Rest In Peace General Kalashnikov

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Russian media have announced that Lieutenant General (Ret.) Mikhail Timofeyevich Kalashnikov, 94, passed away on 23 December after a prolonged illness.

Kalashnikov was a great man, a technical genius, who designed a reliable and cheap gun for the masses, a design which is as important today as it was back in the 1940s. He, along with Eugene stoner, were the most influential and well known firearm designers born in the 20th century.

He will be remembered for a long time. Modern firearms have not been around long enough to gauge exactly how long a great gun designer will remain in the public conciseness. Paul Mauser (Mauser) was born 176 years ago, Harris Holland (Holland & Holland) was born 208 years ago and James Purdy (Purdy) was born 230 years ago. Kalashnikov will be remembered a lot longer than them. None of their guns became a political symbol, finding their way onto currency and national flags. Four months ago the company that he dedicated his life to, Izhmash, was renamed the Kalashnikov Group in his honor.

According to Wikipedia, Kalashnikov is survived by three of his four children. His only son, Victor Kalashnikov, is a prominent gun designer who lead the team that developed the  PP-19 Bizon submachine gun.

 




Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Sable

    I, for one, will be toasting his memory with vodka tonight.

    • Tom

      I just got done clinking my glass against my ’74. Rest in peace, Kalashnikov.

  • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

    In a 1990s interview, he claimed his gun and Schmeisser’s mp43/44 had nothing in common at all, then around 2002-2003 he said he drew “a little bit of inspiration” from it. Then in 2009 he admitted to working alongside Schmeisser. If you’re familiar with how the USSR did things, then it all makes sense. They put this “common soldier” on a pedestal as an example of how great and excellent communism is. When in fact he may for all we know have been Schmeisser’s errand boy. He never spoke like a humble respectable engineer in my opinion, which is why I always thought what is attributed to him is questionable. An influential man nonetheless.

    • Дмитрий Богуславский

      It gets more clear when reading his book, or the book of his collegue, who himself an engineer, was working in his group on the PK machine gun. Also – if you had even a simple course of mechanics – those systems are different. Complete story of AK,AKM,AK-74 and a bit of AN-94 is covered in the book of A.Malimon. It’s available online, but unfortunately only in russian. And I never heard that anabody tried to translate it.

      • dp

        Zdravstvuj Dmitrij!
        At this occasion I want you, as to a compatriot of Mr. Kalashnikov, in his memory to express my respect and admiration. There is lots of fairy-telling about his destiny, ways and achievements, as is common in western way of thinking. Not much of it is actually true, as you know. Russian character is difficult to understand here.
        In connection and in accordance with what you say (since I can read Russian) I can confirm – MK and HS did not work together and there is no reason to mix these two. Fair to say that HS was a capable man in his own right, but he was not happy to live and to work in Russia – this being a predicament to successful outcome.

        • mikee

          “In connection and in accordance with what you say (since I can read Russian) I can confirm – MK and HS did not work together and there is no reason to mix these two.”
          The documentation coming from Russia seems to indicate that Hugo Schmeiser allegedly inluenced the production and development of the AK weapons systems especially where stamping manufacturing technology was concerned. Hugo Schmeiser never completed his work as his health was deteriorating and he was allowed to go back to Germany where he died soon afterwards. Early Russian attempts using stamping technology for small arms manufacturing had considerable issues regarding metallurgy and parts tollerances which handicapped the successful introduction of the AK weapons platform. The reliability and the utility issues of the AK weapons systems were not fully resolved until the redesigned AKM design was approved in the late 1950’s.

