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Mikhail Kalashnikov: Late AK-47 designer didn't lose sleep at night

In this July 26, 2002, file photo, Russian weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov presents his legendary assault rifle to the media while opening the exhibition 'Kalashnikov - legend and curse of a weapon' at a weapons museum in Suhl, Germany.

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By The Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, 7:03 p.m.

MOSCOW — Mikhail Kalashnikov started out wanting to make farm equipment, but the harvest he reaped was one of blood as the designer of the AK-47 assault rifle.

It was the carnage of World War II, when Nazi Germany overran much of the Soviet Union, that altered his course and made his name as well-known for bloodshed as Smith, Wesson and Colt. The distinctive shape of the gun, often called “a Kalashnikov,” appeared on revolutionary flags and adorns memorabilia.

Kalashnikov, 94, died on Monday in a hospital in Izhevsk, the capital of the Udmurtia republic, where he lived, said Viktor Chulkov, a spokesman for the republic's president. He did not give a cause of death.

Kalashnikov often said he felt untroubled by his contribution to bloodshed.

“I sleep well. It's the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence,” he said in 2007.

The AK-47 — “Avtomat Kalashnikov” and the year it went into production — is the world's most popular firearm, favored by guerrillas, terrorists and the soldiers of many armies. An estimated 100 million guns are spread worldwide.

Though it isn't especially accurate, its ruggedness and simplicity are exemplary: it performs in sandy or wet conditions, which jam more sophisticated weapons such as the American M-16.

“During the Vietnam war, American soldiers would throw away their M-16s to grab AK-47s and bullets for it from dead Vietnamese soldiers,” Kalashnikov said in July 2007 at a ceremony for the rifle's 60th anniversary.

The moment that set his course was in the 1941 battle of Bryansk against Nazi forces, when a shell hit his tank. Recovering from wounds in the hospital, Kalashnikov brooded about the superior automatic rifles he'd seen the Nazis deploy; his ideas bore fruit five years later.

“Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer,” Kalashnikov said. “I always wanted to construct agricultural machinery.”



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