Kalashnikov USA Update: What Went Wrong, What’s Going Right | SHOT 17

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

-Murphy’s Law, wording attributed to Major John Paul Stapp

Yesterday at TFB, we published an article that I wrote about some of the displays at the Kalashnikov USA booth, specifically criticizing the worryingly poor quality of the firearms contained in those cases. Soon after, TFB was contacted by the CEO of Kalashnikov USA, Brian Skinner, with an offer to meet up and talk about it, and I accepted. This morning at the meeting, Brian was extremely forthcoming with details about how and why the weapons were not what they should have been, and gave TFB a look at a properly constructed US-made Vityaz that Kalashnikov USA built over a year ago for comparison.

Brian explained that the KR-9 Vityaz rifles had been improperly made, and that this was not discovered until the weapons’ delivery two days before the SHOT Show. Last year, Kalashnikov USA had early prototype KR-9 and AK-Alfa rifles on display behind glass; Brian’s goal for this year was to have pre-production KR-9 and later prototype AK-Alfas on display where show goers could look at and handle them, with no glass.

However, when the KR-9 rifles were delivered two days before the show, it was obvious that these weapons were too poorly made to be handled by people on the show floor, but by then it was too late to make serious changes to the display. Instead of glass or simply not displaying the weapons (which, given the presence of prototypes at last year’s show, would have raised questions), it was decided to have Kalashnikov USA representatives posted beside the weapons to explain the problems to show goers.

This is a reasonable solution, provided that enough representatives are present to handle the crowds, which when I stopped by their booth was not the case. For whatever reason, I had some trouble finding a representative that was not occupied and, to add to the problem, the announcement that SIG had won the US Army’s Modular Handgun System contract came while I was at the Kalashnikov USA booth, and so I was unable to hang around and wait for a representative to free up.

A situation like the one above is an exhibitor’s worst nightmare, especially one that is already fighting a negative reputation like Kalashnikov USA. However, instead of trying to sweep it under the rug, posture, or any of the other bad responses that companies are prone to do, Brian did exactly what a CEO should do in this situation: He owned up, contacted TFB, and scheduled a meeting in which at no point did he try to brush aside or minimize the problems the weapons had.

I should stress that it takes considerable strength of character to do something like that. The situation went wrong for Kalashnikov USA, and they made mistakes, and yet Brian responded with transparency and humility. It takes a big man who knows himself very well to do that, and I came away from our meeting extremely impressed with Brian’s handling of the situation.

Now, here’s what we should have seen from Kalashnikov USA in 2017: A true replica PP-19-01 Vityaz, not perfect, but certainly getting there:

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • Hinermad

    “Brian explained that the KR-9 Vityaz rifles had not been manufactured improperly,”

    Is this double negative unintentional? Because as written it seems to say the KR-9s were intended to look the way they did, while the rest of the article seems to say otherwise.

    Nitpicking aside, I agree that transparency is the best response to a bad hair day like that.

    • THP

      There is no editing on this site, so you just kinda guess at what they mean most of the time.

      • Twilight sparkle

        There is at least some editing, but with the big information dump that we get with shot show some of these issues are easy to miss

      • Hinermad

        Looks like it’s been fixed.

    • B-Sabre

      “Regrettably, the book was accidentally destroyed on purpose.”

    • Kafir1911

      Those pesky Russians hacked the CNC machines. Putins fault, all of it.

  • Captain Obvious

    And in the mean time their products are still crap.

    • RSG

      Um, they have no products. It’s all prototype vapor ware. IMO, they are hunting for investors. All they have is the name.

  • David Lowrey

    I can appreciate his transparencyon the matter, and I would rather have them making the guns then not be able to get them at all. Although I would still rather the Russian kalashnikov make and import them.

    Will the American made pp-19-01 vityaz be able to fire +p+ ammo like the Russian made one? And can it take Russian original vityaz mags? It would certainly piss of the guys on the akfiles who bought the mags for $120 when the American ones will retail for around $30.

    • JSIII

      That is the thing of Trump were to somehow reverse the import bans from Russia and end the bullshit “sporting purpose” stuff we could get real Russian made Semi Auto AK’s and cheap. Companies like this one would go under in a heartbeat.

      • Audie Bakerson

        Trump is a protectionist I could only see doing this if congress gave him a tariff.

