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Mikhail Kalashnikov: Inventor of AK-47 Dies At 94

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the gone-away dept.

The Military 283

necro81 writes "Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, an arms designer for the Soviet Union, creator of the AK-47, passed away today at age 94. Kalashnikov was born a peasant and entered the Soviet Army as a conscript. However, the self-taught tinkerer had an aptitude that took him far. The AK-47, his best-known creation, was praised for its reliability and low cost; attributes that have made it the most successful firearm ever, seeing use in homeland defense, rebellion, terrorism, and untold massacres. The inventor was himself ambivalent about the uses his creation had seen, but was nevertheless proud of his contribution to his country, where he is praised as a hero."

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283 comments

Unlike the inventor (5, Funny)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#45768505)

You can bury an AK-47 for a long period of time and it'll continue to remain operation after you dig it up.

Re:Unlike the inventor (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 4 months ago | (#45768557)

Have to take your word for it I guess, afterall, the inventor already ceased operation so it is very hard to test. However, there is a lot of evidence to suggest you would have been correct; even if he were still alive.

Re:Unlike the inventor (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 4 months ago | (#45768757)

You can bury an AK-47 for a long period of time and it'll continue to remain operation after you dig it up.

Two words: Zombie Kalashnikov.

Re:Unlike the inventor (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#45769115)

Oh my god!

We've tried burial, burning, freezing, drowning, jamming random things into him AND HE WON'T STAY DEAD! He's like a fuckin' Russian Jason Voorhees!

In celebration (4, Interesting)

mrmeval (662166) | about 4 months ago | (#45768553)

BUILD YOUR OWN!

This is a steampunk variant.
http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/politics-The%20Steampunk%20AK47.html [michaelzwilliamson.com]

Re:In celebration (1)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 4 months ago | (#45768629)

Pretty cool. Pretty cool... But I have to say the project that impressed me the most is where someone made a working AK out of a shovel... Well a shovel, a barrel blank and some pare parts. http://www.northeastshooters.com/vbulletin/threads/179192-DIY-Shovel-AK-photo-tsunami-warning [northeastshooters.com]!

Re:In celebration (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768739)

A barrel blank is pretty much a gun already.
There's nothing whatsover impressive about making a gun out of another similar gun.

Re:In celebration (1)

Noishkel (3464121) | about 4 months ago | (#45769269)

Yyeeaahh... spoken like someone that's never even picked a hand tool. Let along the tools needed to pull this rather involved project.

Honestly the person that made this weapon probably used a barrel plank given that's it's a real PITA to bore a barrel worth anything. And a smooth bore rifle is going to have crap accuracy.

An Eternity of Torment, I ope (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768555)

I am either religious not terribly spiritual, but one can only hope that a man whose invention was responsible for the deaths of so many millions does not go into a peaceful afterlife.

I always think of the Winchester story:
http://science.howstuffworks.com/science-vs-myth/afterlife/winchester-mystery-house.htm

Re:An Eternity of Torment, I ope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768653)

Without his contributions, Malthius would have been proven right decades ago. Even as it is, we may only have another 20-40 years before the collapse.

Re:An Eternity of Torment, I ope (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768755)

i hope you get shot by an ak47

Re:An Eternity of Torment, I ope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769037)

I hope he gets shot in the butt with a 22 and left to die slowly in a dumpster.

Re:An Eternity of Torment, I ope (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768819)

What?!?!?!

When did they develop the capabilities of mobility, self-awareness and self-guidance??

WHY WAS THIS NOT ON THE NEWS!?!?!?!

Shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

You'd do the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769189)

Next time Nazis are invading your country in order to exterminate your friends, feel free to take the moral high ground.

Re:You'd do the same (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45769419)

While your point has merit, I have to point out that the
Nazis had been defeated 5 years before that AK-47 was invented.

Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769529)

The work on the weapon started in 45. The first prototypes were issued in 46.
 
You knowledge of history is poor.

Re:You'd do the same (3, Informative)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#45769537)

Kalashnikov started working on what would become AK in 1944, while in a hospital, where he got after being wounded on the front. The design was complete in 1947 (hence the common but incorrect AK-47 designation), production started in 1948, and it was officially adopted as the new army rifle in 1949.

And it was not like Nazis were the only enemy the Soviet Union had, especially five years after WW2.

Re:An Eternity of Torment, I ope (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45769405)

I am either religious not terribly spiritual, but one can only hope that a man whose invention was responsible for the deaths of so many millions does not go into a peaceful afterlife.

Hold on here. He was a patriot for his country. He developed an arm that could be produced in mass quantities because that is what his government needed at that time. He didn't set out to arm terrorists, just to make an arm for the foot soldier in the USSR, to be used in horrible field conditions by mostly uneducated soldiers.

That his country decided to cover the earth with the weapon and license it's manufacture world wide was none of his doing. You might as well blame the Wright Brothers for the fire bombing of Berlin.

As he said himself:

"I'm proud of my invention, but I'm sad that it is used by terrorists."

"I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work – for example a lawnmower."

