The Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle went into production in the Soviet Union.
The AK-47 was designed by Soviet tank commander-turned inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov. Having been injured in the Battle of Bryansk in October 1941, he was recovering in hospital when he heard fellow-soldiers lamenting the poor quality of the Russian army’s rifles.
Kalashnikov created a number of weapons from 1942 onwards, entering them into competitions organised by the Soviet military. Although he lost out to other designers, he built on his efforts to eventually create the Avtomat Kalashnikova model 1947, better known as the AK-47. Following a series of field trials it was adopted by the Soviet army in 1949 as their standard issue assault rifle.
The AK-47 soon spread around the world as the simple design meant it was cheap to manufacture. Throughout the Cold War the USSR helped communist movements to acquire the weapon. It proved particularly popular amongst these groups due to its incredible reliability, especially when pitted against weapons such as the American M16 that was prone to jamming in the difficult conditions of the Vietnam War.
Variations of the AK-47, alongside outright copies, continue to be produced meaning that an estimated 100 million AK-47 derivatives exist in the world today. According to the World Bank, this means that AK-47s make up over 15% of all guns in the world.
Throughout his life Kalashnikov blamed politicians for the violence that saw his gun in use, not the gun itself. However, shortly before his death he did express concern over whether he should bear responsibility for the deaths caused by the weapons he created.