        • On the one hand you’re spot-on about Trump’s protectionist blatherings, but on the other, he seems to have a schoolboy crush on Vlad “The Impaler” Putin, so you never know.

          • forrest1985

            He seems a man of many contradictions tbh

          • Hinermad

            I’m sure it all makes sense inside his head.

            I think he seems confusing to us because as a businessman he’s used to playing his cards close to his chest. Often because those cards are worthless, but that’s what bluffing is for.

      • Jay

        And nobody would loose anything if the scumbag cheating thieves go under.

  • MrBrassporkchop

    HAHAHA if the CEO contacted TFB about the article that means he read the article which means he probably read my comment making fun of the company not making anything.

    Seriously though, we just would like to see some damn rifles.

  • Roy Rabbit

    So why not show the properly made model that they showed you, they had two days to get it there?

    • It was a post sample machine gun. Big trouble if that leaves in the backpack of someone a little long-fingered.

      • Roy Rabbit

        Thank u for the reply Nathaniel it is greatly appreciated.

  • RSG

    But where were their Alfa AK’s? You know, the guns people actually want? 7.62 or they are doing it wrong. I have a theory. They don’t have anything. They don’t have the ability to build guns. They only have the name and are looking for funding. That’s my theory.

    • The Alfas are made by CAA. K-USA will be just the US distributor for those.

  • Jeff Smith

    Someone buy that man a beer for owning up.

    • Wow!

      I think he rather you buy his rifles 🙂

  • Jay

    You guys make too much publicity to a garbage company, that couldn’t even be bothered to come up with their own name, let alone, their own firearms. Why would you advertise for a company that stole even the name they carry?

  • Johanne Johanne

    Oh man, for such a “simple” weapon system, the AK and it’s derivatives sure seem like an easy thing to screw up often and in a big way.

    • JT303

      I think that’s because the AK’s tolerances are generally quite up in the air, for want of a better phrase, but it’s something like three or four areas where the dimensions are critical. Miss them and the weapon won’t work.

      • Raven

        That, and making AKs isn’t “modern” manufacturing. You can buy a CNC machine off the shelf, plug in the measurements for an AR receiver, and start cranking them out. AKs take either dedicated forgings (for milled receivers) or tooling for stamping/welding/riveting, which were great for mass production in the ’50s, but have gotten a lot less common today.

        • Kafir1911

          Yes, but when Putins Russians hacked the CNC machine it was subverted for the advancement of the KGB.

    • Simple to operate is not the same as simple to manufacture. A lot of misinformed people talk about how AKs have “loose tolerances.”This notion conflates “tolerances” with “clearances.” Aks have several unforgivingly tight tolerances and several that can handle a lot of variance from the specification.

  • Texas-Roll-Over

    Owe up to what?

    All the CEo owed up to was that the company is not in production and does not have the capability to manufacture anything. If you can’t get one unit done right for a trade show….a trade show, that you knew about months in advance, then how in the hell are you suppose to make 30k units a year with any level of high quality.

    “At least he owed up.” Read between the lines and use some critical thinking people. If the CEO of the company knew that the rifles were made improperly, then why, why, why would he willing put his reputation in jeopardy by hanging those pieces of S7*t on the wall.

    Short answer; No CEO with half a brain would ever do that…never! As a leader he would ensure that the firearms on the wall were in perfect, ready to be seen condition, prior to shipment from the facility.

    He’s not telling you the truth, he’s telling you what you want to hear, and he knows what will save face with you.

    • Lyman Hall

      He said they didn’t have working firearms. You say he’s lying?

    • John

      >All the CEo owed up to was that the company is not in production and does not have the capability to manufacture anything.

      That needs to change ASAP.

      A U.S.-made Kalashnikov bypasses ALL of the 922r requirements and follows the ATF laws. Which in turn will help make them a lot of money, because people really do want AK-47s and such.

  • David J. Stuehr

    Nice, the guy sat down with the author, kissed his a$$ and fed him bs. Sounds like the company makes garbage or they don’t make anything and just slapped together some prototypes to pump up investor hype and get some pre-orders. I will steer clear.

  • Geoff Timm

    There are no excuses for bad products. Geoff Who will stay far, far, FAR away.

  • LCON

    So to Summarize. “looks like they still have some QC and tolerance issues to work out.” which is exactly what I commented yesterday.

