Mikhail Kalashnikov : biography
His winning entry, the "Mikhtim" (so named by taking the first letters of his name and patronymic, Mikhail Timofeyevich) became the prototype for the development of a family of prototype rifles. This process culminated in 1947, when he designed the AK-47 (standing for Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947). In 1949, the AK-47 became the standard issue assault rifle of the Soviet Army and went on to become Kalashnikov’s most famous invention. While developing his first assault rifles, Kalashnikov competed with two much more experienced weapon designers, Vasily Degtyaryov and Georgy Shpagin, who both accepted the superiority of the AK-47. Kalashnikov named Alexandr Zaitsev and Vladimir Deikin as his major collaborators during those years.
- "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 lawn mower."
- "Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer … I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery."
- "I created a weapon to defend the borders of my motherland. It’s not my fault that it’s being used where it shouldn’t be. The politicians are more to blame for this."
- "When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, ‘All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed’ … So this has been my lifetime motto – I have been creating weapons to defend the borders of my fatherland, to be simple and reliable."Dmitry Solovyov (26 October 2009) . Reuters
Since 1949, Mikhail Kalashnikov has lived and worked in Izhevsk, Udmurtia. He holds a degree of Doctor of Technical Sciences (1971) and is a member of 16 academies.
Over the course of his career he evolved the basic design into a weapons family. The AKM ( – Kalashnikov modernized assault rifle), first appeared in 1963, was lighter and cheaper to manufacture owing to the use of a stamped steel receiver (in place of the AK47’s milled steel receiver), and contained detail improvements such as a re-shaped stock and muzzle compensator. From the AKM he developed a squad automatic weapon variant, known as the RPK ( – Kalashnikov light machine gun), and the PK ( – Kalashnikov machine gun), which used the more powerful 7.62×54R cartridge of the Mosin-Nagant rifle. The PK series is a general-purpose machine gun. It is cartridge belt-fed, not magazine-fed, as it is intended to provide heavy sustained fire from a tripod mount, or be used as a light, bipod-mounted weapon. The common characteristics of all these weapons are simple design, ruggedness and ease of maintenance in all operating conditions.
Approximately 100 million AK-47 assault rifles have been produced by 2009, and about half of them are counterfeit, manufactured at a rate of about a million per year. Izhmash, the official manufacturer of AK-47 in Russia, has patented the weapon only in 1997, and in 2006 accounted for only 10% of the world’s production. Kalashnikov himself claims he has always been motivated by service to his country rather than money, and has no direct profit from weapon production. He does however own 30% of a German company Marken Marketing International (MMI) run by his grandson Igor. The company revamps trademarks and produces merchandise carrying the Kalashnikov name, such as vodka, umbrellas and knives. One of the items is a knife named for the AK-74.
During his career, Kalashnikov designed about 150 models of small weapons. The most famous of them are
- AK-74 / AKS-74U / AK-74M
- AK-101 / AK-102
- AK-103 / AK-104
- RPK / RPK-74
- PK / PKM
- Saiga semi-automatic rifle
- Dragunov SVD
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