Built To Last: AK- 47

Revolutionary, exceptional, reliable, portable and easy to use.

A product with this magical combination would be the dream of any marketing manager. Seldom does such a magical combination come together for a product and when it does, it is packed with a label of High COST. However, there is a particular product, which has only the magical combination and no such label. Let us call it Product X. Now, what would you think if I say apart from many books in the market, X can boast of A dedicated Big museum. And there is 1 unit of X for every 70 people on this planet. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Hold on a second. It neither has ethnic identity nor holds any nationality, still recognized by young and old alike. Used in Asia, Russia, Europe, it has encircled the entire globe, and is present even inside many MNC campuses! Believe me that it is not Coca-Cola we are dealing with.

The product is respected and feared, both at the same time. It is the world’s toughest, greatest and often misunderstood assault rifle… THE Avtomat Kalashnikova 47 or simply AK-47. Respected by ones who are behind the trigger; feared by those who face the muzzle. It is present in every corner of this world; both in hands of soldiers and terrorists. Why? How something like a gun was able to proliferate across continents? I will let you know all that in an interesting story you would all love to listen to because it is the same gun that an India army Jawan trusts when he fights insurgents in Kashmir.

It all started in 1943 when Soviet President Stalin threw open a secret contest for a rifle design. A reliable Automatic weapon was the need of the hour, which could operate in extreme weather conditions, required less maintenance and remained effective in a distance of 300m where most fire fights happen. Meanwhile, in another part of the Soviet Union, Soviet soldier and inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov made the 1st design. The final version came after a few years, and the year was – Any guesses? 1947.

With a humble beginning in arms factory of (Izhevsk, Soviet Union) this gun changed many hands in the coming years and served both sides of conflicts. Americans realized in Vietnam War that their M16 rifle was no match for an AK. Even Russians had the taste of their own invented medicine from Mujahidin’s during Afghan war. Imagine a gun which can fire 600rounds per minute with a speed of 700m/s …. Accurate within 4 hundred meters, that is AK47 my friends. Moreover, it has got patrons in more than 81 countries. So much is its popularity that flags of, Mozambique and
Iranian revolutionary guards bear an AK47…Terror chief Osama Bin laden used to brandish his in terror tapes. Saddam Husain had a prized collection of 24K gold AKs. But how did it proliferate so far?
To understand this, I would be taking 2 factors in account.

1. Let us look at the design factor.
The heart of AK 47 lies in reusing the energy of expanding gases of the 1st shot. The expanding gases are used to eject a used round and pull a new one. And the cycle continues. It is very reliable and it never jams; thanks to the loose fittings of the parts inside. The ability to keep firing even after getting
buried in mud, sand has become a legend. A simple yet indestructible design
which can be assembled/ dissembled by a child in 30 seconds flat … is most
suitable for mass production and for mass consumption as well. People still using 50year old AK rifles speaks all about the sturdiness.

2.Now look at the cost factor.
On an estimate, there are 15 variants of this gun, which can be forged and assembled in a simple garage. Most of such illegally manufactured AKs are sold around 150$ in regions like Africa. Compared with the actual price of 1000$, this is a dirt cheap price. You can get one in Kenya if you have 4 cows to exchange … No wonder we have more than 100million AK rifles in this world.

But for such a low cost of this gun, the world has paid heavy price. In fact the lesser recoil of this weapon has made it the de-facto choice of nearly ALL the child soldiers of world. AK47 is omnipresent in every conflict, be it Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir or last but not the least in Delhi and Mumbai attacks too.

Times have changed and so have the variants of this gun. Nowadays AK 74 is becoming the predominant player but with next generation AK 200 on the anvil pretty soon, we can’t even imagine what future would look like. This creation has been both used and misused. We can only hope that the best gun should remain in the best hands only.

As someone has rightly stated, “Fear not the weapon but the hand that wields it”

Anshul Soni