  • Bigg Bunyon

    I’m not so sure this is an uncommon corporate situation. Among PC builders, at least all I know, Microsoft has been accused of doing it for decades: putting an unfinished, not fully tested and debugged product on the market. Specifically every iteration of their Windows OS software. There were some spectacular failures: Windows ME and Windows Vista specifically. Among the more nerdy ones of us that’s referred to as making the buying public the final beta testers. Seems to me Kalashnikov USA has been learning at the foot of Microsoft. The only real difference being Kalashnikov USA calls a failure a failure whereas Microsoft calls such things “features”.

    • Justin

      Every industry has at least one manufacture that does this as far as I can tell. Microsoft just gets a lot of notice because it just had massive market share and it’s dirty laundry gets seen be everyone.

  • tts

    Consensus among people who’ve dealt with him face to face is that not even Trump knows what he is going to do right up until just before a scheduled announcement and he will flip back and forth on many things publicly right up until the last moment.

    Basically ignore what he says and watch what he does or has done before in the past, just like any other politician.

    • Wow!

      Its like you guys haven’t paid attention to the campaign or something. Trump is pretty predictable, but what you can predict is his strategy, not his tactics. Tactics must change according to the enemy’s reactions, and you don’t win by broadcasting your tactics to the world like Obama did. Read his book art of the deal. I followed it during the campaign and his entire mindset for negotiation is outlined almost word for word in there.

      Trumps first order of business is fixing national security and the economy. Frankly reversing firearm laws are not that big of a deal. The fight against gun control is 100% dependent on us to vote against illegal restrictions and to not follow them. If the people are not willing to fight for their rights, they won’t get them. However, the people do not have control over government policy beyond electing people like Trump, which is why his first focus is on that. We already saw him in the past few months set up things for a lot more jobs coming back to the US. This is a major victory. The current agenda is maintaining this economic momentum and start enacting the security changes.

  • kcshooter

    Crap guns made it to the SHOT floor because the company makes crap guns.

    They can try to church it up all they want.

  • Derek Huffman

    a 9mm AK is about the dumbest thing ever.

    • andrey kireev

      It’s called an SMG…. they have their uses and people like it because they want something different. By that logic any pistol caliber carbine is “dumbest thing ever”

      • Wow!

        It seems some people read that old TFB post about SMGs, but didn’t read the entire article and think SMGs have no role.

        And I’m a guy who promoted SBR intermediate rifles as SMG replacements way back a few decades ago when people were still butthurt over plastic replacing wood. Regardless, SMGs are not completely obsolete so long as the ammo stays cheap and no one else comes up with a quieter platform for suppression in an automatic.

        • andrey kireev

          Some people get too locked up in particular platforms or brands for whatever reason. Me ? I don’t discriminate, I like all kinds of firearms…

  • Core

    I don’t care what it looks like, as long as it runs like a real Russian AK. ?

  • Guido FL

    I cannot understand how a company can stay in business for over a year and not produce or sell any products ? Baffling !

  • twr

    There an importer, not a manufacturer (Russian weapons company ). So if they ever do get a rifle off the ground expect them to be the next i.o.

  • JDC

    Glad the CEO owned up to the flaws. Shows a lot of character, as you pointed out. I’ve got to wonder aloud why that with something as important as the SHOT show that the display guns weren’t checked out long before the show? He had to know that you guys look at fit, function, tool marks, finish, etc.

    Hindsight being 20/20, I suspect that the CEO wishes he had made the decision to leave his display cases empty, rather than try to explain away all the issues. Sort of like trying to explain that your 1973 AMC Pacer is really a 2017 Ferrari, only with a little worse workmanship.

    As it is, I can’t see that Kalashnikov USA is going to garner a large amount of support, when there are other firearms to spend your hard earned $ on.

  • Robert Radulski

    Just remember that Murphy was an optimist.

  • Bill

    I actually met Major Stapp once!

  • Phillip Cooper

    Onya for admitting it!

  • Oscar Lopez

    WHAT ABOUT THE AK15 !?!?!?
    I’ve got to get one !!!!!

  • Vladamir Rustinov

    Guys, your first mistake is holding these bloggers up to the same standards a journalists, they aren’t, and that’s apparent, they are regular people blogging, so, expect some mistakes.

    That said, being gun enthusiasts, and people who take advertising money, expect some ass kissing when they are dealing with potential customers, free guns and advertising money goes a long way.