The Gun That Changed the World

By Noah Graff

Poster Commemorating Kalashnikov at Shot Show in Las Vegas

Last week, I attended the Shot Show in Las Vegas, one of the largest gun shows in the world. I went with Rex Magagnotti, my coworker at Graff-Pinkert, intent on selling multi-spindle screw machines to exhibitors and getting a good scoop for Today’s Machining World.

One of the more surprising things I saw at the Shot Show was a commemoration of the late Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47, who passed away in 2013. Several portraits of him were placed throughout the show and the Arsenal/K-Var booth had a special display honoring him. The homage to the Russian Lieutenant General is a true sign of the times. Evidently, the generation planning the Shot Show did not feel the baggage of the Cold War. The displays seemed odd to me, as many people today see the AK-47 as a representation of various enemies of the United States. It is the weapon of choice for many terrorists worldwide and the scepter once waved by Osama Bin Laden. The Shot Show appeared to be a venue comprised of many Right Wing, outwardly patriotic Americans. The room was packed with law enforcement, military and ex-military folks, who I wouldn’t have expected to be so rah rah for a Russian. But evidently, a lot of people have relaxed about old politics, giving them open minds to appreciate the genius of the AK-47.

I was ignorant about the significance of the AK-47, so I asked a rifle expert at the show to explain to me why the weapon is so special. In 1947, Kalashnikov invented the AK-47 (hence the number 47), which in 1949 became the standard issue assault rifle for the Soviet army. Unlike most guns before and after its conception, the AK-47 was comprised of parts with very loose tolerances. Logically, the gun had less accuracy than other rifles, but its simple design with sloppy parts made it durable, cheap to produce and easy to operate.

The gun was designed for battle, as it could be thrown on the ground, get wet, be covered in grass and mud, yet keep on shooting. U.S. soldiers in Vietnam have recounted picking up AK-47s that had been lying in rice patties for days and then operating them with no trouble. The gun’s loose tolerances and simple design have enabled people in third world countries to purchase them for as low as $10 and learn to operate them quickly. Novices may not be able to aim the AK-47 well, but the gun isn’t the most accurate weapon in the first place. It’s a good gun for spraying a lot of bullets, some of which will eventually hit something.

As Larry Kahaner, author of AK-47: The Weapon That Changed the Face of War, once blogged, “[Kalashnikov] often found himself guided by the words of arms designer Georgy Shpagin, who developed the successful PPSh41 submachine gun: ‘Complexity is easy; simplicity is difficult.’“

Question: Does owning a gun make you feel safer?

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37 thoughts on “The Gun That Changed the World

  1. AvatarMike

    Yes, owning a gun makes me feel safer. God help the poor boy that tries to break into my house. That lock on the door is for their protection, not mine 🙂

     
    +11
  2. AvatarBruce

    Absolutely. After having several incidents in our family where one would normally rely on the police for protection and being let down, I have come to the realization that no one will protect you or your family other than yourself. Having said that, I, along with my daughter, shoot competitively. We shoot 200-500 rounds per week and are probably better prepared than most police officers. If you own a gun you had better be proficient in its use, and be mentally prepared to use it.

     
    +8
  3. AvatarGreg Knox

    Asking if owning a gun (should) make one feel safer is akin to asking if owning an automobile makes you feel more mobile…or if owning a cell phone makes you feel more accessible…

     
    +6
  4. AvatarDan

    I no longer have a gun in the house. I used to own pistols and shoot competitively, but as the years went on and I competed less and less, I let them go, finally giving my last one to my brother. Having traveled the world and visited places where many sane men would not go, I never had a reason to pull a gun. I think they are fine for personal protection, but don’t feel the need to keep one around any more. If someone breaks in that I can’t handle physically, they can have my stuff. I can always buy more.

     
    +2
      1. AvatarDan

        I appreciate the sentiment Eric, but a lot of armed individuals get shot all the time. I served over a decade in the Army and shot competitively while in, so I know a little about guns. A lot more important than having the gun is knowing how to store, maintain and use it safely. So many people just want the illusion of safety that owning a gun seems to bring. They are the ones who close their eyes each time the trigger is pulled or yank the gun to the side as they pull the trigger. These type of gun owners are as much a danger to those around them as someone breaking in their door.

