, and then made weapons for in a backwards fashion, first coming up with the SKS and then the AK.

It's design profile isn't unique. In terms of its external features, it doesn't have a single one that's novel. It strongly resembles German WWII assault rifles which did pioneer a new design profile. The AK merely adopted them.

It's real virtue is that it's extremely reliable. It's also very inaccurate. But by the end of World War Two the Soviets had a lot of experience with easy to make, easy to use, inaccurate automatic weapons. Adapting proven SMG technology to an assault rifle would have been easy, and any single weapon adopted by the Soviets in 1947 would have featured the same things.

Indeed, looked at that way its plain that the Soviets, by not copying the Stg44, didn't achieve a better design. It's worse. It's just easy to make and really reliable. But anything they would have adopted would have been.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to suggest that the AK doesn't deserve a spot in notable firearms history. It most certainly does. And I don't even mean to suggest we were always better armed. I think AKs were better suited for combat in Indochina than either the M14 or the M16. But what I do think is that it just isn't what its claimed to be. It was inevitable.

For that reason, I also don't think that Mr. Klashnikov deserve the merchant of death moniker. The Soviets would have spread some assault rifle around the globe in floods no matter what.
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mnhorse
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Pat,
Your posts on this subject are very well thought out and spot on accurate.
A few years ago THE AMERICAN RIFLEMAN published a piece on Mikhail Kalashnikov. It includes a long interview and a bit of photo journalism. I suppose one could dig around on line and find it.

He did not fit the "merchant of death" moniker. He came across as a humble, quiet, unassuming gentleman who wondered what the world thought they saw in him.
Looks to me like he did what his country asked, kept his mouth shut and stayed out of the limelight (which was the thing to during the Soviet Era).
Richard
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Todd
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Looked around some and seems that his reputation was probably much more inflated than it should have been. From info somewhat hidden, the AK-47 was likely the result of the work of captured German arms technicians. Hugo Schmeisser was reputed to be significant, tho looks like the name 'Werner Gruner' pops up with regularity and higher esteem.

Are there any significant resources on the story of post-ww2 soviet arms development that might show more light on the facts, rather than the legends?
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The only real selling point of the Kalashnikov is its ability to fire anything that fits the breech, but those loose tolerances make it inherently inaccurate. Considering that most of its users don’t believe in bathing, it is also unlikely that they believe in maintenance. Once again the AKs loose tolerances make cleaning and lubricating it an avoidable nuisance for the Third and Fourth World countries that carry it.
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Couvi wrote:The only real selling point of the Kalashnikov is its ability to fire anything that fits the breech, but those loose tolerances make it inherently inaccurate. Considering that most of its users don’t believe in bathing, it is also unlikely that they believe in maintenance. Once again the AKs loose tolerances make cleaning and lubricating it an avoidable nuisance for the Third and Fourth World countries that carry it.
There's a recent picture in a National Geographic of a Eritrean coastguardsmen sitting on some sort of deck, in that country, with piles of AKs. They're all visibly badly rusted, but my guess is that they're all functional, that being an example of the attribute that you note.

One sort of attribute I'd note is that the original 7.62x39 cartridge is quite close to the .30-30 in ballistics. It's a decent cartridge at moderate ranges, and lousy at others. Probably a better cartridge in jungle and brush than the 5.56, and thereby contributing to its reputation. For close in jungle fights, its a decent weapon to be sure, but not the last word in assault rifle as sometimes portrayed.

The aspect of potential German involvement in the design, beyond mere influence (which is pretty obvious) is interesting.
Pat

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