The Guy Who Invented the Kalashnikov Assault Rifle Has Died


The news: The man who gave the world the AK-47 assault rifle has died. Russia Today reports that Mikhail Kalashnikov was 94 years old. 

There is, at this time, no official cause of death until an autopsy can be performed. Kalashnikov was hospitalized in November, and spent time at a cardiac clinic in May.

Source: AP

Kalashnikov leaves behind a mixed legacy. It's telling that the obituaries coming out — including this one — focus on his assault rifle invention.

The AK-47 was a revolutionary weapon. Its ease of use and cheap cost of production made it a favorite of armies around the globe, and it eventually became the most popular assault rifle in the world. 

But it has also been used to kill an estimated 250,000 people every year. It has iconically been used by everyone from the Viet Cong to Osama bin Laden. The AK-47 has become a symbol.

During his life, Kalashnikov went back and forth on what his invention eventually became. "It's not my fault that it was sometimes used where it shouldn't have been," he said once at the Kremlin. But he also expressed regrets. In 2006 he said, "I'm sad that it is used by terrorists … I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawnmower."

For all its prominence, Kalashnikov supposedly never saw profits from the AK-47 — he never patented it.

Perhaps the world would have indeed been better off if Kalashnikov invented a lawnmower instead of the AK-47. But a simple, cheap assault rifle seems like an inevitable invention. Kalashnikov simply gave the world what it craved.