         
        +2
  5. AvatarPete

    Does owning a gun make you feel safer I think is the wrong question. In today’s society nothing will make you feel absolutely safe. Safer maybe. Owning a gun does empower the owner to provide for some level of protection for his family and himself that outside resources cannot provide on a timely basis. i.e., in the middle of a break in. One of the best quotes I have heard re concealed carry occured when a friend of mine was asked, why does he carry a firearm. His answer was very accurate. “Because I can’t carry a police officer”.

     
    +3
  6. AvatarMario

    Safer – quite possible.
    More polite – definitely!
    It is not about the stuff – it always can be replaced…
    It is all about yours and your loved ones lives – they cannot be replaced…

     
    +3
  7. AvatarJohn Rogers

    Every time I read where some guy or gal killed a scum bag trying to break into their home or car jack them I silently salute them. When a couple of thugs are holding you at gunpoint while raping your wife or daughter you will wish to God that you had gunned them down as they came through your door.

     
    +7
  8. AvatarSemi-automatic

    A number of years ago we built a new home over 900 feet off a dead end road in a development, tucked back in the woods. One evening I walked from the front door to our bedroom, and then from the front door to our daughters rooms. it only took 12 seconds to our room and 16 seconds to the girls rooms. If a bad guy kicked in our door… the alarm would go off and he’d have to get past the 2 dogs…and then be exposed to hot lead poisoning.
    Law enforcement would not even know any of this was happening for another 60 seconds. 12 seconds is hardly enough time to wake up, understand what’s happening and respond. I wouldn’t trade our County Sherriff and his Deputies for any other safety force on earth but, like the t-shirt says “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away”.
    Yes, I do feel safer at home as well as when I’m out and about knowing Mr. 40 S&W is with me if needed.
    Armed citizen or victim
    We all have the freedom to chose to be one or the other.

     
    +5
  9. AvatarDoug

    Did you hear about the mass shooting in the Dollar General in AL a few days ago? No you did not because it did not occur because just a few seconds after the madman entered the store brandishing a gun and barking out orders, he was shot by someone who was carrying. No mass shooting and situation solved in seconds so other than the local AL news and a few others such as myself who runs into these stories the rest of the country will never know. Aside from feeling safer from thugs by my guns, I know my country is still relatively a free nation because we are armed.

     
    +10
  10. AvatarJohn

    Yes I feel safer. The writer of the article doesn’t understand why the military and law enforcement personnel don’t have a problem with the gun. It is because they understand that the gun does not kill, people kill. Therefore you don’t hate the gun, you might even respect the mechanics of it and the inventor!

     
    +2
    1. AvatarNoah Graff

      As the writer of the piece I can tell you that I understand “why military and law inforcement folks appreciate guns.” As the great charlie sheen would say…”Duh”

      What I found interesting was the respect the show paid to a Russian General who invented the weapon of our longtime enemy. After learning about the story of the Ak-47, I then understood why people honored Kalishnakov. It shows a great maturity when our often ridged society can look past bitter history and appreciate engineering genius.

      I posed the question at the end of the piece because I thought it would get a reaction and thus get comments. Although comments on a blog are satisfying, I wish some people had mentioned their opinions about the engineering theme.

      I’m not a naturally technical person (ironic, I know as an editor of Today’s Machining World), but the important point of this blog is not a polital commentary, it’s the fascinating concept that low precision can be better at times than high precision.

      I pay the bills by selling mechanical multi-spindle screw machines, not CNCs. They can be “pretty” accurate but not like CNC Swiss. But there is a significant time and place in the world for lower tolerances that give you a practical product. Efficiency, simplicity, affordability.

      It’s a similar concept to the AK-47. Less perfect is sometimes way better than more perfect. The world is far from perfect. If we want to function within it maybe we need to not always go for “perfect.”

      The AK-47 is far from perfect, but like a screw machine it’s often perfect for a specific job.

