Larry Vickers: “Kalashnikov's scale likely will never be seen again”

Retired American special forces veteran is fascinated by the invention of the Soviet weapon designer

Yesterday, on 10 November, it was the 100th birthday of Mikhail Kalashnikov — the legendary designer of one of the most popular rifles. A monument to the Russian designer will be opened in Kazan today. Retired US Army Special Forces veteran Larry Vickers, the author of Vickers Tactical YouTube channel, did justice to the brainchild of the Soviet weapon designer. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya's correspondent, the experts explained why he liked Soviet-Russian AK and the impact of the rifle's foreign copies on its reputation.

So simple yet so effective

Larry, could you, first of all, tell us about yourself?

I’m retired US Army special operations and currently own and operate Vickers Tactical which is a company focused solely on the firearms industry.

How long have you been into weapons in general and the Russian and Soviet ones in particular?

My fascination with military small arms started in high school in the early 1980s before I went into the Army. I’ve been a serious student of Russian small arms with the Kalashnikov being my favorite since that time.

Why do Kalashnikov rifles attract you?

I’m fascinated by the simplicity of the design and the incredible effort it took to design a weapon so simple yet so effective. It’s very unique in that regard

Have you ever used them on duty?

I’ve trained with them extensively but never used one on duty.

“Many of the copies are of excellent quality”

What are the pros and cons of the AK-47?

Pros are incredible ruggedness, reliability and simplicity. Cons are it lacks some of the refinements and the ability to customize it that the US M16 family has

Does the USA, NATO have anything similar?

The closest weapon the US has to the AK would be the M16 but it is a dramatically different weapon. It’s like comparing apples to oranges — both are fruit but that’s where the similarities end

How often do you test Russian weapons, the AK?

I test and shoot Russian weapons regularly — in particular for my Vickers Tactical YouTube Channel

Why did the AK gain in great popularity all over the world?

Simple, reliable, durable and the former Soviet Union made a concerted effort to spread the design outside its borders.

Didn’t the AK’s copies and fakes damage its reputation, the brand itself?

Yes and no; many of the copies are of excellent quality — such as the ones from the former Warsaw Pact. Overall it has not seriously damaged the AK’s reputation worldwide.

Has the quality of the AK produced now gone down than those made in the USSR?

Early on in the AK’s service life, the Soviet-built versions were of superb quality. As time went on and closer to the collapse of the Soviet Union the quality went down but the weapons were still perfectly functional. Today’s Russian built AK is of very good quality and superior to the AK’s built toward the end of the USSR.

Have you ever been in Izhevsk, in the plant?

Yes, I’ve been there twice and enjoyed it both times. Because of my videos and my VickersGuide firearms books they gave me fantastic access to film and take pictures. They treated me very well there and I have fond memories of the visits to Udmurtia.

Photo: Timur Rakhmatullin

Do people in the States know Kalashnikov himself?

Gun people in the USA absolutely know of Kalashnikov- the regular public not really. The regular public doesn’t know of our most prolific weapons designers either such as John Browning, Eugene Stoner and John Garand.

Some say that Mikhail Kalashnikov revolutionised the world of weapons. Do you agree with this point of view?

Yes, I do. Kalashnikov is world-famous and for a good reason — the weapons that bear his name are used on a scale that has never been seen before and likely will never be seen again.

By Aygul Ziyatdinova