Sunday, July 16, 2017

Farewell the AK-47!

The Soviet Union mostly produced famine, purges, and rubbishy consumer products, but one of its products was arguably the best-ever assault rifle, the immortal AK-47. Though heavier than modern western weapons, it was cheap to manufacture and almost impervious to abuse, and it became the favorite of rebels around the world, from the Viet Cong to Osama bin Laden. (When I was in Vietnam in 1964, captured examples were known as the "Chicom carbine" and were a knock-off manufactured in China.) But in the Wall Street Journal, I read that the AK-47 is no longer manufactured in Russia, though the Kalashnikov Concern still manufactures rifles, and its most famous product is no doubt still being built somewhere in what we used to call the Third World.

Like most things in Putin's Russia, Kalashnikov is closely tied to the country's president-for-life. The company pretty much fell apart when the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, and by 2014 was building weapons with a depleted workforce using outdated equipment under a leaking roof. Then some friends-of-Vlad put it back in business, making shotguns, biathlon rifles, and military weaponry. The last includes the AK-74M assault rifle (standard for the Russian army) and the AK-100 series of carbines sold abroad, variously chambered for 5.45 and 7.62 mm cartridges.

But if you want a genuine AK-47, you'll have to shop elsewhere.

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