On a less humorous note (5, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#45768571)

Politics aside, Kalashnikov was something of a genius. Or at least a commonsense visionary.
He only had access to relatively crude manufacturing processes and a basic idea of what he wanted.
And he managed to turn out a product that is, by any stretch of the imagination, RIDICULOUSLY successful.
Things that'd be considered weaknesses or defects in other weapons systems are some of the very things that are considered strengths in the Kalashnikov rifles.

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

dmbasso (1052166) | about 4 months ago | (#45768631)

Things that'd be considered weaknesses or defects in other weapons systems are some of the very things that are considered strengths in the Kalashnikov rifles.

Can you explain what you mean by that?

Re:On a less humorous note (5, Insightful)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | about 4 months ago | (#45768687)

One good example is relatively sloppy tolerances - In most rifles, these are rather frowned upon, but it's also one of the reasons the AK can go through mud, snow, sand, etc. and keep firing. The loose tolerances keep it from running through hot, cold, lack of oil and cleaning, and other abuses long after most rifles (most certainly including the AR/M-16) have jammed up.

In a general-issue military weapon, reliability is far more important than accuracy, so this tradeoff works well for the AK. It's not something you'd want in a hunting or sniper rifle, but for the intended purpose it works great.

rant from a gun nut (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768913)

It's not something you'd want in a hunting or sniper rifle, but for the intended purpose it works great.

intended purpose - Killing humans on a battlefield.

I'm part of the gun crowd and I just shake my head when my brehtren try to justify owning these things or AR-15/M4s saying they use them for: hunting, target shooting and the worst one - self defence. They're shit for all of those things. They are over priced crap that uses crap rounds: .223 and that funky 7.62 that the AK uses. SHIT unless you need to kill people. There are plenty of semi automatic rifles that are much better suited for civilians - and even military use too but they're too expensive for outfitting an army. The AK and AR are cheaply made shit for military use. The only reason they are so expensive now is because of the demand from stupid people who think Obama is going to ban them.

The only TRUE reason for a civilian to own those things is because you want to own them for the sake of owning them.

Re:rant from a gun nut (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 months ago | (#45769193)

ANY rifle is far superior to the sort of "scatter gun" that idiots from the Blue contingent like to advocate.

Most of the mystique surrounding these weapons is driven by fundemental misunderstandings of how they are used by professionals. Such professionals do not employ them as if they are recreating a scene out of some gangster movie or an A-Team episode.

Rifles are intended to be controlled precision weapons. Their advantage is range and accuracy. This is something that the AK-47 gets knocked for.

Beyond the magazine, "weapons of war" aren't terribly impressive. Some like the M-16 are actually a little underpowered when it comes to larger game.

The hysteria surrounding infantry rifles is mostly driven by willful ignorance.

Re:rant from a gun nut (0)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#45769493)

Some like the M-16 are actually a little underpowered when it comes to larger game.

Larger "Game"?
If you mean something you hunt for food, no one would use an m16 for that. The spoil radius could render an entire hind quarter inedible, and the accuracy of the weapon would suggest the hind quarter is what you would probably hit if you were aiming for a heart shot.

Re:rant from a gun nut (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#45769561)

the accuracy of the weapon would suggest the hind quarter is what you would probably hit if you were aiming for a heart shot.

... what?

Re:rant from a gun nut (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 4 months ago | (#45769581)

Effective combat range for ANY rifle is 100 meters or less. In Vietnam, 'combat range' tended to be under 50 meters.

Re:rant from a gun nut (1)

Z34107 (925136) | about 4 months ago | (#45769207)

So, ARs are universally "cheap." Their ownership needs to be "justified." They're "SHIT unless you need to kill people," which naturally makes them a terrible choice for "self defence." You either don't know what "semi-automatic" means, or you're appallingly ignorant of gun regulations.

What made you think you're "part of the gun crowd," or even qualified to have an opinion? If you actually do own a firearm, you should be ashamed of not knowing the laws you're supposed to be following.

Re:rant from a gun nut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769221)

Your post is the equivalent of someone saying "I'm not racist, but...[horribly racist thing]."

You're not part of the gun crowd. You're what we mockingly call a FUDD.

Re:rant from a gun nut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769347)

It's not something you'd want in a hunting or sniper rifle, but for the intended purpose it works great.

intended purpose - Killing humans on a battlefield.

Consider that Kalashnikov designed this rifle during and immediately after WW2. Are you suggesting that there was something wrong with killing in the invading fascists?

I'm part of the gun crowd and I just shake my head ...

You also seem a poorly informed and somewhat ignorant part. Your views seem quite superficial. Owning a gun does not mean you are an expert on firearms or firearms policy.

... when my brehtren try to justify owning these things or AR-15/M4s saying they use them for: hunting, target shooting and the worst one - self defence. They're shit for all of those things. They are over priced crap that uses crap rounds: .223 and that funky 7.62 that the AK uses. SHIT unless you need to kill people.

