The world’s most popular gun debuted 68 years ago today

Ak-47 Peshmerga
A Kurdish soldier in Iraq posing with an AK-47. STRINGER Iraq/REUTERS

The world’s most notorious gun entered into its first round of production 68 years ago today.

First put into production on July 6, 1947, the AK-47 quickly became one of the most ubiquitous firearms in the world — an honour it continues to hold.

According to NPR, the World Bank estimates that a fifth of all firearms in the world today are variations of the Kalashnikov rifle.

That’s because the AK-47 is a weapon truly crafted for war. First designed by Mikhail Kalashnikov after being wounded during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II, Kalashnikov rifles were designed to be reliable, rugged, and easy to use.

“It’s almost intuitive,” The New York Times war correspondent C.J. Chivers told NPR. “You can take it apart very quickly and put it back together just as quickly. It’s simple to clean. It’s simple to maintain. Most of the Kalashnikovs out there are very well made for the actual conditions of war.”

Eager to check the West and expand their influence in world affairs, the Soviets began shipping and licensing the rifle to communist-aligned governments and insurgent groups around the world. From Cuba to Vietnam, Wired reports, the Kalashnikov found a home among communist-linked movements.

AK-47 Rifle assaults rifle
Mikhail Kalashnikov REUTERS

Ultimately, this proliferation led to the widespread availability of the firearm around the world. Today, the weapon remains a standard among insurgent and terrorist groups.

“It’s pretty hard in many parts of the world, particularly in Afghanistan, to go [into] territory under insurgent control, and not be ambushed by Kalashnikovs,” Chivers told NPR. “Their numbers are so outsized that this is quite a common experience.”

Despite the widespread violence and insurgent groups that the Kalashnikov has become associated with since its inception, Mikhail Kalashnikov has said that he continues to no regrets over the creation of the weapon.

“It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,” Kalashnikov said at the sixtieth celebration of the weapon in Moscow.

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