60 Years Later, Everyone’s Still Loving the AK-47

November 23 2009

It’s one of the best tools ever manufactured, a masterpiece of the Industrial Age. My nephew, just back from a tour with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan, tells me you can back a truck over one, then pick it up and use it.

Mikhail Kalashnikov, son of a woman who bore 19 children, started designing it in 1944 and “sold” the prototype in 1947. On November 10, his 90th birthday, President Dmitry Medvedev made him a Hero of the Russian Federation. And last week Stephen Colbert pulled the gun from under his desk and gave it a tip of his hat.

I decided to go to a local gun show to see what the fuss was about.

A gun show, if you’ve never been to one, is a football field of guns. A Costco with one product. I exaggerate, but just to set the scene. Only the occasional flash of color breaks up the pall of gunmetal grey.

At one stall there were trays full of Brass Knuckle Paperweights. This is a way to round the concealed weapon law. A great franchise idea for Burglary Swag Paperweights, and Pound of Cocaine Paperweights, I thought.

On my way to the AK-47 signs hung high in the hall, I saw beautifully designed things—antiques, concealment holsters, knives. Also some things better not contemplated—plastic hand-to-hand combat devices apparently used by special forces. Brilliant in their design, pennies to produce, banned by the Geneva Conventions.

Then I met someone I’ll call AK Dealer #1.

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