Hunting: With a 5-round magazine the AR's are functionally identical to a popular small game rifles. Similar story with the AK but it would be OK for slightly larger animals, say deer or hogs - its .30 cal just like 30'06 and .308.
Target shooting: At the U.S. National Matches competitors with AR's are hitting targets at 500 to 600 yards, with iron sights.
Self defense: Depends on context, in the house, yes any high powered rifle is probably a very bad idea. Now on the farm or ranch when a fox or coyote needs to be taken out it can work quite well.
Crappy rounds: You are confusing the cheap imported rounds with misaligned steel rods in the bullets (costs less than lead, and a poor man's AP round). Buy ammo from a U.S. ammunition manufacturer and you will find both the .223 and 7.62 quite good.

There are plenty of semi automatic rifles that are much better suited for civilians ...

And how are these any different when one puts a 5-round magazine into the AR or AK?

... and even military use too but they're too expensive for outfitting an army. The AK and AR are cheaply made shit for military use. The only reason they are so expensive now is because of the demand from stupid people who think Obama is going to ban them.

AR's, even before the bans that started in the 90s, have been more expensive than nearly all semi-autos designed for the civilian marketplace.

The only TRUE reason for a civilian to own those things is because you want to own them for the sake of owning them.

If you want to shoot iron sights then the AR is a far better choice than nearly anything designed for the civilian marketplace. The later expects a scope to be added and the iron sights are merely a low cost backup. Many target shooting tournaments require iron sights.

Re:rant from a gun nut (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769363)

The only TRUE reason for a civilian to own those things is because you want to own them for the sake of owning them.

I am not a fan of guns at all, but I am a believer in the constitution. I would suggest that the only constitutionally protected reason for a civilian to own a gun should be to be capable of mounting a militia that could defend against a corrupt government. That would clearly include guns like an AK.

The right to bear arms in my opinion has nothing to do with hunting and target shooting...

Re:rant from a gun nut (1)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | about 4 months ago | (#45769549)

Sir (or ma'am), if I had any mod points I would give them to you. I think an argument could be made for a "right to bear arms for food-gathering purposes" (a right to not be reliant on others for food, when you could go hunt it yourself), but the US Constitution specifies as justification of the right to bear arms the equipping of a militia, in order to maintain a free state.

Re:rant from a gun nut (2)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#45769553)

They are over priced crap that uses crap rounds: .223 and that funky 7.62 that the AK uses. SHIT unless you need to kill people.

I would strongly disagree about 7.62x39. It is actually a very fine round for medium-sized game such as deer: in terms of terminal ballistics, it is very similar to .30-30, which is an extremely popular hunting cartridge, but 7.62x39 has superior ballistics and a flatter shooting trajectory. And SKS, chambered in it, is still one of the cheapest rifles on the market, cheaper than most American made bolt actions.

Re:rant from a gun nut (5, Informative)

felrom (2923513) | about 4 months ago | (#45769617)

Try as you might, your attempt to come across as a "gun person" fails miserably.

AR15s make wonderful hunting weapons. Many companies make AR15s with specific features chosen for hunting. Here are a couple:
http://rockriverarms.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=552 [rockriverarms.com]
http://www.dpmsinc.com/KINGS-DEAERT-SHADOW_ep_146-1.html [dpmsinc.com]
Typically they include a flattop upper receiver, a low profile gas block, skeletonized stocks, and a free-float hand guard.

The standard .223 round is more than sufficient for North American animals up to moose-size when using the proper loading: a 75grain BTHP. And many ammunition manufacturers offer .223 loadings specifically for hunting with an AR15. This is one of many fine examples:
http://www.hornady.com/store/223-Rem-75-gr-BTHP-Match/ [hornady.com]

Additionally, anyone with more than a passing knowledge of guns and AR15s would know that the platform does not only come in .223. In the last 5 years there has been a surge in popularity of upper receivers chambered in calibers such as 6.5 Grendal, 6.8 SPC and 300 Blackout. Additionally, the venerable .308 has been an option for AR-style guns for almost 50 years. While not being a necessity for using an AR15 to hunt with, these other optional calibers provide longer range hunting options.

But if you still believe that it's impossible to hunt with an AR15, please, whatever you do, don't tell the hundreds of people who posted pictures of their hunting ARs along with trophies in these two threads:
http://www.ar15.com/forums/t_10_23/605991_Show_us_your_AR15__and_other__deer_kills___and_60___retitled.html&page=1 [ar15.com]
http://www.ar15.com/mobile/topic.html?b=10&f=3&t=618206 [ar15.com]
They would be devastated to find out that what they were doing was impossible.

As far as target shooting goes, the annual National Matches, held at Camp Perry, Ohio every summer since 1907, and widely seen as the Olympics of the shooting sports world, uses.... you guessed it: AR15s. And it's not hard to understand why: they're light weight, ergonomic, light recoiling, and cheap to train with (compared to other competition rifles).

And your claim that an AR15 is worse at self defense than all other things you think it's bad at.... get real! Nearly every SWAT team in the US, and NATO-allied special forces group in the world has moved to the AR platform, and those guys have the money and latitude to choose anything they want. After a brief love affair with various pistol-caliber carbines and bullpups in the late 90's and early 00's, they have almost all gone to the AR15.

