MOSCOW (AP) — Mikhail Kalashnikov started out wanting to make farm equipment, but the harvest he reaped was one of blood as the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle, the world’s most popular firearm.
It was the carnage of World War, when Nazi Germany overran much of the Soviet Union, which altered his course and made his name as well-known for bloodshed as Smith, Wesson and Colt.
Kalashnikov died yesterday at age 94 in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic’s president.
Kalashnikov often said he felt personally untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.
“I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,” he said in 2007.
The AK-47 — “Avtomat Kalashnikov” and the year it went into production — is the world’s most popular firearm, favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide. Though it isn’t especially accurate, its ruggedness and simplicity are exemplary: it performs in sandy or wet conditions which jam more sophisticated weapons such as the U.S. M-16.
“During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers,” Kalashnikov said in 2007 at a ceremony marking the rifle’s 60th anniversary.
Kalashnikov, born into a peasant family in Siberia, began his working life as a railroad clerk. After he joined the Red Army in 1938, he began to show mechanical flair by inventing several modifications for Soviet tanks.