Kalashnikov's contributions to small arms design cannot be overstated. His AK-47, developed in 1946, is the embodiment of the Soviet virtues of simplicity and reliability. Rugged and easily maintained, AKs are capable of operating in extreme conditions that would disable other weapons. They're the most widely produced assault rifle on the planet for good reason. As their creator told Reuters in 2009, "When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed' ... So this has been my lifetime motto – I have been creating weapons to defend the borders of my fatherland, to be simple and reliable."
Kalashnikov's military career began 1938, when he was conscripted into the Red Army as a tank mechanic. He quickly rose to a command position in the 24th Tank Regiment, 108th Tank Division stationed in Stryi. The injuries he sustained there during the Battle of Brody in 1941 would change the course of his life.
During his rehabilitation, Kalashnikov overheard other wounded soldiers complaining about the sub-par performance of their rifles, inspiring him to design a more effective weapon. His first outing, a sub-machine gun, was passed over, but it both served as the foundation for the later AK-47 and demonstrated his engineering talents, earning him a position at the Red Army's Central Scientific-developmental Firing Range for Rifle Firearms of the Chief Artillery Directorate.
While he's best known for his signature assault rifle, Kalashnikov has been credited with more than 150 small arm designs over the course of his illustrious career, including the AK-47, AK-74, AKM, and PKR light machine gun. These weapons have revolutionized warfare, and are now employed by more than 50 nations around the world. More here.