There are plenty of semi automatic rifles that are much better suited for civilians - and even military use too but they're too expensive for outfitting an army.

The US Army could replace all of its rifles for the cost of about a dozen F-35s. Cost is not an issue that would hold the army back if there were a better rifle available.

The only reason they are so expensive now is because of the demand from stupid people who think Obama is going to ban them.

AR15s are cheaper today than they have ever been. There are over 100 companies in the US producing them, and a nice mid-grade AR can be had for under $600 today.

The next time you want to appear to be an expert on guns, and then denounce the most popular, most capable, most flexible gun ever made, for reasons that don't stand up to even casual examination, stick to the comment sections at Mother Jones or DU, where at least people like me will be banned for dissenting instead of being able to set things straight. Never thought I'd see Mobys on /.

Re:rant from a gun nut (1)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | about 4 months ago | (#45769627)

If you think 7.62x39 is "funky" you're not part of the "gun crowd." If you think 7.62x39 is a "crap round" you're also not part of the "gun crowd." It's a versatile round that's been around a long time, and packs enough power to take down a dear or something without having quite the weight or shoulder-killing punch of a .308 (7.62x51) or the older Russian 7.62x54R. I think you'll find quite a few people using an SKS chambered in 7.62x39 as a deer rifle, in places where it's legal to do so. As far as cheaply made, the base model AKs (such as WASR-10), yes. Some of the better ARs on the market are anything but "cheaply made shit," however. Also, the prices now are not significantly higher than when Bush was in office... prices spiked for a few months a year ago, but they're back to about where they've always been, maybe even a little lower.

The true reason for a civilian to own "those things" is because they love freedom, and a balance of power between a government and its citizenry is the only way to ensure the continuation of freedom (hence the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution).

Re:On a less humorous note (4, Informative)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 4 months ago | (#45768699)

Things that'd be considered weaknesses or defects in other weapons systems are some of the very things that are considered strengths in the Kalashnikov rifles.

Can you explain what you mean by that?

Cheap, stamped metal parts with loose tolerances that create inaccuracy at range, but allow for much rougher handling of the firearm as well as a higher tolerance for a lack of maintenance. Fill it with sand, water, or mud and it will still fire. To quote Lord of War (I love that opening sequence) "A weapon so simple a child could use it, and they often do". Essentially it is the perfect weapon for what it is: a firearm that untrained, uneducated civilians can pick up and fire (think of it in context of World War II, where Red Army training was not exactly the world's best).

Re:On a less humorous note (3, Informative)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about 4 months ago | (#45768983)

tolerances that create inaccuracy at range

Frankly, I was impressed with the AK's accuracy at ~50yds for such a short barrel (I was probably shooting a milled version). A 4" group at 100 yds is still plenty deadly [wikipedia.org]. AK-47's are capable of shooting 3-5 inch groups at 100 yards, whereas the stamped AKMs are capable of shooting 4-6 inch groups at 100 yards

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 4 months ago | (#45769397)

Speaking as a rifle owner, it's as much, if not more, down to the skill of the shooter than the quality of the firearm.

I cut my teeth on a .223 semi, and upgraded to a Browning Safari Mk. II .308 Winchester. Best move I ever made in powdercharge. Making the move to air was the second best move I ever made. Ammo is lighter, there's zero flash, and the discharge is a LOT quieter and comes with a LOT less kick. OK the ammo being lighter means that it might not cut it when war be declared, but damn, I can drop a rabbit at 200 yards on a clear day with no wind. Stalking across a field with something that reports quieter than a camera shutter plate means I rarely if ever have to push out to that kind of range anyway; 40-60 is about average and I've missed probably twice for over a thousand kills.

Re:On a less humorous note (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 4 months ago | (#45768741)

Loose tolerances of internal parts, usually only specified if manufacturing is really crappy. However Kalashnikov did this on purpose -- even though Russia had decent manufacturing capabilities -- knowing that this will lead to much greater reliability in the presence of dirt. American guns such as AR-15s are built to much more precise tolerances, and while they are more accurate than the AK, they are much less tolerant of sand/dirt/grime/powder residue. The AK's reliability is legendary.

Re:On a less humorous note (4, Informative)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 4 months ago | (#45769083)

Loose tolerances of internal parts, usually only specified if manufacturing is really crappy. However Kalashnikov did this on purpose -- even though Russia had decent manufacturing capabilities -- knowing that this will lead to much greater reliability in the presence of dirt. American guns such as AR-15s are built to much more precise tolerances, and while they are more accurate than the AK, they are much less tolerant of sand/dirt/grime/powder residue. The AK's reliability is legendary.

You can usually get a 2 to 3 inch group at 150 meters with an AK and some training in its use. You'll get a 2 inch or less group with an M16/AR15 with the same amount of training. The big selling point of the AK is, only 8 moving parts. And yeah, the tolerances are sloppy as hell compared to the highly machined AR15, which has more moving parts. Less moving parts means less things can go wrong. Looser tolerances means it won't jam up when it gets dirty, and while regular cleaning is a Good Thing to keep it from wearing out, lack of cleaning WON'T stop it dead in its tracks like an AR15. They're ridiculously easy to make, easy to repair in the field, and they keep on shooting. Kalashnikov was a genius.