          • dp

            it is hard to tell for sure what happened. For sure designers were under multiple influences, just as they are today. It is also well known that Russian war industry was producing weapons using mass production techniques such as sheet metal stampings and not just on firearms. Besides, they purchased between wars several licences of American (Wright) and German (BMW) aircraft engines, so apparently they were technically up to snuff.
            As far as H.S’s place in Russian industry, it was probably more of ‘on forced assignment’ more than anything else. It cannot be called “slaved labour” per se since he was paid, but still, he was essentially prisoner of war. His motivations to be of use are therefore questionable. He must have been at least partly in distress; when he was allowed to return home, he died about year after.
            It is also a fact that soviet industries were often well staffed by ethnic Germans (many of then were aircraft armaments designers) who traced their roots to times of Empress Ekaterina (Katherine the Great, German princess) so there was good knowledge of German language among trade professionals.

        • dp

          Relevant reading from source: http://rt.com/news/kalashnikov-dies-inventor-ak-47-887/
          BTW, MTK spent good part of war in Kazakh S S Republic where he worked in armaments testing and research facility. His first major invention was engine-service hours counter for tanks.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            If I remember correctly, this was also mentioned in C.J. Chivers’ outstanding work, “The Gun”.

        • Дмитрий Богуславский

          So – if didn’t read this one. I can only advise to do it =)

          Upon today, that’s the best and most detailed book of russian (soviet) small arms history. http://www.xliby.ru/istorija/otechestvennye_avtomaty_zapiski_ispytatelja_oruzheinika/p1.php

          As I mentioned before AK,AKM,AK-74 are covered ok, and just a few pages regarding AN-94. Author, himself an engineer and army oficer, was quite old when Abakan trials were conducted.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            It’s a very good website—thanks!

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            I second Phil’s comment wholeheartedly — many thanks!

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

        I’ve used Google translate with some degree of success.

        • Дмитрий Богуславский

          not the best way to translate a book with some technical info)

    • Steve (TFB Editor)

      Maybe, maybe not. We will never know. No more than we know how much Edison or Browning developed directly, and how much was developed by teams they led.

      In 2009 he was 89/90 years old. He was ill advised in his later years and allowed to publish many rants in his late 80 and early 90s, probably because it suited the management at Izhmash.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

        Indeed. Fun to speculate though. It is worth noting however that Russian experts admit it is hard to determine Hugo Schmeisser’s contribution to the design and development of the AK-47 assault rifle because all official documents pertaining to his time working alongside Kalashnikov as a gun designer are still classified (suspicion increases).
        In 1945 the USSR made 50 StG44s from parts and confiscated 10,785 sheets of technical designs. In October 1945, Schmeisser was forced to work for the Red Army and instructed to continue development of new weapons. He worked for them for 7 years, then died the year he moved back to Germany. Will probably get a bunch of thumbs downs for this post and my previous one, but I believe sufficient evidence exists to prove my point.

        • Steve (TFB Editor)

          I did not know that Schmeisser was one of the many war prizes captured. A few months ago I purchased an old vintage Russian camera lens based on a Ziess design and made on Ziess equipment taken by Russian forces after the war (Zeiss engineers were also taken).

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

            Yep, he worked at Izmash too. Interesting about the lens though, I imagine the quality is in line with what you would expect from any of their products of that era.

          • vanaheym

            As far as I know, Mikhail Kalashnikov work and live in Kovrov during time of AK development instead of Izhevsk, where Hugo live in the same time.

          • Okki125

            Zeiss was split after WWII into what became Carl Zeiss and Zeiss Jena (for western distribution). the soviet union moved their war spoils to Russia and operated the Zeiss engineers and equipment under the name Kiev camera works.

            In the early 90ties Zeiss and Zeiss Jena were merged again and eventually split between the microscopy and commercial optics divisions. It’s a pretty interesting history.

          • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

            A very interesting history indeed. There are many incidents of things like this happening. The taking of the FN plant and the Hi Powers with German markings.

          • Pepe

            “Zeiss engineers were also taken”

            There are some people that says that the SVD scope was made by Zeiss engeneers made to work for the ussr.

        • Man pippy

          There was also that recent thing about Russia being ‘mad’ that other countries were making AK’s, as copyright of the rifle still belonged to them.

