Table of Contents
OTHER BOOKS BY LARRY KAHANER
Values, Prosperity, and the Talmud:
Business Lessons from the Ancient Rabbis
The Quotations of Chairman Greenspan:
Words from the Man Who Can Shake the World
How to Gather, Analyze, and Use Information
to Move Your Business to the Top
Say It and Live It:
The 50 Corporate Mission Statements
That Hit the Mark
Cults That Kill:
Probing the Underworld of Occult Crime
On the Line:
How MCI Took on At&T—and Won!
The Phone Book:
The Most Complete Guide to the Changing
World of Telephones
(pseudonym Larry Kane)
This book is printed on acid-free paper.
Copyright © 2007 by Larry Kahaner. All rights reserved
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey
Published simultaneously in Canada
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
AK-47 : the weapon that changed the face of war / Larry Kahaner.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13 978-0-471-72641-8 (cloth: alk. paper)
ISBN-10 0-471-72641-9 (cloth: alk. paper)
1. AK-47 rifle. I. Title
In some places, an AK-47 assault rifle can be bought for as little as . . . a bag of grain. They are easy to use: with minimal training, even a child can wield one. They are easy to conceal and transport. Since they require little maintenance, they can last for decades.
—UN SECRETARY-GENERAL KOFI ANNAN
That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.
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 lawnmower.
—MIKHAIL T. KALASHNIKOV
I have many people to thank for their help in researching and writing this book. Some of them spent a great deal of their time with me; others helped me over some rough spots, offering ideas or a different way of looking at things that moved me along.
I am grateful for early assistance from: Glen Senkowski, A Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, who offered stories about his Vietnam War experience when he often used an AK instead of his army-issued M-16; Doug Wicklund, Senior Curator, National Firearms Museum, who showed me his personal AKs as well as those in the museum and pointed out their salient features; Duncan Long, firearms author, who posited his ideas on the AK’s success; Mark Schwartz, who offered insights on combat tactics of World War II; Rachel J. Stohl, Senior Analyst, Center for Defense Information, whose research on the importance of small arms helped me better understand their impact; William Addison Hurst, one of Kalashnikov’s hosts on his first trip to the United States; Rick Davis, who offered technical insights on the AK; Mark Bromley, Research Associate, Arms Transfers Project, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI); Matthew P. Caulfield, Major General, U.S. Marine Corps (ret.), Executive Director, Helmets to Hardhats; Vadim Dabrov, creator of
, a useful e-book source about the Kalashnikov Museum; the staff of the Small Arms Survey, produced by the International Action Network on Small Arms, for sharing their data; moderators and members of the Guns Network, whose web site
was a great source of quick answers about the minutiae of the AK; Larry Zilliox, President, Investigative Research Specialists, LLC, for his help in unearthing government documents; and Karl Bickel, Senior Policy Analyst, Department of Justice, for insights on police and assault rifles.
Thanks go to those in my writer’s group, which has been meeting monthly for almost fifteen years: Allen Appel, Audie Appel, Dan Stashower, John McKeon, and Marc Smolonsky, all authors and writers in their own right; Doug Starr, a longtime friend who keeps me from stepping into literary hot water; Adam Firestone, who spent time with me at the National Rifle Association range so I could understand better the shooting profiles of the M-16 and AK; special thanks go to Charlie Cutshaw, firearms expert and journalist, for his technical reading of the manuscript; my agent, Gail Ross, of the Gail Ross Literary Agency and her creative director, Howard Yoon, for understanding the importance of this book and propelling the project to completion; my editor, Eric Nelson, for his insights and wisdom; and my wife, Robin Latham, herself an accomplished author and writer, for her editing and support.
Despite repeated requests, Mikhail Kalashnikov declined to be interviewed for this book.
Now in his eighties, Kalashnikov has become a sympathetic and tragic figure. He continues to grant shorter interviews to newspapers and magazines, often at public events, allowing him to advertise his brand of vodka, refute critics of his weapons’ global destructive power, and drum up business for the Russian arms makers that he represents with his new celebrity status.
Fortunately, the story of Kalashnikov, the AK-47, and its effect on world history is available from open-source material, as well as from private and confidential sources I have cultivated. I drew on all of these for the information in this book.
ON MARCH 23, 2003, under the cover of darkness, thirty-two U.S. Army Apache attack helicopters flew into Baghdad in advance of coalition forces moving northward on the ground toward the capital city. The choppers were on a search-and-destroy mission to find Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guard, who reportedly were deployed in a semicircle to protect the southern part of town. In the hours leading up to this mission, Saddam’s main artillery positions had been pounded by American surface-to-surface missiles and ATACMS rockets carrying 950 half-pound bombs. The remaining enemy forces would then be wiped out by these low-flying $22 million machines, equipped with 30mm cannons and state-of-the-art Longbow radar systems that could direct Hellfire antitank missiles at multiple targets.