Without question the AK-47 was a remarkable invention, and not just because it works so well, or because it changed how wars are fought, or because it proved to be one of the most important products of the 20th century.
The automatic Kalashnikov is a tool, an implement designed for ordinary men, without much training or undue complications, to kill other men, and to be used in the conditions in which wars are often fought. But it’s only a tool, and while its ready availability in many unstable lands can be seen as kindling violence, this is not simply because of the weapon’s qualities themselves. It is because of the quantities of the weapons that have been made.
Certainly the automatic Kalashnikov’s ease of use and durability make it desirable for all sorts of people up to no good. But rifles are rifles – there are many other choices out there. You see the Kalashnikov almost everywhere there is fighting because there are so many of them.
Everywhere I went on my job covering conflict, the Kalashnikov was the predominant arm.
Actually, in a lot of circumstances, the Kalashnikov is poorly used by people who are not especially good shots, or who are outright bad shots. In these cases, the rifle’s weaknesses emerge. As far as accuracy goes, the Kalashnikov is stubbornly mediocre, and the ease with which it can be fired on automatic means that many people fire it on automatic when they would be better served firing a single, aimed shot. Getting shot at by a sniper is a much different experience, and far more frightening. But either experience is, to borrow your word, memorable. These memories are pretty much all bad.