          • dubbs

            What? When the ak 47 was built, the Soviet union was preaching comminism,ala the joined/shared fruits of the state! “why” would they get mad about their struggl ing 3rd workd brothers copying the ak design, specially since the soviet union gave the guns out like free vodka! Guess hypocrisy knows no limit. Anyway, rot in hell comrade kalashnikov, you made a great gun but many 3rd world people were oppressed by that same gun, and many eastern bloc people lived in fear of it. Not to mention how many and western soldiers have died it the hands of ak wielding terrorists, thugs and commie shocktroop automatons.

            You will never see any Chinese or north koreans saluting john garand, or Vietnamese or Taliban saluting eugene stoner…..

    • 2wheels

      I also question how much credit he truly deserves for the rifle which bears his name. But sadly we’ll probably never know for sure.

    • DiverEngrSL17K

      As has been pointed out, it is very difficult to say for sure since a combination of conflicting reports, political propaganda and historical obscurations have prevented the unaltered truth from emerging unscathed. We therefore end up with widely-ranging verdicts that cover the whole gamut from Mikhail Kalashnikov being almost solely responsible for the design and creation of the AK ( while Hugo Schmeisser spent most of his time learning to appreciate the finer points of vodka ), through the Soviet propaganda machine assigning Kalashnikov the lion’s share of credit for what had really been a Soviet team effort, to Hugo Schmeisser having an undue influence on post-war Soviet small-arms design.

      Personally, after looking closely at several publications about the subject, I am inclined to believe that the AK saw its genesis in the mind of Mikhail Kalashnikov, was developed to an advanced pre-production stage mainly via the joint efforts of Kalashnikov and multiple Russian engineers and ordnance specialists ( who are now, unfortunately, almost entirely forgotten ) with valuable input from German engineers like Hugo Schmeisser, and had small but important production improvements incorporated as a result of inputs from all these sources and the end users.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

        Do you have evidence to support your conclusions? Also it is worth noting that the original AKs came apart because of poor Soviet stamping technology, so they quickly went to milled receivers. I have a hard time believing that the guns were “developed to an advanced pre-production stage” if they overlooked the fact that the gun’s receivers were inadequate.

        • DiverEngrSL17K

          Thanks for the query, Alex. By “developed to an advanced pre-production stage”, I was referring to the point at which the AK had arrived just prior to initial production, not the point at which they discovered the hard way about stamping issues and quickly switched to milled receivers until the stamping problems could be resolved ( which occurred several years later ). Sorry, I should have made this clearer in my previous comment.

          My conclusions regarding who did what and to what extent were based on reading several publicly-available documents and publications — which themselves differ widely in their analyses and conclusions — and are therefore merely a personal educated guess. Another reader looking at the same materials could draw an entirely different set of conclusions, and he / she might very well be right while I could be completely wrong.

          As I indicated at the beginning of my previous post, it is very hard to properly separate fact from fiction due to the conflicting information. C.J. Chivers, in his book “The Gun”, has pointed out this same problem in summarizing the contradictory accounts among people who knew and worked with Mikhail Kalashnikov, the opinions and conclusions of Western military analysts of the time, the official Soviet accounts, and the personal accounts of General Kalashnikov himself. In the end, even Chivers, in spite of his extensive in-depth critical research, admitted that it was difficult to entirely distinguish the truth from the legend that constitutes this historical legacy.

          Hopefully, an objective Russian expert with real inside knowledge will one day be able to write freely and openly about the circumstances surrounding this period in history so that we may all finally learn the unvarnished truth. Until then, all we have to work with are some facts, some partial truths and some outright fiction.

          • Дмитрий Богуславский

            Hmmm….
            I disagree, Malimon in his book writes that when Kalashnikov came to Izhevsk, despite the good design and good results on the trials, it was totally not ready for the production.
            All the production documentation was made on Izhmash, ’cause MTK just didn’t have any expirience in mass production area.
            Yes, you can say, that Hugo Schmeisser did an act of sabotage, making the valuable input in the AK, but not making it production ready. But engineers just don’t work that way)))

            BTW, hello from Izhevsk, came here for one day on a business trip.