Re:On a less humorous note (5, Informative)

gman003 (1693318) | about 4 months ago | (#45769349)

Precisely! Kalashnikov realized (or at least correctly guessed) that accuracy is less important than reliability. US Army studies have shown that most engagements are within 50m, and that the primary determinant in victory is "number of bullets fired". This was part of their justification for moving from the M14 (essentially a magazine-fed M1 Garand with a useless full-auto hacked on) to the M16 - less power at range, less ability to kill in one shot, but capable of firing 30 rounds at automatic in a somewhat-controlled manner, rather than the "two round burst before it turns into an anti-aircraft gun" of the M14.

The AK47 did it earlier, and arguably better, because it made more tradeoffs. The M16 was a good weapon in the lab, but early models in particular failed in the field (even today jams are extremely common after decades of improvement). Too bad for them, almost zero battles have taken place in military laboratories.

The AK47 scored worse on any "benchmark" (for lack of a better term). Less accurate, slower firing, heavier, and so on. But because it's basically the most reliable (and cheap) assault rifle ever made, it's the weapon (or at least weapon design) of choice for almost everyone not wed to the NATO military-industrial complex. Even then, there's a reason there's AK-style weapons chambered in 5.56mm NATO. It's almost become the Linux of the assault-rifle world - you've got variants from the simple (the AK-74, the RPK, the Galil or the dozens of bullpup variants) to the crazy (the Saiga-12 shotgun, various Russian suppressed rifles, even a sniper rifle).

Was Mikhail Kalashnikov a genius? I don't think so, because nothing about it was itself revolutionary, but he was a damn good engineer because he knew what the users actually needed and gave it to them, rather than letting marketing decide on which features to produce.

Like "approximate computing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769159)

Loose tolerances of internal parts, usually only specified if manufacturing is really crappy. However Kalashnikov did this on purpose -- even though Russia had decent manufacturing capabilities -- knowing that this will lead to much greater reliability in the presence of dirt. American guns such as AR-15s are built to much more precise tolerances, and while they are more accurate than the AK, they are much less tolerant of sand/dirt/grime/powder residue. The AK's reliability is legendary.

And now geeks are applying that underlying principle to computers with "approximate computing". http://classic.slashdot.org/story/13/12/18/2027239 [slashdot.org]

Re:On a less humorous note (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768769)

loser tolerances for stuff... that's pretty much it.

Re:On a less humorous note (2)

Deadstick (535032) | about 4 months ago | (#45768873)

The Kalashnikov is designed to loose manufacturing tolerances, instead of precision fits. That results in some loss of accuracy, which isn't a big problem because military small arms are seldom used for precision fire anyway...in return, it's easy to clean; it continues to work with an impressive amount of dirt and corrosion; and it's easy for a very lightly trained soldier to operate. It's also very cheap to manufacture.

In other words, the ideal product for cashing in on Third World conflicts.

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | about 4 months ago | (#45769235)

The Kalashnikov is designed to loose manufacturing tolerances, instead of precision fits. That results in some loss of accuracy, which isn't a big problem because military small arms are seldom used for precision fire anyway...in return, it's easy to clean; it continues to work with an impressive amount of dirt and corrosion; and it's easy for a very lightly trained soldier to operate. It's also very cheap to manufacture.

In other words, the ideal product for cashing in on Third World conflicts.

Back in The Day, Soviet designers usually came up with two designs for any particular weapon system, the full tilt all the bells & whistles version and the stripped down idiot-proof 'export version' that they'd flood the Third World with. They'd make the damned thing work to prove the concept, THEN they'd rework it so it would stand up to indifferent maintanance at the hands of some Khazak mechanic without falling to pieces. A MiG, for example, would be made of cold rolled steel rather than spendy titanium or aluminum alloys, with what looked like primitive avionics and electronics. Vacuum tubes in a fighter jet sounds like a Rube Goldberg solution, but when you think about it, unshielded semiconductors go south in an EMP when somebody lights off a nuke. Vacuum tubes won't, just power cycle them and you're back in business. Who cares if your targetting radar can only engage two targets at once when the other side's highly automated fighter jets are falling like rocks from the EMP of a massive fucking nuke 30 miles away? Especially when you can afford to fly 5 or 6 jets to each one of theirs due to manufacturing costs, and only 10% of your airfleet is down for maintanance compared to 35-40% of the high tech fighters. It only looked like they bought them at Walmart for a quick throwaway plane, but they could afford to make them dirt cheap and keep them flying. Can't say that about the new American fighter jet that has yet to even take to the air after over a decade now, can you? Those old Russki engineers were not stupid.

Re:On a less humorous note (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768979)

Things that'd be considered weaknesses or defects in other weapons systems are some of the very things that are considered strengths in the Kalashnikov rifles.

Can you explain what you mean by that?

