Mikhail Kalashnikov, who is credited with inventing the AK-47 rifle — or Automatic Kalashnikov Model 1947 — died Monday in the capital of Udmurtia, Russia after a lengthy battle with illness. He was 94 years old.
Born Nov. 10, 1919 to Russian peasants who were deported to Siberia when he was a child, the future lieutenant general fought in, and then commanded, a tank brigade in World War II, but ended up in a gun shop after a wound took him from the front.
After the war, Kalashnikov and a team entered a state-sponsored contest and invented the rifle, which became the best-selling rifle in history.
And Kalashnikov’s fame rose as well. By the time he passed, he’d been honored twice as a hero of the Soviet Union, once as a hero of the modern Russian Federation, and had served six terms in the Supreme Soviet — a sort of rubber stamp for the Kremlin.
“His role in the rifle’s creation, and the attention showered on him by the Kremlin’s propaganda machine, carried him from conscription in the Red Army to senior positions in the Soviet arms-manufacturing bureaucracy and ultimately to six terms on the Supreme Soviet,” The New York Times reports.
“Mr. Kalashnikov’s biography took on near-mythic proportions, propelled by a Communist media apparatus hungry for peasant heroes,” The Wall Street Journal explains in its obituary.
His rifle is one of the most copied in the world with an estimated 100 million having been produced. The success of the rifle was based on its ease of production and legendary reliability.
In 1987, Kalashnikov said, “Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer. I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery.”
“Might not like the side he worked for, but the man could make guns,” The Daily Caller’s Guns & Gear editor, Mike Piccione, commented.