AK-47 Designer Kalashnikov dies at age 94

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Originally published on December 24, 2013

Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Russian inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, died in his home city of Izhevsk on Monday aged 94, Reuters reported.

No cause of death was given, but it was reported that Kalashnikov had been hospitalised in Izhevsk since November 17.

The world's most famous firearm is named after its inventor: "A" stands for "avtomat", meaning automatic rifle; "K" for Kalashnikov; 47 the year of 1947, when the assault rifle was created.

According to Russia Today, Kalashnikov, who served as a tank commander in World War II, was determined to design a better gun for the Soviet army after overhearing soldiers complain about Soviet rifles during his hospital stay in 1942. He suffered shoulder injuries during the Battle of Bryansk.

There were problems with the early prototypes, but the design was perfected in 1947. Two years later, the assault rifle was adopted by the Soviet army. Its variants are still used by Russian military forces and police today.

Measuring 87cm long and weighing 4.9kg, the AK-47 rifle is the world's most popular firearm. Each standard magazine can hold up to 30 bullets; with an effective range of 366 metres, it can fire 600 rounds per minute.

An AK-47 is cheap, costing between $350 and $600 per weapon. Hence, the gun is widely used, ranging from national forces to child soldiers to guerilla fighters. Currently, about 100 million AK-47 rifles and its variants are in circulation around the globe. According to a Washington Post article in 2006, the firearm accounts for about 250,000 deaths each year, more than artillery fire, airstrikes and rocket attacks combined.

Kalashnikov never expressed any regret for inventing the AK-47. "I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence," the weapon designer said in 2007.

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