Loose fitting parts. Traditional designs would find that abhorrent, it reduces accuracy. Kalashnikov thought reliability more important than long range accuracy. Nearly all WW2 combat was at relatively close range, 100m or less. So when faced with tradeoffs that meant his rifle would have only 200-300m accuracy rather than the traditional 500m+ he didn't worry. The loose fitting parts meant that dirt and debris were less likely to cause jamming, that troops could simply wipe parts with rags and not be dependent on cleaning supplies and proper lubricants.

Re: On a less humorous note (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768689)

He had access to an entire design team and state of the art manufacturing processes. He wasn't working in a garden shed.

Re: On a less humorous note (1)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 months ago | (#45769213)

No. What he had access to was a Nazi rifle he could easily copy.

Re: On a less humorous note (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | about 4 months ago | (#45769605)

If you know anything about AK and StG, you know that AK is not a copy of StG in any meaningful sense. AK locks the bolt by rotating it, StG does so by tilting it - and the way bolt is locked is considered one of the basic defining features of a given small arms system. They are both long-stroke piston, but it was Garand that popularized that, not StG. Magazines are curved the way they are in both because they both use rounds with a strong taper.

If you want to look for an actual StG derivative, that would be FAL.

Re:On a less humorous note (3, Interesting)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 4 months ago | (#45768735)

Politics aside, Kalashnikov was something of a genius. Or at least a commonsense visionary.
He only had access to relatively crude manufacturing processes and a basic idea of what he wanted.
And he managed to turn out a product that is, by any stretch of the imagination, RIDICULOUSLY successful.
Things that'd be considered weaknesses or defects in other weapons systems are some of the very things that are considered strengths in the Kalashnikov rifles.

My favourite AK-47 related escapade ever, forge an AK-47 receiver out of an old shovel:
http://www.northeastshooters.com/vbulletin/threads/179192-DIY-Shovel-AK-photo-tsunami-warning [northeastshooters.com]!

Challenge: Do the same with a Colt M4 (and yes, it has to fire)

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

Justpin (2974855) | about 4 months ago | (#45768813)

But have you seen other countries efforts? The UK spend thousands on a crappy rifle called the SA80, which was a copy of the AR18, the prototype even used ar15 parts. We then spent yet more thousands upgrading it to SA80A2 standards, would have been cheaper to get AKM or a 5.65 varient.

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 4 months ago | (#45769519)

I was issued one of those. Handed the piece of shit back, said I wanted my BAR.

Re:On a less humorous note (2)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 months ago | (#45768825)

He only had access to relatively crude manufacturing processes and a basic idea of what he wanted.

Oh, he knew exactly what he wanted: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/StG_44 [wikipedia.org]

The Germans didn't file an Intellectual Property lawsuit, for obvious reasons.

Re: On a less humorous note (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 4 months ago | (#45769109)

The only similarities is that the look roughly the same and both fire intermediate rounds. The article you link even mentions that mechanically they are very different.

Re: On a less humorous note (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#45769335)

The only similarities is that the look roughly the same and both fire intermediate rounds. The article you link even mentions that mechanically they are very different.

The similarity you missed is that they perform about the same - the StG-44 was the first "assault rifle", the AK was intended to do what the StG did, never mind the differences in how the AK did it compared to the StG.

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | about 4 months ago | (#45769137)

It's an old myth, actually. The STG-44 is more similar to the VZ-58 rifle that the Czechs used. And yes, VZ-58 and AK47 are very different despite the apperances.

But to clarify the original topic: the similarities end when you put the two weapons apart (even putting apart is different). The locking systems between the AK and the StG44 are completely two different designs. The StG44 has a modular trigger pack design whereas the AK does not. The original AK47 had a machined receiver (although early prototypes were stamped, the Russians abandon the stamped receiver until later models of the AK were developed). The StG44 is completely stamped. Oh, and the receiver's construction is different. Also, the AK uses a rotating bolt and the Stg44 a tilting bolt.

They do use a similar gas system (long-stroke), but neither the AK or the StG44 pioneered this method of operation. They both use pistol grip stocks... but again, this wasn't a completely new concept. The "banana" magazines look similar, but that's just a convenient method of storing ammo due to the natural curvature of these rounds when stacked in a magazine.

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about 4 months ago | (#45769433)

There is a good German documentary about Kalashnikov, that I need to watch again, titled "Automat Kalaschnikow": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0254151/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2 [imdb.com]

I guess all the technical details you mentioned are probably in there. The film is really interesting to watch because it has interviews with the man himself. He comes across as a quite humorous fellow. When they it is announced during the filming that his pension has just been increased, he says, "Bring out the vodka!"

Re:On a less humorous note (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | about 4 months ago | (#45769201)

Guns don't kill people children behind the gun kill people.

The AK matches the philosophy of it's designers country and the majority of those that adopted it: don't waste money on rifles when people themselves are cheap. Its crude but if you are training a bunch of troops for a warlord via a magazine of ammo and a few targets in a desert you don't exactly need the best tech because you aren't going to be getting the best troops either. Good enough that a idiot won't break it then lots of idiots that is the key to success.