       
      1. AvatarDan

        Hi Noah! I think the reason behind the answers is that the question was “Do you feel safer with a gun?” As for the AK, the American military considered it a piece of junk. The Israelis developed a working version of it with tighter tolerances that withstood the sand better. The reason it is so popular is the cost vs. a finely tooled piece of equipment like the M4. During my time in the Army (the 80s), we shot the AKs as part of opposing forces familiarization. I found it to be inaccurate and basically sloppy. Tovarisch Kalishnikov was a great innovator for the old Soviet Union, but when it came to actual production, they usually turned to the East Germans or the Czechs who had a better grasp of quality control. The lack of QC on the part of the Soviets is the reason that we saw so many Chinese, Czech, Israeli and other versions of these weapons. Mr. Kalishnikov was kind of their Browning, who could take a good idea to fruition. They have a similar Hero of the Soviet Union in Tupelov who developed many of their modern aircraft. It would be nice if we were to honor our engineers and manufacturers so they were a familiar name to our children.

         
      2. Avatarrich

        Mikhail Kalashnikov quotes:

        “I’m proud of my invention, but I’m sad that it is used by terrorists … I would prefer to have invented a machine that people could use and that would help farmers with their work — for example a lawn mower.”
        “Blame the Nazi Germans for making me become a gun designer … I always wanted to construct agriculture machinery.”
        “I created a weapon to defend the borders of my motherland. It’s not my fault that it’s being used where it shouldn’t be. The politicians are more to blame for this.”
        “When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, ‘All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed’ … So this has been my lifetime motto – I have been creating weapons to defend the borders of my fatherland, to be simple and reliable.”
        “I sleep well. It’s the politicians who are to blame for failing to come to an agreement and resorting to violence.”

         
        +1
  11. AvatarDavid Krimm

    The term “police protection” is quite misleading. Watch the TV show “Cops” to see what the police actually do during their workday. Most of their time is spent on DUIs, drug enforcement, and apprehending low-life criminals AFTER an incident takes place. I have yet to see an episode where an innocent, unarmed person was “protected” from a violent intruder. If you feel safer when a silver-tongued politician uses the term “police protection” then you live on the brink of hallucination.

     
    +3
  12. AvatarFrank Yamrick Sr.

    A number of years ago i attended a fund raiser for the late Arlen Spector. I noticed a mature lady working the crowd. As she passed by me I noticed she was wearing a necklace from the NRA. I found this a strange necklace for a female. As she came around the second time i asked her affiliation with the NRA. She said she was Jewish, I said I was of Polish ancestry. She said she was born in Germany, I said I was born in the USA. She than commented she spent time in a concentration camp. I commented I was truly sorry. Her next comment has helped keep me focused on keeping our second amendment in place and never taken away from us. She said one of the first things Hitler did was to confiscate all of the personal guns. I want to make sure that never happens here in this country. More murders are committed with knives than guns, Statistics show where citizens are allowed to posses weapons the crime rate goes down, Just look at the following cities, Washington DC, Chicago, New York City.

     
    +9
  13. AvatarJim Goerges

    Hmmm, I wonder about your thoughts on President Obama’s thoughts on pot being no worse then alcohol? In many year’s past presidents championed health, integrity and physical fitness to help the country improve and better itself. This president talks about pot? I wonder how Obama’s pot thoughts message will resonate with the young people and I wonder how hard it will be to get qualified young people into manufacturing going forward. Truly I see this as a 10-year problem, maybe longer.

    I think the left keeps trying to fix/wreck things and continues to move to the next thing without responsibility for what they have done. Seems to me a few areas of real concern that needs immediate attention are health care, Ben Ghazi, social reforms, Obama phones, spiffing/buying elections, foreign relations Iraq, ect.

    Recently I heard a song from the past and wondered if the ideas of this president came from the song, his ideas on many things pretty much follows the song he probably listened to when he was smokin pot from Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show album, the song is called “Freaker’s Ball”.

    Years ago at my first shot show my thoughts were how many jobs are created in this industry, what machine tools do they use, and I was amazed at how world wide the audience was along with how many people were there! Right, wrong or indifferent, if there ever was a place that a career military man had his picture placed on a wall for a gun he invented, I guess the shot show would be that place, is that wierder than the President of the United States stance and statement on pot?

     
    +3
    1. AvatarBrian

      Couldn’t agree more.

