Joined: 05 June 2005
Source: The Times of India, Sun, Aug 05, 2007
The name is Kalashnikov. Sixty years ago, Mikhail Kalashnikov, the lost son of a rich farmer was swallowed by a Siberian gulag.
Then he found his calling and became a Soviet patriot by putting together eight pieces of hard wood and strong metal pipes in such a way that they could spit 600 bullets in a minute and reduce an army of men to a bloodied pulp of flesh and bones in seconds.
Since then Kalashnikov's automatic, and its many offspring, have spat from all corners of the world, drilling holes into bodies and firing insane imaginations.
In 1947, it was the People's Gun. Then AK-47 became an instrument of foreign policy and found a place in Chairman Mao's thoughts. It inspired books and films. It launched vodka brands.
It has become the darling of international terrorism. It's always there, resting quietly against a green backdrop whenever the bad boys of Al Qaida cut a new terror video for international release.
In the 1950s, AK-47 fell into Chinese hands and in 1956 out came a deadlier, slightly bigger and a little heavier version. From the Chinese cottage factories, the AK-56 followed the route of global conflicts, going to all hotspots and screaming as thousands of men dropped dead.
It has left a long trail of blood - from Vietnam's dense forests to Africa's famished lands to Afghanistan's hungry dustbowls to Iraq's bloody alleys.
Cold-blooded killers love it. It's light and it never fails. It never breaks down. It's easy to use: fix the magazine, release the latch, press the trigger and spray it like perfume. It kills in big numbers.
It's called an assault rifle. It's not meant to defend yourself.
Today, apart from the many armies of the world, it's the favourite gun of the murderous gangs roaming the streets of Baghdad, the drug-fuelled traffickers in Rio's favelas, the confused and crazy child-soldiers in Chad and Sudan, the band of killers calling the shots in Kandahar, and the pack of pirates running a reign of terror in the Indian Ocean, just off the African coast.
When a man holds an AK-56 assault rifle in his hands, he knows what he is going to do with it. So, when a man living in a plush house in a posh neighbourhood in a big city wants to keep the gun at his home as a trophy of his manhood, he is not being gullible.
He knows what he is doing. An assault rifle, even in a closet, is death waiting for an opportunity, a moment of intoxicated madness. Just listen to the echoes in a palace in Kathmandu, or some schools in America.
In the last six decades, 100 million pieces of Kalishnakovs have been sold. It has created a Rambo culture where you fire the gun before you shoot off your mouth. The Kalashnikov, which costs just $ 50 in some places, has been called the "Coca-Cola of small arms".
After 60 years of fame for making this killing machine, Mikhail Kalashnikov says his conscience is clear and he sleeps well at night. He made this gun to fight the Nazis. Maybe he slips into sleep listening to John Lennon's 'Happiness is a warm gun'.
But, every day, someone, somewhere in a dark corner of the world is being shaken out of his sweet dreams by a hail of bullets flowing from a magic machine.
l Price $50 onwards
l Calibre 7.62 mm
l Action Gas-operated, rotating bolt
l Rate of fire 600 round/min
l Muzzle velocity 735 m/s (2,411 ft/s)
l Effective range 400 m
l Feed system 30 round standard
l Cartridge 7.6239mm Soviet M1943
The above article ends here
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