PRAISE?!? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768599)

For inventing the most used murdering tool?!?

The number of (approximate) dead and permanently maimed by that gun should be put on his grave. The family ought to be ashamed of him!

Re:PRAISE?!? (2)

FuegoFuerte (247200) | about 4 months ago | (#45768715)

By your logic, perhaps the inventors of black powder and smokeless powder should be castigated as well? After all, without bullets the AK would simply be another bludgeoning tool. Or how about whoever created the humble machete, which has been used in countless massacres across Africa?

Re:PRAISE?!? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 4 months ago | (#45769125)

The AK-47's only purpose is to assist in killing people so it certainly raises the question whether designing something like that is ethical or not. But I guess someone could also make the counter-argument that if a gun is used for only defense purposes, it might avoid even more violence being happening. I dunno.

Re:PRAISE?!? (1)

savuporo (658486) | about 4 months ago | (#45769421)

The only purpose of Little Boy was identical to AK-47s single purpose, or Sarin for that matter. If designing one was ethical, then the other one was as well.

Re:PRAISE?!? (4, Insightful)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 4 months ago | (#45768719)

So should the number of despotic regimes overthrown with it. And the number of people died in car crashes should be on Henry Ford's tombstone.

Things can be used for good and bad. Don't just focus on what you perceive as bad.

Re:PRAISE?!? (4, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | about 4 months ago | (#45768903)

You can kill people with a Ford, but it wasn't designed for it- intentionally running people down in a car is something the designer would be horrified at. The AK-47 was designed exclusively for killing people- it has no other serious use; the designer intended to make the best killing implement possible, with the intention of killing as many "people my nation doesn't like" as possible, as efficiently as possible. There's a big ethical difference.

I'm only saying this in fairness to the OP- I'm not really naive enough to make an argument against weapon designers in that way. But I am serious that it is a legitimate ethical choice. I can't see myself working in weapons design, because the ethical consequences of my actions would bother me.

In a way, it's an argument related to the old debunked Nazi death camp soldier "just following orders" defence (albeit it much less extreme). If every talented engineer refused to be involved with weapon design, weapons would be considerably less effective that they are today. Therefore, every talented engineer who gets involved in weapon design has to take personal responsibility for what they're enabling.

Re:PRAISE?!? (5, Insightful)

Nerdfest (867930) | about 4 months ago | (#45768955)

It was designed to kill soldiers of a technologically superior and well trained army who were invading the designer's country. Personally, I think he should get at least a little slack because of that.

Re:PRAISE?!? (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 4 months ago | (#45769065)

Interesting you choose Ford as an example. Ford made its own share of death-dealing devices during WWII.

The Kalashnikov was born out of the USSR's life and death struggle with the German Reich. Don't see why anybody would have a problem with the designer.

Re:PRAISE?!? (1)

surd1618 (1878068) | about 4 months ago | (#45769157)

It's also used for:
intimidating leaders,
intimidating civilians,
morale,
patroling,
generally letting others know you belong to an armed cadre.
I would argue that these are all very important uses for AKs.

Re:PRAISE?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769209)

>If every talented engineer refused to be involved with weapon design, weapons would be considerably less effective that they are today.

If nobody ever fought, the world would be more pleasant! And the advantage goes to the first person who wants to kill for power.

>Therefore, every talented engineer who gets involved in weapon design has to take personal responsibility for what they're enabling.

Kalashnikov slept very well at night.

Re:PRAISE?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769299)

Bullshit.

It is a not-half-bad hunting weapon (though there are better, certainly,) is quite a joy to try target shooting with, and I could make the argument that its' bad ass looks may contribute some deterrent factor to violence. (Even though if one owns any kind of weapon or something that can be used as one, one should never have it as deterrence alone - one must be prepared to use it.)

But by your logic, every engineer *everywhere* should therefore take personal responsibility for, "what they're enabling."

Should the software engineers behind EnronOnline be held responsible for the Enron collapse?
Should we hold every Ford engineer responsible for working for the company that designed the Pinto?
How about Alfred Nobel?
Do we hold civil engineers who meter traffic lights responsible for world pollution?

Get over it.

Yes, praise ... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768737)

For inventing the most used murdering tool?!?

It was developed during and immediately after WW2. He created a tool for his fellow soldiers to defend their country, lands and friends and families.

How politicians and criminals MISUSE a tool is not the responsibility of a soldier/designer who does not want to go into battle again with inferior weapons.

Politically Incorrect (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768815)

Your post is politically incorrect. It will offend Slashdotters and be modded down. Around here, the gun is only to be praised. Hallelujah!

Re:PRAISE?!? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768857)

What?!?!?!

When did they develop the capabilities of mobility, self-awareness and self-guidance??

WHY WAS THIS NOT ON THE NEWS!?!?!?!

Shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

Re:PRAISE?!? (1)

trongey (21550) | about 4 months ago | (#45769215)

For inventing the most used murdering tool?!?

Are you sure about that? I know reliable numbers would be hard to get, but I suspect that swords and arrows still hold a bit of a lead. The did have several thousand years head start after all.