      What is interesting to me is that we have a president who takes the sacrifice and responsibility of freedom as an entitlement. Many of the folks who voted for him are the same in that regard. They think it is something the government gives you…….

      Noah – Are you a subject or a citizen?

       
      +2
  14. AvatarRod

    Yes I do. Only once in my long life did I have to show my gun and it was because my family was threatened. We called the police first but they were forty minutes away. Fortunately, simply showing the gun ended the threat.

     
    +2
  15. AvatarANDREW STAR

    GOD MAD MAN IN HIS OWN IMAGE.
    SAM COLT MADE THEM EQUAL.
    KALASHNIKOV IN SOME WAYS MADE THAT POSSIBLE FOR THE POOREST OF THE POOR.

     
    +2
  16. AvatarDave

    Owning a gun, and knowing how to use it effectively, makes me feel safer. What scares me is all the people running around with CCW permits that have no idea what they are doing. Most of the classes are a joke. As a combat Marine veteran I know what I’m doing, and when and how to use it.

     
  17. AvatarVictor

    I don’t feel the need to have a gun, so I don’t. To those of you who do have guns, please be careful and don’t shoot the wrong guy.

     
    +5
  18. Avatarfred

    Anyone opposed to having something for protection is a fool and has never been exposed to the helpless feeling when the odds are not in your favor and danger so close you can feel it and taste it, They have no idea at all. Whoever perceives to violate any of my US Constitutional Rights better perceive again, because it will cost them and I will enjoy the billing and collection of their payment in our free enterprise economy.

     
  19. AvatarGus

    Having a gun, Yes, I will feel much safer when the situation arises.
    As for Mikhail Kalashnikov, Don’t be upset w/ him, as someone else
    stated “Guns don’t kill people, People do” . Ben Laden did not use
    a gun to take down WTC on 9/11…. Should we ban airplanes?

     
    +2
  20. Lloyd GraffLloyd Graff

    I loved Noah’s piece on the history of the AK-47. I knew none of this. The virtue of simple is the reason for the amazing success of a pretty inaccurate firearm, and this is the real business message. We layer, we complicate, we tangle our lies and our lives. We people crave animal simplicity. Accuracy is sometimes a false goal, trumped by simplicity and ease of operation. I was listening to the titans of business schmoozing today in Davos, Switzerland. Person after person talked about their goal of simplifying their message and their goals. Maybe the old Russian Commies knew something.

     
  21. AvatarErik

    Absolutely. Not only do I feel safer, but carrying a concealed weapon makes me act more responsibly. I am far more aware of my surroundings and more likely to AVOID trouble when carrying than when mindlessly bopping along in questionable surroundings.

     
    +1
  22. AvatarHarry Pappas, HPCO Mfg. Co.

    The people must be well-armed not so much against the local common crook, but primarily against the monstrous American governmental system (fed, state, county city, et al.). The direction this country has gone on since the 1960s guarantees that these governments will destroy or impoverish us all if allowed to continue. This is the primary reason the Founding Fathers* incorporated the Second Amendment into the Constitution.
    *See the writings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Tom Paine, John Adams, et al.

     
  23. Avatarrich

    So much to say – so little space.

    Everyone here should know how easy it is to manufacture a gun.
    Blueprints are on the patent office website, & all over the internet.
    You can outlaw them, but they are so easy to manufacture.
    There will always be unscrupulous shops making illegal guns.
    So as the saying goes:
    When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns

    I LEGALLY carry a gun everyday, because a cop is to heavy.
    It is my job to protect my family (Mom, wife and daughter) and I will!

    PLEASE look up and read what the Supreme Court of the United States said in “Warren v. District of Columbia”
    3 girls were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to sodomize one another for 14 hours at knife-point! No guns used.
    911 was called but it fell through the cracks.
    The court case stated: police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals, even if a dispatcher promises help to be on the way.
    YOU HAVE NO INDIVIDUAL RIGHT TO POLICE PROTECTION.
    That is under normal conditions. How do you think that is on 9/11, hurricane, blizzard, blackout, Superbowl, etc…

    Chicago & DC do not allow guns, yet have the highest murder rates in the USA
    Please read More Guns Less Crime by John Lott Jr.

