The news reports today (23 December 2013) that Mikhail Kalashnikov has died.
Regular readers of this weblog likely won’t need to be told who he was, but for the uninitiated, he was a Soviet tank mechanic and commander who developed the AK-47, the assault rifle known the world over, anywhere a revolution is taking place and not supported by the United States.
The design is not particularly original, since Kalashnikov had a look at the M1 Garand and the StG 44, but the genius of the weapon is its simplicity and ease of manufacture. Colonel David Hackworth saw one being excavated after having been buried for months with its original owner. The Colonel picked it up, fired off all thirty rounds, and said our troops needed something that reliable. The thing about Russian guns in general and the AK-47 in specific is that they always work. And while it has a reputation for inaccuracy, it was never intended as a sniper rifle. Within the range that it was meant to be used–under three hundred yards–it will fire every time, and in the hands of anyone with basic skill, it will make a thirty-caliber hole in man-sized targets.
There’s not much more we can ask from a machine and not much more we can ask from an engineer.