Photos by Richard King
“You can take an AK, throw it in the mud, shake it off and it’ll run as if it was just out of the armory.”
We’ve all grown up hearing the testimonials and the clichés: “You can take an AK, throw it in the mud, shake it off and it’ll run as if it was just out of the armory.” Or, “Charlie would pop up out of the rice paddy water and open fire.”
And they don’t seem to wear out, either. AP photos from Sudan show starving guerillas clutching rifles and their sole magazine with no bluing left and the wood dried to cracking, yet the rifles continue to fight, even though their untrained owners provide them with little or no maintenance, because they don’t really understand what makes them work.
Apocryphal tales poured out of Vietnam. One claimed that the CIA had handloaded magazines of AK ammo with dynamite and then left them alongside remote sections of the Ho Chi Minh trail. The idea was that guerillas would find them by chance—”Look, Nguyen, one of our careless brothers lost a magazine…”—with catastrophic results.
According to the legend, somebody finally tested several of these rounds. And not only did they not blow up the rifle, but it cycled perfectly. Don’t test this at home.
Another RVN legend is that the American high command had to issue an order forbidding GIs from discarding their new M16s in favor of captured or black-market AKs, as photos might damage American prestige in the world press. I doubt this one, as shooting the enemy’s weapon is always a dangerous proposition. But this shows the awe and respect held by U.S. and allied troops for the Kalashnikov’s almost mystical durability.
Verifiably, the design