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?