          • DiverEngrSL17K

            Thanks very much for the clarification and for your valuable input — it is good to have information that helps to clear up some of the muddle! Hope you have a productive visit in Izhevsk, and stay in touch :).

    • guest

      Dear Alex.
      Now this article is about Mikhail kalashnikov being dead, and you of ALL the topics decide to pick on some indirect referances to Kalashnikov stealing from Schmeisser?

      Go read up on the 1945-1947 assault rifle trials in the USSR. Until then your opinion is just as founded as a shaman’s crop furtility broadcast.

    • Evzen

      Mr. Alex, how it feels to pee on the Kalashnikov grave? Becouse now it is exactly what you doing.

  • whodywei

    Wondering how many 21 gun salutes he will get.

    • Steve Truffer

      Lost count of the arfcom declarations of 21 gun salutes at around 200. Also saw tons of 21 mag salutes. This was at 11AM EST. Probably in the thousands for that site alone.

      • bbmg

        What bigger accolade than to have your achievement saluted by large numbers of citizens of the country that was your sworn enemy for so many years.

  • Julio

    The end of an era… however, when remembering James Purdey it would be preferable to spell his name correctly – you will only find the name “Purdy” on inferior 20th century knock-offs, not on any genuine gunmaking masterpieces. And if we’re talking designers,it’s Frederick Beesley we should remember in that particular instance. As for AK, his reputation will be forever undermined by the USSR’s unflinching preference for propaganda over transparency which makes it impossible to assess the extent to which it is deserved or merely manufactured. R.I.P.

  • madmio

    He didn’t create the gun for the people, he created it for the oppressive regime and/or regime’s so today they can use the gun as a tool to control they people and curtail their freedoms. So who cares about him and his AK design.

    • Vhyrus

      He created the AK 47 because he saw his comrades being slaughtered by the thousands and wanted to help them level the playing field. The AK may have been used by dictators and murders, but it was also used by freedom fighters and small militias to defend their villages from genocidal armies.

  • WJS

    Ninja Please! The AK receiver is just a ripoff of the Remington Model 8 which was built by John Browning in 1906. Conversation over.

    • MICHAEL

      Remington POE Model 8 & 81 looks similar as well

    • guest

      What ain incredibly enlightened opinion. Please, do tell more.

  • Flaco

    No mention of John Browning?

    • Sable

      Well we can’t very well drink in HIS honor now can we? Still, all praise be to Saint JMB.

  • bbmg

    Hats off to the man who, alongside the inventor of the machete, is the champion of population control in developing nations.

    While the extent of his responsibility for the final design is debatable, I would count myself fortunate if my legacy was a tiny fraction of what he has left to the world.

    • dp

      My view is that this is outcome of an accident. True, this particular tool of war has become within its intention well optimized, but it was the state system and its significance who used it and propagated it which made it such an icon.
      What it carried on technical side is amalgamation of all what was previously known (portable, gas operated, long stroke action) and tried any several forms; that’s where its contribution lies. There is hardly a space for term “invention” per se. So I do not call it invention by principle.
      It is debatable if for instance another rifle being the discovered recently Vz.58 is better or not, yet with exception of last couple of years you have not heard about it – it was for world public non-existent. Question is: where is the “fame & glory” for this one? This is well to the point, as I believe.

  • jamezb

    I, for one, am going to miss this fascinating character.

    I recall reading a few years back a letter/article written about his finally meeting Eugene Stoner, written by one of the two gentleman’s daughter. I found it very touching. I believe it was a sidebar to a Kokalis Shotgun News article about the Stoner 63.

  • Lance

    Last of the Great Gun makers. Steve left out John C Gerand as another great maker who passed away in 74. Sad day now the last are gone and now crapola computer make guns not real geniuses. My his AKM and AK-74 live on for much much longer.