    You have a smoke alarm and insurance on your house & car.
    I’d rather have it and never need it, than NEED it and not have it.
    It is insurance.

    Remember, The Second Amendment is the ultimate check & balance between citizens and a tyrannical government.

    A LITTLE GUN HISTORY:

    In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control.
    From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    ——————————
    In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    ——————————
    Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
    ——————————
    China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated
    ——————————
    Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    —- ————- ————-
    Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    ——————————
    Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
    —————————–
    Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.

    (CNN) — Gun-related homicides and crime are “strikingly” down from 20 years ago, despite the American public’s belief that firearm crime is on the upswing, a new study said.

    NOTE – almost every mass shooting has occurred in a “GUN FREE ZONE”

    regarding the mental defect in Newtown CT
    He stole guns he used, (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    He shot and kills his mother (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    He transported the stolen guns loaded (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    He took the stolen guns onto school property – A GUN FREE ZONE!!! (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    He broke into the school (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    He discharged the weapons within city limits (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    He murdered 26 additional people (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW),
    And he committed suicide (WHICH IS AGAINST THE LAW).
    And they tell us this new law will help?

    We are told DO NOT judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics,
    BUT
    We are encouraged to judge ALL gun owners by the actions of a few lunatics.
    Funny how that works.

    Gun Control:
    The theory that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her own panty hose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.

    Be safe!

     
    +8
  24. AvatarRay Frattone

    I am going to reprint the earlier comment by Rich because it is so well done and so important that it needs to be repeated.

    rich January 23, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    So much to say – so little space.

    Everyone here should know how easy it is to manufacture a gun.
    Blueprints are on the patent office website, & all over the internet.
    You can outlaw them, but they are so easy to manufacture.
    There will always be unscrupulous shops making illegal guns.
    So as the saying goes:
    When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns

    I LEGALLY carry a gun everyday, because a cop is to heavy.
    It is my job to protect my family (Mom, wife and daughter) and I will!

    PLEASE look up and read what the Supreme Court of the United States said in “Warren v. District of Columbia”
    3 girls were raped, robbed, beaten, forced to sodomize one another for 14 hours at knife-point! No guns used.
    911 was called but it fell through the cracks.
    The court case stated: police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals, even if a dispatcher promises help to be on the way.
    YOU HAVE NO INDIVIDUAL RIGHT TO POLICE PROTECTION.
    That is under normal conditions. How do you think that is on 9/11, hurricane, blizzard, blackout, Superbowl, etc…

    Chicago & DC do not allow guns, yet have the highest murder rates in the USA
    Please read More Guns Less Crime by John Lott Jr.

    You have a smoke alarm and insurance on your house & car.
    I’d rather have it and never need it, than NEED it and not have it.
    It is insurance.

    Remember, The Second Amendment is the ultimate check & balance between citizens and a tyrannical government.

    Many thanks to you Rich.
    – See more at: http://todaysmachiningworld.com/the-gun-that-changed-the-world/#sthash.qzXGpQJ7.dpuf

     
  25. AvatarDick Crosby

    “Shall not be infringed!” Isn’t that what the amendment states? What scares me is the laws and effort being instituted all over the country by the so called “peacemakers”. Good God, what does it take to get the intent of our founders into the thick heads of these people? To me, “Shall not be infringed” is an absolutism. It means what it says!
    Stop screwing around with it! Damn them!

     
    +5
    1. Avatarrich

      Agreed

      People refuse to admit and understand that the founding fathers made provisions to change our Constitution.
      They purposefully made it difficult and time consuming so that the law of the land not be changed haphazardly based on facts, debate, deliberation and NOT on emotion as most things today.
      If you want to take my, my family’s and every other law abiding citizen’s right to protect and defend their lives and liberty, then go do it.
      BUT – that means through the Constitutional amendment process. It has been done before. Think prohibition. It was legitimately enacted and repealed.
      Otherwise keep your hands off of my gun!
      The Bill of Rights is NOT multiple choice.

      The “Tree of Liberty” letter
      From Thomas Jefferson to William Smith
      Paris, November 13, 1787
      …The people cannot be all, & always well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty…. what country can preserve it’s liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?
      The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.

       
      +7

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