Re:PRAISE?!? (1)

TuringCheck (1989202) | about 4 months ago | (#45769337)

The AK-47 is designed to win wars, not specifically to kill people. Read some Sun Tzu. With the normal military ammo (not the East German one) if the bullet doesn't hit a vital organ and with medical assistance there are very good chances of a full recovery. Can't say the same about many other firearms.

A Sad Day. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768625)

I absolutely loved him in Opus 19: The Dreamer while at the New York City Ballet. What a talent.

Re:A Sad Day. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768747)

LOL! Too bady I don't have mod points, but thank you for the laugh.

98-million gun salute... (4, Funny)

swschrad (312009) | about 4 months ago | (#45768651)

bringing down 72 helicopters, ten planes, and falling lead took out 200 weddings.

Kalashnikov's Legacy (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768797)

"Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer ... I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery."
--Mikhail Kalashnikov

If not for the Nazis, he might have invented an inexpensive, reliable machine that helps feed people around the world. Russia in particular seems to frequently have issues with wheat due to drought and/or wildfires, and this has an impact on global food prices. But coming from a rural area he might never have been exposed to the resources needed to achieve his inventions. He might not have been in a position where anyone with those resources would take him seriously. Sometimes bad things happen and deflect our lives in directions other than those we intended, but sometimes that results in putting us right where we need to be. His conscription exposed him to complex machines he might never have worked with otherwise. His war wounds landed him in the hospital where he overheard others talking about what was wrong with the existing Russian rifles. His hospital stay gave him time away from his job as a tank commander to work on his designs. His first attempts at small arms design were rejected, but they got him noticed, and got him transferred out of the tank division to work on rifle design.

I saw a bumper sticker on the freeway the other day that read: "Remember who you wanted to be." Kalashnikov was haunted by the fact that his design had become a symbol of war and terrorism, but the real tragedy of Kalashnikov's life is that AFAIK he never used his success in his unintended profession to go back and do what he really wanted.

Re:Kalashnikov's Legacy (2)

jedidiah (1196) | about 4 months ago | (#45769243)

He lived in the Soviet Union. He either did what he was told or he would be sent to a Gulag. He could have been sent to a Gulag anyways.

Short of defecting, he really didn't have much say in his own destiny.

so shame! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768803)

Shame he died, his invention saved so many lives all over the world :D

Robustness versus elegance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768807)

Some time ago, I watched a documentary that included parts of an interview with him and was greatly impressed by his design principle [youtube.com] of favoring "slop" over designs requiring tight tolerances, which yielded high robustness and reliability. One might think of it as the mechanical analogue of Postel's principle [wikipedia.org] but pre-dating it by many years. I think of his words whenever I see my smartphone crashing or other software failures and try to prefer robustness to excessive elegance myself when designing systems.

Rest in peace, fellow engineer.

Number 1 choice of american car dealers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45768899)

In Texas when you buy new car it comes with brand new AK-47. So typical Texas way of promoting violence.

Karma Denied (-1)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 4 months ago | (#45769247)

It would have been far better had he been plugged by his own killing machine.

If there has ever been an antithesis to the Nobel Peace Prize, the AK-47* is it.


* given that it has a far larger body count than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

Re:Karma Denied (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | about 4 months ago | (#45769391)

Wow. Just wow. So the fact that he wanted to have the means to arm his own countryfolk with a cheap and reliable weapon after watching the sieges and slaughters that happened to the Soviets during WWII makes him a monster?

I wonder what you would do if you lived through that... throw your hands up and wait to be cut down with a Nazi machine gun?

I wonder if you blame people like Tim Berners-Lee for child pornography?

Re:Karma Denied (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 4 months ago | (#45769485)

Ok, so, not to bring up the old bathtub trope, but I suspect there are a lot of objects that have been responsible for more deaths than hiroshima and nagasaki combined. This reminds me of the "number of minutes to skeletonize a cow" metric that Gary Larson found so curious.

Re:Karma Denied (2)

ihtoit (3393327) | about 4 months ago | (#45769571)

ironic that the Nobel Peace Prize is named for the inventor of dynamite. Another thing that is used to great effect in killing people.

But hey, don't let that stop your rant. Carry on.

Actually MP42 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#45769381)

The AK-47 is basically a ripped off MP42 which was invented and manufactured by Germany during WW2. Kalashnikov didn't invent anything.

At the funeral... (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about 4 months ago | (#45769403)

I hear that, instead of the usual 21 gun salute, the crowd will just fire in the air on full automatic.

Too soon?

there was no AK47! (2)

Simon Grushka (3472701) | about 4 months ago | (#45769607)

There was never an assault riffle called "AK 47". There was only "AK" ( ). The suffix "47" (having nothing to do with either invention, or introduction to the red army) was given to it later on, when AK-74 (and that's their proper name) were introduced- they were, most significantly, using the smaller caliber ammo (5.45 mm vs 7.62 used by the older generation). And no, so callled "AK47" wasn't really good riffle- heavy, with a crap accuracy. It was (relatively) quickly replaced by AKM and AKMS.
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