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Today, on the 12/23/2013, Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the legendary AK-47 assault rifle, has passed away.
With over 75 million AK-type assault rifles (not to mention the LMGs, shotguns, SMGs, snipers...) made worldwide, nobody can doubt the impact it had and still has:
From the humid jungles of Vietnam in the 60s up to the turbulent events of this week in South Sudan, every major conflict since the 60s has seen whole armies, militias and ordinary citizens armed with the symbol of fear.
The father of this true killing machine had the idea of his life while recovering from the battle of Bryanzk in a hospital in 1941. A fellow comrade had complained about the issues his weapon had. So what he did, was to start a new design for a lightweight, simple, user-friendly and automatic firearm.
Production of the weapon started in 1947/48, being issued first to special-forces and elite units in eastern Europe. It's value was completely underestimated by NATO-intelligence.
The AK's counterpart, the american AR-15, is a very different type of assault rifle: Made for accurate fire with a small but fast catridge, it has reached a total number of 8 million rifles worldwide, but still far away from the AK's success.
While the soldiers carrying these weapons met in hostile circumstances, the firearms designers met in friendly atmosphere:
In 1990, he met with the AR-15' inventor: Eugene Stoner. They immeadiately became best friends, firing and testing each others weapon with great mutual respect.
While Stoner was paid a royalty of almost 1$ per M16, Kalashnikov lived in... well, poverty.
In the US, nobody knows who the rich man Eugene Stoner was, but in the ex-USSR, every child knows what a "Kalashnikova" is, and who Mikhail Kalashnikov was.
Be it a pacifist, gun-control-lobbyist, ordinary worker or a soldier that has witnessed the AK from the other end, all must agree: Kalashnikov deserves great respect.He could've never known in that hospital in 1941 what his invention would one day make.