    • Cymond

      We’ve basically reached the zenith of firearm design. At this point, the only advances will be small, incremental improvements until the next major leap in ammunition technology.

      I swear, every time there’s a new design, people complain that it really isn’t significantly better than existing designs. Every time a company builds a new AR-15 clone, people complain that it’ just another AR clone instead of something new.

      • bbmg

        I’m one of those people who complain with monotonous regularity.

        And I’ll repeat it here, a gun is just a delivery system. The true weapon is the bullet.

        With all else being equal, if two squads got into a firefight against eachother, one side armed with the latest US Army rifle and the other armed with M16A1s manufactured a couple of decades before they were even born, I doubt the outcome of the fight could be predicted.

        You could argue that this means that the guns are “good enough” and serve their purpose well, but this is not progress.

  • Geoff a well known Skeptic

    While the AK was in the hands of it’s troops Russia was never invaded by a foreign army. Good monument. Geoff Who notes he didn’t agree with the politics.

  • ArcRoyale

    Rest In Peace, Comrade General.

  • P.Soria

    My deepest sympathies to the Russian people for this huge loss. I am deeply saddened by the passing of this brilliant man. I will toast his memory at our Christmas party tonight. R.I.P. Mikhail Kalashnikov. P. Soria National City, California USA

  • bbmg

    Here’s one the man would probably have appreciated:

    “I heard that the Mikhail Kalashnikov is to be buried in mud for a week, cleaned off, then put back to work”

  • Sparrowhawk

    Rest in Peace, Mr. Mikhail Kalashnikov. I would put him right up there with John Moses Browning and Ferdinand Von Mannlicher

  • Sparrowhawk

    Rest in Peace Mr. Mikhail Kalashnikov. I hope to own an AK pattern rifle one day.

    I would put him right up there with John Moses Browning and Ferdinand Von Mannlicher.

  • Buster Charlie

    Nobody mentions the M1 Garand? I think the first time I took apart and studied the interaction between the Garands rotary bolt, cam stud, and operating rod I couldn’t help but think that Kalashnikov must have taken some inspiration from this when you compare it to the bolt carrier on the AK. The ubiquity of the M1 garand couldn’t have gone unnoticed by the soviets who had less luck with their SVT rifles and such.

    Speaking of the SVT, and hell the SKS, i’d say their bolt and carrier setup is closer in operation to the STG-44, and the FN FAL was the obvious end result of these type of tilt locking bolts, not the AK-47 with it’s Garand like Rotary bolt. And the Trunnion area of the AK, even on the stamped ones, reminds me of the lockup for the Garand also.

    More specifically a fixed stud that rotates the bolt as it moves relative to a carrier, this is in distinction to many other rotating bolt designs that involved a helical slot milled in the bolt body and the cam stud on the carrier itself. Kalashnikov obviously studied the Remington Model-8 which he copied the selector/dust cover from. But look at the Model 8 and you see it’s bolt lockup closer resembles that of the AUG or Barret m-82 with the bolt latch retaining the bolt in a forward postion and a floating spring loaded bolt.

    I digress..

    On the Stg-44 front I assumed a lot of it’s similarities are along the ‘form follows function’

    front. The countries of the world had already fielded SMG featuring pistol grips and 30 round magazines, the curvature of which is dictated by the taper of a rifle round not a design aesthetic.

    The sight configuration of the Stg-44 is nothing that hasn’t been used on prior Russian firearms, and the placement and tall sight post are a function of the above the barrel gas tube. Now the SVT and SKS had above barrel gas tubes, and others.

    So in the end, i really don’t see anything on the STG-44 that is unique to it in itself, it’s just a collection of prior ideas in a new arrangement, and this concept I’d say the soviet took interest in, and it looks like they were also interested in advanced sheet metal in the realm of firearms. However I always heard the Milled AK was due to the soviets focusing their sheet metal capabilities on rockets and aircraft instead of small arms.

    Anyway, that’s my ramblings.

  • dude
  • noob

    this man changed the world.

    vale.